EU Charter of Fundamental Rights – Article 11 – Freedom of expression and information
Everyone has the right to freedom of expression.
This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.
The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected.
The UK is also a party to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions which is a binding international legal instrument adopted by the UNESCO General Conference on 20 October 2005.
What are the guiding principles of the Convention?
A series of principles guarantees that no measure or policy shall infringe human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression, information and communication, as well as the ability of individuals to choose their cultural expressions.
What are the rights and obligations of the Parties to the Convention?
One of the fundamental objectives of the Convention is to put into practice cultural governance, i.e, interaction between individual and institutional stakeholders in sharing responsibility for the diversity of cultural expressions.
The Convention also contains a series of Parties’ rights and obligations, which aim to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions in a spirit of mutual reinforcement and complementarity with other international treaties and guided by international concerted action and cooperation.
Respect for human rights and the fundamental freedoms of individuals constitutes the backdrop of the Convention.
The Convention recognizes the connecting link between cultural diversity and the full realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms; one could not exist without the other.
In that connection, “no one may invoke the provisions of the Convention in order to infringe human rights and fundamental freedoms as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or guaranteed by international law, or to limit the scope thereof”.
Thus the risk of cultural relativism, which in the name of diversity would recognize cultural practices that infringe the fundamental principles of human rights, has been eliminated.
The Convention allows the Parties to determine the existence of special situations where cultural expressions on their territory are at risk of extinction, under serious threat, or otherwise in need of urgent safeguarding.
It also allows them to take all appropriate measures to protect and preserve cultural expressions in such situations.
Moreover, the Convention acknowledges the sovereign right of the Parties to formulate and implement their cultural policies and to adopt measures designed, inter alia, to:
1. provide opportunities for domestic cultural activities, goods and services among all those available within the national culture.
2. provide domestic independent cultural industries and activities in the informal sector with effective access to the means of production, dissemination and distribution of cultural activities.
3. encourage non-profit organizations and also public and private institutions, artists and other cultural professionals to develop and promote the free exchange and circulation of ideas, cultural expressions and cultural activities.
4. promote the diversity of the media, including through public service broadcasting;
5. provide public financial assistance and establish and support public service institutions in an appropriate manner.
In return for these rights, the Convention provides for a number of obligations that are incumbent on the Parties, which are called upon to:
endeavour to promote in their territory the creation of an environment which encourages individuals and social groups to create, produce, disseminate, distribute, and have access to their cultural expressions, paying attention to the special circumstances and needs of women and social groups, including persons belonging to minorities and indigenous peoples on the one hand, and, on the other hand, to have access to diverse cultural expressions within their territory and from other countries of the world;
ensure information sharing and transparency by providing appropriate information in their reports to UNESCO every four years on measures taken to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions;
foster the public’s understanding of the importance of the diversity of cultural expressions through educational and public-awareness programmes;
acknowledge the fundamental role of civil society in protecting and promoting the diversity of cultural expressions by encouraging the active participation of civil society in efforts by Parties to achieve the objectives of the Convention;
incorporate culture into sustainable development and strengthen international cooperation in support of developing countries by several means, for instance, by strengthening their cultural industries, building their capacities to develop and implement cultural policies, technology transfer, financial support and preferential treatment for their artists and other cultural professionals and for their cultural goods and services.
Parties to the Convention shall exercise these rights and fulfil these obligations in a spirit of mutual supportiveness, complementarity and non-subordination.
Relevant documents here:
Click to access 244689_1425664_116_2.pdf
Click to access tradoc_146629.pdf
Television and radio broadcasting in Scotland
Many articles have been written over the last few years, all of which, when considered together reveal a deep seated dissatisfaction with the provision of broadcasting services to Scotland.
But the UK government continue to deny Scots their right to public service broadcasting, pluralistic and free from interference and major changes are required at the BBC where the metropolitan culture is solid, together with the belief that London is where decisions are made and the rightful location for retention of power over broadcasting.
I am minded of a ding dong battle a few years back over the badging of productions being Scottish when they had no obvious link with Scotland.
The BBC had to be forced to agree to the use of the Ofcom definition for out of London productions which resulted in the expenditure in Scotland figure being reduced from £51.8m to £31.6m. Over £20M less. Hows that for short-changing Scottish Licence payers. And it still goes on.
