Roundtable Session: "Media Advocacy and Media Partnerships"
Looking for Hidden Agendas
Defining Media Advocacy
In this session, Shereen Usdin (South Africa), Joseph Hartman (USA), and Liesbet van Zoonen (The Netherlands) presented ideas and shared their experiences with media advocacy and the formation of strategic partnerships. Usdin began by defining media advocacy: "Putting a problem on the agenda, providing a solution, and building support for the solution and for the action necessary to implement it."
Soul City's Violence against Women Campaign
Usdin then outlined a campaign launched by Soul City in South Africa that targeted violence against women. The aim of the campaign was "to shift social norms, convey information, change attitudes and behavior at individual and community levels, and shift public policy to create an enabling environment for social change." Soul City chose this topic as their focus because a groundbreaking law on domestic violence had been passed, but not yet implemented, in South Africa. The primary goal of the campaign was thus to ensure speedy and effective implementation of this law. To this end, Soul City formed a partnership with the National Network on Violence Against Women, which resulted in, among other things, the creation of a resource booklet on domestic violence for journalists.
Soul City Introduces "Pot Banging"
Another outcome of this project, said Usdin, was the creation of advocacy in the community. Violence against women usually takes place in the privacy of the home, and though the community may be aware of it, they do not always intervene. The Soul City series introduced a practice known as "pot banging," which took off in the community as an effective way of reducing domestic violence. This practice involves members of the community, mostly women, standing outside the house of an offender during an incident, and banging on pots, in order to draw attention to the house and signal their dissatisfaction with the offender's behavior.
EE as a New Model for Media Advocacy
Hartman continued the discussion by raising EE as an entirely new model for media advocacy in the United States. "Old fashioned" media advocacy in the U. S. meant maintaining good relationships with professionals from Hollywood by praising their work, said Hartman. On the other hand, he said, EE professionals control the content of the message themselves. Hartman pleaded for the massive introduction of EE into Hollywood, because American society suffers severe problems such as violence in schools. "We have to face the fact that the bulk of material that comes from Hollywood is driven by money only," he said. "The methodology of EE can contribute to the making of better programs that are in touch with what the audience really needs. We should keep in mind that EE could make a difference in a television market with strong competition. An important goal for the future will be to put EE in a language that is accessible to Hollywood."
Mutual Benefits for Television Industry Professionals and Students
Van Zoonen noted how the Communication Science Department of the University of Amsterdam has begun to realize this vision. They have an ongoing relationship with Endemol, the biggest producer of television programs in The Netherlands. Currently, there is extensive cooperation between the two partners in a course entitled "Endemol Master Class." Twenty-five students meet twice a week with key professionals from the Dutch television industry. The students have the opportunity to learn professional perspectives on television production, and, in turn, industry professionals receive social-scientific feedback on their products and strategies.
Know the Hidden Agenda of Your Partners
Being aware of the hidden agendas of your partners, as well as the ones on the table, appears to be of paramount importance. Looking for the key elements in the hidden agenda may be a special task in the preparations of any partnership in an EE project.