Beyond Broadcast

This site picks up where the 2006-2009 Beyond Broadcast conferences left off—examining projects and issues at the intersection of public media, innovation, and participation.

Follow @beyondbroadcast on Twitter for updates.

— @beyondbroadcast on Twitter.

Value for Public Money – Money for Public Value

RIPE@2012

September 5 – 7 in Sydney, Australia

 

Call for Proposals

For the 6th RIPE conference we will focus specific attention on research that demonstrates how and why the public receives good value for the money spent on public service media provision. Is PSM a good deal, how good a deal it is, and why does that matter? How much does this vary inside Europe, and what can we say about the situation outside Europe? How best to define ‘public value’ today? It is important to address claims that PSM is wasteful, inefficient, unresponsive, irresponsible, etc. We invite analysis and research that grows understanding of PSM performance in relation to the private commercial sector. It is expected that attention will be given to the quality, variety and differentiation of programmes and services PSM provides, and the value that publics derive economically, culturally and socially. This signals, as well, the importance of money for public value, which shifts the focus to issues that include governance systems, public value testing and similar accountability mechanisms, critical discussion of concerns and problems in taking economic criteria too far or too exclusively, and recognition that the remit of PSM is fundamentally normative. The organisers invite proposals that will address relevant issues related to the following topics that are especially pertinent to the conference theme:

 

1. PSM Financing & Business models

 

In the traditional arrangement PSB is financed by public money. Approaches to funding have become a hot topic and a focus of debate.

- Is the traditional ‘business model’ best for PSM today? What are the pros and cons of various alternatives or combinations?

- Are new models emerging for different platforms or types of services?

- How politically feasible and economically viable are various options?

- Where is PSB / PSM sustainable, in what form/s and under what conditions?

- What differences are essential when looking at countries that are only beginning or trying to start PSB / PSM? Is the traditional institutional approach as useful today, and where are there significant developments and alternatives?

 

2. PSM Structures & Production

 

This sector has undergone a dramatic shift from mainly in-house production with hierarchical structures and mostly permanent employees with civil servant status, to pursue outsourcing, temporary or freelance contracts, flat organisations, and business-like approaches that favour cost reduction and efficiency.

- Does this produce better value? What are the trade-offs?

- What is essential to understand about the economic foundations of PSM as a financial organisation, despite its non-profit status?

- What do we know about trends in the volume and percentages of programme output and production, number of employees under various contract categories, in different areas and positions, with what productivity gains and losses, etc?

- What is important to know about copyright issues and intellectual property?

- How is media work changing in PSM companies, and with what consequences?

- Where is local production still viable, and why? Where isn’t it viable, and why?

 

3. PSM policy and accountability

 

The commercial sector claims PSM is causing market distortion that disturbs a ‘level playing field’. Politicians and other stakeholders are keen for the public sector to be more transparent and accountable.  

- What is most important to know and respond to in policy debate about these issues?

- What new measures are recommended to improve accountability?

- Which approaches to ex ante evaluation work best, and which are not working? Is there evidence that the approach is counter-productive?

- How much is all of this costing and what do we know about cost/benefit ratios?

- In what ways has the New Public Management approach improved or undermined public value?

- Can public value be measured? How, at what cost, and with what consequences?

 

4. Defining ‘Public Value’ in PSM today

 

Traditionally PSB was expected to provide information, education and entertainment, and to strongly emphasise domestic culture and national identity. Reconceptualising what the PS in PSM means and consists of today is a pressing need.

- What counts as ‘public value’ today, and how is it both different from and the same as historic understandings? Are there discernable periods that characterise shared understanding? Are there significant patterns of consistency or variation when comparing countries, regions, or discourse in different languages, etc?

-  Where has reinterpretation of historic meanings been successful, how and why, and what remains problematic?

- Have there been consequences for the profile and character of service provision as a consequence of new conceptualisation?  

- Has anything been lost or neglected that needs to be revitalised?

- What is not good value for public money today and ought to end? Where and why?

- What is still vital in the historic PSB mission that must be protected and also nurtured?

 

5. Improving PSM value

 

The move from PSB to PSM has not been smooth or even. While governments traditionally expect the sector to support technological development and the creation of digital content, the costs and effects have been unpredictable and in many cases controversial.

- Where has PSM contributed to market development? Where has it improved mediated services as a result of innovation? Where is it lagging? Where is it a problem for developing public value in media due to institutional self-interests?

- What has PSM created that is new compared to PSB? What is distinctive compared to the private commercial sector?

- How is PSM responding to social media on the basis of lessons learned? In what ways are these companies contributing to or inhibiting development in this area?

- Are there clear gains in efficiencies or effectiveness in the shift to PSM?

- What is essential for PSM to be viable and sustainable? How does this differ in comparing countries, regions and communities?

 

 

6. PSM value for audiences and users

 

In social reality and research schema, media audiences are more complex and complicated than was the case historically, often also more contradictory in the light of multiple identities.

- What are the implications related to public value when defining audiences in varied terms (e.g. as citizens, consumers, customers, clients, tax-payers, markets, etc)?

- Are there convincing arguments for supporting collective needs and social welfare given the growth of individual choice and personal preference? How can that be articulated to have real impact?

- How is audience research changing, and with what consequences and impact for doing PSM?

- How should contradictions and complexity in identities be conceptualised? Are certain formulations most suitable for PSM?

- What does the evidence reveal regarding re-valuation of audiences as participants in PSM? In what ways are historic valuations still relevant? What needs to be developed?

 

SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS

- Provide the working title of the paper and include your name, organisational affiliation with location, and e-mail address on a cover sheet

- Write the abstract on a separate page that only includes the title of the paper and specify which of the 6 topics (above) your paper would contribute to (you may specify more than one)

- The maximum length for the abstract is 600 words

- Proposals are due on or before January 11, 2012

 

All submissions will be peer reviewed as the basis for acceptance. Reviewers will use the following criteria to assess proposals:

  1. Relevance to the conference theme and connection to at least one specified topic
  2. Conceptual and analytic quality (not purely descriptive)
  3. Importance of the contribution for contemporary theory in PSB / PSM
  4. Relevance of the contribution for PSM practice and management
  5. Comparative research is highly desired.
  6. Empirical research is prioritised.
  7. Broadening the scope beyond Europe is welcome.

