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ICDF Media Workshop – The Final Journey

ICDF Media Workshop  – The Final Journey

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by Jude Knight 06.JUNE.08

If you thought the 90-minute, 300 km/hr journey by KMRT bullet train to Kaohsiung City was a thrill, well the trip back to Taipei by bus was an experience of a different kind.

On Sunday, May 4, after a sumptuous early morning breakfast at The Ambassador Hotel in Kaohsiung City, the International Cooperation and Development Fund (ICDF) officials loaded the workshop participants onto a large bus and headed back to Taipei City.{{more}} Although we knew it was going to be a long journey, we never thought it would take the whole day and some. During the trip, which was far from boring, we also bypassed several other buses with tourists singing, dancing and enjoying themselves. Let me explain something else about these buses. They are fully equipped with Karaoke equipment and listings of several dozen songs – enough to excite any party animal over the long haul.

We made two stops at what may be considered bus terminals. These ‘bus terminals’ resemble airports minus airstrips, with several restaurants, shops and large toilet facilities. They cater for passenger buses and private vehicles traveling the long journey between north and south. And trust me, St. Vincent and the Grenadines would be happy to swap the E.T. Joshua airport with any one of those terminals, not only for size and physical structure, but also the actual amenities and culinary delights.

On the way, we also observed something that caught our eyes instantly. These were several burial plots on slopes with designs totally different from what we are accustomed. All of them were concrete structures, circular in design and most of them were well manicured. Some of them were on hilly areas overlooking agricultural plots, as if in a mark of respect to fallen farming families. We were told, though, that most families opt for cremation for deceased relatives, as putting bodies in the ground is very expensive.

The bus arrived at City Suites Gateway Hotel at after 7 p.m. and we started to prepare for our next assignments. On Monday morning, May 5, we visited the leading television broadcasting company – Eastern Broadcasting Company (ETTV), where we got a lesson in broadcasting techniques. After lunch, we had an exciting exchange with Dr. Chung-ming Cheng, Research Fellow of Engineering Department, Public Television Service, Ms. Laura Meng-yen Lou, PR of Programs Department, Broadcasting Corporation of China, and representatives from the Government Information Office and the United Daily News. In a two-and-a-half hour encounter that was way too short, we tried to discuss “The Development and Challenges of the Media Industry in Digital Times”. We covered several topics like the Internet, modern television and radio and what impact they are having on the newspaper industry. We came to the conclusion that the newspaper industry must find creative ways to regenerate itself in order to stay competitive in the fast paced world of technology.

During all the tours to television stations, radio stations, government offices and other places, we were treated to the most high tech digital presentations we would ever see, and with each, we were first given a synopsis of the history of the people of Taiwan and what they have accomplished so for. They rightly boast about their advances in science and technology, education, health, agriculture, construction and other exploits. They also boast of their 11th ranking in the Freedom of The Press 2006 survey results published by the US-based Freedom House. But in all the presentations, something was clearly missing, and we just could not find an answer to the question. And the question was “How serious an issue is HIV/AIDS in The Republic of China (Taiwan) and what role is the media playing in the education and dissemination of information on HIV/AIDS?” It was interesting that none of the panel at any of the sessions had concrete information on this very serious topic.

What we wanted to see were the cold, hard statistics and comparisons to other countries around the world. One would have thought that the media houses in particular would have records on something as serious as HIV/AIDS and they would have that information at the tips of their fingers or the click of a computer mouse button. Government must be collecting this information, and they would want to share the statistics with the media. The media in turn could assist in spreading the word of abstinence and safe sex to the youths of the country. In fact, at one session, when the topic of HIV/AIDS was raised, I observed only one member of the panel mentioning the word “sex” during the entire exchange, and he seemed a bit uncomfortable doing so. And though the topic of sex still seems to be taboo in Taiwan, it is simply not sufficient anymore to argue that Taiwan’s youths are not as sexually promiscuous as those in other countries.

In Taiwan, we saw outside influences, particularly North American, and how strongly they have penetrated the television. And this was clearly visible by the mode of dress of mainly the young Taiwanese, both on television and on the streets. From the hairstyles, earrings and tattoos down to the mannerisms tell you that some of Taiwan’s youths are looking outside the box, and these outside forces will change the way they think and behave over time.

I was also told by an official that young people in Taiwan were not very interested in having many children anymore because this prevents them from furthering their education, and then it will be costly to send those children to university. But I responded with the argument that while they might not be having children, they will most likely be having sex so that is still a cause for concern. Taiwan will have to be careful, too, that with the youths not having children, they could be faced with the serious problem of an aged population down the road. Whatever the situation is, though, Taiwan’s officials are too forward thinking not to have a back-up plan.

Tuesday, May 6, was both a happy and sad day for the Media Workshop participants and ICDF officials. Days before, we were divided into five groups – Group 1: Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay and Czech Republic; Group 2: Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Palau, Marshall Islands, Nauru and Tuvalu; Group 3: St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia and Haiti; Group 4: Guatemala, Panama, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador; Group 5: Burkina Faso, Mongolia, The Gambia, Swaziland, Bangladesh and Indonesia, and each group prepared an accomplishment report. At the Awards and Closing Ceremony that Tuesday morning, five group leaders each delivered the reports in Power Point presentations, assisted by other group members before the Secretary General of ICDF Andrea S.Y. Lee, Deputy Secretary General Nelson Chan, Program Manager Cathy Chen and other members of ICDF at the Grand Hyatt in Taipei. The ICDF President then gave the closing remarks in which he praised the media group for the high level of maturity and knowledge we exhibited, and the fact that each and every participant attended the sessions and were never short of questions. He said the ICDF learned as much from us as we did from them. We were then presented with our certificates and other awards, before being treated to a farewell banquet at the same hotel.

Tears began to flow for the next few days as participant after participant – 27 of us in all – departed at various times for the airport. There was this feeling of camaraderie which is really hard to explain. The ICDF brought together 27 different people with different religious backgrounds, from 26 different countries, and we showed them that we could work together and live in harmony. Maybe warring factions all over the would should take a leaf from our book, if we could forget our political, religious, racial and other differences and work together then you could certainly try harder. One note to the United Nations and World Health Organisation – The Republic of China on Taiwan is on its way to becoming a world leader in Science and Technology, and it is providing much needed assistance to countries with small economies like ours. This country is not driven by any need to produce weapons, and its main focus is to educate and provide food for its people. We had better take another look at Taiwan and bring them into the fold.

Jude Knight is the Chief Sub-Editor/ Production Supervisor at Searchlight Newspaper.

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