The Portuguese News and Program Controller of local broadcaster TDM, Mr João Francisco Pinto, was recently elected chairman of the Asiavision News Group – a platform bringing together 30 TV stations from the Asia-Pacific region. In an interview with the Times, João Francisco Pinto stressed that Asiavision comes in handy as a link to help Asian nations know more about each other. Asiavision News Group is looking to expand, reaching other Asian countries such as the Philippines, which is not yet a member. As the president of the local Portuguese and English Press Association, João Francisco Pinto believes that the media business still has space to grow, but that human resources remain the greatest challenge.
Macau Daily Times (MDT) – You were recently elected chairman of the Asiavision News Group. What does it represent for you and what kind of work will you be developing?
João Francisco Pinto (JFP) – Asiavision is part of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU), and works mainly on the exchange of news content between member TV Stations. It comprises 30 TV stations, from the Middle East to the Pacific Islands. Asiavision is a platform for exchanging news content, so each TV station provides content that they think might be relevant for other members.
Another component we focus on is professional training. There are TV stations, especially from less-developed countries, that need support for professional training, so Asiavision has funds that can be allocated to these TV stations to further train their staff. There are also internship and secondment opportunities for journalists.
My nomination shows TDM’s prestige within this region, and in October, we will be organizing the general assembly of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union.
MDT – As a recently appointed Asiavision News Group chairman, you’ve mentioned to local media that important decisions will be taken in terms of professional training. What type of training programs have been envisioned?
JFP – The programs are customized to meet specific needs of each TV station. For instance, one of our members might be interested in expanding its new media content, but its staff is still very much glued to old technologies. So, training programs can be organized to meet the needs of each TV station, even those that are more developed.
We focus mainly on exchanging news content daily. Such an exchange allows different Asian people to get to know each other better. We are talking about an enormous and diverse continent, with different people, ethnicities, religious beliefs, and completely different stories, as well as languages. Asiavision is looking to get them closer together, to make different realities better known within Asia.
MDT – Would that be an opportunity for Macau to be better known as well?
JFP – Yes. Each time we share news content with other members, it is seen by editors of all these TV stations. It will then depend on the editorial criteria of each station as to whether they will use certain news content or not. We try to only provide stories that we think might be relevant for other TV stations. For instance, last week, one of the stories we’ve shared was the one about the sit-in protest in solidarity with Hong Kong. This is a local relevant story that goes beyond Macau.
MDT – Asiavision has 30 members so far. Is the News Group looking to expand further?
JFP – Yes, definitely. One of our goals is to increase the number of TV stations. There are important Asian nations that are still not part of Asiavision, for instance, the Philippines. It’s a country that is home to 100 million inhabitants and it does not belong to Asiavision. Pakistan and any other of the former Soviet Union countries, for example.
MDT – As the president of the Portuguese and English Press Association of Macau, how do you see the development of Portuguese and English media outlets?
JFP – Portuguese and English press have expanded. In the last ten years, several new media outlets emerged in the market. The English [market] emerged, today with three daily newspapers available. There’s also a multitude of new magazines. There’s a new media outlet, in Portuguese, too. I believe Macau’s market is extremely resilient, and allows the launching of more publications. I think there’s space for everyone; they complement each other, because the three English newspapers provide very different content. And that’s enriching.
There’s even more space to grow, because the English-
speaking audience has been growing throughout the years. English-content news, in which the TDM newscast in English is included, serves several purposes. The first is to reach an audience that does not speak Chinese or Portuguese. As a public service, its purpose is to inform and educate people about the way Macau works.
The advertising market has also expanded, which helps these projects to endure, because without advertisements, and relying only on sales, these publications wouldn’t be able to exist.
MDT – You’ve mentioned TDM News. As the English-speaking community grows, is TDM thinking of expanding its English production?
JFP – We created the newscast in English in 2003. It’s a product we developed to meet a very specific need at that time. It was launched during the outbreak of SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome] and we were looking to explain what was happening to people living and working in Macau, particularly people who did not speak either Portuguese or Chinese. Hong Kong had recorded several cases of SARS, but in Macau there weren’t any. So there was a need to explain that to people living here, as opposed to what was happening in other nearby regions where there was really a more severe outbreak.
The project expanded afterward. We’ve also created the TDM Talk Show. And we would like to have more content in English. We have several other programs provided in English, series, a soap opera translated into English. Regarding local production, there are two projects that we have envisioned and would like to further develop, but it’s only possible to do so when we have sufficient human resources. And human resources have always been a problem in Macau.
MDT – Media outlets have always faced the challenge of human resources. What other challenges do English and Portuguese media face here?
JFP – I think there’s a framework in which the Portuguese media are able to positively see their future, as they have [government] support. The English press relies on commercial support [through advertisements] and although, due to the law, it can’t have the same kind of government support that the Portuguese press has, I believe that they have reasons to look into the future, without fearing the market will collapse.
I don’t believe there’s any challenge that effectively undermines these projects’ survival. There’s nothing preventing other media outlets from emerging in the market either. One of the major problems remains how to ensure that we have the needed human resources. We sometimes simply can’t find enough professionals willing to perform this type of job. Hiring is a complex procedure, and we need to bring in professionals from abroad – it’s not easy either. These are extensive processes, and sometimes companies cannot wait six months for an employee. They need them now.