Thursday, October 27, 2011

Reinventing public service media

Panel at the Collegium Hungaricum Berlin. (twb)
The panelists' names are a Who is Who of Europe's media landscape, assembled in the Collegium Hungaricum Berlin: Ruurd Bierman (Netherlands, NPO), Dagmar Reim (Germany, RBB), Ingrid Deltenre (Switzerland, EBU), Jean Reveillon (France Télévisions), Roger de Weck (Switzerland, SRG-SSR), Lauri Kivinen (Finland, YLE), Thomas Bellut (Germany, ZDF), and Arne Wessberg, former CEO of YLE, discuss the future of public service media.

Technologies change. Audiences change. Markets change. How can public service broadcasters meet the multiple challenges? How can they be faithful to their mission, keep up media quality and their specific values - and successfully compete with commercial companies at the same time, even with global media platforms such as Google or Facebook?

Public service values, the panelists agree, are in danger. The abundance of content broadcast by an increasing number of channels, shrinking public funding and a growing unwillingness of the audience to pay for media content leads to an erosion of the core of public service media, both in terms of quality and variety.

What are public service media for? They provide programmes for a broad majority of society, Roger de Weck says. They support cultural production such as film, they provide a platform for social and cultural minorities and hence are fundamental to democracy. The main threat is not the growing competition between commercial and public broadcasters, Dagmar Reim points out. The danger lies in not reaching a young audience any more, an audience increasingly unaware of media quality.

The solution? Keeping up the quality of media making, Jean Reveillon says. Public broadcasters will have to provide additional access to their content, Roger de Weck and Ruurd Bierman add: by creating new types of content and publishing them on the web, on mobile platforms, by means of an extensive use of Social Media, and also by new ways of cooperating with commercial broadcasters.

Public service broadcasters, Ingrid Deltenre says, "will have to reinvent themselves". Innovative multimedia and transmedia formats, she says, require massive investment in research and development. Broadcasting companies have to recognize that top-down communication ("from us to them") is obsolete. They must learn to communicate as on Social Media platforms: at eye level with a committed and creative audience that is eager to be part of the production process.

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