Kristian Porter: Multi-stakeholder approach critical for combatting mis- and disinformation

17th August 2022
PMA's CEO, Kristian Porter, giving a keynote address
PMA's CEO, Kristian Porter, giving the keynote address during PMA's session at CBU's 53rd AGA. Credit: Jas Chandler / PMA
The CEO of the Public Media Alliance, Kristian Porter, gave the keynote address during PMA’s session on media and information literacy, held during the Caribbean Broadcasting Union’s 53rd Annual General Assembly on 16th August 2022. 

Delegates, friends, colleagues, members of the Public Media Alliance and Caribbean Broadcasting Union, it is an honour to be with you here in beautiful Tobago, especially after such a difficult two and a half years.

To put it lightly, COVID-19 has been disastrous, for so many reasons. Many of these reasons are obvious: risks to health, social anxiety and dramatic increases in the cost of living. But it has also taken its toll on the media, particularly public interest news media, where it has exacerbated the growing burden of attacks on journalists, prominence concerns, political interference, funding pressures and even media capture, for so many organisations worldwide.

Despite the essential role of public service and public interest media in keeping us and democracy informed, trust is falling in many places, as audiences fragment and search for “news” from social media, YouTube, Twitch, and other so-called “sources” which often lack in verification – places where disinformation can be at its most prevalent.

And this comes despite an initial bump in trust in independent public media outlets during the initial stages of COVID.

We all have a role to play, and a multi stakeholder approach is the best way to work together, pool resources, and ensure that media literacy is improved not just nationally, but regionally and internationally.

At the Public Media Alliance, the largest global association of public broadcasters, we advocate and stand up for the key values of public media, such as independence, press freedom, accountability, quality journalism and impartiality. So we report on and support our members through these challenges on a daily basis. And in my opinion these challenges are now shared more globally than ever before.

We therefore have some urgent questions that need answering: how do we navigate this new environment? How do we continue to fulfil our missions to accurately inform, educate and entertain? How do we ensure that audiences have access to an independent source of trusted and verified news? And crucially, what are the sources of disinformation?

There are, of course, many structural and systemic solutions we can explore. But I believe that it’s imperative that we work together to equip the public with the tools they need to not only spot disinformation but also understand why some sources may not be as reliable as others, or why, especially in the case of politicians and those in power, a free and independent media is critical for democracy to survive and thrive.

Read more: The Existential Threat posed by Big Tech Platforms to Caribbean Journalism and Democracy (Insight)

But none of this can be done alone. We all have a role to play, and a multi stakeholder approach is the best way to work together, pool resources, and ensure that media literacy is improved not just nationally, but regionally and internationally.

We live in an interconnected world: digitally, socially, politically and also increasingly in the crises that we face. Whether it’s COVID or climate change, the Caribbean is a region that knows all too well what it’s like to share the brunt of natural disasters. And all too well what damage can be done when news is sourced from unverified and untrustworthy sources.

These are clearly times when verified, accurate and reliable information is needed most. So let’s work together, here, now, to develop ways of addressing these challenges and have a united front.

To end, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Sonia Gill, the Caribbean Broadcasting Union, its sponsors, and the Magdalena Hotel for hosting us today.

I’d also like to say thank you to UNESCO who have supported and funded this project, and also a huge thank you to our local partners the Association of Caribbean Media Workers, the Media Institute of the Caribbean, and our moderator Wesley Gibbings, our excellent facilitators Kiran Maharaj and Nazima Raghubir, and our panellists, Ayanna Cumberbatch, Jewel Forde, Gary Allen, Livingstone White. And finally, many thanks to the PMA team who pulled this session together, Jas Chandler and Desilon Daniels.

Without all of you, this would not be possible.

Thank you and enjoy the rest of the conference… we have some work to do.

This speech was given at the Caribbean Broadcasting Union’s 53rd Annual General Assembly, and was the keynote address for the afternoon session which PMA hosted. The session explored: dis- and mis-information, media and information literacy, and the feasibility of a Caribbean-wide trusted news project.