GlobalVision at 20: Insiders turned outsiders keep kicking

GlobalVision, the path-breaking media company anchored in New York with a truly global outlook and a strong commitment to social justice, completed 20 years this week.

It was launched in November 1987 out of one room in Soho (New York) as a mission-driven company with little money but a big idea: to improve news coverage of the world through an “inside-out” approach that would offer voices not usually heard on the air in the US.

The founders were Danny Schechter, who became, in his words, a “network refugee” from ABC News 20/20 and Rory O’Connor, then with CBS News 48 Hours.

As the company introduction says:

“The whole world is watching… From Baghdad to Beijing, from Madrid to Manhattan, information is moving at the speed of light. Media and communications technology are transforming our lives — and those of our six billion neighbors. But in the emerging global village, whose stories get told — and who gets to tell them?

“At Globalvision, we believe in telling stories from the inside out. That means working with other cultures — not at them –and helping people to tell their own stories in their own way, to a world that’s getting smaller every day.”

In an industry saturated with media companies known more for their style than substance, Global Vision has not only blazed new trails, but used moving images in ways that moved people towards social change, political reform and – just as importantly – constantly question and challenge conventional wisdom and traditional authority.

They have also never hesitated to challenge the fellow journalists and corporate media on their servility, acquiescence and willing suspension of journalistic norms in the United States, especially under the current Bush administration.

They have won numerous awards and professional recognition for its pioneering international newsmagazine South Africa Now, which first broke through censorship to smuggle footage out of what was once the land of apartheid — and later chronicled Nelson Mandela’s transition from prisoner to President.

The company followed up with another award winning series, Rights & Wrongs: Human Rights Television with Charlayne Hundter-Gault, which aired for four years in sixty-two countries around the world.

Danny and Rory have also directed and produced more than thirty hard-hitting documentaries, many involving controversial issues and investigations — some for the PBS “Frontline” series” and others for television systems worldwide. Current films deal with subjects such as America’s child farm workers, bridging the global digital divide, flawed media coverage of the War in Iraq, and the ongoing debt crisis that threatens the global economic system.

I met Danny in person only once – in the Fall of 1995, when I spent a few weeks in New York on a fellowship to study the United Nations. Danny was one of the more colourful people we met (besides lots of men in suits from the UN, only a few of whom I can now recall by name). Danny introduced himself as a (TV) ‘network refugee’ — and gave a workshop on television journalism in defence of the public interest and human rights that had a lasting influence on myself.

Ever since, I have followed his books, incisive NewsDissector blog and Global Vision output with much interest.

So here’s wishing Danny, Rory and team at GlobalVision many more years of kicking ass! Global Vision marks 20th anniversary

Read Danny Schechter on: The Days of Our Dominion: Global Vision celebrations 20 years in the trenches

Rory O’Connor’s tribute to the late Anita Roddick, a long-standing supporter of Global Vision