Gertrude Barnstone's brainstorm results in communications breakthrough.
COME IN, COPENHAGEN
BY GERTRUDE BARNSTONE.
Houston is one of six cities chosen to
participate in live satellite teleconferences
with women at the UN World Conference
on Women, in Copenhagen, July 14-30.
The Houston-Copenhagen segment was
taped July 21 for future airing on Ch.8.
Gertrude Barnstone details below her
involvement in this project, which grew
out of a "blue-sky idea" of hers several
years ago, into a NASA-funded communications breakthrough.
Almost four years ago, at a NASA-
sponsored conference on public interest,
use of satellite communication, I responded to the urgings of our hosts to
write down "blue-sky ideas" of how
various areas of interest could ideally be
served by satellite communication.
The conference, held in Easton,
Maryland, was attended by representatives from consumer groups, the medical
field, libraries, education and many other
people-related fields. I wasn't representing any particular group, but on the
spot decided that I was representing
women—no one else was.
So I wrote down all the ways that it
seemed women's groups around the
country could instantly share information, draw on data banks, have teleconferencing and, in general, gain strength
through instant knowledge via the latest
Dr. Donna Allen, of Washington DC,
publisher of Media Report to Women,
picked up on the Houston Breakthrough
(November 1976) story of that daydream.
Before long, Jan Zimmerman in California had turned my rough notes into a full-
It became a National Women's Agenda >
Project of the Women's Action Alliance
and received NASA approval for technical
assistance and use of equipment, contingent upon raising money. There was also
agreement to hold a demonstration at the
agenda's March 1978 conference.
There followed a series of deeply frustrating delays, uncertainties and foot-
dragging by almost all of the NASA
people involved, as well as the Public Service Satellite Consortium which was to
help arrange the demonstration. The last
straw was a warning that possible mention of abortion or lesbian rights was of
concern to unnamed individuals.
That did it. The Women's Action Alliance cancelled the demonstration, and
the money never materialized for the long-
But Dr. Allen kept alive the dream of
women who wanted to get in on the
ground floor of satellite developments.
Over a year ago, she began working on
the idea of satellite coverage by women
of the United Nations World Conference
on Women, in Copenhagen.
The US International Communications
Agency recently announced that grants
have been awarded to Dr. Allen's Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press
(WIFP) for satellite teleconferences linking the Copenhagen conference with
groups of women leaders in six US cities-
one of these cities is Houston.
It should work something like this:
WIFP will send a small media team to
Copenhagen to produce daily-videotaped
reports on the conference and on related
events—The Non Governmental Organizations Forum and The International Festival of Women Artists. The videotapes will
be screened at six regional workshops in
the US, and then in two closed-circuit
teleconferences to beheld July 21 and 28.
The first teleconference will include
groups of women in Houston, Los Angeles and Minneapolis; the second, groups in
Washington DC, Boston and Atlanta.
After preparatory workshops to develop questions, the actual two-hour broadcast will include live satellite presentation,
one-way video and two-way audio interaction between women assembled at US
sites and those in Copenhagen.
Mary Keegan is the "Houston Connection" for the broadcasts. And Nikki
Van Hightower moderates the Houston
discussion with Copenhagen.
It is expected that PBS will tape several shows and simultaneously broadcast
them on outlets in perhaps 30 cities.
Remember how the establishment
media both ignored and skewered reports
from the world conference in Mexico
City in 1975? This satellite Communication project, plus coverage of the Copenhagen Conference by feminist writers,
should give us more accurate reporting on
this conference than has ever been possible before.
Former Houston School Board member
Gertrude Barnstone is an artist and
an associate of the Women's Institute for
Freedom of the Press.
Officers [left to right]:
S. Anne Cook
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