Should PSB aim for comprehensiveness or rather complement the market?
What type of content should they adapt?
What resources should they use to fulfill their mandate?
Big question: do we need PSB?
PSB wouldn’t be needed if the market offered to the public easy access to quality content
Paradoxically, online media fail to deliver much new quality content ( The Economist , 2006).
The UK government recognised that ‘in radio, TV & news, we may no longer be able to rely on the provision in the future of the wider range of PS programming from varied sources’ ( Ofcom, 2009; Digital Britain report, 2009 )
Fundamental Q: what kind of society we want to live in
Values to be protected in a society with a human face: pluralism , independence , accessibility , content quality , social cohesion, protection of privacy .
PSBs’ mission should not merely be to inform, educate, entertain but also to empower the citizens by aiming for distinctiveness in the range and quality of offerings & by mobilizing them.
Not only that…
PSBs should invest in many content types.
They shouldn’t aim for simple variety, but genuine choice (Jakubowicz, 2010).
PSBs should cover many genres that are underrepresented (current affairs, arts, religion).
PSBs must treat their viewers as citizens , not just as audiences/consumers . This is so because the audiences for PSB are a public , not a market (Raboy, 1996).
Traditional distinction of citizens’ involvement with politics (involved in rational political discussion, taking place in the Public Sphere)
and consumers’ attachment with popular culture (what is wrong with that?)
In a purely market-driven system more media outlets do not necessarily mean more public argumentation and rational discourse. On the contrary, it means more ways to address people as consumers (Garnham, 1986)
More media outlets brought about by new technologies may not upgrade or strengthen the space for political and social discussion (the Habermasian public sphere).
The distinction irrelevant?
New terms: ‘customers’, ‘users’ or ‘end-users’ of telecoms, computing and online services
As new technologies open up possibilities beyond broadcasting, I’d argue that audiences may embrace new modes of engagement with audiovisual products, with many seamlessly shifting from the role of consumer to that of producer (user-generated content). New media technologies empower users (social forums?)
Licence fee - reliable and stable source of funding, relatively free from political constraints (PSB independence )
Connected to distinctiveness & quality of programming (Leon)
But rationale of public funding has weakened (‘ imperfect beauty ’??)
Strategy of ‘programming convergence’, adapted by most S. EU & East countries
Recycled/bought-in mainstream programs
BBC strategy: separate services with public service content –publicly funded - with services of a commercial nature –funded by commercial means
PSBs must be cost efficient and effective but without sacrificing PS values.
E.g. Greek ERT restructured to avoid programming overlaps ( ET1 mainstream channel, NET mainly news & current affairs, ET3 focuses on N. Greece)
RTE ’s reorganisation
RTE ’s reorganisation into IBDs introduced a business-like approach, encouraging staff & management to ‘align’ costs and revenue, but with a clear sense of a PS ethos. True, commercial objectives are occasionally prioritised in order to help the broadcaster to survive (i.e. RTE is scheduling strategically to ensure maximum return) but the definition of PS in terms of particular functions and programme types is strong. RTE offers a full range of content, including home-grown programmes.
PSB or State Broadcasting?
Hungary (M. Lengyel, 2010)
‘ State’, not ‘public’ broadcaster
The average Hungarian citizen does not feel that PSBs serve them better than private rivals
2 MAIN PROBLEMS:
- insufficient definition of the public service remit
- poor PSB connection with the society
Links between Hungarian PSBs & audiences
At the level of the remit – none (e.g. no public consultation rounds)
At the organizational level – involvement of civil society reps in the governing bodies is weak
At the level of financing – the licence fee failed to provide the Hungarian citizens with a real sense of ownership of the PSBs
PSB more accountable
New schemes introduced to overcome criticism from market:
Public value test (UK)
Three-steps approach (Germany)
Provision of plurality – ‘Institutional competition’?
Setting-up of other institutions to achieve plurality in broadcasting media.
This is a problem if this means a weaker or undercut existing PSB institutions
Why? it implies ‘contestable funding’ – take away resources from a trusted source to allocate to private media in exchange of PS content.
Top-slicing the licence fee?
Most EU systems aim for internal pluralism (within a single institution), but in the UK there is a debate on this...
Germany has 2 competing PSBs – it’s exception
New Zealand is one of the very few countries besides the UK which has set up competition in PS broadcasting.
Plurality of content is more important than plurality of providers (or institutional plurality )
From PSB to PSM - widening their remit to be available in more delivery platforms for producing & distributing PS content.
Cross-platform strategies help PSM:
retain audience share, reach new audiences
develop on-demand services
create a stronger partnership with civil society and serve an extended form of citizenship
But, PSB should reinvent itself
Because of individualisation & fragmentation of society, PSB must redefine its service to social integration and cohesion and go beyond collective experience (generalist channels) & cater to group/individual interests, e.g. by:
understanding better their audiences
providing thematic services
offering online services
Good practice examples ( see PSM Governance Report, CoE, 2008 )
The BBC Trust works closely with the Audience Councils in England, N. Ireland, Scotland & Wales, which help it understand the audiences’ needs, interests & concerns. These Councils were created under a BBC’s agreement with DCMS with the aim to engage & consult audiences on BBC’s performance in promoting public purposes.
The BBC wants interactive audiences , who can change its content & create archives of content. This way offers the potential for proximity to BBC producers .
Your Story , running from 2008, is the journalism project of the BBC World Service . Anyone can send in stories & news reports, photos, audio or video.
The above examples show a tendency to decentralization of the governance, to ensure diversity in decision-making:
The regional Audience Councils contribute to the BBC Trust’s consultations.
The BBC ‘mediation techniques’ & ‘citizen journalism’ reinforce the participatory element.
Information : ARD offers an ads-free online service ( www.ard.de ), allowing Internet users to watch pre-selected regional news reports.
Democratization : ARTE (Franco-German), YLE (Finland), BBC (UK) ZDF (Germany), DR (Denmark) participate in the Why Democracy? project, which stimulates public involvement.
regaining (young) audiences
A new definition of PSB distinctiveness is needed (Jakubowicz, 2010):
one that goes beyond the ‘enlightenment’ role of PSB and takes into consideration cultural change, post-modern tastes and standards, and new audience/user expectations. To regain the young audience, PSB should adjust its content to the younger population’s needs, aesthetics tastes, forms of expression, favourite platforms
Strong, well-funded PSTV
There is a continued need for strong, well-funded PSTV institutions, capable of delivering socially valuable content.
Contributing to the provision of such content will keep public debate alive.
This addresses the ‘democratic deficit’.
From PSB to PSM (see Lowe & Bardoel, 2007; Iosifidis, 2010)
New technologies offer PSB a chance to perform its role better and to serve the audience in more varied ways. This is why PSb should transform into PSM – multimedia institutions restructured to produce & distribute content digitally and to take full advantage of opportunities offered by the new platforms.
PSM & the Public Sphere
PSM offer a suitable space for rational debate & culture dissemination
This way, the Habermasian public sphere could be recreated and given a new momentum…
I am a firm supporter of a PSM system which would provide a wide range of high quality, universally accessible content, free at the point of consumption. In the midst of a global economic crisis it is becoming increasingly apparent that the public sector , rather than the free market , is the answer to the continuing supply of high quality public service output.
Policy-makers, politicians, academics, media industry have much to learn from the practical experience of studying diverse national PSM systems, so comparative analysis is crucial.