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Jueves, 06 Mayo 2021 16:26

The importance of independent media regulators

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A regulatory authority is an important element of broadcasting and has a role to play in protecting media freedom. But that protection requires a commitment to impartiality, independence, and transparency.

By Desilon Daniels

While broadcast regulators can look differently across the world, they should primarily aim to act in the interest of the public. This public service can look like the protection of children’s interests, such as in New Zealand where its regulator, the Broadcasting Standards Authority, has set out standards that ensure “children can be protected from broadcasts which might adversely affect them.” Broadcast regulators can also protect the media market from unfair competition and the threats of monopolisation, encourage cultural identity, and act as mediators between broadcasters and the publics they serve.

But strong governance mechanisms are necessary if broadcast regulators are to adequately meet public service goals. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is an example of an effective broadcast regulator, with mechanisms in place to better insulate its independence from political and private interests. Its independent Commission “operates at arm’s length from the federal government” and oversees the regulation and supervision of broadcasting and telecommunications in the public interest. The Commission reports to Parliament through the Minister of Canadian Heritage. “As an independent organization, the CRTC works to serve the needs and interests of citizens, industries, interest groups and the government,” the regulator says.


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For the second week running it seems relevant, although disturbing, for PMA to highlight recent events in the UK. Both events have a global resonance for public media.

Today the BBC confirmed a £3.00 increase in the Licence Fee from April 2020. A predictable and familiar outcry began, especially on social media platforms, with many questioning both the funding of the BBC via a Licence Fee and the value of the BBC itself. Such challenges to public media are increasing worldwide and are at the core of PMA’s current Global Call Out for public media.

The second event occurred yesterday when political journalists were invited to Number 10 Downing Street, the UK Prime Minister’s office, for a ‘technical briefing’ on the PM’s proposals for a trade deal with the EU.  On arrival in the foyer of No.10 the journalists were split into two groups by a security guard. Following objections from the journalists, Downing Street’s Communications Director, Lee Cain, then declared: “Those invited to the briefing can stay – everyone else, I’m afraid, will have to leave.” The journalists acted in solidarity. They all walked out.

Such behaviour by a UK government representative – Cain is paid for by the UK tax payer – sits uncomfortably with the fact that just last year the UK Government launched a new initiative on media freedom. The Media Freedom Coalition was launched in partnership with the Canadian Government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since the launch, many governments around the world have signed up, recognising the importance of media freedom in a fractious world.

Media freedom is about the freedom of journalists to do their work. It is about the safety of journalists. But it is also fundamentally about editorial independence and the right of journalists to question. Governments everywhere must be left in no doubt about this.

So back to the BBC. A central and critical role of any national public media organisation is to be independent and to hold those in power, including politicians, to account. The Licence Fee was established to underpin that independence. There are other ways of funding public media but the Licence Fee means that the BBC is directly accountable to the public it serves.

Public media has many roles to play in society, as CBC/R-C’s CEO and President Catherine Tait emphasised in an article in Canada’s ‘Globe and Mail’ last week, “Canadians count on their public broadcaster for much more than trustworthy news. They count on us for their connection to language-and to place”.

Constructive criticism and questioning of our public media organisations is not only healthy but necessary. It’s a fundamental part of our liberty. The BBC is a vast multiplatform and world leading brand. In a global sense it is a national asset.  But what gets overlooked by many, including some of its own staff and presenters, is that the BBC is first and foremost, a public media organisation.

If public media organisations fail to unite and advocate for public media with a stronger global voice then the BBC, as with so many other things, like the freedom to speak and write, will disappear and we won’t realise just how good and necessary it was, until it has gone.

As a public broadcaster a fundamental part of the BBC’s role is to question politicians. This is difficult when, with the availability of social media platforms, politicians believe that they can advance their cause and reach the public without having to face rigorous questioning by professional journalists. Hence, the current UK trend for senior politicians to boycott programmes such as ‘Today’, the BBC’s flagship morning radio programme. This is a challenge that the BBC, like other public broadcasters must overcome.

With the constant shifting of global geopolitics it seems likely that threats to media freedom will continue for the foreseeable future and that will erode and undermine democracy. In that light the additional cost to the Licence Fee seems a small price to pay for a robust public broadcaster that challenges power and reports infringements of media freedom. The BBC must not only continue to respond to the challenges, it must also ensure that anyone that takes a salary based on the Licence Fee must understand fully what that means.  They must emphasise the importance and independence of public media.

