Last week, PMA finance manager, Mervyn Warner, discussed the role of public service broadcasting with Roger Watterson on the Isle of Man’s Manx Radio. 

Many elements come into play when defining public service broadcasting and its development varies according to local context. Good storytelling, quality programmes, relevance, trust and credibility as well as holding the government to account, are among its core features and aims. Yet due to its costs and struggle for independence, public broadcasting is often the subject of critical debate and political influence. Having an open discussion as to why it is so important and the contemporary challenges it faces is more necessary than ever.

Our Finance Manager, Mervyn Warner, discussed these issues and the role of public service broadcasting on Manx Radio, which is under pressure to prove its ongoing value. The discussion focussed on the importance of public media, its different funding models and the broader shapes it takes in different countries.

Listen to the full interview below.

"What is PSB? If you stop and think what sort of community you want to live in, then to me it’s the glue that holds that society together - it’s the accountability to your governors, it’s how you reach out, it’s social cohesion"

Sally-Ann Wilson, PMA CEO


In spite of their local differences, public broadcasters around the world also have a lot in common, including the challenges they face. One of the main issues is certainly funding and where it’s sourced. As Mervyn said, public broadcasters are more prone to political pressures if funding comes solely or predominantly from the government. In his interview, Mervyn discusses the differences in funding, particularly among small island states. This includes Manx Radio, which currently operates on a mixed model between commercial and state funding.

The interview comes at a time when ethos of PSB is in the limelight on the Isle of Man. On 16 January the Tynwald (parliament) announced the creation of a new Select Committee to review the provision of future funding for the broadcaster, partly on the suggestion that Manx had an unfair advantage over other broadcasters.

"Public service broadcasting needs certainty, it needs adequate and sustainable funding - programmes and quality content cost money. You can only cut the margins so far, and then you have to say what can and cannot deliver, and that, I think, would be a loss to the community and will limit the amount that government can be held into account." 

Mervyn Warner, PMA Finance Manager

One particular proponent of the review, Garff MHK (member of parliament) Daphne Caine, reiterated the need for an investigation and suggested that the BBC should dedicate a portion of the licence fee received from the Isle of Man to the provision of broadcast services on the island.

This, according to Caine, would not result in the BBC taking over Manx Radio, but  would serve as a way for the public radio station to be less reliant on government funding. “It has to be separate from political involvement and it has to be seen to be separate,” she argued.

The review is due to be completed in mid-2018.

Video courtesy of Manx Radio.