 

Sixty proposals will be accepted for papers to be presented in the conference. Decisions to accept or reject will be taken in February with notification sent on or about March 1, 2012. Please send your proposal as an e-mail attachment to both of the following:

            Gregory Ferrell Lowe, University of Tampere in Finland (glowe@pp.inet.fi)

            Anne Dunn, University of Sydney (anne.dunn@sydney.edu.au)

 

The conference registration fee will be €250 for authors. The fee does not include payment for accommodation, but does cover the cost for shared meals and conference materials. For those attending but not presenting, the registration fee is €300 and space is limited. A select number of doctoral students can be included and the fee in these cases will be €100. The RIPE conference does not have funds to supplement personal travel costs except for invited keynote speakers. For more information, please visit our website: www.ripeat.org.

 

Nov 21

RIPE@2012 in Sydney, Australia!

Value for Public Money; Money for Public Value

The 6th bi-annual RIPE conference will bring together scholars and industry partners in public service media in Sydney, Australia from September 5 – 8, 2012. So please mark your calendars and begin making preparations to attend. Our sixth conference is co-hosted by the University of Sydney and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). A Call for Papers will be published in early autumn 2011, so please stay tuned for more information. We will begin updating the RIPE website soon (www.ripeat.org).

This is the first RIPE conference hosted in the southern hemisphere and aims to broaden this unique initiative in public service media research and industry concerns beyond Europe and North America to embrace work in Oceania, South and South-east Asia. Accordingly, submissions are particularly invited from scholars of public service media in the global south. The language of the conference is English.

The conference is structured for ABC to host the first day as a forum that will feature keynote speakers and plenary sessions from industry, partly from Australia and also beyond.  The University of Sydney is hosting the second and third days.  Day 2 will feature approximately 60 paper presentations in three sessions across designated topical work groups that are relevant dimensions for exploring our theme. The topics will be announced with the Call for Proposals (CfP) this autumn. There will a two Steering Questions keyed to coming to some generalisable conclusions for the work of these groups relative to the conference theme.  Eight to ten papers are selected for each workgroup to ensure plenty of time for fruitful discussion in the sessions. On Day 3 there is a moderated closing plenary dialogue in which a rapporteur from each work group presents its findings, contributing to the conclusions.  After the conference, 15 to 20 authors of keynote addresses and papers will be invited to contribute a peer-reviewed chapter to a subsequent RIPE Reader published in the year following the conference (co-edited by Gregory Ferrell Lowe and Anne Dunn).

Look out for the RIPE@2012 Call for Paper proposals!

Sep 05

Preconference presenter Vibodh Parthasarathi, of the Centre for Culture, Media & Governance (CCMG), Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, sheds light on one of the most expansive media markets in the world. He traces the phases of development of public media, maps the core challenges,  and envisions possibile routes for public media to flourish in the future in the complex socio-economic context of India.

Since the onset of economic liberalisation in India from 1991, a plethora of discourses on de-regulation and privatisation have surfaced across the communication industries. These discourses, while differing on the nature, pace and directions of de-regulation, reflect the values held by the often competing set of stakeholders in the communication industry. Amidst this, the existing institutions and evolving instruments of public service media have scarcely attracted coherent attention, either from communication scholars or policy-makers.

The last two decades have seen government support help expand public broadcasting by way of additional TV and radio stations, including in a number of regional languages. Although digitization has made available multiple platforms, including DTT, DTH and Mobile TV, it has not necessarily brought much diversity to the content, such as through niche TV channels. The content being telecast on Doordarshan (state-owned TV network) is similar to what is being offered by the private broadcasters. A political understanding seems to be in place that limits state budgetary allocations to Prasar Bharati Corporation (“owner” of both Doordarshan and All India Radio) to 50%, such that the Corporation is responsible for generating the remaining revenues. Thus, the public broadcaster is compelled to fulfill its service obligations by providing programmes on education and development, in diverse languages, while simultaneously devising marketing strategies to compete with the private broadcasters for the advertising pie. As a result the Television Ratings Points system (TRP), an exercise operationalized on a very limited sample size, has become the key reason the public broadcaster plans programming, especially in prime time, similar to that available on private channels.

 If we step back from the immediate, we can identify three phases in the development of the idea and practice of “Public Service” in India.

 The first concerns the genesis of radio and TV; despite having germinated respectively in the decade before and decade after independence, they were equally driven by the rationale of a centralized, and centripetal, government-administered system of public service broadcasting. Mutations in this system, or parts thereof, over the following decades were a consequence of the compulsions of dealing with multiple and diverse nationalities within India. And the beginning of commercialisation of these public services, together with that of telecommunications in the 1980s, was as much a response to as an instigator of the birth of new publics in India.

 Following widespread deregulation in the Indian economy as a whole, similar trends engulfed various sectors of the media industry—-dynamics that also reshaped standing conceptions of public service broadcasting. On the one hand, there was a heightened commercialization of state-administered radio, TV & telecom services and a sudden privatization of the only state owned ISP. On the other hand, with the rise of new stakeholders in the ecology of media abundance, the idea of public service obligation (PSO) started gaining currency: cable & DTH operators were obliged to relay a minimum set of DD channels; sports broadcasters had to mandatorily share the signal of key live international events with DD and the licensing norms for mobile telecos included targets for universal service obligations. While there was no PSO mooted for private ISPs, nor any PSO component visualized in the expanding bouquet of Value Added Services by mobile telcos, there was intense debate over the until unsuccessful proposal that private broadcasters be mandated to carry 15% of public service content.

At the dawn of the 2000, the inter-related challenges of digitalisation & convergence has, willy-nilly, led to a set of often unrelated practices that suggest the preliminary contours of public service media (PSM). Although yet to be formally termed in India as such, the introduction of a subscription-free DTH service by DD, the provision of news headlines via SMS and dial-in by AIR and subscription-free Mobile TV service by DD together convey fragments of a techno-centric move towards an integrated public media.

