Former US vice-president Al Gore has called on broadcasters to welcome the internet as an opportunity to "democratise the principal medium of information" and allow people to rejoin the "conversation of democracy".
Giving the Alternative MacTaggart Lecture, Gore discussed the relationship between the media and democracy in the 21st century.
He said: "Most of what is happening in the encounter between television and the internet has been the internet cannibalising television.
"What is needed is to reverse the flow and find ways to use the internet to give individuals access to the public forum, which is television. That's why I devoted the last six years to trying to find a pathway for this to happen."
Gore is the chief executive of Current TV, an American cable and satellite channel which has 30 per cent of its content generated by users.
According to Gore, the internet offered broadcasters the promise of "recreating a meritocracy of ideas with low entry barriers for individuals, a multi-way conversation in which individuals can not only find information they are searching for, but can also contribute information and then watch as its quality is judged."
He argued that for too long individuals had been shut out of political conversations and it was no wonder people felt they had no relevance to the democratic process. He cited the example of Italy, where control of the television broadcast signal had "changed the course of decision-making and the nature of democracy in the country".
Gore said that in Russia, President Putin allowed newspapers to publish criticisms but would not tolerate the slightest outburst on television.
He said that a former Russian president had told him: "It didn't matter that much what was in the newspapers; what matters is what is on television."
Gore added: "I am hopeful that, in spite of the uncertainty, the challenges and the difficulties that we can all perceive ahead, it is a good thing to witness the emergence of a new information ecology that does promise to give individuals the chance to democratise the principal medium of information so that they can once again rejoin the conversation of democracy."