16 Jun 2011: Scottish Parliament Broadcasting Debate
Fiona Hyslop, the Culture Secretary indicated that the ambition of the Scottish government’s involvement had expanded to include the Licence Fee and the regulation and delivery of broadcasting within Scotland.
1. Needs to be able to ensure the establishment of the Scottish Digital Network as a public service broadcaster with a remit within Scotland and with guaranteed spectrum which can make it available to everyone in Scotland
2. Needs to be consulted on subsequent television licence fee settlements and the use of that revenue if it has knock-on impacts for Scotland.
3. Have responsibility for, or at least an involvement in, decisions made by the UK Government about local television stations which will broadcast within Scotland.
4. A desire to be consulted over the licence fee including introduction of aid plans to divert some of it to fund plans for Scotland.
The Subsequent BBC Annual Report Responded
Audiences still feel there are weaknesses in how the BBC represents the different nations, regions and communities to other people in the UK; the BBC is taking steps to address them….
However our surveys show that there are still weaknesses in the devolved nations, particularly Scotland and Northern Ireland, where expectations are higher and perceptions of performance lower. Now what the hell does that mean?
The UK Audience Council Added Comment
Following advice from Audience Councils across the UK, the BBC Trust initiated a joint project with the BBC Executive to investigate ways in which the BBC might better portray the full diversity of the UK’s nations and communities across its network services, significantly enhancing the cultural representation of the nations and regions of the UK including Scotland.
The Council looks forward to progress on this in the year ahead. No change.
Bringing the UK to the World and the World to the UK – Major new content with international potential would be more likely… if the process of increasing network television production in Scotland focussed more on content with recognisably Scottish elements.
Council advised that the Trust ask the Executive to develop a robust long-term strategy for television drama for audiences in Scotland to increase production, stimulate creativity, and broaden the range of drama portraying Scotland to audiences there. No change.
Click to access bbc_trust_2009_10.pdf
Jane Sillars Wrote:
Scotland’s television services reflects many of the key issues surrounding broadcasting in minority cultures.
Politically part of the multi-nation state of the United Kingdom along with the other “Celtic” countries of Wales and Northern Ireland, Scotland’s legal, educational and religious institutions remain separate from those of England, the dominant partner.
But its broadcasting systems, like much of its cultural organisation, display a mixture of autonomy and dependence reflecting Scotland’s somewhat anomalous position.
Scotland’s current terrestrial television therefore reflects the evolution of Britain’s broadcasting ecology, offering viewers a choice of a mix of British networked television and Scottish national and local productions.
In the 1990s extensive lobbying brought governmental support of £9.5m for the production of television programmes in Scotland’s minority indigenous language, Gaelic.
Unquestionably a welcome move, it nonetheless demonstrates that it is easier to gain recognition for linguistic than for cultural differences.
There has been a transformation in cultural activity in Scotland over the past two decades–most notably in literature, but also in theatre, music and film–which many see as a form of cultural nationalism.
Yet BBC Scottish television continues to offer its audiences anti-heroes like Ian Pattison’s comic creation Rab C. Nesbitt, a gloriously loud-mouthed Glaswegian drunkard and member of the underclass, who exaggerates to comic excess accepted notions of nationality and class.
A more sophisticated and ambiguous demonstration of this parodic process is to be found in BBC Scotland’s police series Hamish Macbeth.
Set in a picturesque Highland village populated by bizarre characters, it simultaneously sends up the stereotypes of Highland life, while embracing their more marketable forms.
Much of the debate about television in Scotland, in both an academic and a popular circles, has concerned itself with analysing and often attacking the dominant images of Scottishness which have been produced, while comparatively little attention has been paid to questions of production and policy.
In Scotland questions of cultural identity and diversity, independence and control reverberate through television production at both a symbolic and a material level.
Full article here: http://www.museum.tv/eotv/scotland.htm
In denying the Scottish public their rights to the active promotion, through broadcasting of cultural diversity within Scotland the UK government and its centrally controlled BBC is in breach of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights – Article 11 – Freedom of expression and information.
But having established the case what is to be done with it.
I believe the Scottish government should take it forward to the EU, perhaps through Scotland’s MEP’s.
Other contributions welcome.