“Extreme disorders of urban functions and mass media”, Budapest, 3-4 of December 2008

“Extreme disorders of urban functions and mass media”

On 3–4 December 2008, the city of Budapest organised its third international conference on crime prevention. This third edition was dedicated to the numerous threats that can disturb or jeopardise the ordinary functions of a city and the role the media play in these situations.

More then 150 participants from Hungary, Portugal, Poland and France came together at the city hall in Budapest to discuss these issues with representatives of cities, safety services (police, fire brigade, emergency services, private security companies), the media and research. The issues discussed were on the one hand what media can do in case of a crisis situation. What is responsible and helpful news coverage? How can security services be best prepared for cooperating with the media and make best use of the opportunities media interest provides? On the other hand, the conference dealt with the more general role of the media with respect to the phenomenon of insecurity. What influence do the media have on the perception of security and the feeling of insecurity? Is there a link between media content and consumption and violent behaviour?

Efus’ Vice-President Béla Danielisz pointed to the important role “fair-minded” media can play in a city’s efforts for safety. He called on the media to take on their responsibility in the interest of common safety and advised security services to be open. Efus executive director Michel Marcus presented the Efus instruments for local safety audits and underlined the importance of functioning cooperation methods between all stakeholders – including media.

Duna TV board member Simkó János stressed the ambiguous role media and television can play. Whereas fear – in fiction or non-fiction formats- always sells, it was the media’s responsibility not to play on these fears and not to fall for alarmist news coverage. They should rather provide informative and clearly separated news, opinion and entertainment.
Several speakers underlined the importance of understanding the city as a system or organic and presented this understanding of the system as the key to influencing it and curing it from sicknesses. They underlined that small changes from different stakeholders can already make an important change.

Representatives of police and emergency services explained how they develop their communication strategies and their efforts to work with the media. They underlined the importance of training officers and showed how communication strategies should be part of crisis management and even emergency interventions.

The fear of the media as a cause of a feeling of insecurity as well as ignorance and violence was the other central issue of the conference. Several speakers underlined that media influence should not be overstated and that these fears should be seen in a historical context: they showed that at each period in time, new developments are perceived as endangering morality and manners. Nevertheless, violence is overrepresented and biased on TV. In reality, most crime is actually non-violent, police investigations are not so successful, victims usually don’t have the favourable socio-economic background they have on TV. In recent years representation of crimes have become more violent and more sexual. Therefore even objective researchers, such as Dr György Virág and Dr Klara Kerezsi from the Hungarian National Criminological Institute, cannot exclude its effects on behaviour, notably that of children. However, they underlined that they should not be overstated.
The conference did not conclude on an alarmist note, on the contrary. What counts in the eyes of the participants is how to manage and how to make use of the opportunities the media present. By integrating the media in the local and national efforts for safety, they can, on the other hand, live up to their responsibilities.

More information is availble on our Hungarian website: www.efus.hu