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|Special issue - November 2005|
AthenaWeb: ‘audio-virtual’ Europe
Two Eurobarometer polls on European attitudes to science and technology (1), show that people generally trust information provided by the media and by television in particular. The television also remains their principal source of information, although young people seem to be turning increasingly to the internet. Yet apart from productions by a limited number of major science programme-makers, such as the BBC (UK), few programmes made by less well-known or independent companies achieve widespread distribution. This is despite the fact that at European level a very interesting variety of short films, documentaries, interviews, etc. is available. “At the present time, science films do not travel well inside the EU,” explains Patrick Vittet-Philippe, Press Officer, Research DG. “There is a lack of information on the programmes available, as well as problems of language and of copyright. Launched in the spring of 2005, the AthenaWeb European initiative serves as a link between science programme directors, independent producers, scientific journalists and all those active in the world of communication in the fields of science and technology.”
The site is intended solely for professionals who can consult a ‘library’ of productions available in Europe and view documents on-line in high-quality format (QuickTime and Mpeg 4). AthenaWeb has 4 500 registered users. Some 200 titles are available, representing about 30 broadcasting hours. It aims to increase this to 100 hours by the end of 2005.
One of the initiative’s original features is to offer the audio-visual sector different kinds of contracts. Three types of operating licences are possible: the traditional copyright, copyleft (free use of certain videos – most of them coming from institutions – with mention of source), and copyshare. The latter is new and permits the exchange of videos between users. AthenaWeb also aims to facilitate the development of new productions and co-productions. The network between researchers and professionals that it would like to develop should favour this exchange of ideas and their implementation.
(1) The Europeans, Science and Technology and Social values, science and technology - http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/index_en.htm
Research TV: labs on screen
The Skin's the Thing, Sex and Death in a British Orchard, Say it with Flowers… are not the names of romantic fiction films but of documentaries presenting the results of research carried out at British universities. They can be viewed – and obtained – at the Research-TV website. Launched in 2004 by the University of Warwick to publicise its work through the most popular media, the initiative was later expanded to include the universities of Birmingham, Durham, Nottingham and King’s College London.
The idea is simple. Researchers open up the doors of their laboratories and explain their work to media professionals. The documents produced – which strictly respect the length and other stipulations of the broadcasting channels – are in the form of brief news releases which can be used in news programmes or longer documents. The procedure is simple: visit the website, read the film summary and consult the details, then view it. If you are a programme planner you can then order the film.
On average, the Research-TV stories are used by around 30 stations within 24 hours of being placed on-line. The organisers estimate that a billion people have the opportunity to view a document obtained from this source. The films are not only of interest to the Anglo-Saxon market but also to major clients abroad – France 2, the French public broadcaster, used five Research-TV stories in the space of three months. All the films have also been broadcast by E-TV, a satellite theme channel that concentrates on technology (in English and Italian) and is sponsored by Epson (www.tech-channel.com).
Success breeds success and the British team is currently envisaging launching the Science-TV project, a channel that would present the latest developments in research, the questions asked by and of science and also provide a forum for debates with the public and dialogue between experts. Another project, Business School-TV, will concentrate on subjects in the field of management.