By Yoo Cheong-mo
SEOUL, April 24 (Yonhap) -- Global newswire industry leaders concluded the Organization of Asia-Pacific News Agencies (OANA) Summit Congress in Seoul Saturday, pledging to deepen cooperation and exchanges in multimedia and broadcasting in the face of numerous challenges posed by the unfolding digital media revolution.
The OANA Summit Congress, co-hosted by South Korea's Yonhap News Agency and OANA, brought together about 90 CEOs and representatives of 44 newswire services from 35 countries and produced the Seoul Declaration, a joint statement calling for widening multilateral and bilateral cooperation in various new media fields.
Almost all delegates to the four-day summit departed from Korea Saturday afternoon after participating in tours of major Korean industrial and cultural facilities in the Seoul metropolitan area.
The global media leaders highlighted the acute need for multimedia and broadcasting cooperation through the Seoul Declaration and during a courtesy call on South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, both on Friday.
The joint statement, a product of two days of intensive discussions among the media industry leaders at Seoul's Lotte Hotel, called for concerted efforts to promote exchanges of video and audio news content to meet growing subscriber demand for multimedia services and the challenges of the new media environment.
"It is our recommendation that OANA members expand content exchanges to include news material in the form of video and audio clips, edited TV programs and interactive graphics in order to meet the growing subscriber demand for an ever-greater variety of content," the statement said.
President Lee also stressed the importance of cooperation among news agencies around the world in providing fast and accurate news during his meeting with key participants in the OANA summit at the presidential office Friday morning.
"In this age, international cooperation is vital and important. Among news agencies as well, in order for you to provide accurate and fair news to the customers and people around the world faster than others, I believe cooperation through such a media framework as this OANA is very important," Lee said.
The global media conference, which coincided with celebrations marking Yonhap's 30th founding anniversary, was the largest official event in the history of OANA, which was formed in 1961 on the initiative of UNESCO to promote regional news exchanges. The organization now claims 41 member companies in 33 countries, including Korea, China, Japan, Australia, Vietnam, Russia and Iran.
North Korea's Korean Central News Agency, also a member of OANA, failed to respond to an invitation to attend the conference, also dubbed the "G-20 media summit" as 11 participating countries were G-20 members.
Chair companies from the Federation of Arab News Agencies, the European Alliance of Press Agencies, the Association of Balkan News Agencies and the Alliance of Mediterranean News Agencies also attended the Seoul meeting as observers.
"Representatives of Asia-Pacific news agencies agreed on the need to expand cooperative exchanges in the fields of new media information, technology and personnel, as well as multimedia content, in order to jointly cope with the changing media environment," said Kim Chang-hoe, a managing director of Yonhap News Agency.
"They also shared the view that cooperation among Asia-Pacific news agencies is particularly important to reduce their dependence on Western news services."
Choi Young-jae, a professor at Hallim University, said the successful hosting of the OANA Summit Congress will help elevate the international status of OANA as well as Yonhap.
"Until the 1990s, OANA's influence in the international news industry was limited. But thanks to Asia's rising power, OANA has secured a chance to play a greater role in the international community," said Choi.
"In this digital communication era, inter-networking among regional news agencies is becoming increasingly important."
While co-hosting the global media summit, Yonhap, Korea's key news agency, unveiled its long-term multimedia and broadcast service plans, stepping closer to the ranks of global news services.
Yonhap President and CEO Park Jung-chan announced an ambitious plan to introduce a "mobile newsroom."
"In a month, our reporters will send stories, photos and videos through their mobile phones right from the scene of news. Editors will also work from their mobile phones, whenever and wherever they are, to send out final products," said Park.
Yonhap, founded in 1981 through the merger of the nation's two major newswire companies, recently launched a nine-hour live Web cast, a step that Park said would help his Seoul-based firm win a government license for a cable television news channel.
Yonhap also took the OANA summit as an opportunity to improve cooperative relations with global wire services, sealing MOUs with 11 news agencies in nine Asia-Pacific, European, Middle Eastern and African nations.
The foreign newswires that concluded MOUs with Yonhap on the sidelines of the OANA summit included Germany's DPA, China's Xinhua, Itar-Tass of Russia, the Associated Press of Pakistan, the Algerian Press Agency (APA), the Syrian Arab News Agency and Emirates News Agency of the United Arab Emirates.
Under the MOUs, Yonhap and the global newswires agreed to exchange video news content, share experience and know-how in the broadcasting field, and launch personnel exchange programs. In particular, APA asked for Yonhap's support in the training of its multimedia news personnel.
OANA member companies also signed cooperation accords among themselves in Seoul, with Iran's Mehr News Agency and Itar-Tass sealing a bilateral MOU on news content exchange.
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