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Media, Innovation and Global Impact

16 January 2018

This column is about change: Ongoing change driven by technology altering the way we work, make money and our ways as social beings… It all happens at a continuously increasing speed – it seems – and nobody knows where it will end. I’m sure that most people do not even have the faintest idea how ground shaking this change will be.

Nevertheless, people are increasingly afraid and look suspiciously at new gimmicks. Others don’t bother to be scared, adopting all new gimmicks without reflecting implications. There is a last group reflecting new developments and trying to use them for the good of mankind. However, the sceptics seem to be taking the lead. Fact is there will be shockwaves before, hopefully, the benefits will be experienced by everybody.

But what does it have to do with the media industry? Media (including music and entertainment) is content, and content is data! Therefore, this industry was the first to be disrupted and this is still going on: Changing and often unclear business models. Moreover, there is the Fake News debate and the lost trust in media particularly in the worrying part of our societies. How can media be expected to live up to its global responsibility to guard our societies and peace, or control governments and lobbying organizations? Again, it is an ongoing struggle – within and outside the industry.

That’s why it is important to send out positive signals. That’s what the Diplomatic Council’s Global Media Innovator, GMI, is about: On one hand to bring positive innovation into the light, not the best funded but simply those with the biggest potential of global impact and positive disruption, and not only within media. Moreover, it is meant to foster the wide debate on innovation and the future shape of our societies. It’s still a long way to go, but we’ll do it!
(More to come in next month’s column when the GMI2018 has been announced…)


Successor Ante Portas?


14 December 2017

When recently surfing along the internet in research mode I stumbled across two items – not connected to each other at first glance. On Artificial Intelligence (AI): Singularity, the moment computers are on the same level with human brains, is likely to be reached in 26 years. WOW! On Global Warming: Men will not be able to stop global warming since Siberian and Canadian permafrost leaks will submit a multitude of methane emissions into our planet’s atmosphere that exceeds the amount by which humans can decrease their CO2 footprint. Therefore, already in 50 years our planet could be uninhabitable with a poisoned atmosphere similar to the one of Venus!

Let’s merge both scenarios: In 26 years computers will learn from each other, repair and improve themselves and knowledge may rise exponentially. Men will no longer be needed. However, following the logic of these two scenarios, the much-liked topic of Science Fiction writers and film makers of the war between men and machine will not materialize. It’s not required since we are extinguishing ourselves - though not before creating our high-tech successor that’s from now on ruling an inhabitable planet.
To make it clear at this point: I do not believe in that scenario! Long term projections always failed in the past. Processes are way too complex to be on target. There are also experts claiming that the algorithm will never be able to fully compete with the human brain. However, “the long-term projections” are not really that long-term anymore.

The shorter the time-frame, the higher the likelihood that reality get close to at least some of the projections. We better watch out!



Diversity – what?

17 November 2017

I bump into a lot of industry initiatives. Not many of them are noteworthy. This one is!

Two years ago, I was invited by a friend to a small cocktail reception during one of the trade shows I regular attend. David was in a Q&A about his experience of being a black CEO with a Nigerian background in Europe and in the US.

Photo: Miss Zion Moreno hosting the awards

This was the premiere of Diversity TV and it had appeared to me as an initiative to support the development of the African TV sector. It is much more than that! This October, for the first time, the Diversity TV Award was presented at a small but very nice gala event at the Carton Hotel in Cannes during this year’s mipcom.

You’re still wrong when you believe it’s about racial diversity. The span is set much wider.  

The initiative aims at championing diversity, equality and inclusivity on the small screen and at improving the representation of racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities. It’s about to become a strong voice for tolerance in a changing world!

And Africa has a loud voice in it. Mo Abudu of Nigeria’s Ebony Live TV and Inspire Africa was a sponsor of the award and presenter of one of the categories. I wish the team behind Diversity TV - only to name Scorpion TV’s David Cornwall and Bunmi Akintonwa of Little Black Book Company – great success. What you do is important, not only for Africa or all the world and not only when captured on these screens in our living rooms or on our mobiles!

Above all, I should not forget to thank you, David Ellender of Sonar Entertainment, for this important invitation two years ago!



Balance of the Worlds

16 October 2017

Huge vertical farm complexes – many stories high, meat, synthesized in huge factories, all in direct neighborhood to the huge megapolises where also big production plants produce any product to support our lives.

Due to artificial intelligence, AI, experts believe that production will return to the places where consumers live, the so-called developed countries, since it no longer requires an expensive workforce. This will have a huge impact on our environment and very well shake up lesser developed countries but also the logistics industry.

Large vessels or cargo planes carrying giant amounts of goods all around the globe and polluting our atmosphere could soon be a memory from the past. Also, a likely scenario is that millions of workers in lesser developed countries (and not only there) will lose their jobs. Because of the poor, and not seldom, dangerous working conditions some may consider this to be a good thing, forgetting to mention the fact that this work is often the only income for large families.

On the other hand, this could provide the opportunity for some countries to re-develop their local farming and production forms to feed their own populations instead of producing sometimes redundant goods for the “developed world”!

The crystal ball usually remains blurred on the future! Only time will show what it will really look like. We only know there will be immense change and impact! However, it’s worth (and necessary) to analyze the indicators. That’s the only way to anticipate possible scenarios and avoid the bad and foster the good.

However, one thing seems to be obvious: The challenges of the very near and more distant future will be immense!

Censorship defending Democracy?

