With the wall-to-wall coverage of candidates and polls we've watched and heard for almost a full year (remember all those GOP debates?), it's hard to believe the US presidential election is still several months away. But if you're like me, you might still feel disconnected -- even with 24/7 political coverage. The horse-race style programming that now dominates hot political seasons can be counterproductive -- further polarizing voters (or would-be voters) and reducing the election to personality gaffes of the candidates instead of issues that impact our lives on a daily basis.
Here's what I want to know during an election season and beyond: What are the facts behind the poll-question issues? What does it mean to be "pro-woman" or "anti-woman" or "pro-environment" or "pro-business" from a policy perspective -- in ways that really matter to all of us?
Luckily, my smart colleagues at Link TV agree.
As part of an effort to provide our audiences with in-depth, issue-oriented political coverage ahead of the US elections, we're happy to announce that Link TV will premiere Al Jazeera English's daily half-hour news program, "Inside Story Americas," on Tuesday, August 21st. The news program, produced out of Al Jazeera English's Washington DC news center, will air Monday through Friday on Link TV at 12pm ET/9am PT and again at 7pm ET/4pm PT -- and will be available online at LinkTV.org/InsideStoryAmericas.
Kicking off this fall with its "unconventional political convention coverage," the show will talk to people who are most affected by the policies and politics of the two parties, but are left out of the mainstream discussion. "Inside Story Americas" will go to the margins -- hearing from those protesting at the conventions and those calling for solutions that go beyond either party (The US political conventions take place during the last week of August and first week of September).
Hosted by Shihab Rattansi, the show offers expert analysis about what's behind the stories in the headlines and the issues affecting peoples' lives from Canada to the Caribbean to South America, as well as the policies and decisions made in Washington that impact the rest of the world. In its premiere months on Link, "Inside Story Americas" will examine topics as diverse as the Venezuelan elections to the structure of the global financial system. Already this year, "Inside Story Americas" has debated a range of topics from the struggle of Colombia's indigenous communities to the mainstream media's coverage of the link between climate change and extreme weather.
In the past year, Al Jazeera English was named "News Channel of the Year" by the Royal Television Society, received a Peabody Award for its coverage of the Arab Spring uprisings, a Columbia-DuPont award for its coverage of the Haiti earthquake, a George Polk Award and Robert F. Kennedy Grand Prize award for the film "Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark," and has been nominated for an Emmy Award for the social media discussion show "The Stream."
And by the way, if you can't get enough Al Jazeera English programming on Link TV, there's more: In addition to the new carriage of "Inside Story Americas," Link TV airs Al Jazeera English news bulletins daily at 8:30am ET/5:30am PT, 1:30pm ET/10:30am PT, 10pm ET/7pm PT and airs the Al Jazeera English documentary series, "Witness," every Sunday at 8pm ET and 8pm PT.
We hope you'll tune in and check it out. After watching several episodes online, I feel a little smarter already.
If you read and watch entertainment news, you know that an Iranian filmmaker, Asghar Farhadiis, is racking up the Hollywood awards for A Separation even in a climate of US-imposed sanctions. And if you're paying attention to most media coverage, you're well aware of the nuclear issue. But other than that, do we have a lens into the lives and stories of Iranians? Does this kind of cultural lens matter as we settle into our perspectives about Iran? Yes. Without showing the lives, struggles and culture of everyday people living and working in Iran, we in the West have a potentially skewed image of Iranians.
In 2006, Link TV developed a documentary TV series, Bridge to Iran, to provide a window into the lives and struggles of everyday Iranians -- to respond to the cultural and political tensions that have developed between Iran and the US since the Iranian Revolution. Over the years, Bridge to Iran has covered a wide range of social and political issues in modern Iran, including the experiences of young girls facing womanhood and uncertain futures, religious pilgrims who risk their lives to visit a holy site in war-torn Iraq, rural life and political awareness, an exploration of Tehran as an urban metropolis, and Iranian women's participation in the election process.
The new season premieres on February 14. In each of the four episodes of Bridge to Iran, in-depth discussions between host Parisa Soultani and top Iranian filmmakers provide a unique lens into some of the challenges and realities facing Iranians during a time of increased instability -- including censorship, sanctions and safety concerns.
Here are the details about the films and when to catch the episodes, on Link TV or online:
Iran: A Cinematographic Revolution, directed by Nader Takmil Homayoun, explores the history and politics of Iran through its rich filmmaking tradition; premieres on February 14 at 7:30 pm ET / 4:30 pm PT and February 16 at 10:00pm PT. Watch online starting February 14.
The Queen and I, directed by Nahid Sarvestani, documents the filmmaker's complex relationship with the exiled former queen of Iran; premieres on February 21 at 7:30pm ET / 4:30pm PT and February 23 at 10:00pm PT. Watch online now!
