public media

Estonian Public Media Gets Government Manpower

The appointment of a high government official in the body that governs Estonia’s public broadcaster is opening a can of worms. He promises to keep his two hats apart - but some people don’t trust him.
 
On 3 May 2017, Riigikogu, Estonia’s parliament, appointed Paavo Nogene to the post of Chancellor of the Ministry of Culture, who is the second highest official in the ministry, in the council of the Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR). Mr Nogene was appointed thanks to his credentials as an “expert.” The reshuffling included the appointment of three new ERR council members. This was a regular move, given the fact that the terms of three former council members, all appointed because they qualify as experts, had expired.
 

Public Media Must Finally Change

Critics of taxpayer funding for public media are on the rise; and for good reason. It’s time for public media to take their audience seriously.
 
Sieglinde  Baumert, 46, from the small town of Geisa, in the German region of Thuringia, last year became the first person ever sent behind bars for failing to pay the license fee. This is a tax that all German households are obliged to pay to finance the country’s public service media, namely the TV channels ARD and ZDF, and the German radio.
 
Ms Baumert was sentenced to six months in prison. In April last year she was released from jail after two months, as the German public broadcaster dropped the case against her.
 
Increasingly, Germans are caterwauling about legal provisions forcing all households in Germany to pay €17.50 (US$21) a month to keep the country’s radio and TV in business. They say that they should be free to decide what media they want to fund. In 2015, the agency collecting the license fee in Germany issued over 25 million warnings to households who failed to pay this fee, an increase of about 20% compared to the previous year.
 
But Germany is not an isolated case. Controversies over the funding of public media are rife elsewhere.
 

Know the Power, Know the Media

Media and journalism are changing fast and so should the media research agenda.
 
Analyzing the role of social media in the recent elections in America, Farhad Manjoo wrote in the New York Times on 16 November 2016 that widespread misinformation online was a “primary factor in the race’s outcome.”
 
I would add that some mainstream media have equally (if not more so) contributed to that outcome. Worse, some of them wholeheartedly embraced that role.
 
Audiences drawn by coverage of Donald Trump have just been good for the business of television. Mr Trump drove ratings up and with them ad sales. The head of CBS TV station, Les Moonves boasted last February that all that coverage of Mr Trump “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” On top of corporate dollars, CBS and other major TV channels pulled in hefty revenues from political advertising. The cost of the 2016 U.S. elections was expected to reach an unprecedented US$11.4bn in political advertising and media buying, a significant jump from the US$7bn in the 2012 elections, according to data from the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) released earlier this year.

How Kosovo’s Public Television Lost Its Luster

Built through an international assistance program, for many years Kosovo’s public broadcaster received kudos for its editorial coverage. Local politicians have spoiled that.
 
The building of the Radio Television of Kosovo (RTK) in Kosovo’s capital city of Pristina, and the private home of its Director General were targets of two separate hand grenade attacks in the last week of August. The attacks were a signal that the service is becoming a target, as Kosovo’s restive opposition subscribed to violent methods to block the government from approving important agreements on the road to further democratization.
 
A self-styled vigilante organization, whose alleged links to one of the leading opposition parties are being investigated, has claimed responsibility for the attacks. They were allegedly motivated by the one-sided approach of RTK in its coverage of domestic politics and the ongoing power struggle in the newly independent nation. The real motives, however, remain unknown and the incidents are still under investigation.
 

Western Balkans Public Media on Life Support

Public service broadcasters in the Western Balkans have become increasingly unaccountable to their audiences and tone deaf to their needs. At stake is the very legitimacy of public service broadcasting in the region.
 
Public service broadcasters in the countries of the Western Balkans – Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia – are in crisis.
 
In Bosnia & Herzegovina, the state-level public broadcaster BHRT announced in July 2016 that it would stop broadcasting its programs due to the lack of funding, highlighting the deep structural crisis of the public service broadcasting system in the country. The decision was later revoked; but the crisis remains.
 

Did Ukraine’s Upstart Public Broadcaster Undermine National Interests?

The lack of definitive rules of engagement and professional standards for Ukrainian public media covering a quintessential topic of national interest – the ongoing war against Russian-backed separatists – also raises questions of self-censorship.
 
Among the heralded achievements of the Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity, the mass protests in 2014 that led to the ousting of Ukraine’s then president Viktor Yanukovych, was the emergence of two public broadcasters.
 
However, neither of them, in fact, fits the classic concept of the public media. One was created by journalists as a bottom-up initiative, and is still in the process of reforming. The other is being built by the government on the structure of the Ukrainian state TV and radio corporation. Both still fall short of international standards.
 

The BBC in the Dock Over Bias

Researchers point to clear and consistent bias on the main BBC bulletins in favor of critics of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn following a wave of shadow cabinet resignations after the UK decided to leave the EU.
 
The BBC, the U.K.’s flagship broadcaster, has been for decades a model of inspiration for other public media supporters across the globe. The public broadcaster was lauded for its governing structure, which prevented political interference, and for its funding model, which ensures stable, long-term financing. But above all, the BBC garnered kudos for its unbiased, objective, fact-anchored reporting – a paragon of independent journalism.
 
