|WACC’s history spans several decades. The urgent need to limit mass media propaganda – evident in Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia – awoke an earlier concept that the mass media should serve the public good. In place of government control and commercial interests, those responsible for the mass media should be the voices of democratic accountability, balanced news, and cultural diversity.
|Over the years, alongside rapidly evolving communications technologies, the language changed from “more equitable news and information flows”, to a “New World Information and Communication Order”, “democratization of the media”, “media reform”, and “communication rights”. But at its heart lay the firm belief that the right to communicate equals respect for the inherent dignity, integrity, equality, and freedom of all human beings worldwide.
Design Thaís Teckemeier / Text and Illustrations Philip Lee / Concept Saskia Rowley
The Lumière brothers held their first public screening of films at which admission was charged on 28 December 1895 at the Salon Indien du Grand Café in Paris. Ten short films were shown, including their first film: Sortie des Usines Lumière à Lyon (Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory in Lyons).
Rev. George Bell, chaplain to Randall Davidson, Archbishop of Canterbury, hears the Archbishop protest against the immorality of the British government’s policies during World War I. “We have to see to it that the spirit of hate finds no nurture in our hearts.”
On air from 6 November 1919 until 11 November 1924, PCGG (Netherlands) was one of the world’s oldest radio stations and arguably the first commercial broadcaster.
2MT was the first British radio station to make regular entertainment broadcasts and the world’s first regular wireless broadcast. 2LO (left) was the second radio station to regularly broadcast in the United Kingdom. It began transmitting on 11 May 1922, for one hour a day from the seventh floor of Marconi House in London’s Strand. On 14 November 1922 the station was transferred to the new British Broadcasting Company (BBC).
Rev. George Bell, now Bishop of Chichester, a cathedral town in the south of England, chairs the Universal Christian Council for Life and Work and gets to know German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A staunch pacifist, in later years Bell would become known for opposing the atomic arms race and for supporting many Christian initiatives of the time aimed at ending the Cold War.
The BBC begins transmitting the world’s first public television service from the Alexandra Palace in north London. In 1936 it became the home of the first regular public “high-definition” television service, operated by the BBC. Alexandra Palace television station was located on the site and its radio tower is still in use today.
Bishop Bell publishes “The Church’s Function in Wartime”, denouncing military aggression and “the havoc wrought by collective egoism.” During the Second World War, Bell was involved in helping displaced persons and refugees who had fled the continent to England, as well as interned Germans and British conscientious objectors. In 1940 he met with ecumenical friends in the Netherlands to unite the churches ready for a joint peace initiative after victory over Nazi Germany.
In a post-war broadcast to Germany, Bishop Bell appeals for a genuine return to Christian goodwill. “No nation, no church, no individual is guiltless. Without repentance, and without forgiveness, there can be no regeneration.” A memorial plaque bearing these words can be found in Chichester Cathedral (left).
The Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC) was the first electronic general-purpose computer. It was Turing-complete, digital, and capable of being programmed to solve “a large class of numerical problems”. Initially designed to calculate artillery firing tables for the United States Army’s Ballistic Research Laboratory, when ENIAC was made public in 1946 it was heralded in the press as a “Giant Brain”. It had a speed of one thousand times that of electro-mechanical machines.
Foundation of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
In the U.S.A., Dr S. F. Mack, Dr Everett Parker (right) and Nicholas Hagman set up the Radio, Visual Education and Mass Communication Committee(RAVEMCCO).
The 1948 Olympics. With just six cameras and two outside broadcast units, the BBC Television Service pulled off its biggest outside broadcast of the 1940s.
With the legacy of propaganda in two world wars in mind, Bishop Bell encourages Edwin H. Robertson, assistant head of religious broadcasting at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), to organise an Informal International Conference on Religious Broadcasting. Representatives of ten European countries met in Chichester, England, in October 1950. Throughout the decade television viewing increased dramatically.
Christian radio and television leaders, including members of the International Study Committee on Church Broadcasting and Television Activity, meet in Bossey, Switzerland. The group establishes the World Committee for Christian Broadcasting (WCCB) and begins publishing The Christian Broadcaster, a forerunner of The WACC Journal.
