We are pleased to introduce you to our latest PSM research project titled ‘The Role of Public Media in Contemporary Democratic Society’, which will explore the shared global values of public service media and its contribution to contemporary democratic societies.

As the largest global association of public broadcasters, the Public Media Alliance [PMA] has a unique global overview of how public media is being affected by the acceleration of media convergence worldwide.

On a daily basis the PMA monitors and observes the debates surrounding the public media space globally.  In the past decade many public broadcasters have come under increasing financial and political pressure, their budgets cut and independence tested. The egalitarian potential of the Internet and new media has frequently resulted in public broadcasting being regarded as ‘dated’, ‘top down’ and irrelevant. In many countries, national radio evolved to become first ‘bi-media’ [radio and TV] and latterly ‘multi-platform’. Now many commentators question whether it is still valid for national organisations to curate a shared public media space although its potential role in fragile states is currently being re-examined.

One particularly notable fact is that when public media organisations come under pressure there is an emphasis, in almost every case, on purely domestic arguments for and against.  Efforts to preserve and protect public media organisations are universally aimed at the specific media organisation concerned i.e. ‘Save the BBC’, rather than supporters – or broadcasters themselves – making the case for a public service media system or organisation per se. Has the global community lost sight of the real role and potential of a robust public media system?

Yet, despite the worldwide pressure on public broadcasters, many national media organisations around the world continue to designate themselves as ‘Public Broadcasters’

Yet, despite the worldwide pressure on public broadcasters, many national media organisations around the world continue to designate themselves as ‘Public Broadcasters’. This includes the 102 members of PMA.  So why do national media organisations globally still want to call and frame themselves as ‘Public Broadcasters’ or increasingly ‘Public Media’ organisations’? Is it possible to identify any specific roles that such organisations play in a globalised, digital society?

Public Service Broadcasting/Media [PSB/M] is fundamentally linked to democracy but we believe that in an era of rapid media convergence the role and potential of public media is no longer widely understood or valued. Meanwhile we see the growth of commercial, global media organisations with a concomitant effect on media plurality and access to original, local content.

In an age when media freedoms are increasingly being infringed, it is time for public media organisations to seek clarity about what, if any, benefits and attributes public media can bring to society. By establishing and analysing any common traits we can create a more solid basis for advocating, promoting and ‘selling’ PSM to governments and publics worldwide.

Our Project

This research project has been developed by the PMA team in consultation with media academics. The project will be sent for review to a selection of international academics with concern for PSM and their inputs will be considered throughout.

Numerous academic research papers have attempted to define, quantify and ‘understand’ public service broadcasting and its transition to public service media. This project aims to begin a process that will examine the ‘essence’ of public service media – specifically its role and potential in democratic societies.

The PMA has access to a unique network of public media leaders. This research project has been developed following discussions with media leaders and with their specific inputs and position in mind. As leaders of public media organisations such individuals are the interface between governments, the public, and the media organisations they run. They lead some of the world’s most significant media institutions, yet their specific views on ‘public media’ have rarely been sought, collated or analysed.

As leaders of public media organisations such individuals are the interface between governments, the public, and the media organisations they run.

We have developed a questionnaire for media leaders that will ask them to consider the ideal role their organisations can and do play in contemporary democratic societies.

Media leaders will also be asked to define the characteristics they understand to be required of any PSB/M in order for it to achieve those ideals, for instance; independence from government, media freedom, ability to produce or curate high quality original content, credibility and trust, role in building or supporting national identity in a diverse and globalised world, curating multiplatform content, improving digital literacy, supporting the nations creative economy, training future media professionals and so on.

Based on the outcomes of the questionnaire we will consider what kind of funding and governance models enable organisations to realise the characteristics and hence achieve the ideals.

We will use the research and the ensuing debate to try and understand better if the models for PSB/M’s are still able to support the characteristics needed to fulfil a PSB/M’s ideal role. We will consider whether the models for governance and funding have evolved sufficiently to adequately reflect changes in the wider media and societal landscapes.

The answers will be confidential and anonymous in the analysis, although some respondents will be asked permission for quotes to be used in the published report. The report will be published in an accessible form as it is intended for use as a building block for global debate, rather than to be shelved! It will be published online with hard copies produced if resources permit.

The research report will be published and promoted in August 2016, ahead of the PMA AGM & Global Conference in Montréal, Sept 13-14.

Questionnaires have already been distributed, however, if you would like to take part in this research please email us at info@publicmediaalliance.org.