One could argue that there are no generic prescriptions for organizing and maintaining public service broadcasting organizations because historical developments in each country and region render any such formulations impracticable. The supporters of state ownership and control of the public service broadcasting institutions often use this argument, particularly whenever the question of editorial independence of the public broadcaster is raised.
However, we are now facing a situation in which the inexorable rise of commercialism is threatening to eliminate the public service broadcaster in favor of systems that mobilize larger audiences for markets. Therefore, irrespective of regional and country specificity, public broadcasters in many countries now have to reposition themselves to meet the challenge of survival. This requires that public service broadcasters explore within their public remit, the possibilities of rendering an irreplaceable service to their audiences.
A closer examination of well-established public service broadcasters, both in Asia and Europe, shows that they are not only able to withstand challenges but have also become an integral part of the public life. This is mainly because of their enormous creativity ensured through editorial independence and uncompromised public service orientation with direct accountability to, and support by, the public. Thus, for most public service broadcasters the challenge is to re-establish with vigor the cultural and educational dimensions of their functions and also to become an indispensable democratic tool of a pluralistic society. The Declaration adopted by media professionals at the Alma Ata (Kazakstan) Seminar on pluralistic media (5-9 October 1992) called upon UNESCO to encourage the development of journalistically independent public service broadcasting services in place of existing state-controlled broadcasting structures. By Resolution 4.6 adopted by the General Conference at its 27th Session in November 1993, Member States of UNESCO requested the Organization "to support and promote comprehensive action focusing on the role and functions of public service, and in so doing to take the advice of the international, regional and national professional organizations concerned and of the National Commissions."
It is in the spirit of this mandate that we support the Asia Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD) in initiating the European and Asia-Pacific dialogue on the survival of public service broadcasting. This publication contains the background papers presented at the dialogue held in Manila (the Philippines) in November 1999 and will become a useful tool in carrying the discussion elsewhere in Asia and Europe.
I take this opportunity to congratulate the AIBD for launching this important dialogue.
Alain Modoux, Assistant Director General
Communication, Information and Informatics,UNESCO