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Gordon Brown Touts UN’s TV Links at Cannes’ MipTV Market

CANNES — Former U.K. prime minister Gordon Brown will be at the MipTV market Wednesday to tubthump for the UN’s Global Education First Initiative. He spoke to Variety about the role he hopes the TV biz can play in promoting the right to education.

Brown, the UN’s special envoy for global education, is hoping to raise awareness of TV execs here about the issue. “(I’d like them) to recognize that the fight for girls’ education around the world is one of the great civil rights issues of our time, and that we’ve now seen girls in countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and parts of Africa demanding that they have a right to education. And yet there are 32 million girls not at school, and I hope television will cover these issues,” he told Variety Monday.

He will be joined in Cannes by Ziauddin Yousafzai, the father of Pakistani schoolgirl Malala, who was shot by the Taliban for speaking out against their attempts to stop girls from attending school.

Brown says that TV news shows, documentaries, telefilms and TV dramas can promote girls’ right to an education. For example, he says that the story of Malala’s life, which she is writing as a book, may at some stage be made into a film or a TV drama. “Through film and through drama we can portray the struggle that people are having just to get their basic rights,” he said, comparing this issue to the civil rights campaigns in 1960s America.

Brown acknowledges that television covers natural disasters and health crises well, but says it could also help to break the cycle of poverty by promoting education and literacy. “We are not very good at showing people what a difference just giving people the basic right to education can make, and why in some countries the denial of the right to education is a matter of life and death, such as when people are shot, or firebombed or attacked, or murdered in some cases, as we have seen in Pakistan, simply for demanding for the right of girls to go to school,” he said.

His attendance at MipTV is in part recognition that television can achieve things that politics can’t. “We will be highlighting that TV can help with the curriculum, the training of teachers and making people far more aware of what needs to be done,” he said.

“Small things can make a huge difference,” he added, citing a campaign in India to persuade broadcasters to subtitle some TV shows, which has been proven to aid literacy. A film will be shown at the MipTV UN event portraying this campaign.

He said that he would also like television companies to support the establishment of a global hotline where anyone can tell stories of human rights abuses, such as child trafficking and forced marriage of children.

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