In these times little seems certain but a clear certainty is that SVODs such as Amazon Prime and Netflix and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter will never be accountable to citizens for holding politicians to account and questioning their power. If public media organisations fail to unite and advocate for public media with a stronger global voice then the BBC, as with so many other things, like the freedom to speak and write, will disappear and we won’t realise just how good and necessary it was, until it has gone.

Tras un arduo proceso promovido por diversos organismos de la sociedad civil que luego incorporó a los partidos políticos, la reforma diseñada para promover la independencia partidista de la radiotelevisión pública estatal española, vuelve a situarse bajo amenaza. Lo contamos y describimos los retos de futuro.

Los medios públicos europeos se mueven para competir con los servicios de descarga. Con este fin se comienzan a producir diversos tipos de colaboraciones en Reino Unido, Francia o los países nórdicos.

New collaborations emerge as public broadcasters face up to challenge posed by online and OTT TV competitors.

Streaming video on demand (SVOD) is on the rise, with organisations like Netflix and Amazon all expanding their footprint worldwide. Now, with the advent of Smart TVs and over-the-top TV (OTT TV) as well as growing investment in content, these digital players are competing more directly with public service broadcasters (PSB) than ever before.

The problem is, how do PSBs respond and maintain relevance? There is certainly an issue of scale. Netflix boasts 100million users and an $8billion programming budget for 2018. This will result in 700 new shows and 80 movies in a budget that is worth almost five times more than that of the BBC, one of the world’s largest PSBs.

Las corporaciones de medios públicos de Australia y Nueva Zelanda se enfrentan a cambios significativos en sus presupuestos: un recorte en el caso de Australia y un incremento en el de Nueva Zelanda.

Budget announcements mark significant challenges for ABC while RNZ welcomes boost.

While the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) faces a dramatic cut in funding, Radio New Zealand (RNZ) has benefitted from a significant boost – despite it not being as hefty as initially promised. Here we take a more in-depth look at each funding development and what it might mean for the future of public broadcasting across the region.

"Sacudidos pero no rotos". Sally-Ann Wilson Presidenta de Public Media Alliance explica por qué los medios públicos son tan importantes en la presente era digital, en un contexto de crecimiento de nacionalismos, populismos y noticias falsas.

“In these times of growing nationalism, populism and fake news, protecting the core values of public media has never been so important.”

Public Media Alliance CEO, Sally-Ann Wilson, issued a call to action in support of public media worldwide at the Central European University’s Centre for Media Data and Society (CMDS) in Budapest on 1 March.

The speech, as part of a CMDS series of guest lectures on public media, was aimed at encouraging greater collaboration and solidarity in ensuring the future of public media, as services struggle to ensure their core values in the digital media age and against the growing pressures of fake news, populism, nationalism, authoritarianism and the growth of competing and alternative new media.

Paul Thompson, Presidente de Radio New Zealand expone como los medios públicos deben responder a la crisis actual del periodismo en una suerte de manifiesto de diez puntos

2018 has not started well for the news media.

Once proudly independent and self-reliant, we seem to have been reduced to client states of Facebook, fretting about the social network’s move away from news.

Facebook has now realised what journalists have known all along. The stakes are high when it comes to news because it is the most effective counter to entrenched power. Doing it well costs money, is difficult and requires expertise and judgment. It performs a public service and is no longer a source of ready profit.

And pseudo-journalism – public relations, spin doctoring and all the more malign forms of propaganda that seek to co-opt the credibility of legitimate news – is a constant threat.

The core of the crisis is financial even if the impacts are far wider. The mass media business model based on scarcity is in retreat and once powerful commercial publishers and broadcasters are finding it extremely difficult to find alternatives and maintain their independence.

Public service media are somewhat protected from these ravages, privileged as we are to receive government and public funding.


Teledetodos es un Grupo de investigación que agrupa a profesionales, académicos, investigadores y a todos aquellos ciudadanos o colectivos interesados en un auténtico servicio público de comunicación audiovisual y multimedia. Este sitio pretende ser un foro de referencia y documentación para todos los interesados en el sector de la comunicación y sus contenidos y publicaciones están abiertos a la participación ciudadana.

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