The Jocelyn Hay Voice of the Listener & Viewer Lecture Series

Monday 22nd October 2012 18:00 - Monday 22nd October 2012 20:00

Broadcasting a better society? The future of civil society and the media

Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive, NCVO

 British broadcasting The Jocelyn Hay Voice of the Viewer & Listener Lecture Series has been set up in recognition of our President Jocelyn Hay’s great pioneering campaigning over 30 years to safeguard public service broadcasting and to ensure that the voices of consumers, citizens, viewers and listeners have been heard at the highest level.   

 Sir Stuart Etherington delivered the inaugural lecture on Monday 22 October.  He was appointed Chief Executive of NCVO in 1994.  NCVO is a membership organisation that represents the interests of charities and voluntary bodies with over 8,500 members. Previously he was Chief Executive of the Royal National Institute for Deaf People. Throughout his career he has been involved in the leadership of voluntary organisations and policies surrounding them.

 He explored three key developments in society: the power of the media saying that the effects of disproportionate ownership of the media are dangerous: the proliferation of online media platforms and the emerging opportunities of local television and community media.  He said “In my time I have worked in many voluntary organisations and have seen how the media can give organisations the chance to explain and promote their work. The benefits are numerous, including appeals for donations and support and the recruitment of volunteers. Most importantly, the media offers a platform to give a voice to those who may otherwise not be heard.

 “But of course, there is also a dark side to both the media and civil society. The Leveson inquiry highlighted poor practice and shook public trust and confidence in many media institutions. And media echo chambers or single-issue campaign groups can damage the exchange of ideas. There are likely to be very damaging consequences if the activities of either civil society or the media are based on the views of a few.”

 He quoted the Department of Education’s definition of citizenship which “encourages people to take an interest in topical and controversial issues and to engage in discussion and debate”.

 He said that as an educational activity, community media could skill-up citizens by improving media literacy. Inspiration can be drawn from the Media Trust’s Community Voices Project, which distributes start-up funding from the Nominet Trust to fund volunteer mentors, training and outreach support to help communities find their voice. If done well, this can create employment and training opportunities in local areas.

In summary Sir Stuart said he believed “ that civil society and the media are vital cornerstones of a healthy democracy. We have a common cause and when we work together, we are at our best. As I have highlighted this evening, to enable this to happen, we must address the inequalities of media ownership and ensure its power is harnessed for good.

“We need to assess and embrace the positive opportunities of online media, whilst being mindful of its potential pitfalls. And we need to rise to the challenge of the localism agenda and innovate with more local and community media.

“If we strengthen the relationship between civil society and the media, together we can drive for more philanthropic activity. Together we can increase public trust and confidence in charities and media institutions. And most importantly, together we can give a voice to all citizens. A voice to hold the Government to account. And a voice that speaks out on the issues affecting all of our lives.”

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