But the odds are clearly stacked against the idea of such a public media: be it the traditional challenges of being under-endowed, and severely over-staffed; committee after committee recommending the sale or renting of its infrastructure to private entities; the corporate press refusing to play a progressive advocate, while rival broadcasters/operators constantly eyeing its tangible and non-tangible assets; the lack of informed research and hence complete silence on public media in both media curricula and in advocacy agendas.

 Amidst all this, one realistic opportunity for the future of PSM entails embracing decentralization. While this holds the possibilities of synergies with existing Informatics infrastructure (already decentralized like in Village/District Information Centres), this will require spectrum reform that is oriented towards public interest, and not private interest as has been hitherto. 

In parallel, energies should be directed at the discursive level; here, there is a need to initiate periodic public assessment of PSM. Such citizens’ report could be aimed as much to provide international comparisons on the quality and direction of PSM (akin to comparative assessments of, say, corruption, business environments, human rights etc) as to enhance the boundaries of disclosure on national public utilities. 

Vibodh Parthasarathi maintains a multidisciplinary interest in media and development policy, business history of creative industries, and governance of media infrastructure. Currently at the Centre for Culture, Media & Governance (CCMG), Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, he is the co-editor of L’idiot du Village Mondial (Editions Luc Pire/ECLM, 2004), Media and Mediation (Sage, 2005), The Social and the Symbolic (Sage, 2007), and most recently Communication, Culture and Confrontation (Sage, 2010). Having directed a study on advocacy trends in media reform, his ongoing projects address Curriculum development for Policy Literacy, Exhibition policy & Curatorial practice, and the dynamics of Television News markets in India; he is also in the process of evaluating the ecology of news media spawned by digitalsation in India, part of the multi-country initiative Mapping Digital Media. Parthasarathi is on the Board of the Centre for Internet & Society, International Advisory Board of the India Media Centre, University of Westminster, the International Editorial Board of Global Media and Communication and is founding member of the Centre for Social Ecology. His last documentary, Crosscurrents: A Fijian Travelogue (54, 2002) explored facets of ‘reconciliation’ in the aftermath of two military coups in Fiji.

May 25

Preconference speaker and facilitator Minna Aslama (Fordham University / University of Helsinki) presents takeaways from a grants programme on scholar-activist collaboration, titled Necessary Knowledge for a Democratic Public Sphere (2006-2010). 

Funded by the Ford Foundation and coordinated by the Social Science Research Council, the programme supported projects about and around media reform and justice issues, ranging from grass roots alternative participatory media activism in Los Angeles to national telecommunications policy intervention in Brazil. The lessons learned for the future of public media pertain both to the themes of the grants projects, as well as to various collaborative models they represent.

This work focused on the US, but also recognized the growing need to link national and global governance and policy agendas.   This mission also required rethinking the incentive structures that surround—and shape—academic knowledge production, including new ways of encouraging researchers to collaborate with and target audiences beyond their academic peer communities.

The programme begun with conversations between activists, advocates, and academic researchers, about the strengths and weaknesses of knowledge production and evidence-based activism in these fields.  Clear systemic needs emerged, including: more timely and responsive production of research for communications activism and advocacy; better access to and sharing of data and better mechanisms for finding and utilizing relevant research; stronger and more diverse research capacity in the communications arena, leading to better institutionalization of communications policy work in the academy; and greater attention to the international scope of communications policy and reform.

 These broad areas can be seen as crucial also in the specific context of the debates about public media, and specifically when we think of scholarly involvement in those debates: We need to think what kind of research is needed, how we can make that knowledge interesting, relevant, and accessible to multiple stakeholders of the debates, how we can connect and collaborate with different stakeholders (thus making public media–relevant research matter for practitioners in the field, as well as within universities), and finally, realising the international dimensions and sharing best practices of theory and praxis.

The Collaborative Grants programme itself was vehicle for building, testing, and extending the collaborative model of scholar-practitioner cooperation. The idea was to let the field of media reform and justice define itself, in that no thematic guidelines or limitations were set in advance. While the specific projects varied from big to small, from participatory action research to quantitative content analyses of news, the projects clustered around three main themes, each relevant to debates around public media:

Media Ownership: Several projects addressed the question of ownership, including work on media diversity, media localism, and the regulation of children’s and educational content. Unsurprisingly, this work has broadly supported the view that concentrated ownership results in less diverse programming, less local coverage, and less attention to public-interest obligations with respect to protected groups, such as children. Clearly, the relevance, and the need, for public media, however broadly defined,

Digital Inclusion, or extending the benefits of the internet and other new technologies to underserved populations.  Digital inclusion mixes technical, social, and political challenges, ranging from infrastructure build-out, to the definitions used to describe inclusion and digital services. This has been a key mission of most European public broadcasters in their transformation to public service media organizations.

The Future of Community Media:  Collaborative Grants have supported the efforts of a range of local media organizations to better understand the implications of digital convergence for their work, including their changing relationships with local constituencies. In many countries where the public service broadcasting model has shaped the media landscape, grassroots, local and community media has often remained relatively marginal. Yet, its impact and relevance as public media is growing even in those contexts.

The main lesson in terms of public media debates, in particular for scholarly work and engaged scholarship, is that researchers could and should broaden their scope of collaboration and tap into the work outside of conventional public media organizations. The Collaborative Grants programme illustrates how civic organizations – from national consumer organizations to community radio stations – are working to strengthen public interest media in different ways, how they can benefit from research, and how scholars can make new practices visible to other stakeholders, including policy-makers.

Other invaluable lessons pertain to the scope, scale, and design of collaboration between practitioners and scholars. As documented in a book, Communications Research in Action, about and by the grantees, the models of participatory research and engaged scholarship may vary, the collaboration itself can pose numerous challenges, and the avenues and formats of dissemination of knowledge need to be carefully planned. Still, all the grantees attested to the power of collaborative work.

Consequently, an idea emerged from the Collaborative Grants programme: These lessons should be capitalized specifically regarding public media and a multi-stakeholder network should be developed, to discuss the role of media not only in supporting democracy and servicing culture/s, but also as a tool of economic inclusion and prosperity, globally. More about that idea in the break-out session of the pre-conference!

