The impressive economic growth and rise of emerging democracies in Asia-Pacific have had a dynamic impact on the capability of media markets in the region to address a more challenging business environment. New technologiescontinue to create a wealth of new platforms and services, enabling media companies to enhance their innovative capacity and competitive edge.
Despite these developments, radio and television have yet to reach out to all kinds of audiences and articulate a range of issues that make sense to people's lives, empower them to understand their environment and act responsibly. Their bias is towards commercialisation whose logic is to maximize profits. As a result, radio and TV entertainment programmes remain the preferred genres, targeting specific content and audiences, especially those with purchasing power and giving them content to reinforce consumerist aspirations. Their reach prioritises developed anddeveloping cities and towns .What prevails are business and political interests that lose sight of the need to address developmental issues in the region and the demands of quality programmes, among others.
In such a media landscape, there is an increasing recognition for alternatives to the commercial and state broadcasting systems. One such alternative is the Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) model that addresses audiences not as mere consumers but as citizens.
Why a Public Service Broadcasting model?
There are compelling reasons to establish a Public Service Broadcasting model in Asia-Pacific—separate dedicated services, informed by the value of good citizenship and characterized by quality and diverse programming, autonomous management, editorial independence, and devoted exclusively to serve the public and be accountable to the public." The word 'public' refers to the entire population of the country or region, which the public broadcaster is responsible for serving." 1
PSB adherents believe that broadcasting is a public resource, and free to air broadcasting is a public good.As collective owners, the public exercises the right of collective accountability and the power to monitor the performance of broadcasters. It has the civic duty to guide broadcasting.
In a region of diverse societies such as the Asia-Pacific, Public Service Broadcasting can reinforce social cohesion and strengthen the bond of different cultures. It can contribute to media pluralism, providing alternative perspectives and promoting an informed democracy to enhance good citizenship .For instance, it can address vigorously primary education, literacy and basic health measures for the disadvantaged section of the population.With the Internet and new technology, PSB can develop and stimulate innovation and creativity to produce both educational and entertaining programmes Media practitioners, academics, and experts from Asia-Pacific agree that Public Service Broadcasting can exist as an effective alternative or complement to both commercial and state broadcasting. International and regional institutions such as the AIBD,ABU,AMIC, UNESCO, UNDP and FES share the same view.
Speaking during a workshop on Public Service Broadcasting in South Asia: Legal, Financial, and Administrative Issues held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in August 2000, AIBD director Dr. Javad Mottaghi said:
"We are living in the world of globalisation and facing a situation in which the inexorable rise of commercialism is threatening to eliminate the public service broadcaster in favour of systems that mobilise larger audiences for markets. The concept of Public Service Broadcasting assumes a significant place in this time of hyper commercialisation, technological proliferations, and media convergence." (p. v)
In the same forum, Wijayanada Jayaweera, then regional communication adviser for Asia, UNESCO, said;
"Market orientation, indeed, has positive characteristics such as making government broadcast monopolies obsolete, but it has produced a tendency towards media ownership concentration. Moreover, it limits the choices to programme genres, which have mere mass appeal. In this market model, where replaying movies, music videos, mini series, and game shows dominate channelling diversity, plurality, and democratic dialogue become a lesser function. Also, there are fewer opportunities for educational and cultural dimensions of broadcasting in the market models." (p. viii)
Mangala Samaraweera, then Sri Lanka's Minister of Posts, Telecommunications, and the Media, also said:
"The electronic media is fast becoming another powerful industry, which is widening its frontiers with its new technology. As you are aware, with the fast-moving changes in technology, this industry is becoming highly capital-intensive .It is mainly dependent on the advertising industry for its existence. In several developed countries, press, radio, and TV are coming under one umbrella organisationally.We are also witness to a disturbing trend of mergers of media institutions worldwide. This only shows the need for Public Service Broadcasting." (p. 3)
In a UNESCO/AMIC publication on' Public Service Broadcasting: A Best Practices Sourcebook (2005)' , Dr. Abdul Waheed Khan, assistant director-general for Communication and Information, UNESCO, pointed out that:
"Public Service Broadcasting is an essential instrument to ensure plurality, social inclusion, and to strengthen the civil society. In this sense, the mission of the PSB lies in the heart of sustainable development, because it empowers people to take informed decisions vital to their own development. "(p. 2)
In Thailand's newspaper 'Nation" dated 30 January 2004, journalist Kamol Suki quoted Dr. Somkiat Tangkitwanich of the Thailand Development Research Institute as saying:
"Public broadcasting media would provide viewers with different types of programmes, more diverse content, neutral presentation and access to those individuals who are currently ignored by mainstream commercial media. It would also help develop democracy and encourage a climate where more attention is paid to programme quality rather than audience numbers."
In this age of globalisation and digitalisation, there is even more reason to support Public Service Broadcasting, which can expand programme availability and access to the larger community, and enhance public discourse and public activism on a range of issues using a mix of formats and genres.
Why an Asia-Pacific approach?
The imperative to review media's performance and seek alternatives becomes more urgent in the multi-ethnic and multi-racial societies of Asia-Pacific, a region where millions of citizens live on less than $1 a day, and disadvantaged groups and minorities are deprived of the means to participate in a level playing field for advancement.
Asia-Pacific is so diverse in age, sex, culture, lifestyle, language and religion, which are seldom captured in current broadcasting models. Alongside the varying modes of governance and development in the region, a Public Service Broadcasting model can best address such diversity not as a threat, but as a tool that generates cooperation and collaboration. It can also enrich the human community.
In a region where ethnic tensions, repression, civil strife, and violent retribution are deeply ingrained, a Public Service Broadcasting model can provide space and facilitate discussions for diverse groups to debate and exchange views without violence. It can promote tolerance and understanding amongst diverse groups in society.
