Monday, May 16, 2005

The Mediterranean

The Mediterranean

Chapel Hill – There are a few places around the world that seem to bring mostly pleasant thoughts to people’s minds when they hear the name.

One of them is the Mediterranean.

People tend to think of beaches, sun. good times and good food. They usually overlook areas of racial and religious tension and conflict. They tend, for sure, to overlook poverty. And they pay at least some lip service to history.

That history of the region – made up of more than 20 countries that you can reach from a rowboat from the middle of the Mediterranean Sea – is served by about as diverse group of media as one could find anywhere.

There are scrolls and tablets that go back to the beginning of western civilization. They were the first rough drafts and the final drafts of history of their times. There is all that was written on the famed papyrus paper of the Nile. In neighboring Tunisia, there is the source of the some of the highest quality “bible” paper in the world. In Italy, the telegraph was invented, and in Israel all sorts of new media technologies are evolving.

Several of the countries of the region are notable for their involvement in the movie business. Many cities are frequently the international meeting sites for major slices of the global media pie.

There are major international news agencies in three countries and many other national and regional agencies spread along the Mediterranean coastline. Huge television broadcast and production operations encircle the Sea as well.

Books that go back to the beginning fill the Vatican library and books of the present and perhaps future fill the electronic an other shelves of the new Alexandria library.

More than two dozen languages are spoken around the Mediterranean resulting in much missed communication and the ever present challenge of finding a common language or good translators.

This is the homes of the Balkans, and so it is not surprising that “balkanization” is a big problem. Most corporations and international organizations divide the Mediterranean into three pieces – north, east and south. The result is very few regional organizations bringing together interests other than the beloved Sea itself.

There are fledgling efforts to create a Mediterranean “parliament” and other such initiatives, but it is tough “sledding” and requires tremendous perseverance. Other initiatives are in the tourism area. Occasionally, some unity gets created as sporting and other events move between cities and countries. This usually involves boats. We have not yet seen a Tour de la Mediterranee bicycle race, for example.

Tremendous opportunities await us in terms of the ways in which the Mediterranean and its media could take on a more decidedly Mediterranean air. It starts with more communication, more exchange of ideas.

The European Union has fostered some of this, but it would be so much better for this to emerge from the region as a thoroughly Mediterranean initiatives with no strings attached. The EU has a responsibility first to its member countries. An organizing authority for the Mediterranean needs to have a more independent aire about themselves in order to gain support.

The Mediterranean Media Center is one such initiative. Initially, we are keeping track of reported media news from the region, or relating to it. You can see this at . A basic description of the MMC plan is here

The Mediterranean and its media have a great story to tell. One hopes that they will recognize this and join forces, where possible, to achieve more by such combinations that any of the media people could achieve working on their own.

Imagine the kinds of exchanges and professional opportunities that could be fostered through such an approach. There is a huge potential to serve core business interests and in the process to create the kind of connections and dialogue among people that likely would not happen without some additional connection potential. In order to get people of all kinds talking with one another, one needs to provide a means to do so. The MMC and other initiatives are designed to help make that easier, and therefore more likely.

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