The Public Sphere, Social Networks and Public Service Media

Petros Iosifidis

Sociology, City University, London

2011. Information, Communication and Society, 14(5), p. 619-637

Taylor and Francis Publications



“The traditional Habermasian concept of the national public sphere created by the mass media of newspapers and television is said to have transformed to a multi-layered sphere of online and social networks which are increasingly important in engaging and mobilizing citizenship and in shaping the discourse within which rational discussion takes place. This article argues that the democratizing and empowering functions of the Internet and the new social media is being exaggerated and represent technological optimism for a number of reasons: the open participation of the Internet can turn chaotic; there is a problem of inclusiveness; censorship might be an issue; the Internet has become a major arena for corporate activity; the Internet’s content is highly partisan; and above all, extensive dialogue and critical discussion (the very essence of the public sphere) is often absent on the Net. The article argues that open-platform Public Service Media (PSM) are capable of developing more comprehensive and inclusive social frameworks than online providers. Despite the growing financial gulf between PSM and their commercial competitors, public institutions should be free to expand online and into different platforms. As trusted media brands, PSM contribute to the creation of an inclusive public sphere, enhanced civic engagement and informed citizenship.”

To read the full article, follow this link to Taylor and Francis Online.

Media Coverage of Science and Technology in Africa

Sponsored by UNESCO

Department of Journalism and Communication, Makere University

Principal Investigator: George W. Lugalambi, PhD



This paper critically analyses the role media has to play in facilitating the public understanding of science and technology across Africa. It does so against the backdrop of little or no previous studies on the subject, with few of them having systematically investigated the volume, quality, scope and perceptions of science and technology coverage.

This article seeks to amend this lack of previous research and explores coverage within the context of the contemporary media landscape of Cameroon, Kenya, Ghana, Namibia, South Africa, and Uganda.

Click here for the full article.

Public policies for public service media

UK and the German policy cases, with warnings and lessons from the USA

A 2010 article by Prof. Peter Humphreys (University of Manchester) that focuses on the impact of new technologies and changing media markets on public service broadcasting. The first part of the article focuses on the impact of new technologies and changing media markets on PSB whilst the second focuses on how to maintain a plurality of content and public service players. US examples and broadcast experiences are used comparatively throughout this paper.

This article was published for the RIPE@2010 conference series.

For the full article, click here

Riding the Wave

Public Service Television in the Multiplatform Era

Mary Debrett

La Trobe University, Australia

Media, Culture and Society, Sage Publications, 2009, 31(5), p.807-827


Despite their funding dilemmas, public service broadcasters are finding new legitimisation in the digital era. Re-asserting their mainstream status in the fragmenting marketplace, PSB institutions around the world are identifying new ways of delivering public service goals via interactive, on-demand media services across a range of platforms. By repositioning as media content companies, PSBs are forging new kinds of relationships with the public as viewers, users and producers, connecting communities, while also delivering an array of pluralist, personalised services. However, such changes inevitably bring new problems – conflicts with established practices, increased costs, new enemies in the marketplace and the temptation of new commercial revenue streams. Grounded in a series of industry interviews taken from across six case studies and referencing recent literature and policy documents, this article analyses the impact of public broadcasting’s digital rebirth on traditional public service principles.

Read this recommended article in full

Beyond Broadcasting: The future of state owned broadcasters in Southern Africa

Written in 2009, this recommended article, supported by FesMedia Africa, conveys the complicated changes facing state-owned broadcasters in Southern Africa. 

These changes include those influenced by the “digitisation of production, distribution and consumption of public interest news and current affairs” and their impact on key broadcast players across the region.

The report is split into sub-reports about the media landscape in individual states and the influence of technological, regulatory and conceptual changes to broadcasting services.

For full access to this open-source article, click here

Media System, Public Knowledge and Democracy

A Comparative Study

James Curran, Shanto Iyengar, Anker Brink Lund, Inka Salovaara-Moring

Goldsmiths University London, Stanford University, Copenhagen Business School, University of Helsinki

European Journal of Communication, SAGE Publications, 2009, 24(1), p.5-26


This article addresses the implications of the movement towards entertainment-centred, market-driven media by comparing what is reported and what the public knows in four countries with different media systems. The different systems are public service (Denmark and Finland), a ‘dual’ model (UK) and the market model (US). The comparison shows that public service television devotes more attention to public affairs and international news, and fosters greater knowledge in these areas, than the market model. Public service television also gives greater prominence to news, encourages higher levels of news consumption and contributes to a smaller within-nation knowledge gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged. But wider processes in society take precedence over the organization of the media in determining how much people know about public life.

To read this recommended article in full, click here.

Public Media 2.0

Dynamic, Engaged Publics

Jessica Clark & Patricia Aufderheide

Future of Public Media Project, Center for Media and Social Impact

Center for Social Media, School of Communication, American University


This White Paper explores the future of public media in the USA whilst considering its historical democratic role. The report lays out a vision for “Public Media 2.0” and what this may entail with the development of multi-platform, participatory technology.

To read the full report, head to the Center for Media & Social Impact website, here.

Reinventing Public Service Broadcasting in Europe

Prospects, Promises and Problems

Johannes Bardoel & Leen d’Haenens

University of Amsterdam; Catholic University of Leuven; Raboud University Numegen

Media, Culture and Society, SAGE Publications, 2008, 30(3), p.337-355


New information technologies, liberalising policies and rapidly changing societies – from mono- to multicultural – entail serious consequences for the prospects of European public service broadcasters in a network society. The European concept of PSB as a comprehensive and universal service is challenged by both EU and national authorities at three levels: 1) mission and program task (comprehensive or complementary programming?), 2) organization (central organisation or a ‘distributed public service’?) and 3) financing (license fee, advertising or ‘state aid’?). There are pressures towards a more ‘pure’ model of public service broadcasting and/or towards de-institutionalisation of PSB and ‘distributed public service’. Recent pleadings for (eg, in the Netherlands) and practices (eg, in New Zealand) of new PSB policy directions will be evaluated. The paper deals with the question whether the European full-fledged PSB model is still realistic or a more small-scale public service à la the American PBS would be a more viable prospect.

To read the full article, see Sage Publications here.

Public Service Broadcasting

A new beginning, or the beginning of the end?

Dr. Karol Jakubowicz

Knowledge Politics, retrieved from:



In this 2007 paper for Knowledge Politics, the late Karol Jakubowicz explores what the long-term future holds for public service broadcasting in the context of a rapidly changing media landscape. With the move to a digital-only environment in mind, Jakubowicz outlines the benefit of public service broadcasting to the UK and wider European economies, cultures and democracies.

To read the full report, click here.