In the first ‘PSM Unpacked’ session, participants discussed the common challenges, opportunities and best practices related to commercial funding for public media.

On 26th November, the Public Media Alliance launched ‘PSM Unpacked’, a new and exclusive initiative for PMA members and affiliates to engage in timely discussions about public media issues. Participants from France, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, South Africa, Thailand, Turks and Caicos, and the UK took part in the virtual forum. 

Discussion Points

Public media organisations are increasingly expected to do more with less. One key topic posed to the group was how best to manage the ‘push and pull’ between generating revenue commercially and operating within competitive media markets, while fulfilling their responsibilities as public media to adhere to their core mandates, such as editorial independence, and impartiality. 

Similar challenges include the notion of encouraging but not endorsing products or product placement. To get around the issue, some broadcasters avoid promoting a particular brand by discussing a range of different brands, or they consider how and when advertisements are appropriately broadcast on air. 

Another key challenge relates to audience fragmentation and reaching new and younger listeners while not disrupting what works well for core audiences – another predicament that many public media organisations are experiencing worldwide.  

Participants also discussed the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their commercial revenue. For some organisations, they experienced a loss of income while having to reschedule programmes, and the closure of companies that would no longer advertise. But as others highlighted, that was partially offset as productions were halted or slowed down. 

The disparity between the rigour of media regulation across broadcasting countries was noted. For instance, while product endorsements are strictly regulated by some countries, in others, regulation is largely left up to the broadcaster. The disparity highlighted the relevance of understanding the principles of public media and public interest media, to which many participants emphasised the importance of maintaining their public interest values alongside their commercial ventures.  

While the different organisations operate within very different situations and contexts, they acknowledged that they were not alone in many of the challenges they experience as PSMs with mixed funding models. 

The group offered input to address some of the core challenges by exchanging various solutions and initiatives, including: 

  • Experimenting with new and interactive formats as well as digital, technological innovations to reach new and young audiences, including simulcasting, developing public media apps and subtitling, while maintaining existing audiences to avoid entirely excluding one audience group over another 
  • Creating unique content for different language groups, rather than translating content originally produced in English 
  • Developing new measurement tools to gather data on audience habits to allow PSM to better cater to different markets 
  • Re-establishing the importance of partnerships and collaboration between PSM and Pay-TVs to attract more advertisers as well as between PSM and producers. According to some participants, many young people are currently generating content and going direct to consumers rather than working with PSM organisations
  • Implementing more creative ways of advertising and accessing different sources of revenue in the digital space, such as targeted advertising; use of algorithms or developing for-profit subsidiary companies 
  • Utilising and monetising on what PSM is already doing well, from offering training programmes, production, and management services, to consultancy and communication advice to partners and other like-minded organisations 

As one participant explained, while many of these solutions can often take a lot of work and time, they are worthwhile in the long term, especially to ensure future sustainability and viability. 

Jasmine Chandler, PMA Project and Membership Manager, said, “The roundtable forum facilitated a great opportunity for our members to exchange information, ideas, and thoughts. By collaborating and sharing knowledge, skills and experiences they are in a greater position to overcome the challenges they face in an ever-changing media landscape”. 

The session is the first in a series of roundtable discussions for PMA members and affiliate organisations to interact and exchange knowledge, expertise and ideas.

Is there a specific PSM issue that your public media organisation is interested in discussing? Are you looking for solutions to a key PSM challenge? Or perhaps you are eager to interact and network with like-minded organisations? Let us know by emailing us on


Header Image: Family and friends happy moments in video conference at home. Credit: FG Trade/iStock