#PMA16 Take-aways

Research, Teaching

Public Media Alliance just held its 2016 conference, #PMA16, in Montreal today 14 September.

Below some of my take-aways:

  1. Key Note #1

Craig Hammer, Media Development, World Bank. He reiterated the often heard comments about the declining trust in media, and the weakening freedoms of expression, and safety of journalists: right now, perhaps more than ever, we need public media.

In addition, he noted that non-Western countries are leapfrogging and bypassing their mature PSM counterparts in rethinking the collaborative, participatory and curatorial, multiplatform models of PSM (e.g.,Kenya & India).

Q&A: CH notes that developing stronger media systems in the Global South, and public media, is challenging as many funders seem not to understand the importance of media (systems, funding models). He’s calling for customizable models. One part of this equation is awareness raising among audiences about the importance of PM.


  1.  Changing Perspectives on PSB: The Commercial, Technical and Political

Chair: CEO Lauri Kivinen of Yleisradio, Finland; Sonia Gill of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union;  Waithaka Waihenya of KBC Kenya; Rita Freire, EBC Brazik; Simon Marks of Feature Story News, USA.

  1. How do the panelists see the possibilities for transitions from state to true public service media?

WW: KBC used to be a feared entity, government’s loudspeaker -> “punishing” public media -> now the government much more sympathetic. But: let’s stop lamenting the funding issue, let’s accept and solve it.

RF: Political crisis: the gov’t withdrew autonomy of EBC but multistakeholder support to protect media.

LK: In the last 3 months Croatia, Hungary, Poland — these countries can’t overcome the paradox of PS financed by the people but governed by the state. This paradox needs to be overcome to have a functioning PSM organization. “We must bite the hand that feeds us”. It’s scary to hear about Brazil, a big country.

SG: We are seeing concerns about the arrest of reporters in the Caribbean. HIghly commercialized media sector because govts couldn’t  Telecoms (Caribbean & foreign) are now becoming major media owners. How can we secure indigenous content? We continue to have the problem with CEOs of media houses with their political affiliations. Cybersecurity legislation has recently been used to regulate legacy media/journalism. Technology continues to be a challenge – how to guarantee universal access? E-waste a problem.

SM: One would think the US wouldn’t a fragile state but I have begun to think so… The current election (coverage) is the tragic result of the lack public media. The Economist: The Post-Truth Environment”. Technical: not an obstacle but a huge opportunity. E.g.: 1) Overhaul of culture in PSB: Content now specifically produced for different platforms. 2) Radio NZ Checkpoint: Multiplatform simulcast – redefining the “broadcasting”. Decoding unit allows access to studios to deliver HDTV footage for multiplatform audiences = Major cost reductions.

  1. How can we make sure that PSB/PSM remains relevant?


SG: Involvement of civil society. The case of Brazil shows this clearly.

WW: Craig talked about trust as a rare community these days. News pushed through social networks, etc. Trust and journalistic quality are our commodity.

Q: To WW: What’s the status of KBC’s switchover? To Rita: Possibility of license fees as a funding model? SG: Jamaican funding model is a success. Direct user fees won’t work. LK: public support helps to build political support. WW: Kenya fully digital. But as a result of a fierce war with comm broadcaster that wanted a piece of the pie. Decision: Digitalization = a public project.
SM: On social media — you HAVE to go where the audiences are. Use the tech to build your brand of trust. How to modernize but maintain the quality?



  1. Intervention: PMA Research Project

Sally-Ann Wilson, PMA: What do we need to know what we don’t from academic research and other sources? How do people who run PM organizations see their organizations? Key questions that keep them awake at night?

PSM pyramid: Role -> Characteristics -> Content

20 responses so far; very consistent regardless of the context!

Role: independency, inclusivity and diversity, building and reflecting national identity (providing media plurality in a globalizing world wasn’t considered very important)

Characteristics: Independence, impartiality, trust (being popular wasn’t that important)

Content: Impartial news, international news (environmental coverage not so important)

PMA — we don’t merely talk, we act. The BBC model needs revision for other countries, but the changes in that model will shape other models.