Minna Aslama is Visiting Lecturer and Affiliate Fellow at Fordham University, and researcher at the University of Helsinki. Her research interests include new conceptualizations of media audiences and the concept of ‘participation’ in the web 2.0 era, public service media and content diversity, and media policy flows in the globalizing media environment. In addition, she is especially interested in new forms of collaboration emerging in relation to the media justice and reform movements. Prior to and in between her academic career, she has worked numerous jobs, for instance at the Division of Advancement for Women of the UN Secretariat, the Finnish Broadcasting Company, and most recently, as the Program Officer for the Necessary Knowledge for a Democratic Public Sphere program at the Social Science Research Council.

May 21

Preconference speaker Tom Glaisyer will be presenting highlights from the United States portion of the global Mapping Digital Media project; here he provides some background on how the research team he led as a Knight Media Policy Fellow at the New America Foundation contributed to the analysis.

During the last 18 months, the Knight Media Policy initiative has sought to  formulate policy and regulatory reforms to foster the development of a healthy media that satisfies the needs of democracy in the 21st century.

This work has sought to build upon the The Knight Commission Report, Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in a Digital Age

Collaboratively MPI’s fellows and staff have researched, analyzed, and promoted policies that are committed to maximizing the public interest potential of innovative media, supported by partnerships with communities, researchers, industry, and public interest groups. Very specifically, the initiative has focused on responding to the opportunity presented by the FCC’s Future of Media Inquiry that has sought to gather views  around media policy to inform the FCC and other government agencies.  The output has included reports available here, and formal comments to the agencies available here.

In a deliberate fashion, MPI researchers have sought to understand  media ecosystems. This has occurred  at three levels:

(a) The national level

(b) The city or regional level. Our team completed case studies on ScrantonSeattleWashington D.C., The Triangle area of North Carolina, and Minneapolis-St. Paul.  

(c) the hyperlocal level, where researchers affiliated with our project have undertaken research in in Columbia Heights in Washington D.C., and in Mebane, Siler City, Apex, and Garner. North Carolina.

All of this research, interesting as it is in the abstract,  has been done with the mindset that it should provide value to a policymaking process. Here is what we’ve learned:

Lessons about the substance:

- The ecosystems in which media is produced, distributed and travels is extremely complex. 

- No locale has fully adapted to digital media.

- Ecosystems across the country are diverging from each other as new entrants enter the market and take on roles previously held by incumbents.

Process lessons from local case studies

- Clearly defining the scope is important. Our case studies focused on the institutions of news and information in the communities we studied. We looked at particular stories only inasmuch as they illustrated a point and content analysis was done in a limited fashion in one case study only.

- Significant value comes from comparative analysis. 

- They can be used in multiple contexts. They were compiled with a federal government audience in mind, but were found to be useful to prompt conversations at a local level. They can play a useful role in bringing media players together.  

Our research has also informed other efforts to map local ecosystems, such as the Knight Foundation’s Community Information Toolkit

Overall, we have found the work very informative, and something that has provided persuasive insights that have informed the national level media mapping project we are in the process of completing for the Open Society Foundation’s 60-country Mapping Digital Media project.

Tom Glaisyer coordinates the Media Policy Program at the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative.  A Ph.D. candidate from Columbia University’s School of Journalism, he has focused on the interplay between media and political processes and institutions.  Before joining New America he acted as a consultant and analyst leveraging online platforms for knowledge management as well as for building and sustaining advocacy networks. He holds a Masters Degree in International Affairs from Columbia University, a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering and Economics from the University of Birmingham in England, and has passed the qualifying exams of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

May 20

pubmedia-networks:

We created this video to explore ways in which people are using and conceptualizing public media networks—involving both traditional public broadcasters and new public media players. It’s a first effort to depict emerging systems of creation, curation and connection as they might operate in the life of a single fictional family.

The video is based on the work we have done in the fields of media and law with support from the Ford Foundation, critically examining the meaning, value and appropriate structures of emerging public media networks in the digital age.

Join the Conversation

We hope the video will spur discussion—both online and face-to-face. (See the #pubmedia tag on Twitter for an ongoing dialogue.) Please distribute and use it freely  for noncommercial purposes and with attribution. Also available are related handouts on public media functions and the imagined family featured in the video. Or make your own videos about how public media works and how it should evolve to serve you.

In addition, there are many different courses of action that people can take with respect to public media, including:

Questions? Post them here.

Thanks for watching, and for spreading the word.

—Jessica Clark, Center for Social Media, American University
—Ellen Goodman, Institute for Information Policy & Law, Rutgers—Camden  

 


May 20

Preconference speaker Marius Dragomir introduces a major research project of the Open Society Foundations, and shares some preliminary findings:

 “Mapping Digital Media” surveys the impact of new and digital media on news, across 60 countries.  Over recent years, the Media Program and the Information Program of the Open Society Foundations (OSF) have followed the changes that have affected the media, redefining how media outlets can operate sustainably while staying true to their values, what journalists can achieve in different contexts, who consumes their output, and what the wider social effects may be. In its work with media, OSF promotes the very values underlying these concerns – pluralism and diversity, transparency and accountability, editorial independence, freedom of expression and information, public service (public interest), and high professional standards.

The Mapping Digital Media project started in 2008 when a series of discussions on the project’s methodology were launched, and is assessing, in the light of these values, the global opportunities and risks that are being created for media around the world by the following developments:

 - the switchover from analog broadcasting to digital broadcasting,

 - the emergence and growth of new media platforms, especially on the internet, as sources of news,

 - the ever closer convergence of traditional broadcasting with telecommunications.

