Broadcasting the IP Story in Africa
Journalists from Gabon showed that IP can make great TV.
Journalists play an influential role in spreading the success stories of the intellectual property (IP) system – and indeed in airing its controversies. But to do so effectively requires a basic understanding of the workings of IP and of how it relates to the public interest. Reaching out to journalists with substantive, topical information is therefore central to successful communication by IP offices and organizations.
“Journalists,” declared Mr. Paulin Edou Edou, Director General of the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI), “are our strategic partners in the quest to raise awareness about IP as a catalyst for economic growth and improved living standards.”
Mr. Edou Edou was addressing the first WIPO-OAPI Seminar for Journalists, held in the bustling city of Yaoundé, Cameroon from April 15 to 17. The seminar brought together journalists from the 16 OAPI member states in order to acquaint them better with the IP system and with its relevance to their countries as a strategically important means of promoting economic, social and cultural development.
The journalists heard first hand accounts of what IP rights mean to musicians, to scientists, to the guardians of traditional knowledge and to entrepreneurs. The speakers’ insights provoked lively debate among the participants, who highlighted the need to raise the political profile of IP in African countries and so create a more fertile environment for journalists to educate, inform and amuse their readership on these issues.
E’Eyo - Gabon’s TV hit
A team of journalists from Gabon’s national radio and television station, RTG1, proved that IP can make great TV, as they recounted how they went about launching the first TV program ever dedicated to IP in the OAPI region.
The project was the brainchild of Mr. Cyr Nze Menzu, a senior official from the ministry of commerce and industry seconded to RTG1. Mr. Nze Menzu’s vision was to get ordinary people hooked on IP by showing the purpose of patents, trademarks, copyright, designs and geographical indications in their daily lives. Overcoming initial skepticism, he and his associates convinced the RTG1 executive board to endorse production of the series. They called the show E’Eyo – after the supreme creator and protector of knowledge according to the mythology of the Fang peoples of Gabon.
The first episode of E’Eyo, broadcast on World Intellectual Property Day 2007, marked a new departure in TV programming in Gabon, drawing the public’s attention to areas of science, technology, creativity and innovation previously unexplored by the national media. The volume of mail received by the TV station showed that the confidence of their executives had paid off – the producers had come up with a formula that captured the popular imagination, offering new insights into the creative universe and a better understanding of the knowledge-driven economy. The viewing figures have gone from strength to strength as the series has caught the attention of policy makers, entrepreneurs, researchers, academics, artists and the public alike.
The Gabonese team did not downplay the many practical challenges for journalists seeking to produce IP-focused programs within Africa. They underlined in particular the importance of building proactive communications with the legal, scientific, technological and business communities in order to ensure a constant flow of engaging, informative and thought-provoking material. The team has now set up a non-profit organization, Le Club des Amis de la Propriété Intellectuelle (CAPI), to inject further dynamism into their IP awareness endeavors and, they hope, to secure more sustainable funding for programs such as E’Eyo.
By Cathy Jewell, Media Relations and Public Affairs Section, WIPO.