CAMRI Policy Observatory June 2019 discussions on Public Service Media

In June 2019, the Policy Observatory of the Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI) organised two events aimed at bringing together academics, policy-makers, civil society and industry to discuss a number of issues shaping the Public Service Media environment in the UK and internationally.

On the 11th of June, a workshop ‘Towards a Public Service Internet: The Future of the Public Sphere and Digital Democracy?’ was held with the participation of Dr Rhianne Jones, Research Lead at the BBC Research and Development, Dr Richard Burnley, Legal and Policy Director at the European Broadcasting Union as well as CAMRI academics Prof. Christian Fuchs and Dr Maria Michalis. The panel was chaired by Dr Laima Jančiūtė.

The theme of the public service Internet has only received little public attention thus far but is of huge importance in the context of how we can best overcome fake news, algorithmic politics, filter bubbles, digital tabloid culture, online hatred and nationalism, high-speed superficial online communication, the digital monopolies of Google/YouTube, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, etc. The debate focused on possible alternatives to the commercial Internet, looking in particular into the potentials of public service media organisations in creating and providing non-profit Internet platforms. Among other factors affecting public service media innovation capabilities in the digital age, the panellists contemplated the changes needed to the existing competition framework in relation to ex ante public interest tests imposed on public service broadcasters and more enabling funding models.

On the 18th of June, a seminar ‘Securing Core Elements of Public Service Media in African, Arab and European countries’ took place with the participation of Mr James Deane, Director of Policy and Research at the BBC Media Action, Dr Pierre François Docquir, Head of Media Freedom at the ARTICLE 19 and CAMRI researchers Prof. Naomi Sakr, Dr Tarik Sabry and Dr Winston Mano. The debate was chaired by Prof. Jean Seaton.

Scarcity or inadequacy of public service media frameworks is often linked to democratic deficits in transitional countries and beyond. This discussion reflected on measures needed to make the media serve all sections of society in order to meet the challenge of social and cultural diversity and political pluralism. In a period of political upheaval in several African countries, clampdowns on journalism in parts of the Arab world and recent rapid changes in demographics in Europe following large-scale forced migration, the participants examined efforts and initiatives to support public service media in new environments and considered the international standards promoted by the civil society stakeholders.

More specifically, it also analysed the old and new policy challenges faced by public service broadcasters in Zimbabwe and Southern Africa, openings in Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and Lebanon that could increase the effectiveness of promoting public service media, the response of the European public service media producers and providers to the information needs of young European-born children and those from outside Europe who have recently arrived as well as the insights from ethnographic research on children and the media that are important for policy makers and media regulators while giving examples from Morocco, the UK and Lebanon. The exchange of views clearly revealed the need for a holistic approach to public service media development.

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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