Promotion of public media? How do we promote ourselves (and not only “preaching to the choir” — We need to leave the church and involve partners, and measure impact to increase credibility, metrix). We hope PMA can create an index of key performance indicators so we can learn



  1. Keynote #2 – Representing Citizens

Keynote: Fran Unsworth, BBC World Service

Moderator: Paul Thompson of Radio New Zealand

What should be the proper balance between politics and the media? If journalists are too powerful we can do damage, too weak where’s the role?

Brexit — what to report? Should one report claims of both sides?

Even in the midst of the most heated debates, the BBC was applauded as the most balanced.

Threats to journalism and human rights are constant (e.g., Kashmir, Turkey, Kenya, Malaysia, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Uganda, China – exodus from newspapers&foreign journalists, Hungary, Vietnam, Iran…)

Too often govts trying to control. No total control — foreign investors a vary of that — so selective censorship.

Total free speech impossible. Who is the regulator, sets the rules?

Amartya Sen: No famines in countries with free press.

EBU research: public media contributing to democracy (less extremism, more political participation).

The collapse of authoritarian regime doesn’t automatically mean press freedom; it may take a long time. Many regimes unwilling, perhaps fearful. That’s why our job is even more important.

Q: Is the trend now more than ever that when journalistic freedom is being threatened in legacy media they can push the stories in social media?

  • Growth in authoritarianism
  • State broadcasters parroting those in power
  • Intermediaries are controlled as well, and filter bubbles that are created…

Changes of the governance structure of the BBC… Profound implications re: the independence of the BBC.

  1. Truth and Trust: Investigative Journalism in the Digital Age

Moderator: Sonia Gill, Ahmer Shaheen of GEO Pakistan, Mark Bassant of CCN Trinidad & Tobago, Will Fitzgibbon of Intl Consortium of Investigative Journalists

MB: Investigative journalism in a digital age is characterized by:

  • Deadlines don’t exist
  • Mobile news consumption
  • Display for info, for  easy access (visualizations, timelines?) is key

WF: Truth, Trust and the Digital Era — the Panama Papers — immense data leak — not possible without digital era. Trust can be seen in several ways: trust between journalists feeds into trust in journalism. Trust in data — collaborative verification. Trust in the public — make structured data available, open access. The RISKS to trust increase with digital era.

AS: Financial feasibility — longer, more resources, can get media shut down… So very expensive — invisible costs —  in fragile states. “Pakistan a paradise for investigative journalism – organized corruption is rampant”



  1. Engaging the Digital Public

Tim Fenton, International Election Advisor:

  • Journalism is the biz of making the significant interesting
  • Journalists should either genuinely be thrive impartiality or admit bias
  • The best-served audiences have both

Divide political reporters — parliament, politics, and elections.



A 3-minute summary


Back to the future and different but oh so similar.

From both keynotes to this panel throughout the panels:

  • Politics — external influence
  • Technology — reach
  • Trust — relationship with audience
  • Core mission — to provide access and to provide value, basic components diversity whether in political coverage as Namibian example… but also unity, as mentioned by the CEOS in the PMA study. And bring forth under-reported issues, such as John Mohmoh highlighted, and certainly trustworthy coverage in the cases of crises, as Marion Warnica highlighted. Perhaps, as proven by the EBU research, support democratic practices. And tell great, engaging stories.

MDM: Mapping Digital Media 56 countries

Global PSM Experts Network: over 90 countries

We tackle with these challenges, just in new reiterations. And it seems that we are more alike than ever.

WW: let’s move on! Let’s thrive to be integral part of their lives — NBC



  • Possibilities of collaboration – geographical, global (Graig Hammer – models, examples;),
  • Institutional – PMA research shows common concerns
  • Non-PSB partners: Simon Marks’ efforts… First Draft
  • Amongst journalists, for trust, for security. Or, amongst organizational leaders — The case of Brazil.
  • With the public — branding, marketing, more collaboration.

And so back to the our first keynote that mentioned the new roles, or functions of PSBs, beyond broadcasting toward  collaborative, participatory and curatorial, multiplatform  existence… Perhaps we add to the list: a mobilizing agent of all these kinds of collaborations.



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