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Henry M. Robert

“The best defense from propaganda is truth and independence”

President of RAI World Company Claudio CAPPON on the mission of the social television and counteraction to the Russian media aggression
13 August, 2014 - 16:46
Photo courtesy of the press service of the First National Channel

A well-known journalist, vice president of the European Broadcasting Union, former director-general of the social broadcaster of Italy, RAI, and current the president of the RAI World Company, Claudio Cappon recently has come to Kyiv at the invitation of the National Television Company of Ukraine (NTKU). During several days he familiarized himself with the conditions of work and content of the First National Channel, on the basis of which a Ukrainian social TV channel is supposed to start working next year. Actually, the administration of the NTKU has invited the Italian expert on building and development of European social channel, above all, for the experience exchange. “For a social broadcaster it is the most important thing to make fewer projects, but these projects should be of the    highest quality. The quality should come first,” Cappon is sure.

“The content is a very important thing, but, unlike the mission of the channel, it cannot be outlined in advance. It is directly determined by the creative potential of journalists, management, and most importantly, the    mission for which social television is created in a country. In different countries the content is    different, because in different countries the priorities and desires of the audience are different.

Ukraine should define its priorities: what it wants from this channel, what it aims to bring to the people with the help of it,” Cappon says, “The content of social and commercial broadcasters on the whole hardly differs. In both kinds of content there should be interesting films, quality documentaries, news, and sports programs. But, of course, the missions of a social and a commercial channel are different. I think the mission of your Ukrainian social broadcaster is correct informing. People should know that the information namely on the social television is reliable, it is trustful, it is independent and unbiased. So, this should be its value, because in commercial broadcasting the main purpose is to achieve a commercial result rather than independence of the information at all. The social broadcaster should care not about the figures, audience numbers, and advertisement. Its main task is to bring the values to the audience. Above all, this means providing of the information which is of high quality and useful. At the same time this should be the information which is for some reason not provided by the commercial broadcasters. For them it may be too expensive or economically ungrounded. But for a social broadcaster these problems should be the most important thing. Taking this as the basis and supplementing it with other informative programs, the social broadcaster can become an engine that will move forward the development of the television in Ukraine, be a kind of a trendsetter. But at the same time it should be a laboratory of innovation, it should give way for development of the talents in your country.”

How can it be achieved?

“Based on what I have seen on the First National Channel, the new team is trying to make innovations. But you haven’t gone through restructuring and modernization. You need sufficient financing, transformation, and rationalization. I don’t know exactly what the situation at the channel is, but I have an impression that it seems to be living with the heritage of the past. We should accept the fact that there should be the industrial and restructurization plans, in order to reduce the expenditures and increase the efficiency you will probably need to change the infrastructure. The First National Channel has big premises, which should be redesigned; new studios should be created there, a totally different infrastructure. Probably, it is better to forget about the place where the journalists are working and change the premises of the channel. To become a social channel, you need external and internal modernization. In a word, be more efficient, get adapted to the new situation, and break away with the legacy of the past. And, of course, taking into account the situation with the Ukrainian television, the First National Channel should increase its market share. What exists now is inadmissible. You should become more attractive, which includes new programs and new ideas. Only an independent and free channel can have a positive influence on the residents and be interesting for them.”

Do you think our audience will be ready to pay for the new content?

“The new 15 projects which have been presented recently by the leadership of the First Channel is a good signal. These are steps in a proper direction. This is journalism which is really able to talk to people with the help of truthful facts and stories, and is attracting the attention of people. Of course, in media you cannot predict the results. Even Americans who shoot large-scale films and spend millions of dollars can suffer a fiasco. This is the secret of creativity. But it is important to study the trends. When nothing comes out over months, you should continue your work and improve. You also need certain investments, because television is, unfortunately, an expensive thing. There are big players who invest huge money. They will compete with the social media. In other words, you cannot win a war with the US, if you are, for example, San-Marino or another small state. Another possibility for the Ukrainian media is looking for partnership or union with other media, including the European ones.”

Russia today is leading an aggressive information war against Ukraine.

“Yes, we can notice this as well. Propaganda has always existed, especially during the war. Owing to modern technologies, it has become media propaganda. The Western media stand against the ‘Russian point of view’ on the situation in Ukraine. Most of them do not trust the propagandist Russian media, moreover they don’t quote them. In particular, none of the quality media makes references to Russia Today and only recalls about it when another journalists leaves the channel because he does not want to hide the truth anymore. The best defense against propaganda is not counter propaganda, but truth and independency. The role of social mass media is not to fight other media, even if they are used as the instruments of propaganda. Their role is in providing the citizens with the most truthful, professionally collected and independent information as much as it is possible. I have come from the country which has not had any wars since 1945, where such dramatic events as those in the east of Ukraine are unthinkable. Therefore I may be thinking somewhat idealistically. Hopefully, people, both in Ukraine and in Russia, will give preference to professional propaganda. I think Russians will understand with time that the information that is been fed to them is too biased.”

A channel oriented at foreign audience, Ukraine Today, will start in Ukraine in August. What should the content about Ukraine be like on this media, so that it was interesting for the foreign audience?

“They have called it Ukraine Today? Very cool. Most importantly, it should not become such a propagandist channel as Russia Today. You see, Russia Today is a video press service of the Russian foreign ministry. When I watch this channel I say jokingly that its leadership holds staff meetings with Kalashnikov gun on the desk. On the whole, Italy’s stand is not like in other European countries. We don’t make ‘Italian’ information for the world. Our mission is to take care of the Italian communities all over the world. We are not an information channel, like the BBC World, CNN, or Al Jazeera. We are simply a channel that is trying to create connections with the communities of emigres and our country, to maintain the social and cultural milieu. This is a national political choice. Italy didn’t set a task before itself to have a channel that would broadcast the Italian voice to the world. If Ukraine dares do so, this is a big and complicated attempt. The countries that have done so, the French, the British, the Americans, the Russians – either are extremely rich, or did this out of political considerations. This is their choice and their responsibility.”

By Vadym LUBCHAK, The Day