A remote joint meeting gathered on Tuesday February 09, 2021, the Arab States Broadcasting Union (ASBU), the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the African Broadcasting Union (AUB) and COPEAM, or the permanent conference for audiovisual media in the Mediterranean basin. The Unions CEO’s headed the meeting, and they are: Eng. Abderrahim Suleiman, ASBU General Director, Grégoire Ndjaka, AUB Executive Director, Noel Curran, EBU Director General, Claudio Cappon, COPEAM Secretary General. Staffers from the four Unions and representatives of several Arab corporations participated in the debate.
Engineer Abderrahim Suleiman focused his opening statement on the importance of common issues being discussed to develop quadripartite cooperation, especially in this difficult period due to the continuation of the pandemic, which prevents physical exchanges. He also indicated that the meeting was held on the fifty-second anniversary of ASBU’s establishment on February 9, 1969, in Khartoum.
The other General Directors also referred to the experiences of their Unions with the difficulty of the normal workflow imposed by the Corona pandemic during the past year, but also to the opportunities and possbilities provided by the pandemic despite everything, which made the four professional organizations quickly adapt to the changes so that their activities and projects did not halt. This was done, in particular, by adopting innovative work mechanisms, such as remote work and rescheduling some activities. The pandemic also contributed to pushing towards the setting of more partnerships and the strengthening what already existed to benefit the common experiences of all.
This point on the experience of Covid-19 and its effects on the Unions' activities and their working mechanisms led the agenda of the meeting, during which Eng. Abderrahim Suleiman made a presentation on “the study prepared by the Arab States Broadcasting Union on the mechanisms of holding meetings and completing some training courses remotely,” noting that one of the lessons learned is that, "even after the pandemic, it is imperative to change our work style and adopt remote work, which allows for a greater number of activities to be carried out and to reduce the financial burden resulting from the organization of these activities in person."
The meeting participants also discussed the training activities that were completed in 2020 and the training program for 2021 in each of the four Unions, as well as the international media project led by the United Nations Organization for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR World Broadcast Project), in addition to strengthening cooperation among the participating Unions due to the importance of focusing on training in the field of radio and television work. Most of the participants agreed that remote training has contributed to reducing the financial costs borne by the Unions and their member corporations, which has allowed in many cases to double the number of participants in training courses and the number of these courses.
However, experience also showed that the adoption of this method of training was accompanied by the emergence of some pedagogical difficulties and the impossibility of organizing the practical courses remotely, which calls for returning to these courses as soon as the epidemiological situation allows it. In addition, it was emphasized during the meeting the necessity of doubling the opportunities for joint organization of training courses among the relevant Unions, as this would provide maximum benefit from the mutual experiences and the accumulated experiences of each organization.
As for the international media project led by the United Nations Organization for Disaster Risk Reduction, it has been emphasized that it is a huge project that provides a platform for cooperation and includes many training courses organized by various organizations, which are specifically directed to journalists and decision-makers responsible for managing these disasters, in order to provide the necessary material for them to carry out their awareness and preventive work in this field.
Participants also discussed another essential area of cooperation among them, which is the area of co-production of programs, whether for radio or for television. In particular, the development of the pioneering experience that the Arab States Broadcasting Union and COPEAM have been going through for several years, known as the "Inter- Rives" program, were discussed. This year, the venture reached its eighth version on the topic of "Sustainability: Change-makers", with the participation of 15 Arab and European organizations, which recently resumed the production process after a short hiatus imposed by the pandemic.
In addition, another project in the field of co-production was discussed in the field of radio co-production, which COPEAM is working on implementing its new series on “Lighthouses of the Mediterranean”, produced by French-speaking radio stations on the two shores of the Mediterranean. It was also proposed to produce another radio co-production in the Arabic language and to diversify the themes and topics that should be included in the co-production.
Another important area that received the participants attention is the field of television and radio exchanges, which includes the exchange of television news among the four participating Unions, including the regional portfolio for Arabic news exchange with the European Broadcasting Union, the European Broadcasting Union project for news, radio exchanges that should be focused on more, World Day, Radio 2021, and the digital radio summit of the European Broadcasting Union.
In this regard, a significant increase was recorded in the amount of news exchanged during the pandemic period, whether among member corporations of each Union or among the Unions themselves, due to the importance of news related to the Corona epidemic. Participants called for more coordination in this field, as well as for reactivating news exchanges between the Arab States Broadcasting Union and the African Broadcasting Union, which are experiencing a recent significant decline.
As for the technical field, the week of technology organized annually by the Arab States Broadcasting Union in cooperation with the European Broadcasting Union was discussed in order to learn about the various experiences of European radios and televisions, as well as the latest developments proposed by manufacturers in the field of modern equipment and new technologies that allow to improve the level of productivity.
At the end of the meeting, Eng. Abderrahim Suleiman made a brief presentation on the Arab Radio and Television Festival, which ASBU will organize its twenty-first session next October in the Tunisian capital, if health conditions permit. He announced that this session will be accompanied by the holding of the first Arab Media Conference during the Festival. He called on all participants to attend extensively the two events and contribute to their organization.