 Opportunities and risks with an impact on the values espoused by OSF appear to include the following:

Opportunities:

 i.  Better public access to all kinds of content/services

ii.  Reduced media start-up and distribution costs

iii. More efficient use of spectrum, multiplying the media outlets that can use the bandwidth

iv. Collaboration, easier production flow, cheaper equipment, etc., driving down production costs (such as shared media content on various platforms)

v.  Improved listener/audience/reader interaction and participation

vi. Greater transparency of information (leading to better journalism)

vii. Social and peer-to-peer networking, enabling prioritization of news sources and topics, and helping to disseminate edited content

viii. Availability of more spectrum for local and community media

 ix. Existence of increased number of platforms for civil society groups and activists to spread their message


Risks:

i.  Extension/replication of monopolistic positions and controls of political speech on new media platforms

ii. Dilution of public-interest journalism available free-to-air for a broad public

iii. Audience fragmentation, undermining business models that have funded quality journalism/media, and also undermining social cohesion by attenuating shared media experiences

iv. Difficulties in monetizing new platforms in sustainable ways to support quality production

 v. Weakening of lobbying/advocacy efforts by civil society groups due to confusion about the new techno-political nexus

vi. Potential loss of local programming due to prohibitive costs for both switch-over and maintenance of broadcasting costs for smaller, private (regional) stations

vii. Prohibitive costs for the consumer (set-top boxes, pay-per-view, etc.)

viii.  ”Digital divide” affecting equal access to news

ix. Social and peer-to-peer networking potentially narrowing the agenda of available information.

The sheer complexity and unfamiliarity of these issues, and the specialized language in which some of them are discussed, have discouraged civil society activists from engaging with them. As a result, the OSF Media and Information Programs are surveying the changes to examine the opportunities and risks as they occur in different countries. The aim of this project is to assess the impact of these changes on the core democratic service that any media system should provide, namely the provision of news about political, economic and social affairs. We are presenting these assessments in jargon-free reports that survey the situation in countries around the world. Cumulatively, these reports – along with overview analyses by the project leaders – are slated to provide a much-needed “guide for the perplexed” on the democratic significance of digital media.

Given its central focus on television services, the present project does not survey digital new mediacomprehensively, or encompass all the changes taking place in the newspaper and radio industries.

In order to make the project manageable, we restrict our survey to news output, focusing on the main sources and providers in each country. This does not imply that other kinds of output (drama, entertainment, feature films, even sport) are not influential in shaping people’s experience of new media. Indeed, these other strands may be considered when they directly influence news consumption and production.

We cover in this project a total of 60 countries from all continents. The countries included in this project are diverse. Some are fully “networked societies” which have completed digital switchover, others are part-way through the process, and others again have yet to start. Moreover, the take-up of new media does not necessarily correlate with progress in digitization; large parts of the developing world are “leapfrogging” stages in the industrialized world’s sequence of media technology take-up. This diversity will add to the value of the country reports in two ways: firstly, by isolating the factors that lead to such varied rates of technological take-up around the world; and secondly, by revealing how new media are being adapted for use in different political, economic and cultural contexts.

However, this diversity also raises questions about the possibility of obtaining data that are genuinely commensurable, and that provide a basis for valid comparative analysis. These questions are addressed in the methodology of the project, which will be available at the conference.

At the conference, we will present the geographies of the research, the core principles behind the methodology, the topics covered in the study and a summary of the current stage of the research. We will also show how we use these studies to produce impact at policy level and the various layers of stakeholders we are targeting through them.

We work in each country with a team of local researchers. In total, at the moment, 160 researchers are involved in this project. They are coordinated by a team of 6 regional editors and a central team of two main editors in OSF London. At the same time, the reports are reviewed by a six-member editorial commission of experts who helped us produce and refine the methodology for this project. An additional team of two editors, three proofreaders is in place for English editing. All the reports are produced in English.

In terms of editorial revision, we communicate in a hub-and-spoke manner, with the two main editors in London coordinating and communicating with the regional editors. Regional editors communicate directly with the researchers in their area. The whole team of local researchers, regional editors and main editors has also a common online platform for sharing thoughts, challenges in carrying out the research, etc.

In parallel with the editing work, the main editors maintain a database of comparative information that is fed into a mega-matrix once national reports are coming in.

The reports address policy-makers and advocates first of all as they contain a set of recommendations, which we promote in each of the countries we cover. Each report is taken and presented in each country to a gathering of main stakeholder and follow-up work with policy makers is being carried out by OSF jointly with the local researchers and local civil society organizations. At the same time, the reports are addressing funders and academic and the media as they create a wealth of data and information in a large number of countries. In many of these countries, the report is the first research of such scope and has become a research capacity building exercise. Finally, the comparative component in this project is very strong and is used for internationalising debates on the evolution of the media in various markets.

May 19

ICA preconference co-organizer and speaker Patricia Aufderheide sums up lessons from the Future of Public Media project:

In 2005, the Center for Social Media took on a six year gig providing a think-tank function for the Ford Foundation’s initiative on the future of public broadcasting. The project involved more than a dozen partners, mostly public broadcasting entities. It was our goal to help people both within and outside public broadcasting imagine public media for a participatory era.

When the project began, we encountered, of course, the unpleasant realities of that moment: public broadcasters hunkering down trying to avoid the winds of change and muttering about how nobody appreciated what they did, contrasting with brash and entrepreneurial media startups of all kinds—entirely unaware that there had ever been a discourse of the public interest and not interested in finding out, but quite sure they were democratizing/liberating the media space. It didn’t help that public broadcasting in the U.S. is profoundly balkanized, by design; we wrote all about it, to help policy makers and activists baffled by pubcasters.

We made a simple argument in many ways. The argument was that public media could now, for the first time, be user-centric, which meant that for the first time public media could properly prioritize its raison d’être—to engage people as potential and actual members of the public. Public media could now be defined not by zoned sectors but by mission and activity. We wrote an FAQ that took complex ideas brought into our project via John Dewey and Habermas and Nick Couldry and Ben Barber and more. We hoped we made them relevant and real for practitioners. We held conferences, had convenings, attended and spoke at endless meetings, contributed to federal government policy dockets, wrote academic articles, and synthesized our arguments in white paper that influenced high-level policy deliberations, Public Media 2.0: Dynamic, Engaged Publics.

