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News Agencies Have Potential For Growth, Says Journalism Scholar

By Ahmad Zukiman Zain

KUALA LUMPUR, April 19 (Bernama) — Asia-Pacific news agencies are set to hold an unprecedented meeting in Seoul this week as a United States-based journalism scholar predicted that news agencies hold vast potential for future growth.

This was despite all the misgivings voiced about news agencies in the early days of the Internet, said Prof Oliver Boyd-Barrett of Bowling Green State University in Ohio, who has been invited to speak at the Organisation of Asia-Pacific News Agencies (OANA) Summit Congress.

His study on the news agencies’ prospect is published in his latest book “News Agencies in the Turbulent Era of the Internet”, to be launched in Barcelona, Spain on May 10.

“I believe the book delivers a resounding message: despite all the difficulties, all the challenges and complexities of their business, news agencies as institutions of political, economic, cultural and social importance, survive and often thrive,” he told Bernama in an email interview ahead of the four-day OANA summit beginning Wednesday.

His observation will provide valuable insight for the meeting that will discuss “Challenges and Opportunities for News Agencies in the New Media Era” as its theme.

The meeting is expected to be the largest event in the history of OANA, which was formed in 1961 on the initiative of UNESCO to promote regional news exchanges, and now comprises 41 members from 33 countries.

Heads of news agency associations from Europe, Africa and the Middle East will also attend the Seoul summit as observers. It is co-hosted by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency as part of its 30th anniversary celebrations.

Boyd-Barrett said the single most important outcome of the OANA Summit would be the opportunity for member agencies to share experiences and potential solutions to the challenges that they collectively faced.

“Among the most important of the challenges they each face, inevitably, is the challenge of how best can agencies position themselves in the rapidly evolving age of both wired and wireless Internet.”

Having conducted extensive research on global news agencies, Boyd-Barrett said OANA could do more than providing news exchange among its members.

“I would hope that there are greater possibilities for monetising this exchange with a view to developing regional news services of interest to media and non-media clients throughout the world, including the media markets of the most prosperous countries.

“This may entail a notable upscaling of investment including dedicated personnel, further development of regional enterprise and investigative reporting, and identification of new delivery systems.

“Additionally, OANA’s role in the provision of professional training and development can only become more important in the years ahead,” he said.

On OANA turning 50 next year, he said the “sheer durability” of OANA and of its member agencies was testimony to the continuing and essential importance despite all the difficulties that they faced, of the services that news agencies provided in the cause of public communication.

“For the future, I believe OANA can help provide a vision for multi-media, multi-modal news delivery and for the development of entrepreneurial services that may help provide revenues for future investments and enhance professional independence,” he said.