The first national colour broadcast (of the 1954 Tournament of Roses Parade) took place in the U.S.A. on 1 January 1954, but during the following decade most network broadcasts, and nearly all local programming, continued to be in black-and-white. It was not until the mid-1960s that colour sets started selling in large numbers.
The first Conference of the World Committee for Christian Broadcasting (WCCB) took place 25 April to 1 May 1957 at Kronberg Castle, Frankfurt, Germany. More than 100 representatives of religious broadcasting departments of public radio and television stations from around the world discussed the role of mass media in contemporary society.
The second WCCB Conference takes place in November 1961 in New Delhi, India. Delegates change the name to the World Association for Christian Broadcasting (WACB). Dr Harry Spencer (USA) and Drs Van Gelder (Netherlands) were elected as co-chairpersons.
The Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) asks its Division of World Mission and Evangelism to work with WACB to implement inter-denominational broadcasting work, training and surveys.
Dr Sigurd Aske, Director of the Lutheran World Federation’s radio station in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, becomes WACB Executive Director.
The Co-ordinating Committee for Christian Broadcasting (CCCB) studies church-related broadcasting needs in developing countries.
On 12 July 1962 television monitors in New York show the first images broadcast by satellite from the United Kingdom to to the U.S.A.
The third WACB Conference takes place in Limeru, Kenya. It adopts a new Constitution “to provide a working fellowship of churches, agencies, organizations and persons concerned with the use of radio and television to proclaim the Christian Gospel in its relevance to the whole of life.” The Rt. Rev. Bishop Dr Fridtjov Birkeli (left, with Edwin H. Robertson) is elected WACB chairperson.
The World Council of Churches establishes a Christian Literature Fund (CLF) under the direction of Dr Charles G. Richards.
Edwin H. Robertson becomes WACB Executive Director based at its new headquarters: Edinburgh House, 2 Eaton Gate, London. WACB’s Central Committee includes corporate and personal members from each region of the world.
WCC convenes a consultation at the Bossey Institute, Geneva, Switzerland, to consider the relationship of theology to mass communication.
The Coordinating Committee for Christian Broadcasting, a WCC-mandated body, and WACB meet in New York, U.S.A., 18-22 December 1967 to approve a Memorandum of Agreement to plan a single organization to consolidate their work. The Memorandum proposes “a new World Association for Christian Communication, and while its primary emphasis at this time is on broadcasting, it recognizes that Christian communication has many dimensions.”
In 1968 WACB and CCCB merge to form the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC). At its first Assembly in Oslo, Norway, Bishop Birkeli becomes President Emeritus, Rev. Dr Fredrick R. Wilson is elected President, and Rev. Philip Johnson becomes Executive Director.
The Christian Broadcaster ceases publication.
Action Newsletter starts publication as a service to members, first under the editorship of Dr James E. McEldowney and then under Robert F. Cramer. In December 1973, freelance writer and photographer Rev. Ronald T. Englund took over as editor, a post he kept until the beginning of 1984. He became widely known as “Mr WACC” for his dedication to publicising the life and work of WACC.
The WACC Journal begins publication under the general editorship of German journalist Hans-Wolfgang Hessler. In 1976, Swiss journalist and theologian Dr Michael Traber is invited to become editor, the beginning of a long period in which the journal becomes internationally recognised for its coverage of communication for development and the global South.
In 1970 the North American Broadcast Section of WACC (NABS-WACC) is inaugurated in Chicago.
The WACC secretariat moves to 7 St. James’s Street, London, in the heart of Piccadilly and only yards from St. James’s Palace.
The Christian Literature Fund (CLF) becomes the Agency for Christian Literature Development (ACLD) – still under the direction of Charles Richards.
WACC and ACLD form the “new” WACC at a joint meeting at the Skyway Hotel, London. The new WACC establishes a Print Media Development Unit (PMDU), an Electronic Media Development Unit (EMDU) and a Commission on Communication Education (CCE).
In the same year the IBM 5100 becomes the first commercially available portable computer.
Dr Hans W. Florin (left) is appointed WACC General Secretary. At a ground-breaking meeting of the Central Committee in Malta, plans are approved for a Periodicals Development Programme, a Group Media Development Unit, and a new emphasis on strengthening WACC’s regional associations. WACC also establishes the Black Press Fund to support anti-apartheid newspapers in South Africa.
The WACC global office moves to 122 King’s Road, London, in the heart of “swinging” Chelsea.
