Geneva, March 1997
Committee on Sectoral and Technical Meetings
and Related Issues
SIXTH ITEM ON THE AGENDA
Symposium on Multimedia Convergence
(Geneva, 27-29 January 1997)
1. The Symposium on Multimedia Convergence was the first meeting for the media, culture and graphical sector since the redefinition of sectors which resulted from the evaluation of the Sectoral Activities Programme in 1995.(1) Previously, a Tripartite Technical Meeting for the Printing and Allied Trades had covered graphical workers. Other media and culture groups, such as journalists, performers, salaried authors and inventors, were covered on an ad hoc basis.
2. Hence, this was the first time that the social partners from such a wide range of media and entertainment industries had met. The topic of the symposium touched all the industries and employment groups covered within the new sector and gave participants an opportunity to improve their understanding of the concerns of subsectors with which they had not been familiar in the past. The choice of multimedia convergence as the agenda item was considered to be timely.
3. The Governing Body had determined that the purpose of the symposium was to be an exchange of views on the social and labour issues related to multimedia convergence. The output of the meeting was to be a document comprising a summary of the discussions and abstracts of the papers presented.(2) That document will be presented to the Governing Body at its 270th Session (November 1997).
4. The Office prepared a brief issues paper(3) in advance of the meeting, which highlighted some of the main economic trends leading to multimedia convergence and the social and labour issues now emerging. Among these figured principally the questions of employment, training and retraining, and labour relations.
5. Participants' oral presentations were largely focused on the three themes mentioned above. In the course of the general discussion, other issues of social concern were raised. These included the threat of increasing polarization between information "haves" and "have-nots" -- that is, between rich and poor countries, between well-educated and unskilled workers, and between those with and those without access to technology sources -- and the need to preserve and encourage the expression of cultural diversity in the information age.
6. The symposium was chaired by Mr. M. Blondel (Worker member of the Governing Body). The Employer Vice-Chairman was Mr. W. Durling (Employer member of the Governing Body). The Worker Vice-Chairman was Mr. C. Warren (Federal Secretary of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance of Australia). Mr. Werner Ringkamp (Germany) served as the Government coordinator.
7. The symposium did not follow the five-day format of standard sectoral meetings, nor was it governed by the Standing Orders for sectoral meetings. It was organized as a series of panel discussions and individual presentations proposed by the participants themselves based on agreed topics. Each panel and major presentation was followed by a period of general discussion, scheduled to be of roughly comparable length. The format of the symposium gave much more opportunity for participants to play an active role throughout the meeting, both on panels and in the course of general discussion. This aspect of the meeting was highly appreciated by the Employer and Worker participants.
8. The symposium also served as a source of suggestions for follow-up activities to be undertaken in the coming biennium. Among the suggestions was a widely supported proposal by the Governments of Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Hungary and the United States on training in the information society, which asked the ILO to develop, collect and disseminate information on training and retraining initiatives and programmes. The ILO was urged to devote the necessary effort to developing a framework for further discussion, debate and research, better defining the scope of issues and industries involved in multimedia convergence. This framework would be of great use, not only to the ILO, but also to other organizations coming to grips with a multidisciplinary and multisectoral phenomenon. The need for close collaboration between the ILO and other UN agencies in work on the issues facing the information society, notably the ITU, WIPO and WTO, was also stressed at the meeting, as was the need to pay attention to regional distinctions. The Office was asked to organize regional and subregional seminars to raise awareness among the social partners of the implications of convergence and to promote structures for dialogue within the multimedia industries. Among its priorities, the Workers' group requested the ILO to develop further its involvement in the field of intellectual property rights related to the work of performers, authors, journalists, directors and other workers holding rights. The report of the symposium will include a compilation of the proposals put forward during the meeting.
9. The relevance of such principles as freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of discrimination and the promotion of equality of opportunity was reaffirmed in the course of discussion. Changes under way in the sector, however, challenge the social partners to find appropriate mechanisms to reinforce these principles in practice and to extend social dialogue.
10. Submitted for information.
Geneva, 25 February 1997.