Elena Topoleva: human rights activists on the “Big Country” TV show

posted 29 Jun 2015, 01:47 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 29 Jun 2015, 01:51 ]
22 June 2015

by Elena Topoleva, director of the Agency for Social Information 

Source: HRO.org
Video clips about regional human rights organisations are being broadcast on Public Television of Russia (OTR). This – seeing NGOs on television – has been the dream of the Agency for Social Information (ASI) for over 20 years.

As I see it, the appearance of regional human rights organisation on a federal television station talking about their day-to-day activities, about the goals they set themselves and the results they achieve, can be considered a real breakthrough for everyone – for the non-profit sector, for the television industry and for mainstream viewers.

The very reason we set up ASI was to tell the world about what NGOs are and what they do, and about the people who found or work for them. This is still our mission today.

We have made many attempts over the past 20 years to find an outlet for our message on television, since we know that regardless of how many people in Russia use the Internet, they are still outnumbered by television audiences.

Yet for some reason this goal was not at all easy for us to achieve. NGOs, and human rights organisations in particular, have not benefited from the television industry’s recent increase in interest in philanthropy in general.

That’s why, as I said before, the films now appearing in the “Civic Power” section of OTR’s “Big Country” show are such a breakthrough.

I very much welcome the fact that we have found a partner as cooperative as OTR, and that the idea of broadcasting reports about regional NGOs is such a good fit for the ethos behind the “Big Country” show, which aims to cover all aspects of life in Russia’s regions in order to highlight the potential of the country as a whole, including its civil society.

We are particularly delighted that OTR has agreed to air a series about NGOs working in the field of human rights, many of which are facing severe challenges at present. This is an extremely good move which reflects well on the entire profession, since viewers of mainstream television generally know very little about what these NGOs actually do, the assistance they provide or the people who benefit from it.

We are also grateful to Civil Dignity for the grants awarded for this series.

We are confident that the video clips shown on OTR will find other audiences; for example, they may prove interesting for regional media outlets.

They can also be used as a “calling card” and shown at regional and local events by the human rights organisations which feature in them. I hope that our partnership with OTR will continue so that many other organisations can benefit from access to television as a powerful means of public communication.

The fundamental problem faced by Russia’s NGOs is a lack of trust, due first and foremost to the fact that few people know anything about them. Our films show the viewers what human rights organisations do on a day-to-day basis and allow them to draw their own conclusions, setting aside stereotypes and arbitrary generalisations.

Some viewers may decide that they want to learn more about the organisations, to ask them for help or find out exactly what they do, or maybe even to join them as volunteers.

We are well aware that television is one of many different ways of building public relations, and so our work involves not only shooting video clips for OTR, but also teaching organisations how to publicise their work and utilise different means of external communication, since this is the only way that they can foster public trust.

Elena Topoleva, head of the Agency for Social Information (ASI)

Watch the videos on ASI’s Youtube channel

Source: Agency for Social Information

Translated by Joanne Reynolds