From presidential to technological race in capital

FORMER American vice president Al Gore will outline his vision of a world of viewer- created TV when he gives this year's Alternative MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival.

The former presidential candidate is among a raft of speakers for the August event announced yesterday, with others including Sir David Attenborough, the former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie, the Respect MP George Galloway, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Armando Iannucci, the writer of award-winning BBC satire The Thick Of It.

Gore, a long-time technology enthusiast, launched his own television network last year. Called Current TV, a third of its broadcast output comes from films submitted by viewers, and the channel's schedule consists of short factual films covering such subjects as music, videogames, technology, the environment, and politics.

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He says: "The internet opened a floodgate for young people whose passions are finally being heard, but TV hasn't followed suit.

"We want to transform the television medium itself, giving a national platform to those who are hungry to help create the TV they want to watch."

Gore's speech will set out his vision of television as a medium that "doesn't treat audiences as merely viewers but as collaborators".

His address on 27 August will also cover another of his passions - the environment. He is promoting his recently-released documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, which looks at the effects of global warming.

Attenborough will deliver a Planet Earth masterclass, which will discuss the acclaimed natural history series and give delegates an early insight into Life in Cold Blood, the series he is currently filming for transmission in 2007. South Park's creators will deliver a masterclass on the cult cartoon, which is in its now in its tenth series, having launched in 1997.

MacKenzie and Galloway, meanwhile, go head to head as panellists on "Too Right?", a debate that examines whether pundits are able to get on television with greater ease if they hold right-wing views. Rageh Omaar, the BBC's Africa correspondent and an al-Jazeera contributor, will deliver the keynote 2006 Worldview Address, a global view of the television business.

Charles Allen, the chief executive of ITV, will gives the main MacTaggart address at the festival, which runs from Friday 25 August to Sunday 27 August.

Edinburgh will also next week be the venue for a gathering of key media figures for the 55th world congress of the International Press Institute (IPI).

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Top of the agenda will be the issue of journalists' safety, and the audience of 700 delegates will hear the results from the latest and most comprehensive investigation into the safety of journalists around the globe.

Key speakers confirmed include: Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, South Africa's deputy president; Mark Thompson, the BBC director general; Michael Grade, the BBC's chairman; Chris Cramer, the managing director of CNN International; and Krishna Bharat, the principal scientist with Google and founder of Google News.

Robert Thomson, editor of the Times and Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian's editor, will also speak as panellists.

The conference is set to call on the United Nations Security Council to take action to tackle the growing number of journalists being killed around the world and will also reveal details of a "murder index" detailing journalists' deaths, and the possible fate of those held behind bars.

Over the past ten years, 1,300 journalists and support staff have died while on assignment, with most targeted because of their work.

Last year was the worst for journalist deaths since records began with 146 reporters and camera operators killed in 28 countries, and that grim tally shows no signs of slowing this year, with 29 deaths reported in 13 countries.

Iraq currently tops the world murder table. However, the influence of the drugs trade is also cited by the IPI as a major killer of journalists with the Philippines in second and Colombia in third place. The IPI conference is set to call for international aid to be linked to freedom of speech to try and break what it sees as the indisputable link between corrupt regimes and the danger to journalists based in them.

Richard Tait, the former editor-in-chief of ITN and now a BBC governor, says: "For a long time journalists believed that journalistic safety was really a professional issue, it was about individuals and their employers' responsibility to do everything they can to make the profession as safe as it can be.

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"There is now a realisation that if you put on a map of the world the places where journalists are routinely murdered and intimidated, and the places in the world where there are the highest levels of corruption, suppression of free expression and lack of proper legal framework, it's a pretty close match."

Tait says he believes the argument is evolving from a traditional view that journalism was by its nature a high risk occupation: "What our research has shown is that in many, many cases the journalists are not being caught in the crossfire in a war, they are being targeted by corrupt politicians, drugs lords, organised crime or indeed political parties and their supporters."

• The IPI conference runs from 28-30 May at the Sheraton Hotel in Edinburgh. Details at

• The Edinburgh International Television Festival will run from 25-27 August.