Maltese Aid Service (MAS)

Round table 3 «Role of the mass-media in solving important social problems: The philosophy of «Reporters of Hope in Ukraine»

October 8

 Maltese Aid Service (MAS). Experience and perspectives of collaboration with media

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Charitable organization “Maltese Aid Service in Lviv” is a member of Maltese Service network in more than 80 countries of the world. In Ukraine we work since 1990. Priority directions of our activity are guardianship of children from boarding schools and orphanages, and also of poverty-stricken and needy people of elderly age of our city. For both categories of those in need we conduct large-scale long-term projects and actions. “Saint Nicholas for children of boarding schools” - for children of orphanages and boarding schools. Our attention is given to more than 40 of such institutions, where 8 thousand children live and study. Besides seasonal activities, we systematically help certain institutions to improve living and educational conditions there. For poorly secured categories of population we conduct projects of charitable dining – “Charitable Dining”, “Dining on wheels”. We dedicate our attention also to issues of disabled people, children with Cerebral Palsy, lonely mothers and anti-crisis centers for them.

Collaboration with media makes up sector of primarily importance in our activity. In general, in the world collective thought about charity is formed by mass-media. Besides this, they appear to be guarantor of charitable actions and campaigns. Ukraine is also heading in this direction, therefore ponderosity of role of media in structure of our activity and activity of similar organizations is hard to overestimate. Over ten years our organization closely collaborates with media, and we can indeed boast of duration and stability of relations with many media-companies. And we feel sincere gratitude for this fruitful collaboration. Also as a result durable experience of interaction we dare to bring up questions on problematic in this sphere, and we hope that such a sharing of thoughts will lead to improvement of forms and and quality of collaboration in future, and will be valuable and beneficial for both sides, and for people of region in general.

So in the beginning I would like to define scope of existing collaboration of our (as any other) charitable organization with media:

Keeping people informed on problematic in general (increasing sensibility of society)

Information on organization, its activities, actions held and their results. Here we have to note that Ukrainian Law foresees duty of annual public announcement of activity results by charitable organizations – so called accountability of activity of charitable organizations.

Advertisement (production and broadcasting)

In reference to the questions of information:

- a result of informing wide masses on certain problems is actualization of brought up issues, erudition of the public with situation, and consequently – readiness to react, when facing the problem in life. This is phenomenon of increasing sensibility of society towards certain issues, problems. MAS operates own positive experience. Fifteen years ago problems of children in orphanages of the city and region were obscured from public eyes, or more precisely saying – were not publicly circulated, didn’t gain actuality. This happened as a result of inertia, as providing of existence of this sector in soviet time was in complete charge of the state. Together with other media-partners – radio “Luks” we were pioneers in business of popularization of this issue. 1996 then a lot of press articles, radio reportages emerged. The issue was articulated. Large-scale action “Saint Nicholas for children from orphanages” has started. As a result we have well broadcasted theme, which needs only good activity coordination and some experience of participants of the process. More than that, action has gain a character of model and was completely adopted by other regions of the country. This is a wonderful example of situation, in which benefits from collaboration between charity and media has apparent social dimension, when private initiative took part in solving issues, which are in complete competence of the state, but need help of society, and it gave effective, large-scale result.

- little of analytical material, surface ascertaining of burning questions. For example theme of boarding schools is well familiarized, not new, always brought up. In this context we often hear of bad living conditions of children. Sanitary issue is still a burning question. It’s important without a doubt (however again we lack serious analytical approach here with at least an attempt of thinking upon the theme how to deal with it), why don’t we raise a question about future of orphans, about that “X” time, when they find themselves outside of their “home”. And what about children with disabilities? And children leukemia sick with urgent need for operation for 100 thousand $ each? What is their future, and what could be done to help them? This are complex a bit rhetorical questions, and very uneasy for society, which is inclined to exclude such questions from frame of our consciousness or our erudition.

Besides this there is a lot of generalized information. All know that society is stratified, that there are a lot of poor people, which exist on the verge of survival, but notion on how certain elderly person lives is very blur, and it turns out, that people, whose incomes are a bit higher than mediocre, can’t even imagine this. They just don’t enough information. And we get an impression that journalists just are not interested in dealing with such minor, “not spicy and showy” themes.

In reference to questions on advertisement:

Quality of social advertisement production in our region is, due to our view, weak. This product is not particularly present on the market. Week quality is, probably, the outcome of regional specific, provinciality towards the centre. Modern studios and technical equipment of highest level are concentrated in the capital. But maybe there could be found a resource to create quality product here as well. And none of the sides will lose. Solution could be also found in producing ordered advertisement, for which commercial sum is paid. But such conditions will not appear soon. Comparing to other charitable organizations our collected donations are on fairly good level, but this is very relative, because they are not so sufficient for the scale of work we do. And we would pay for ordered advertisement product, then charitable activity itself would lose sense. We have to wait until our philanthropist will mature to pay for such social advertisement. Meanwhile this role should be taken by media workers. By the way in the West for media that took up social advertisement, the index of quality is presence of result, feedback of society, big donations.

Our worry here and now is that we cannot deliver our ideas, information to people. We are at the beginning of the way of formation of positive and active feedback in society towards actual social problems, West in contrast has good long-term traditions in this business.

There is a problem with format of media space. Law of positive and successful format totally dominates here. This prevents from bringing up problems, uneasy questions valuably and truly, and even from including elements of documentaries and uprightness in audio and video space, because they may include sad, lowered intonation, cruel content, reality, true circumstances. Due to this some creative ideas have no opportunity to get into the air. But indeed, having started creatively and bravely, avoiding formalities and stereotypes, we may create a more precise product.

We need more qualified participation of media in advertisement production. We hope to get as a present not only time, but also creative participation, professional advice. Potential of our organization does not involve provision of all this in sufficient measures, help of media and specialist is needed. We undoubtedly put all our experience into collaboration, that has important meaning, because represents internal side of the case. We try to get into everything – from idea of the text, script, audio to a picture on the screen. And produce by ourselves all that we are able to. But we too make mistakes, being not erudite in details of advertisement and media. We need your advice, you know more, and you are professionals in your job.

In our interaction with media we face the threat of commercialization of collaboration. In negotiations concerning joint projects all the time arise features that could be listed to commercial collaboration, sponsoring but not philanthropy. This is the question of logos, their size, place comparing to others media; refusal in participation in an action, if certain media is not approved as lead partner, in case of absence of feedback advertisement of media by our organization. This leads to some misunderstanding, because even on “wealthy” actions, where charitable organization has to its disposal a bit different sums of money, sponsoring usually is traditional for sport, popular art, different types of shows, like races etc. But not for charity. We are able to reach an agreement each time, but initial “play” is unavoidable. The fact of unprecedented collaboration of all media workers in one large-scale action seems quite attractive for us, but every time we face such situation, we need to solve the same issues again and convince in sufficiency of such treaty between competing firms.

Actually, we need to admit with joy, that exist non-solitary examples, when we can only rejoice of understanding and trust established during work of MAS and certain media-partners, and some examples of collaboration are unprecedented not only in Ukraine, but in Europe as well.