In 1999, Mr. Reinhard Keune of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung posed the following challenge at the 2' Europe-Asia Dialogue on Public Service Broadcasting:
"What is the right way for Asian countries that want to abandon their state-owned, government-controlled systems? And what should be chosen to replace them? Are there models elsewhere that can be adapted to Asian conditions? Is there any need at all to make choices? Or will the market forces determine what is going to happen?"3
Why a guidebook?
In the same forum, delegates from Asia-Pacific felt that there was not one form of PSB, but many different versions. Japan, Korea, and India are a few countries where different models of Public Service Broadcasting exist. Some have evolved into multimedia content companies that operate businesses in publishing, interactive, cable, cinema, radio, and global TV to ensure sustainability.
Delegates also believed that a PSB model should work within internationally accepted principles, but one that takes account of local conditions. These principles will serve as guides in organising and managing a viable system, one that is governed by a generally accepted principle; "made for the public, paid by the public and controlled by the public."
The path towards PSB is difficult and complex. Broadcasters in the region agree that it requires a process of transition to fully internalise the dynamics of PSB given the varying socio-economic and political circumstances prevailing in the region.
This guidebook is part of a continuing initiative of AIBD, UNESCO and FES to address some gaps in clarifying the concepts and processes related to Public Service Broadcasting, and encourage more political will in developing such a system. It addresses one of the recommendations during the 2' Europe-Asia-Pacific Dialogue on Public Service Broadcasting in 1999 (co-organised by AIBD) calling for initiatives "to [create] an awareness of the fundamental values of public service broadcasting by producing a short, clear manual explaining public service broadcasting, with a view to creating awareness of the benefits of using public service broadcasting in helping them carry out their mission."
More importantly, this initiative implements the mandate on Public Service Broadcasting as highlighted in the Bangkok Declaration on Information and Broadcasting forged at the 18t Conference of the Ministers of Information & Broadcasting in the Asia-Pacific Region on 27-28 May 2003.
That mandate recognizes the "crucial role played by Public Service Broadcasting in increasing the awareness of the people, promoting freedom of expression, ensuring free flow of information and ideas, maintaining diversity in the broadcasting sector, and empowering the communities ."It enjoins public service broadcasters "to provide programming that serves the public interest and facilitates the people's participation in development programmes for the societies."
Asia-Pacific broadcasters who participated in the Asia Media Summit 2005 reinforced the mandate of the Bangkok Declaration by submitting their recommendations, among others, on PSB to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) held in Tunis in November 2005.
The latest initiative took place at the AIBD- FES Open Space Technology (OST) workshop on the Asia-Pacific Approach to Public Service Broadcasting held as a pre-summit activity of the Asia Media Summit in Kuala Lumpur in May 2007. In that exercise, 36 delegates from the region generated 82 ideas and short-listed 15 worthy of implementation. Many of these ideas are included in this guidebook.
Discussion and debate of the pros and cons of what constitutes PSB is not within the realm of this guidebook. They have been the subject of previous initiatives of AIBD, UNESCO,AMIC and FES such as conferences, workshops and publications.
This manual begins with the basic foundation of public service broadcasting. It defines its nature, components, principles and objectives. It identifies international declarations and treaties that impact public service broadcasting.
Included in the guidebook is a chapter on developing a media literate audience, which aims to make more meaningful the audience's understanding of media content and process, and its participation in the development, growth and sustainability of Public Service Broadcasting.
The main component covers guidelines on the governing body, the executive body, programming, regulations, financing, accountability, training, and digitalisation. It identifies various options especially in funding mechanisms, which can be adopted separately, or in conjunction with several measures, to create a sustainable enterprise. It adopts some of the existing standards of Asian PSB models as those found in Japan and Korea. Such standards contribute towards enhancing the PSB role of disseminating programmes on information, education and entertainment, with a high technical standard of proper balance and a wide range of topics.They refer to a commitment to quality, and the preservation of a sense of value and moral purpose.
The last component of the manual provides the guidelines on the transition from state broadcaster to Public Service Broadcaster to ensure a dynamic and viable Public Service Broadcasting model. It also includes a summary (specifically recommendations) of previous joint initiatives of AIBD, FES and UNESCO on Public Service Broadcasting that began in the 90s. The book serves as a practical reference to assist policymakers, political parties, broadcasters, academics, regulators, development institutions, and civil society organisations interested to pursue the PSB model.
The PSB model, as envisioned, does not have a monopoly on designing quality public service programmes. We recognise the positive contributions of private networks in producing excellent public service programmes that enrich, entertain, and empower to serve the public interest. In producing this guidebook, it is not our intention to create a wedge, nor deepen the dichotomy between various modes of broadcasting.
This guidebook takes into consideration the diversity of the Asia-Pacific region and its unique media context, sensitivity and experience, while adopting some of the best practices developed in Asia-Pacific countries. It reflects the commitment of media practitioners, experts and academics to give voice to excluded people in many countries in the region,encourage good governance and accountability, promote media freedom and responsibility, and support wider public participation in shaping broadcasting.
The difficult and complex process of transition, the problems of financing, issues of mandate, varied interpretations of the PSB's role, and the lack of political will provide compelling reasons for PSB models in the region, and for this guidebook.
'Asia Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development, 2nd In-country Seminar on Legal, Financial and Administrative Aspects of Public Service Broadcasting, 28-29, January 2002, Bangkok, Thailand2I
. Banerjee K., (2005) Public service broadcasting. A best practices source: Singapore: Unesco
3Eashwar, S., Public service broadcasting: Challenges and new initiatives. AIBD, Kuala Lumpur, 1999, p 10
4Rumphorst,Werner, (2003) Model Public Service Broadcasting Law Handbook (Revised Edition), UNESCO, p 1