WACC launches an international study “to help churches understand the social, economic and ethical implications of new electronic technology”. A small study group is convened to devise a programme “to defend the interests of Third World nations to have adequate access to satellites and other technologies to meet their needs.”
WACC sends five representatives to take part in the World Administrative Radio Conference (WARC) where questions of access to the electromagnetic spectrum and satellite parking spaces are discussed.
In partnership with Evangelisches Missionswerk (EMW), Hamburg, Germany, WACC launches a long-running programme to bring Christian publishers from the developing world to the annual Frankfurt Book Fair.
The WACC Journal becomes Media Development. At first a self-cover is used carrying the editorial and a photo. Later, a designer provides illustrated covers based on the quarterly theme. These highly successful covers run from 1984 to 2006.
Following the publication of the MacBride Report, Many Voices, One World in 1980, the New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) controversy is discussed at a joint meeting of WACC, WCC, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), and representatives of Roman Catholic groups held in Versailles, France, 1-4 February 1981.
WACC implements an Intercultural Communication Programme (ICP) to study communication in the context of the local cultures of the Philippines, India and Mexico. Its basic premise was that development communication could not take place without taking into consideration the culture of local people and the socio-economic structures that affect their lives.
WACC initiates a Curriculum Development Programme to assist Christian agencies to improve training methods. It also initiates a Theological Studies Programme with a seminal publication and a global survey.
The world’s first hand-held cell phone, DynaTAC 8000x, was demonstrated by Motorola in 1973, using a handset weighing around 2.2 pounds (1 kg). In 1983, the DynaTAC 8000x (left) was the first cell phone to become commercially available.
“Women in Communication” becomes a new programme at WACC to “promote justice and equality for women through existing communication projects.”
In 1984 Steve Jobs introduces the first mass-market personal computer featuring a graphical user interface and mouse. The Apple Macintosh Plus is shown (left). Five years later, the Macintosh Portable, Apple’s first battery-powered computer, comes on the market.
WACC signs a contract with Sage Publications for what becomes a long-running series of books on “Communication and Human Values” jointly edited by Dr Robert A. White of the Centre for the Study of Communication and Culture (CSCC) and Dr Michael Traber (WACC).
WACC approves and publishes its foundational Christian Principles of Communication.
The WACC global office moves to 357 Kennington Lane, London, near the former 19th century Vauxhall “pleasure gardens”. The lease on the Chelsea offices having expired, WACC sought a location that had more of a community feel.
WACC republishes Many Voices, One World: Communication and Society Today and Tomorrow – the “MacBride Report” originally published by UNESCO in 1980.
WACC organises its first international Congress on the theme “Communication for Community” held 15-21 October 1989 in Manila, the Philippines. Opened by then President Corazon C. Aquino (left), she spoke of the 1986 revolution in her country having been supported “by Christian communicators, especially the radio broadcasters, who played a key role in mobilizing people, getting them to stay at their posts… and keeping their faith alive in the midst of danger.”
WACC starts work on its first Study and Action Programme (1991-95), focusing on communication ethics, the right to communicate, communication and religion, women’s perspectives, communication education, and communication, culture and social change.
WACC organises the landmark conference “Women Empowering Communication” together with Isis International and the International Women’s Tribune Centre, held in February 1994 in Bangkok, Thailand. The conference led to the Bangkok Declaration, which underlined the need “to promote forms of communication that not only challenge the patriarchal nature of media but strive to decentralize and democratize them.”
WACC carries out its first Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) on the representation of women in radio, TV and newspapers on a single day worldwide.
WACC organizes its second international Congress on the theme “Communication for Human Dignity” held 7-11 October 1995 in Metepec, Puebla, Mexico.
WACC convenes the Platform for Cooperation on Communication and Democratization to discuss common strategies. The group agrees to work for “the right to communicate to be recognized and guaranteed as fundamental to securing human rights founded on principles of genuine participation, social justice, plurality and diversity, and which reflect gender, cultural and regional perspectives.”
WACC carries out its second Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP). The preliminary results were released in time for the UN Beijing + 5 events in June 2000. The final results, including detailed country tables and qualitative analysis by region based on more than 16,000 news stories, were published in Who Makes the News? in December 2000.
