Thoughts about Deutsche Welle Media Forum 2014

Deutsche Welle Media Forum captured by DW team

Deutsche Welle Media Forum captured by DW team

This summer I attended a massive media conference in a small German town of Bonn. Imagine over 2000 journalists and activists from around the word coming to Germany to attend the event organized by Deutsche Welle. Sounds great, right? There are always two sides of the coin and this great event wasn’t an exception.

Deutsche Welle’s team managed to invite an incredible amount of participants from Thailand, Egypt, Tunisia, yet there was no one from Syria, as if Syrians were forgotten and disappeared from the face of our planet. Several years ago everyone was talking about Syrian revolution and protest movement. Right now they all seem forgotten and buried under the rumble of massive infotainment industry.

Love-Hate Relationship

I love and hate these gatherings at the same time. I enjoy attending such massive conferences because I have a chance to catch up with old friends and meet new exciting people, exchange business cards with potential employers or think about collaborating on some inspiring project.

I love these conferences because I have a chance to meet journalist-superstars or comedians like Bassem Youssef who uses satire to discuss the most pressuring social issues in Egypt. 

The first day of the conference was marked by the fantastic speech by Bassem Youssef, a prominent Egyptian comedian who managed to create the most popular satirical show across the Middle East. Youssef, often referred as ‘John Stewart of Egypt’, was a cardio surgeon before the Egyptian revolution. His comedy show started as a Youtube channel and gradually grew into a full-scale TV program. Egyptians used to flock to local cafes and sheesha places just to watch his show live every Thursday night, until the program was cancelled by the current repressive regime of General al-Sisi.

In his show, Youssef criticized former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, the new military ruler General al-Sisi and everyone who was in power. As a result, the government forced the show to take a break and no one knows when it will resume. “We’re off the air now so I am enjoying my time of unemployment,” – Bassem joked.

Future of the Media?

I don’t like attending such conferences because I have a feeling that global media players are stuck in the past with their eyes wide shut. Just like dinosaurs following their old habits, they don’t know what’s coming for them. They are almost extinct now. There is no reliable business model for huge broadcasters to produce the same content without relying on public funding.

Instead of talking about innovative ways of journalism and media funding, broadcasters would rather debate ‘whether new media is a threat’ to traditional media. ‘Will conventional media be able to retain their stake or has the time come to revise the very way we think about “news”?’- this particular question is a decade old, yet it is still discussed among media professionals.

The first conference section was dedicated to ‘The future of journalism and the role of international broadcasters’. Five male panelists from Deutsche Welle, Al Jazeera English, and Axel Springer were attacking each other and accusing each other in foul play. First of all, it was a bit weird to see a panel with only males, there are a lot of female journalists who are actively changing the modern media landscape. Secondly, you need to stop discussing the dangers of social networking for media landscape as we are living in the Buzzfeed world. People no longer want to see depressing news in their Facebook feed, they want to share silly cat videos and half-jokingly discuss serious topics. It is no longer a possibility, but a reality. 

I believe media broadcasters should pay closer attention to these changes instead of debating over these issues, as no one can change the current media landscape. Journalists have to adapt to the changing environment and use creative ways to survive in a brutal media world.