Public Service Broadcasting

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Is the idea of Public Service Broadcasting still relevant?

The broadcasting has undergone dramatic change in the past two decades. Facing new technologies (multi-channel, broadband and digital convergence), the future of public service broadcasting is now a crucial global concern. Innovative ways to access audiovisual content over the internet, mobile phone networks or other new media becomes ever more common. Television has moved rapidly from four main stations to hundreds, and it is likely to move to a digital-only environment. In most countries, there exist mixed broadcasting models, with the co-existence of State and commercial as well as public service channels. In this essay, I wish to distinct public service broadcasting (PSB) and define by discussing its fundamental practices and problems it faces. Further on I am going to address the question of the role of PSB in the information society and how it should adjust to the age of the Internet.

To begin with, it is crucial here that the key reason for PSB to exist is that it has purposes that differ from the state-controlled broadcasting model and the profit-oriented commercial one. Thus, the principal is to benefit not any commercial or political interests but the public. Moreover, the goals of PSB are not only different from, but also complementary to, the activities of the private sector, which seems to be driven by only one ambition -targeting the largest possible audiences through the most attractive content with no respect for public interest.

It is worth to note that PSB has so far been a uniquely Western European invention, with a few exceptions in Canada, Australia, Japan and New Zealand. TV stations in Central and Eastern European countries were understood as state information agencies and are currently still undergoing transformation of government owned into dual systems, combining public service and commercial organisations.

Although there are 9 varying models of PSB, there are shared ideals which apply not only to the countries that struggle with the creation of reliable public media, but also to those where PSB has been existing and regarded as a model:

1. Financial independence.That is to say the method of financing that guarantees freedom from commercial and political manipulation. Public broadcasters may receive all or a substantial part of their funding from license fees or other independent public funding. "There is considerable variation between countries in the funding mechanisms established for PSBs. In the United Kingdom, a substantial proportion (over 80 percent) of the revenue for the BBC comes from a licence fee, which every person who operates a television set within the country is legally obliged to pay. Other sources of revenue include income from commercial activities. In respect of its World Service broadcasting, the BBC receives a direct grant from the British Government that accounts for nearly 90 percent of that service's budget" (Indrajit, Kalinga 2005). Turning to the point of how programmes should be sold, it is essential that once a programme has been made, the second copy costs nothing.

2. The second concern is to maintain high quality technical and production standards rather than number of programs creating the highest ratings at the lowest cost. Because it is not subject to the dictates of profitability, PSB must demonstrate willingness to take creative risks and develop outstanding genres or ideas. Furthermore, innovation and distinctiveness should go with evidence of being well resourced. The coverage is not restricted to information and cultural issues but also entertainment. However, it does so with a focus on quality that distinguishes it from commercial broadcasting. Most national PSB systems have external regulatory mechanisms. "In the United Kingdom, the oversight function is performed primarily by three National Broadcasting Councils (for England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland), headed by...
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