WACC organises its third international Congress on the theme “Communication: From Confrontation to Reconciliation” held 3-7 July 2001 in the Netherlands. Participants concluded that, “Responsible communication promotes understanding within and between faiths and cultures. It supports local traditions of peacemaking, explores creative uses of new technologies, and seeks dialogue between science and faith.”
WACC runs the secretariat of the Communication Rights in the Information Society (CRIS) Campaign. Its mission was to influence the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in the light of a vision of an Information Society grounded in the right to communicate, as a means to enhance human rights and to strengthen the social, economic, and cultural lives of people and communities.
WACC joins civil society groups lobbying for communication rights at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Geneva, Switzerland, and later in Tunis, Tunisia. They are successful in putting communication rights on the agenda of civil society organizations and governments. But it is generally agreed that the game is far from over.
WACC carries out its third Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP). The study shows that news paints a picture of a world in which women are virtually invisible. Women are dramatically under-represented in the news and only 21% of news subjects – the people who are interviewed, or whom the news is about – are female. Women’s points of view are rarely heard in the topics that dominate the news agenda.
The WACC global office moves to 308 Main Street, Toronto, Canada.
WACC initiates key programme areas including “Recognizing and Building Communication Rights”, “Media & Gender Justice”, “Communication for Peace”, “Communication against HIV and AIDS Stigmatization and Discrimination”, “Communication and Ecumenism”, and “Communication and Poverty”.
WACC’s fourth international Congress is on the theme “Communicating Peace: Building viable communities”. It was held 6-10 October 2008 in Cape Town, South Africa. Acknowledging WACC’s sustained support for communication projects challenging the evil of apartheid, keynote-speaker Archbishop Desmond Tutu noted that communicators are called to be peacemakers and to carry on the struggle for justice, dignity and peace “for as long as our communities remain divided, unviable and wracked by violence.”
WACC carries out its fourth Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) when 1,281 newspapers, television and radio stations are monitored in 108 countries. For the first time Internet news monitoring is introduced on a pilot basis. The study found that only 24% of the people heard or read about in print, radio and television news are female. In contrast, 76% – more than 3 out of 4 – of the people in the news are male.
In January 2010, Haiti and its people became victims of a devastating earthquake. The effects were catastrophic on many levels – to its economy, its residents and its communication infrastructure. In response, WACC launched an immediate appeal to assist the process of rebuilding community media in the areas most severely affected by this disaster. As a result WACC was able to assist three leading groups to carry on their work.
WACC draws up its new Strategic Plan 2012-2016. For the first time, WACC has a Strategic Plan based on global participatory processes and a broad involvement of and consultation with its members, networks and partners. It is not merely a plan for the global office, but one that reaches out to the eight WACC regions as active and indispensable partners in its implementation.
WACC approves a revised foundational document: “Communication for All: Sharing WACC’s Principles”. Four programme initiatives focus on “Pathways to digital frontiers”, “Gender and communication”, “Monitoring rural poverty reporting”, and “Strengthening community radio”.
WACC works with the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Korean Host Committee for the WCC 10th Assembly to craft the Busan Statement on “Reclaiming communication for life, justice and peace.”
WACC partners with UNESCO and other NGOs to organise the Global Forum on Media and Gender, held 2-4 December 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand. It is a pioneering event aimed at addressing gender equality and women’s empowerment in and through the media in order to contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goal on “promoting gender equality and empowering women”. It enabled high-level sessions that debated the challenges faced by international, regional and national programmes on gender and media.
The Internet has transformed the world and the way people think about the world. Whether you believe that the Internet is not just providing information about the world, but also making available the means to understand it, or that a million monkeys at a million keyboards can produce the complete works of Shakespeare (and thanks to the Internet, we now know that’s not true) – the Internet will certainly not be the last word in communications technology.
WACC carries out its fifth Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) survey aimed at measuring gender equality in the world’s news media. Disappointingly, the study showed that women make up only 24% of the persons heard, read about or seen in newspaper, television and radio news, exactly as they did in 2010.
WACC celebrates its 50th anniversary with a symposium on «Communication Rights Today» held in Hamburg, Germany. It also publishes a special issue of its journal Media Development exploring WACC’s role in a digital world. The ITU’s World Summit on the Information Society names WACC one of its Champions in the category «Ethical Dimensions of the Information Society».