Extreme disorders of urban functions and mass media, Budapest, 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 jeopardize the ordinary functions of a city and the role media play in these situations.
 More then 150 participants from Hungary, Portugal, Poland and France came together at the Budapest city hall to discuss these issues with representatives of cities, safety services (police, fire brigade, emergency services, private security companies), 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 phenomenon of insecurity. What influence do media have on the perception of security and the feeling of insecurity? Is there a link between media content and consumptions 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 the media to take on their responsibility in the interest of the common good 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 fall playing these fears and not to fall for alarmist news coverage. They should rather be informative and clearly separate news, opinion and entertainment.
Several speakers underlined the importance to understand 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 of officers and showed how communication strategies should be part of crises 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 also objective researchers as Dr György Virág and Dr Klara Kerezsi from the Hungarian National criminological institute, cannot exclude effects on behaviour, notably of children. Though, they underlined that they should not be overstated.
The conference did not conclude on an alarmist voice on the contrary. What counts in the eyes of the participants is how to manage and how to make use of the opportunities medias present. By integrating media in the local and national efforts for safety, they can on the other hand live up to their responsibilities.
More information can soon be found on our Hungarian website www.efus.hu.