Select Committee’s findings on the future of public service media divide the island’s parliament

During a three-and-a-half hour debate, Tynwald parliamentarians put forward five amendments to the committee’s report. However, a vote on the report’s findings and the future of the island’s public broadcaster, Manx Radio, has been postponed until January due to a lack of backing by politicians.

The report gave 11 recommendations to reform Manx Radio. These ranged from a proposal to remove public funding and replace it with financial support from the BBC, to redefining the traditional definition of public broadcasting – ‘to inform, educate and entertain’ – and replace it with “mandatory” and “discretionary” elements, the latter including entertainment content.

Earlier in December, the Public Media Alliance (PMA) wrote a letter to members of the Tynwald’s House of Keys and Legislative Council in support of Manx Radio, which was referred to during the debate.

The letter denounced recommendations that could undermine the necessary independence of Manx Radio, in particular a suggestion that the “arm’s length approach of the Treasury” has not worked. This, according to the report, could see ownership removed from a public body altogether.

Moreover, the letter emphasised entertainment content as being a core characteristic of public media, ensuring that audiences are offered and engaged with a wide variety of content.

Speaking to the Tynwald ahead of the debate, the station’s Managing Director Anthony Pugh and Non-Executive Director Charles Guard, said:

As the island’s Public Service Broadcaster, we have a duty to protect our editorial and operational independence, both for our reputation, and for the reputation of the Manx Government which can’t be seen to be running a state broadcaster, as they do in Hungary or Russia.”

Despite the delayed vote, committee chairman Alex Allinson MHK said he would “stand by” the report.

Anthony Pugh described PMA’s intervention as having a “meaningful impact on the debate”. The Public Media Alliance continues to stand in support of Manx Radio in defending its independence ahead of the combined vote in January.

Manx Radio is a longstanding member of the Public Media Alliance.