At the very heart of the idea of Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) is the goal of serving the needs and interests of the public. This goal is reflected in the ownership, funding and programming of public service broadcasting organizations which, ultimately, need to serve the public. Public service broadcasting represents a public sphere for discussion and the dissemination of information and ideas, essential for the proper functioning of a democratic society. In that sense, PSB is of the public, for the public and by the public.
Three conditions are necessary for public service broadcasters to fulfil their mandate in the public interest. First, the independence of public service broadcasters must be guaranteed through appropriate structures such as pluralistic and independent governing boards. Second, public service broadcasters must be guaranteed funding which is adequate to serve the needs and interests of the public, and to promote the free flow of information and ideas. Third, public service broadcasters must be directly accountable to the public, especially as regard the discharge of their missions and the use of public resources.
A number of key questions immediately spring to mind in relation to national broadcasters funded out of the public purse. To what extent and in what ways is the 'public' reflected? How are countries around the world trying to ensure that these national broadcasters do serve the public interest? What structures are employed to ensure that ownership does mean 'public' ownership? How can funding mechanisms be true 'public' funding? How can programming which really fulfils a public need be promoted? Does our national broadcaster truly reflect the aspirations and desires of the people? Is the notion of public service properly reflected in all the structures and functions of our national broadcaster? Is it Public Service Broadcasting or State Broadcasting?
UNESCO and AIBD have been helping publicly funded broadcasters in the Asia-Pacific region to find out the answers to some of these questions. A key part of these ongoing efforts has been to try to learn from the experiences of various well-established PSB organisations all over the world, in relation to their status, legal framework, sources of funding and administrative structures.
The present book on Public Service Broadcasting by Mr. Toby Mendel illustrates the ways in which selected national, publicly funded broadcasters operating, in terms of their broadcasting obligations, governance structure and funding arrangements. In selecting the various national broadcasters, an attempt has been made to ensure representation from all continents of the world, and particularly from countries which have a particularly strong commitment to public service broadcasting. Special emphasis has been placed on the strategies which have evolved over the years to ensure that publicly funded broadcasters are not undermined by two critical phenomena: external control (political or other), particularly over editorial independence, and inadequate public funding. The book also speaks about alternative strategies which have been employed to try and bring the audience back to their own domain.
This joint publication of UNESCO and AIBD is a notable contribution to the ongoing Europe‑
Asia-Pacific Dialogue on Public Service Broadcasting initiated by AIBD at the 2nd International
Conference on Public Service Broadcasting 29 November to 1 December 1999, in Manila, the Philippines. The author, Mr. Toby Mendel is currently the Head of Law Programme at the ARTICLE 19 and has worked closely with UNESCO in a number of countries in the Asia-Pacific region as an expert on broadcasting legislation.
We believe that this book will be a useful reference to all the national broadcasters of Asia-Pacific region. It should serve as an authoritative source of information from countries around the world, as a friend for broadcasters to help them solve some of the issues they are currently facing in their own organizations. Knowing others always means knowing ourselves.
Wijayananda Jayaweera Javad Mottaghi
Regional Communication Adviser for Asia Director
UNESCO Office Asia Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia