The Network of Audience Councils, aims to encourage civil society organizations to act in a consolidated and a coordinated fashion to advance the communication rights vulnerable groups in the mediatised public sphere, ensuring their access to the media policy making processes and guaranteeing their adequate representation in the media.
The Network was initiated and strategically structured by the RESIS Institute earlier this year, after a lengthy research process which defined the problem and detected the communication needs of vulnerable communities in North Macedonia.
It includes over 50 civil society organizations working with various vulnerable groups: vulnerable children and minors, people with physical, mental, intellectual and sensory vulnerability, people living with rare diseases, members of the LGBT community, socially disadvantaged groups, people living with addictions and other vulnerable groups.
In the past three months, 6 workshops were held with representatives from civil society organizations from all regions across the country as well as representatives of the Council for Media Ethics and the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services.
The workshops identified several pressing issues facing vulnerable groups in the public sphere and discussed joint initiatives and ideas for overcoming them:
- The access of vulnerable groups and local communities to media content is endangered for several reasons: the Public Service Broadcaster has a strong component of covering vulnerable groups and their needs, but has lost touch with the constituencies in the civil society; the private media have no incentives to create meaningful programming concerning vulnerable groups and focus instead mainly on the so called “high politics” issues ; vulnerable groups get some co-operation with and attention of local media, but they often marginally cover topics affecting vulnerable groups.
- The work of CSOs and the awareness-raising campaigns they run are of public interest, but the current audiovisual regulations do not define this issue properly, which is why commercial media often refuse to give them proper access or are charging for their broadcasting.
- Hate speech, discrimination, and other offensive content towards certain vulnerable categories are much more present in the on-line media, but these contents of the public sphere are not subject to legal regulation. It is necessary for CSOs to have a more effective cooperation with the Council for Media Ethics (when it comes to online media) or to monitor and react when the rights of any vulnerable group are violated on social networks.
- It is necessary to intensify the communication between civil society organizations and the regulatory body - the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, which has competencies and instruments for influencing media pluralism and content diversity in the audiovisual sphere - to improve accessibility and visibility of vulnerable groups in audiovisual content.
The action of the RESIS Institute is supported by the Civica Mobilitas Program. As an institutional backing structure, Civica Mobilitas is dedicated to facilitating sustainable empowering initiatives aiming for long term strategic change.