And we saw that notion take on a life both within and outside U.S. public broadcasting, not entirely of our doing but as part of the mix we were certainly stirring. Within public broadcasting, organizations such as ITVS, PRX, the National Center for Media Engagement and the National Black Programming Consortium became hot centers for experiment, finding new young talent, and collaboration. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, long notorious as the place where good ideas go to die, became an aggressive funder of interactive, collaborative and participatory work with the very small portion of its budget it could allocate for digital experiments.  An informal network formed of pubcasters who embraced change in technical and business models as an opportunity to get down to mission. Some media makers outside the pubcasting silo, including journalists, became more engaged with public broadcasting, partly because journalism’s own business models were threatened.

Nonetheless, the public broadcasting silo at its core remains remarkably stable and reluctant to imagine a public media that has public engagement at its heart, for very expectable reasons. There is the institutional lethargy, compounded by the fact that many leaders are just old and comfortable enough to want to coast out. There is the fact that public broadcasters carry heavy maintenance costs they will continue to incur during a transition, and therefore don’t really benefit from reduced transaction costs. And there is the very real fact that public engagement is at its base a political act, a commitment to greater agency in a democratic system. While at one level this is Mom-and-apple-pie, in practice this often comes down to enabling people to have a voice that is unfamiliar, sometimes raucous (or at least sounding not like the others), and making demands for inclusion, participation and access to resources that disturb the known universe.

And the media explosion outside the pubcasting silo continues to be anarchic, exuberant, and mostly disconnected from a conversation about public purpose, public mission, and public engagement. The same thing is true in journalism, an overlapping category with public broadcasting, where there is exciting ferment at the digital edge, but still remarkable stability at the center. (Watch the documentary, Page One, to get an inside look at the New York Times’ tentative transition.)

The WikiLeaks phenomenon is an example of how messy the moment is. WikiLeaks supporters proclaim the absolute right to make public all information, while the site itself collaborates with leading mainstream media in order to make sense of the wash of information. Whereas mainstream media may be afflicted by a proclivity to bow to power, WikiLeaks enthusiasts show no evidence of understanding competing values in the sphere of the public interest.

Still, there are many, many interesting initiatives, all still awaiting the opportunity to be nodes on a network, and still currently standing as valiant experiments. The Mozilla-Knight News Technology Partnership is an active and creative example of attempts to design open, participatory, digital applications for journalism. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has funded six collaborative Local Journalism Centers, which so far have a “fits and starts” record. National Public Radio’s Argo project creates intensive local, web-based and user-informed journalism on nationally-important topics; it is funded by CPB and the Knight Foundation. The CPB-funded Public Media Corps, which we helped to incubate and document, is serving as an instructive inspiration for a nationwide public media initiative aimed at keeping kids in school. Public access television, a local form of citizen-made media that exists wherever cable franchises and localities agree to host it, is developing a pool of shareable material.

Jessica Clark, who was research director of the Center’s participation in the Ford initiative for the last five years, identifies five hopeful trends:

- Increasing ability to “create once, publish everywhere;”

- Knowledge sharing, often through unconferences;

- An increasing number of projects featuring community engagement, including those showcased by the National Center for Media Engagement;

- Strategic partnering/collaboration; and

- Paying attention to policy.

When we look up from hopeful trends and valiant experiments, though, we see what is still utterly lacking:

- National coordination or even shared standards among existing forms of public media to articulate a contemporary, shared public mission;

- Awareness among the general public of the significance of reliable, trustworthy, participatory media for public knowledge and action;

- Significant taxpayer support for participatory public media.

We believe that the six years of work within the Ford initiative, which overlapped to some degree with good work done in similar initiatives sponsored by the MacArthur and Knight foundations, resulted in a shift from complaining to vigorous and creative experiment within rigid, isolated structures and unpromising financial conditions. There is no doubt that the vision that energized us at the Center and that we articulated in Public Media 2.0 is shared by many creative and entrepreneurial practitioners, as well as scholars.

We think that the next phase of scholarly work can creatively explore, document, analyze and provoke in the following areas, and we expect to learn more during the pre-conference:

- Research on policy options to support media and communication platforms for public knowledge and action, including those applied in other but related areas such as Internet governance and seemingly unrelated areas such as anti-trust.

- Research on the success and even more critically, failure of experiments to create reliable, trustworthy and also participatory public media;

- Research on decision-making and participation in social and political process to better understand the role and function of media/communication for public knowledge and action;

- Research on the shifting dynamics of news production and dissemination, and the ways in which content becomes embedded in political and cultural debates.

- Research on rhetoric, framing, and agenda-setting around the mission, purpose and function of public media.

In the area of public media, scholarly research need not be engaged research, done in conjunction with practitioners or policy-makers. It need not be conducted as a public-intellectual exercise, with an aspect of the work committed to connecting the conclusions to public awareness and action. But we cannot imagine meaningful research on public media that is not grounded in a commitment to agency in public life—the ability of a society’s members to act as members of a public to address issues that affect the structure of their social lives. To that end, research projects that explore how people understand the function of public media in their societies and lives, how policy encourages and constrains public media, how public media can act most effectively to connect a society’s members to the issues that concern them all are grounded in the same commitment and concern. 

Patricia Aufderheide directs the Center for Social Media, and is a University Professor in the School of Communication at American University in Washington, D.C. She is the co-author with Peter Jaszi of Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyright (University of Chicago Press, July 2011), and author of, among others, Documentary: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2007), The Daily Planet (University of Minnesota Press, 2000), and Communications Policy in the Public Interest (Guilford Press, 1999).  She has been a Fulbright and John Simon Guggenheim fellow and has received numerous journalism and scholarly awards, including the Preservation and Scholarship award in 2006 from the International Documentary Association, a career achievement award in 2008 from the International Digital Media and Arts Association, and the Woman of Vision Award from Women in Film and Video (DC) in 2010. 