In recent years, however, the BBC has come under increased critical scrutiny for its slanted coverage. A recent study by the Media Reform Coalition (MRC) and Birkbeck, University of London, browbeat the British broadcaster for its “consistent bias” against Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party.
 
The study’s findings are worrisome not so much because of the target of the bias, an opposition politician, but for how the BBC is performing its public service media role.

Who Can Reinvent Public Media in the Global South?

An upcoming study on public media in the Global South calls for major reforms to help reinvent public service media.
 
Back in 2007, responding to people’s growing dissatisfaction with the commercial news media in Taiwan, PTS, the country’s public television service launched PeoPo, a portal that was designed to host video reports made by citizens. Part of the project was also a training program that was intended to teach citizens how to create such reports.
 
The project was a sensation.
 
The number of video-making citizens exceeded 3,400 by 2009 and was close to 7,400 in 2013, according to a RIPE report. Half of those who enrolled in this program are youths aged between 21 and 30. PeoPo concluded collaboration agreements with over 200 NGOs and 15 college news centers to hold training sessions. It cost PST a frugal US$200,000 a year to fund this project.
 
All in all, this is truly an example of the development of public service media at its finest.
 
However, unfortunately this is a comparatively rare example of success in such development so far. In fact, the state of public media in the Global South (defined as Africa, Latin America and developing Asia, including Middle East) is far from rosy. Most are struggling with a spate of structural problems coupled with political pressures.
 

South African Public Broadcaster Rocked by Political Brawls

South Africa’s public broadcaster is going through yet another crisis as the government gears up for elections. The scandal may cost the broadcaster hefty audiences.
 
The resignation last June of Jimi Matthews, the head of South Africa’s public broadcaster SABC, didn’t shock many in the country. The public broadcaster has been ravaged by such crises for decades now.
 
But the crisis that Mr Matthews’ departure has triggered is now expected to deliver a much bigger blow to SABC than the government, which has much to do with this resignation, expects.

Government Sacks Heads of Polish Public Media

TVP is to be headed by a politician.
 
Poland’s President, Andrzej Duda signed a controversial law today that enables the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party to appoint the directors of the country’s public TV and radio. Thanks to the new legal provisions, the treasury minister now has the full power to hire and fire the heads of the Polish public service broadcasters, which have a healthy audience share. Before the law was passed, only a media supervisory committee could do that.

 

Ruling Conservatives Want to Install Their Stalwarts at the Helm of Public Media in Poland

The Law and Justice (PiS) party, who won last year’s elections in Poland, rushed to adopt legislation in the last days of 2015 allowing them to fully control the public media management. Criticism abounds, but the government doesn’t care.

“You were talking about introducing BBC standards in Polish public media, but in reality you made Russia Today of them.” It was one of many critical remarks opposition MPs made on the night of 29 December 2015 in the Polish Parliament as the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party expeditiously pushed through the bill allowing the Minister of Treasury to change all executives at public television and radio immediately. The remark was related to Russia Today (RT), Russia’s international broadcaster, known as the mouthpiece of the Russian government.

European Audiovisual Groups Increase Their Market Share at Home

European broadcast groups are dwarfed by American ones on the global level. But at home, they enjoy a comfortable position. And they tend to further grow.

Growing media concentration continues to be a troubling global trend. Worldwide, the top 10 global media players, dominated by U.S. companies, control ever-larger swaths of the media landscape. This situation causes media scholars and activists to raise concerns about the impact on democracy when an ever-growing share of the global communications environment is controlled by fewer people.

Plans to Launch “Public Service” TV Channel in Jordan Raise Eyebrows

Jordan’s state television JRTV has seen its audience levels plummeting  in the past decade. Its reform has never succeeded. Now, the government pledges to launch a new TV channel that would truly serve the public. But these plans are raising numerous eyebrows.
 
The government of Jordan has reportedly decided to allocate nearly US$15 million a year to fund a new “public service” broadcast channel.
In the past few weeks, many commentators and media analysts have considered trying to reform  the already bloated and bureaucratic state television, Jordan Radio and Television Corporation (JRTV), which has lost viewership over the years, mainly because it has been unable or unwilling to reform. The decline was the result of the growing number of satellite channels in the region that provided more attractive entertainment and improved programming, including news.
 

Chilling Prospects for Media in Poland: Winners in Recent Elections Ready to Purge the Media

The victory of national conservatives in the Polish elections last week is a harbinger of grim times for the country’s journalists. Are their plans similar to those of premier Viktor Orban in Hungary? They resemble them, but bringing the media into line will not be a cakewalk in Poland.

In 2016 public media will become national media in Poland. This is what politicians of Law and Justice (PiS), the national conservative party, declared after winning the 25 October parliamentary elections and, earlier in May 2015, the presidential ones. It means a revolution for Polish Television (TVP) and Polish Radio (PR), strong public broadcasters that have 31% and 28% share of the market, respectively.

But what does it mean in reality for them to become national media?