We Are Half of Iran's Population, directed by Rakhshan Bani Etemad, looks at women's participation in the controversial 2009 elections; premieres on February 28 at 7:30pm ET / 4:30pm PT and March 1 at 10:00pm PT. Watch online now!
Siah Bazi (The Joy Makers), directed by Maryam Khakipour, traces the demise of a popular form of irreverent street theater; premieres on March 6 at 7:30pm ET / 4:30pm PT and March 8 at 10:00pm PT. Watch online starting March 6.
Bridge to Iran offers a diverse perspective on a country on the receiving end of a torrent of media attention -- but with a lens that's inclusive of the people and the art found within Iranian borders. We hope you'll tune in and tell others.
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Caty Borum Chattoo is a producer and communication strategist with Link TV, assistant professor in the School of Communication at American University in Washington, DC, and media fellow with the AU Center for Social Media.
Can social-issue documentaries play a role in helping to end global poverty?
Link TV thinks so.
Almost one year ago, the nonprofit global affairs media organization and broadcast network launched a project based on the idea that documentary storytelling, combined with social actions and the latest news, could make a meaningful contribution to the challenge of global poverty. The idea became ViewChange.org, an online portal built on the foundation of semantic Web technology that connects documentary stories to news and social actions in global poverty. In other words, in one place, people can watch character-driven stories, read the latest news about issues covered in the films, and then connect directly to action campaigns around each social issue. It’s a site and tool that’s primed for grassroots awareness and action.
The ViewChange.org platform is now a curated documentary hub with more than 400 short- and long-form character-driven documentaries from around the world – and all of them illustrate real progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals, which together comprise the world’s “blueprint” for ending global poverty. The portal site now includes the best stories from top global development organizations and filmmakers around the world.
I work on the project in a kind of hybrid role that combines documentary producing, communication campaign strategy and partnership cultivation with top global development organizations, including Devex, InterAction, Save the Children, UNICEF, PSI, Global Health Council, ONE, Comminit, Bread for the World and more. And thanks to the expertise of these groups, combined with the amazing repository of films now licensed to ViewChange.org, we’ve started producing half-hour TV specials in partnership with several top global development organizations – the ViewChange TV series. For each show, the narrative is informed by the expertise and objectives of the partner organization, and the main story and outreach campaign are developed simultaneously against the backdrop of the group’s organizational (and sometimes advocacy) objectives, creating a powerful campaign-style approach.
But one key to the project is simple and so powerful for those in the social-justice community to organize around specific issues – the fully-sharable/embeddable formatting of the acquired films and the final jointly-produced shows. By giving the videos, films and global development shows to groups and blogs to embed and share for their own purposes, we’re offering a tool that’s useful not only in our own campaign outreach, but for others to use in theirs. Interested in raising attention about the connection between climate change and drought in developing nations? Want to support innovative hunger relief programs in poor areas of the world? Need a documentary story that can be used in your own awareness/activist campaign to organize for purposes of advocacy or other goals? Navigating through the ViewChange.org tool provides all of these opportunities.
Just last week, one of these jointly-produced documentary specials premiered on Link TV (Friday, August 12 and 16) and on ViewChange.org. Working closely with Bread for the World, an anti-hunger advocacy organization, the “ViewChange: Challenging Hunger” documentary special combines filmmaking from Bread for the World itself, along with short films from Oxfam and the Sundance Institute. In this particular show, the organization’s advocacy goals – to use foreign aid more effectively to help poor and hungry people – provide the narrative thru-line.
The call to action is urgent: With more than a billion people suffering from chronic hunger, the timing of potential budget cuts would be particularly devastating to developing nations. And the special debunks a key foreign assistance myth and provides new insight into the ripple effects of chronic hunger: Most Americans believe that about 25 percent of the U.S. budget goes toward foreign assistance, but, in fact, less than 1 percent supports crucial foreign assistance programs—including anti-hunger programs and food aid. The funding is vital to the continued development and management of innovative programs that provide long-term solutions to hunger.
The outreach includes a grassroots campaign to reach out to Bread for the World’s network of thousands of individual members, churches and denominations around the country, as well as reaching out through its college-age hunger activists group. Teams at both Link TV and Bread for the World are working jointly in an integrated strategic communication campaign model that includes traditional media outreach, blogging, sharing the show via embeddable links, outreach to top global development influencers, and social media.
To support Bread for the World’s work directly, check out its fact sheets and advocacy opportunities on its site: Tell Congress to create a circle of protection around funding for programs that are vital to hungry and poor people in the US and abroad.
Thirty years after the CDC confirmed the first cases of HIV, millions have died, particularly in developing nations. But there's hope. Innovative HIV prevention programs -- including a peer education program from hair stylists in Zimbabwe and a media campaign promoting male circumcision in Africa -- are contributing to a decrease in the global rate of new HIV infections.