May 19

Call for Proposals: RIPE@2012

Value for Public Money – Money for Public Value

RIPE@2012

September 5 – 7 in Sydney, Australia

 

Call for Proposals

For the 6th RIPE conference we will focus specific attention on research that demonstrates how and why the public receives good value for the money spent on public service media provision. Is PSM a good deal, how good a deal it is, and why does that matter? How much does this vary inside Europe, and what can we say about the situation outside Europe? How best to define ‘public value’ today? It is important to address claims that PSM is wasteful, inefficient, unresponsive, irresponsible, etc. We invite analysis and research that grows understanding of PSM performance in relation to the private commercial sector. It is expected that attention will be given to the quality, variety and differentiation of programmes and services PSM provides, and the value that publics derive economically, culturally and socially. This signals, as well, the importance of money for public value, which shifts the focus to issues that include governance systems, public value testing and similar accountability mechanisms, critical discussion of concerns and problems in taking economic criteria too far or too exclusively, and recognition that the remit of PSM is fundamentally normative. The organisers invite proposals that will address relevant issues related to the following topics that are especially pertinent to the conference theme:

 

1. PSM Financing & Business models

 

In the traditional arrangement PSB is financed by public money. Approaches to funding have become a hot topic and a focus of debate.

- Is the traditional ‘business model’ best for PSM today? What are the pros and cons of various alternatives or combinations?

- Are new models emerging for different platforms or types of services?

- How politically feasible and economically viable are various options?

- Where is PSB / PSM sustainable, in what form/s and under what conditions?

- What differences are essential when looking at countries that are only beginning or trying to start PSB / PSM? Is the traditional institutional approach as useful today, and where are there significant developments and alternatives?

 

2. PSM Structures & Production

 

This sector has undergone a dramatic shift from mainly in-house production with hierarchical structures and mostly permanent employees with civil servant status, to pursue outsourcing, temporary or freelance contracts, flat organisations, and business-like approaches that favour cost reduction and efficiency.

- Does this produce better value? What are the trade-offs?

- What is essential to understand about the economic foundations of PSM as a financial organisation, despite its non-profit status?

- What do we know about trends in the volume and percentages of programme output and production, number of employees under various contract categories, in different areas and positions, with what productivity gains and losses, etc?

- What is important to know about copyright issues and intellectual property?

- How is media work changing in PSM companies, and with what consequences?

- Where is local production still viable, and why? Where isn’t it viable, and why?

 

3. PSM policy and accountability

 

The commercial sector claims PSM is causing market distortion that disturbs a ‘level playing field’. Politicians and other stakeholders are keen for the public sector to be more transparent and accountable.  

- What is most important to know and respond to in policy debate about these issues?

- What new measures are recommended to improve accountability?

- Which approaches to ex ante evaluation work best, and which are not working? Is there evidence that the approach is counter-productive?

- How much is all of this costing and what do we know about cost/benefit ratios?

- In what ways has the New Public Management approach improved or undermined public value?

- Can public value be measured? How, at what cost, and with what consequences?

 

4. Defining ‘Public Value’ in PSM today

 

Traditionally PSB was expected to provide information, education and entertainment, and to strongly emphasise domestic culture and national identity. Reconceptualising what the PS in PSM means and consists of today is a pressing need.

- What counts as ‘public value’ today, and how is it both different from and the same as historic understandings? Are there discernable periods that characterise shared understanding? Are there significant patterns of consistency or variation when comparing countries, regions, or discourse in different languages, etc?

-  Where has reinterpretation of historic meanings been successful, how and why, and what remains problematic?

- Have there been consequences for the profile and character of service provision as a consequence of new conceptualisation?  

- Has anything been lost or neglected that needs to be revitalised?

- What is not good value for public money today and ought to end? Where and why?

- What is still vital in the historic PSB mission that must be protected and also nurtured?

 

5. Improving PSM value

 

The move from PSB to PSM has not been smooth or even. While governments traditionally expect the sector to support technological development and the creation of digital content, the costs and effects have been unpredictable and in many cases controversial.

- Where has PSM contributed to market development? Where has it improved mediated services as a result of innovation? Where is it lagging? Where is it a problem for developing public value in media due to institutional self-interests?

- What has PSM created that is new compared to PSB? What is distinctive compared to the private commercial sector?

- How is PSM responding to social media on the basis of lessons learned? In what ways are these companies contributing to or inhibiting development in this area?

- Are there clear gains in efficiencies or effectiveness in the shift to PSM?

- What is essential for PSM to be viable and sustainable? How does this differ in comparing countries, regions and communities?

 

 

6. PSM value for audiences and users

 

In social reality and research schema, media audiences are more complex and complicated than was the case historically, often also more contradictory in the light of multiple identities.

- What are the implications related to public value when defining audiences in varied terms (e.g. as citizens, consumers, customers, clients, tax-payers, markets, etc)?

- Are there convincing arguments for supporting collective needs and social welfare given the growth of individual choice and personal preference? How can that be articulated to have real impact?

- How is audience research changing, and with what consequences and impact for doing PSM?

- How should contradictions and complexity in identities be conceptualised? Are certain formulations most suitable for PSM?

- What does the evidence reveal regarding re-valuation of audiences as participants in PSM? In what ways are historic valuations still relevant? What needs to be developed?

 

SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS

- Provide the working title of the paper and include your name, organisational affiliation with location, and e-mail address on a cover sheet

- Write the abstract on a separate page that only includes the title of the paper and specify which of the 6 topics (above) your paper would contribute to (you may specify more than one)

- The maximum length for the abstract is 600 words

- Proposals are due on or before January 11, 2012

 

All submissions will be peer reviewed as the basis for acceptance. Reviewers will use the following criteria to assess proposals:

  1. Relevance to the conference theme and connection to at least one specified topic
  2. Conceptual and analytic quality (not purely descriptive)
  3. Importance of the contribution for contemporary theory in PSB / PSM
  4. Relevance of the contribution for PSM practice and management
  5. Comparative research is highly desired.
  6. Empirical research is prioritised.
  7. Broadening the scope beyond Europe is welcome.

 

Sixty proposals will be accepted for papers to be presented in the conference. Decisions to accept or reject will be taken in February with notification sent on or about March 1, 2012. Please send your proposal as an e-mail attachment to both of the following:

            Gregory Ferrell Lowe, University of Tampere in Finland (glowe@pp.inet.fi)

            Anne Dunn, University of Sydney (anne.dunn@sydney.edu.au)

 

The conference registration fee will be €250 for authors. The fee does not include payment for accommodation, but does cover the cost for shared meals and conference materials. For those attending but not presenting, the registration fee is €300 and space is limited. A select number of doctoral students can be included and the fee in these cases will be €100. The RIPE conference does not have funds to supplement personal travel costs except for invited keynote speakers. For more information, please visit our website: www.ripeat.org.

