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ABU GA – Asia-Pacific broadcasting conference ends on a high note

One of the most important gatherings of Asia-Pacific broadcasters in recent times has concluded in Korea with plans to carry the ABU more securely into the digital age.

The 49th General Assembly of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union saw more than 700 leaders in the fields of programming, technology, communications, regulation and equipment manufacture gather at the towering 63 Convention Centre on the banks of the Hangang River in downtown Seoul and at the nearby headquarters of the host broadcaster Korean Broadcasting System.

For eight days leading up to and including the two-day ABU General Assembly itself, experts from the Asia-Pacific engaged with some of the most important issues facing broadcasting in the digital age, says ABU General Secretary Dr Javad Mottaghi.

“We knew we had a big task to accomplish,” he says, “so everyone came prepared to share experiences and solutions to the challenges faced by the transition to digital broadcasting, the expansion of new media and the impact of social media on our traditional ways of doing business.”

Dr Mottaghi believes the delegates from more than 50 countries in the Asia-Pacific and around the world went away with new ideas, solutions and vigour.

“The ABU is all about its members,” he said. “They must now continue with the real job of making the 21st Century a success for broadcasters in their countries.”

The days leading up to the General Assembly were packed with forums, meetings and working sessions of the Union.

Five new initiatives were launched at the Seoul General Assembly. One of the most significant was a two-day forum Women with the Wave, which focused on gender inequality on-air and in workplaces. It resulted in a call-for-action Statement on practical ways to engender greater involvement by women and girls in the media and technology fields.

Other forums looked at the future of broadcasting and news in a time of great digital change – including challenges from social media to traditional audience bases and media ethics – and how public broadcasting can thrive in radically evolving media environments.

There were special strands on issues such as sport, radio and television and four days of technical workshops, discussions and demonstrations which cemented what Dr Mottaghi says is a core function of the ABU’s service to members – it technical advice, assistance and exchange. One immediate result has been the issuing of the Seoul Declaration, calling on the region’s governments to reserve broadcasting spectrum on both digital and analogue frequencies for public service broadcasting in the public interest.

The formal sessions of the ABU General Assembly itself was foreshadowed by the Union’s President Dr Kim In-Kyu’s call for even greater cooperation between broadcasters in the region and was officially opened by the President of South Korea, Mr Lee Myung-bak, who urged broadcasters to rise to the challenges of the digital revolution.

The General Assembly confirmed and adopted the Union’s many new and on-going initiatives and approved a future-focussed strategy – ABU@2020 – which will consider how the Union will position itself to deliver outstanding service and support to its members in the long term. 

One of the ways the ABU is working to meet the challenges is by greater sharing of expertise and resources, which included the signing of Memorandum of Agreement for greater cooperation between the ABU, the African Union of Broadcasters and the Arab States Broadcasting Union.

Although much of the ABU’s annual get-together was devoted to serious organisational, content and technological matters affecting the Union and its members, it provided plenty of opportunity to focus on programming initiatives of its members.

The ABU Prizes gala evening saw the awarding of international prizes for radio and television content, technological advances, the inaugural Seoul Prizes, awarded for outstanding broadcasting contributions to the environment; and in special areas such as children’s programming.

Two innovations of this year’s General Assembly demonstrated how lively and relevant broadcasting continued to be in the Asia-Pacific. The inaugural ABU Radio Song Festival attracted 26 original entries from 18 radio broadcasters in 15 countries and was won by a boy band, Billy Acoustie, from Korea, while the ABU TV Song Festival showcased 11 of the region’s most popular performers and was recorded for transmission by broadcasters around the world.

Dr Mottaghi says that while this General Assembly was a turning point for the ABU, setting an ambitious agenda for the years ahead, it is important to keep the momentum going and take the initiatives forward in partnership with the Union’s members. “Our General Assembly will always be a meeting place for members to share ideas and plan for our future,” he says. “Now we all have a clearer idea of what lies ahead of us in the years to come.”

The General Assembly ended with the election of RTM’s Deputy Director General Ahmad Jailani Muhamed Yunus as Vice President, the election of All India Radio (AIR) to the ABU Administrative Council as well as the re-election of TDM Macau, TRT Turkey and TPT Thailand to the Council. Six new members were also approved to join the Union, taking the total number of members to 227.

As a final gesture of recognition and support, the ABU Members gave a standing ovation to the President and his team at KBS, in appreciation of their outstanding organisation and staging of the biggest ever ABU General Assembly.