9 September 2017

The good thing about the current Fake News debate is that we can no longer ignore the problem of radical views in our societies. That’s the first step to finding solutions! This cannot be censorship because that would be hiding the problem again! There is no covering up in digital networks. Radical communications would be hidden again, nevertheless be quite effective. Today, many of these radical activists can be heard much louder than ever, and many who hadn’t expressed their discomfort and fears before are now doing so. Their discomfort opens them to alternative and fake news sources. This creates a spiral that can’t be stopped with bans. In the contrary: Why do you ban anything when it is nonsense?

We must return to the values of our democracies including open debate of ALL opinions, even if we feel hurt. I’m sure we have plenty of arguments and the better ones! By excluding opinions, we prepare the ground for more radicalism, in the worst case we wove it into mainstream. Even worse, our defending democracy may itself bury the freedom it stands for.

We must leave our comfort zones and argue rather than cover up. There are many references to the pre-WW I and II period from clever minds. We are in times of rapid change and many have already lost their comfort or social status. There’s similarity, for sure! However, we are living in a different environment: Then, international relations were limited to the elites. Today there is mass tourism and most business is international. Then, wars still were considered to be „Ultima Ratio“. Today, most people are aware of the consequence of a new world conflict. We have the chance to avoid the fatal mistake of our ancestors.

Fake News and Democracy

15 August 2017

It’s a pest indeed, the sudden rise of so-called fake news distributed via the internet and social media channels trying to influence public opinion. Authorities are panicking and their reactions may even prove dangerous to our societies, more dangerous than the fake news themselves.

Passing legislation making platforms block and/or erase fake news and their authors is censorship that opposes the right of free speech! This right is essential to democratic societies granting to express your opinions and beliefs, even it is mere nonsense. There are other and better ways to tackle the problem.

Yes, in digital environments also nonsense spreads rapidly. On the other hand, digital environments also react to nonsense at the same speed. The impact of fake news is limited since almost immediately another wave of corrections will be out. The problem is only for those serious media adopting too fast and un-reflected to something that appears to be spectacular. For a big newspaper to correct a negative image deriving from being too un-reflected is painful. However, there is also a learning curve. By now, everybody knows double checking is essential. More so: Ethical standards like the ones laid down in the DC Codex on “Public Communications and Trust” are becoming essential.

The problem is with those who belief in fake news. They can’t be influenced by regular media channels. However, such filter bubbles are not a new phenomenon. It was hidden before social media allowed everybody to become a global publisher for his own interests, hidden for our societies that now recognize the problem at last, and hidden for “conspiracy activists” who now found a loud and global voice.

The good thing is, we cannot ignore the problem any longer. That’s the first step to finding solutions!

This cannot be censorship that would be hiding the problem again!




It Only Just Began!

19 July 2017

Discomfort of Europe with its first climax in Brexit, the stunning victory of Donald Trump in the US elections, the ongoing and increasing tensions in the Middle East: The recollection of intellectual worlds long believed overcome has many reasons. However, they can all be summarized by the term globalization with digitalization being a major driver of it, shaking up our businesses and societies.

Real-time communication as with social networks like Facebook creates the feeling of being culturally attacked also in the world’s most remote areas. For sure, this is one of the main reasons why fundamental religious groups are becoming so popular.

Politics has no answers yet! Some don’t know, some don’t believe and others don’t care, driven by their own agenda of “maximizing” efficiency” frustrating the man in the street who doesn’t understand the logic behind it and who feels left alone.  

The massive increase of the number of non-voters in democratic societies has been an early warning. Politics didn’t know how to react. Indeed, we are walking on “terra incognita” when we are looking at the social impact. Tools are presented everywhere and contradicting.  More dangerous, however, is the widespread notion of continuing as before. “Never change a running system” has been true some years ago – today it means disaster.

More so since the end of these digitally caused changes is not yet in sight. Let’s look at robotics and artificial intelligence.  A huge part of the labor still done by humans will decline rapidly and be done by a machine, including many white-collar jobs. It will also have an impact on Africa – possibly contradicting international initiatives to strengthen the continent’s countries and their people.

However, there is no reason to be overly pessimistic.  But we must be prepared for a steep – and sometimes painful learning curve towards a “Digital World Order”.


14 June 2017

"Change Now”! That’s not an invitation, that is the description of an on-going process, around the globe, across all industries and more so all societies! The result is increasing uncertainty across humanity and a growing desire to return to the “good old days”!
Stop dreaming: They’ll never come back! And that’s what this column is all about: How to tackle this continuous pressure for change. In many cases change is technology driven, a digital revolution.

I’m coming from the media industry. If you look at it, media, no matter if you refer to it as audio (or music), filmed or written entertainment and even the news - if you break it down it's all “content”. And content is nothing but data and that's the reason why media industries were the first ones to be disrupted by digitalization. Has the industry learned its lesson? In many cases no, for a simple reason, change is still ongoing!

However, media has a much wider responsibility. It must help the individual to adapt to the new world, both by creating comfort zones through its entertainment offers and by explaining the new world or to help to discuss it! As a matter of fact, that’s what the DC Global Media Forum could become, a platform for reflection of all these aspects and to provide some orientation. That’s why I’m happy about the invitation to write this regular column for Diplomatic Society!

Let’s also look at the other side of the digital revolution. That’s “Innovation”. And that's where Africa as a continent of high potential comes in. Only now, the world has started to become aware of its wealth. For example: already now Africa is a pioneer in mobile (micro) payments and the world is beginning to learn from it. Well, let’s not ignore the problems, however, that’s very promising!

Let’s kick off a debate about change, about opportunities… I’m looking forward to it!



Nov/Dec 2017 Edition







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