Defining public service broadcasting

Since the 90s,AIBD members and partners have participated in workshops and seminars examining the concept and process of Public Service Broadcasting.They have identified clear principles and objectives, among them; that Public Service Broadcasting should ensure geographic universality, quality programmes, editorial independence and sustainable financing in the service of all citizens.

With a mandate to pursue the PSB model, UNESCO has provided a universal definition of Public Service Broadcasting as follows (UNESCO, 2005):

Public Service Broadcasting is defined, as a meeting place where all citizens are welcome and considered equals. It is an information and education tool, accessible for all and meant for all, whatever their social and economic status. Its mandate is not restricted to information and cultural development - Public Service Broadcasting must also appeal to imagination, and entertain. But it does so with a concern for quality that distinguishes it from commercial broadcasting. (p. 5)

Guided by the UNESCO definition and recommendations from previous PSB seminars and workshops, AIBD members and partners sat in a roundtable discussion during the Asia Media Summit in May 2008 to examine the guidebook on PSB.

They defined what Public Service Broadcasting is:

 

  • A Public Service Broadcasting model is a separate dedicated service that serves the entire population, and contributes to the region's socio-economic development.
  • It offers quality programmes of information, education and entertainment consistent with the community's moral and ethical values.
  • It ensures a high technical standard with proper balance and a range of topics.
  • It should have autonomous control over content and financial independence with strong accountability practices, supported by creative and professional human resource, and strategic partnerships to enhance the mandate of PSB.
  • It adapts readily to changes in science and technology and exploits all significant digital platforms.

 

Defining Public Service Broadcasting

They clarified what it is not:

PSB is not a simple transaction that requires viewers and listeners to pay a license fee to sustain it.In this transactional relationship, they expect the PSB to produce more than just quality programmes.They would want a more meaningful engagement not only as audiences but also as citizens, as members of communities, and as individuals.

The PSB should not violate the code of ethics in the production and delivery of its products and services.
PSB does not cater to a capital-centric or city-centric audience. Doing so will alienate those further away from the capital or city. It should, instead, deliver products and services to all citizens regardless of where they live. This will strengthen PSB's capability to articulate the realities of the communities, even those far from the capital or city.

It does not refer to the state-controlled broadcasting model that serves the interest of those who hold political power. It is not the private broadcast model whose primary goal is to pursue commercial interests and maximize profits.

Need for Transition

While many in the Asia-Pacific region subscribe to the aims and values of the above definition of Public Service Broadcasting, they agree that existing socio-economic and political circumstances prevailing in the region should be considered in evolving a PSB model.The call for implementation of PSB in theAsia-Pacific region, therefore, requires recognition of the difficulties of the complex and demanding process of transition.