Season’s greetings and a Happy New Year

27th December 2022
By Kristian Porter, CEO of PMA
Kristian Porter
Kristian Porter, CEO of the Public Media Alliance.

I want to take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy New Year and to thank you for your ongoing support and contributions to the Public Media Alliance.

It has been quite a year. We saw the return of in-person events, projects and training, as we travelled from Tokyo to Tobago, Malmö to Malaysia. We launched our new Podcast, Media Uncovered, which I can wholeheartedly and unashamedly recommend. We launched a number of regional research reports and codes-of-conduct on topics such as media literacy and crisis management, and expanded our reach with public media academics, civil society and practitioners alike. We continued to play a key advisory role as part of the Media Freedom Coalition’s Consultative Network and as the secretariat of the Global Task Force for public media. Our advocacy is strengthening, our network continues to grow, and we have advised and commented on numerous legislative issues facing public media.

There has certainly been a lot to do in support of public service media (PSM), and I can’t thank our incredible secretariat team enough for their stellar and committed work. But on a more sombre note, there has been a lot of work because of sheer number of challenges that continue to plague independent PSM and their primary role in underpinning informed societies and robust democracies.

Throughout 2022 we witnessed growing cases of online harassment, physical threats and attacks on public media and their staff. While political interference is an ever-present threat for some, it is growing for others. Let us be clear – this is happening everywhere, even in regions where independence was once taken for granted. The most well-funded public broadcasters are feeling the squeeze, and others have been left scrambling to adapt to alternative sources of income, all while trying to maintain the values and services that make them so indispensable. And of course the backdrop of audience fragmentation and the fight for prominence, rights and relevance continues to loom large.

Collaborations among public media organisations, their supporters, civil society, associations, and academics are needed more than ever. We need a louder collective voice in support of trusted, protected, impartial, and independent public media. There is strength in numbers.

These issues are all part of the wider set of challenges facing independent media, news outlets, journalists, and media workers worldwide. The catastrophic and heinous war in Ukraine, the ongoing ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis faced by so many have all played their part.

The figures are alarming. The number of jailed journalists in 2022 reached a new record of 363. 67 journalists were killed in the line of duty. Meanwhile, editorial independence continues to shrink. In 2022, research into 595 state-administered organisations across 157 countries found that 84% lacked editorial independence, an increase of 4% from 2021.

The #NotOK event was held at Canada House.
The #NotOK event was held at Canada House. From left to right, Isabella Higgins, Ralph E. Goodale, Joyce Adeluwoye-Adams, Kristian Porter, Hannah Storm, Catherine Tait, Margaret Evans, and Mike Wendling. Credit: Paul Glen / Canada House.

The PMA team are reporting on these challenges more than ever before, via our website and weekly newsletter, which make for an increasingly concerning read.

The situation is getting worse. New geopolitical blocks are forming, and it is increasingly necessary to ensure that politicians and publics alike understand the role that independent, accountable news media plays in society. It is exactly why collaborations among public media organisations, their supporters, civil society, associations, and academics are needed more than ever. It is exactly why we need a louder collective voice in support of trusted, protected, impartial, and independent public media. There is strength in numbers. It is exactly what PMA will strive to work towards as part of our new strategy in 2023-2024.

While the outlook is gloomy, I firmly believe that by working together, in solidarity, we can find solutions to many of these hurdles. And there are positive stories out there, which offer hope, and demonstrate that public media is not antiquated, but a continuing bastion of creativity, trust and as relevant as ever.

At the beginning of this year, we launched the PSM Innovations series – fortnightly features showcasing the best and brightest ideas, concepts, experiments, and efforts from public media around the world. These innovations have been developed to reinforce public value, relevance, and trust. From “greening” the environmental impact of their websites, to support for migrant communities and cutting-edge election coverage, these stories unmistakeably demonstrate the importance of public media. Only media entities – operating solely in the public interest, accountable to the public, endeavouring to provide value in all that it does – would dare undertake these efforts.

Public media must learn and work with each other, collaborate, and cooperate. PMA’s ongoing mission is to encourage these discussions, and our series of roundtables – PSM Unpacked – is another way we facilitate these conversations.

Hope also comes in the welcome change of fortunes for some public media organisations. Changes in government in Australia have resulted in additional funding and certainty for the ABC. New Zealand continues on its journey to establish a new resilient and comprehensive public media entity to better combat mis- and disinformation and ensure a bright future for PSM. A change in government in Slovenia has seen positive steps taken to improve the situation at the embattled public broadcaster, RTV SLO. It is hoped the election of Lula da Silva in Brazil could do the same for EBC, which has become a mouthpiece under Jair Bolsonaro.

New legislation and policies also look set to ease the pressures faced by many PSM. The European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) is a step in the right direction towards better protecting the independence of EU-based public media, and in Canada there is hope that new legislation will see international streamers contributing some of their locally sourced income to the creation of Canadian content.

These are just a few examples, and more can be found in our roundup of 2022. Of course, vigilance must be taken with each positive step, and PMA along with its members and partners will continue to cast a critical eye and speak out in support of the core values of PSM.

Lastly, I want to reiterate my appreciation to all our supporters, partners, our growing membership, the PMA Board and of course, our secretariat team. I look forward to working with you all in 2023.