The growth of international commerce, which has helped reduce production costs, shows that globalisation can indeed have positive effects on intercultural dialogue. Cultural products have become an important source of economic benefits as well as employment creation. Furthermore, the opening of new markets has expanded, at least in theory, the perspectives of the creators of such products. And, finally, the growth of information and communications technologies (ITC) constitutes a means of participation in the social, cultural and economic life of cultures and languages around the world.
However, national and international markets have seen the emergence of commercial groups that have come to resemble oligopolies that dominate the market. These business conglomerates have taken advantage of technological convergence, deregulation and of the subsequent merging and concentration of companies. As such, these trends threaten to marginalize cultural diversity as culturally independent creators, producers and broadcasters increasingly find themselves outside of the mainstream channels.
According to the Study on International Flows of Cultural Goods, published by UNESCO, the value of cultural goods and services rose from 95.34 million dollars in 1980 to 387.93 million dollars in 1998. Furthermore, the bulk of this trade, which includes print, music, visual arts, cinema, photography, radio, television, videogames, sports merchandising comes from a small group of countries. At the start of the present decade Japan, the US, Germany, Great Britain and China were the main exporters in this sector, controlling more than half of the total volume of business.
According to data published in The Economist, in 1993, 36% of the companies in the sector had their headquarters located in the US, another 36% in the European Union and 26% in Japan. In just four years later, in 1997, more than half of these companies were based in the US. In 1980, thanks to exports, the US obtained 30% of the profits of trade in this sector. At the end of the nineteen nineties, the US share of profits rose to 50%. Comparatively, the European trade deficit in the audiovisual sector rose from 3.5 million dollars in 1993 to 6 million dollars in 1998. Even more dramatically, as of the close of the past decade, the entire continent of Africa had an average level of film production of only 42 movies per year.
The BRCD had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Ahmed Gazhali, President of the Haute Autorité de la Communication Audiovisuelle of Morocco (HACA).
The HACA is a member of the BRCD and in addition holds the vice-presidency of the Mediterranean Network of Regulatory Authorities (RIRM), and will host the next meeting of the Network in June 2007.
The interest in conducting this interview has been to know, firsthand, the position of the HACA regarding the questions that affect the representation of cultural diversity in the communications media and, in particular, the situation in Morocco.
The conversation with Mr. Gazhali touched on the following subjects: the position of Morocco in the international agreements that affect the cultural and broadcasting sector; the role of the HACA in the promotion of the representation of cultural diversity in the broadcasting media; and the challenges of the new audiovisual services.
Morocco has been very active in the negotiations of the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The consistent position of the Moroccan government has been in favour of the exclusion of cultural goods and services and the broadcasting of such from the negotiations for trade liberalization. This position has been the same as argued by the government during the negotiations of the Morocco Free Trade Agreement with the United States: to exclude any and all references regarding the liberalization of cultural and broadcasting products. The government and involved societal groups are convinced that this is a way to protect the Moroccan culture and the diversity of the country.
This posture reflects the political and social consensus of the country. Not only in the political realm has there been awareness of the need to protect and promote the cultural diversity of the country, but also in recent years many diverse social groups and professionals have emerged that are working in this direction. One of these groups is the Moroccan Coalition for Culture and the Arts, an association of cultural professionals and which has strong links to the Comité International de Liaison des Coalitions pour la Diversité Culturelle (CIL). The Coalition acts as a lobbying group on the Moroccan authorities, but also has mobilized for the defence of the uniqueness of cultural products. For its part, the HACA maintains permanent exchange and dialogue with these organizations.
The Moroccan government has been very active in the creation and approval processes for the “Convention for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expression” of UNESCO. Currently, the involved organizations are making a broad effort in the follow-up and dissemination of this Convention.