"Don't bite the hand that feeds you. But maybe you should, if it prevents you from feeding yourself."
SOMETIMES a line of poetry can change our perception of different phenomena in a powerful way. Sometimes, a simple song can deliver messages that long political speeches fail to deliver. Besides, it is hard to believe that a politician could successfully get the attention of four billion people for longer than a couple of minutes.
On July 2, at the gigantic Live 8 concerts, some of the world's most popular performers used their mass appeal to draw the world's attention to the problems of an ailing Africa.
Oftentimes it is moods and not opinions that move the masses, but this time the organizers managed to create a combination of a great mood and strong opinions in the name of a good cause: putting pressure on the world's wealthiest nations, the G8, to notice that thousands of children are dying of hunger every day in Africa and to take action instead of issuing empty declarations.
Live 8 called on the G8 to double the aid for the poor, to forgive African debt, and to change the rules on trade in such a way that these countries can start to build a future for themselves.
Bob Geldolf, the Irish musician and campaigner, created Live Aid 20 years ago to help the starving in Ethiopia. Geldolf and his fellow organizers realized that anyone who enjoys the attention of the masses has an undeclared responsibility to use this power in the name of good. Although there have been critical voices, some of them valid, pointing out rock stars self-importance and that aid may simply be squandered by corrupt regimes; 26.4 million people contributed to Live 8 and billions saw images of Africa that many would have avoided seeing otherwise.
Each and every person who saw Live 8 had the chance to decide if it was about rock stars or Africa, or both.
Unfortunately, the Slovak audience did not get this chance, as the public service Slovak Television decided not to broadcast the concerts. Part of the population watched Czech television's coverage, while Hungarian speakers tuned in to our southern neighbour's broadcast, and others watched on Austrian channels.
When Live Aid was broadcast 20 years ago, Slovakia was still part of Czechoslovakia and under a Communist regime. Those who recalled watching those concerts experienced a little déja vu this time round as they tuned in to Austrian and Hungarian channels.
On July 2, 140 television stations and 400 radio stations broadcast the Live 8 concerts worldwide, reaching out to billions of people.
However, the STV decided not to purchase the broadcast; not because of doubts about the positive effects of the concerts, or fears that aid will be pocketed by corrupt politicians, but for is own financial reasons.
The STV said the live broadcast would cost far too much for a public service station.
Critics of the STV management led by Richard Rybníček said that the argument does not quite stand up, as the public service Czech Television said it paid only a couple of hundred thousand Czech crowns to broadcast Live 8; much less than it would pay for a long night's programming.
"For almost ten hours of live broadcast we will pay unbelievably little, only a couple of hundred thousand crowns. If we broadcast our standard programmes live, it would cost us much more," a spokesperson for Czech Television, Martin Krafl told the daily Pravda.
Bohumír Bobocký, a member of the STV council, was very critical of Rybníček's decision to ignore the broadcast.
The Live 8 event, according to Bobocký, was by its very nature a programme that a public service television station should broadcast.
"It was a way of expressing solidarity," he said.
In fact the event showed it had the potential to influence young people and address them in a way that education projects or documentaries about Africa hardly could, sociologists agreed.
Several sociologists said that the failure to broadcast the concerts was indeed a missed chance.
"To broadcast Live 8 and make possible this effective appeal on solidarity and active involvement was in fact a public service," Zuzana Kusá wrote in the daily SME.
Understandably, the STV must closely watch its spending and make its decisions based on what the station can afford, but there are times when criteria other than money need to be considered.
Live 8 was not just a regular programme. We might have many objections towards the stars and the rock lifestyle; we might have justifiable objections towards the nature of show business, but in the rare moments when it generates the very best it possibly can, and wants to focus attention on urgent issues, people need to be given a chance to watch it: to participate.
After all, the UN Secretary General himself said, "this is really the United Nations. The whole world has come together in solidarity with the poor."
And perhaps he was right; perhaps the action has had a much greater effect than many UN campaigns have had.
By Beata Balogová
11. Jul 2005 at 0:00