 

Localore: Share the Love!

Embeds, logos, hashtags and more for spreading the word about AIR’s Localore project.

Beyond Broadcast

Posted on Monday September 5th 2011 at 12:23pm. Its tags are listed below.

2012 RIPE conference: Value For Public Money, Money for Public Value

RIPE@2012 in Sydney, Australia!

Value for Public Money; Money for Public Value

The 6th bi-annual RIPE conference will bring together scholars and industry partners in public service media in Sydney, Australia from September 5 – 8, 2012. So please mark your calendars and begin making preparations to attend. Our sixth conference is co-hosted by the University of Sydney and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). A Call for Papers will be published in early autumn 2011, so please stay tuned for more information. We will begin updating the RIPE website soon (www.ripeat.org).

This is the first RIPE conference hosted in the southern hemisphere and aims to broaden this unique initiative in public service media research and industry concerns beyond Europe and North America to embrace work in Oceania, South and South-east Asia. Accordingly, submissions are particularly invited from scholars of public service media in the global south. The language of the conference is English.

The conference is structured for ABC to host the first day as a forum that will feature keynote speakers and plenary sessions from industry, partly from Australia and also beyond.  The University of Sydney is hosting the second and third days.  Day 2 will feature approximately 60 paper presentations in three sessions across designated topical work groups that are relevant dimensions for exploring our theme. The topics will be announced with the Call for Proposals (CfP) this autumn. There will a two Steering Questions keyed to coming to some generalisable conclusions for the work of these groups relative to the conference theme.  Eight to ten papers are selected for each workgroup to ensure plenty of time for fruitful discussion in the sessions. On Day 3 there is a moderated closing plenary dialogue in which a rapporteur from each work group presents its findings, contributing to the conclusions.  After the conference, 15 to 20 authors of keynote addresses and papers will be invited to contribute a peer-reviewed chapter to a subsequent RIPE Reader published in the year following the conference (co-edited by Gregory Ferrell Lowe and Anne Dunn).

Look out for the RIPE@2012 Call for Paper proposals!

Another prototype of the future newsroom may be coming together in Cleveland, where the television station WVIZ and radio station WCPN have combined into a public media center known as Ideastream. Also under the umbrella, among others, are the Ohio Statehouse News Bureau and the Ohio Channel, a digital broadcast and online streaming service with C-SPAN-like coverage of state government and public affairs shows from the state’s other public stations.

Cochran, now a professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, says Ideastream is evidence that in the long run, it won’t matter if public television isn’t a player. “At some point this is all going to merge,” in a single digital news stream or community information center, she says, and “the difference between television and radio stations is not going to be significant.

brave new world

soupsoup:

Huffington Post passes the New York Times in traffic in April for the first time, according to Compete.com

There are many events and conferences that come and go. And in some of those many of us fall asleep. But this time, the time flew and I have the feeling this group will follow up on plans and ideas nailed down during the afternoon of 26 May: publication and aggregation of researches, combined advocacy efforts and collaboration are the key words.
Dragomir sums up the preconference nicely.

Public Media Debates: Case India

Preconference presenter Vibodh Parthasarathi, of the Centre for Culture, Media & Governance (CCMG), Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, sheds light on one of the most expansive media markets in the world. He traces the phases of development of public media, maps the core challenges,  and envisions possibile routes for public media to flourish in the future in the complex socio-economic context of India.

Since the onset of economic liberalisation in India from 1991, a plethora of discourses on de-regulation and privatisation have surfaced across the communication industries. These discourses, while differing on the nature, pace and directions of de-regulation, reflect the values held by the often competing set of stakeholders in the communication industry. Amidst this, the existing institutions and evolving instruments of public service media have scarcely attracted coherent attention, either from communication scholars or policy-makers.

The last two decades have seen government support help expand public broadcasting by way of additional TV and radio stations, including in a number of regional languages. Although digitization has made available multiple platforms, including DTT, DTH and Mobile TV, it has not necessarily brought much diversity to the content, such as through niche TV channels. The content being telecast on Doordarshan (state-owned TV network) is similar to what is being offered by the private broadcasters. A political understanding seems to be in place that limits state budgetary allocations to Prasar Bharati Corporation (“owner” of both Doordarshan and All India Radio) to 50%, such that the Corporation is responsible for generating the remaining revenues. Thus, the public broadcaster is compelled to fulfill its service obligations by providing programmes on education and development, in diverse languages, while simultaneously devising marketing strategies to compete with the private broadcasters for the advertising pie. As a result the Television Ratings Points system (TRP), an exercise operationalized on a very limited sample size, has become the key reason the public broadcaster plans programming, especially in prime time, similar to that available on private channels.

 If we step back from the immediate, we can identify three phases in the development of the idea and practice of “Public Service” in India.

 The first concerns the genesis of radio and TV; despite having germinated respectively in the decade before and decade after independence, they were equally driven by the rationale of a centralized, and centripetal, government-administered system of public service broadcasting. Mutations in this system, or parts thereof, over the following decades were a consequence of the compulsions of dealing with multiple and diverse nationalities within India. And the beginning of commercialisation of these public services, together with that of telecommunications in the 1980s, was as much a response to as an instigator of the birth of new publics in India.

 Following widespread deregulation in the Indian economy as a whole, similar trends engulfed various sectors of the media industry—-dynamics that also reshaped standing conceptions of public service broadcasting. On the one hand, there was a heightened commercialization of state-administered radio, TV & telecom services and a sudden privatization of the only state owned ISP. On the other hand, with the rise of new stakeholders in the ecology of media abundance, the idea of public service obligation (PSO) started gaining currency: cable & DTH operators were obliged to relay a minimum set of DD channels; sports broadcasters had to mandatorily share the signal of key live international events with DD and the licensing norms for mobile telecos included targets for universal service obligations. While there was no PSO mooted for private ISPs, nor any PSO component visualized in the expanding bouquet of Value Added Services by mobile telcos, there was intense debate over the until unsuccessful proposal that private broadcasters be mandated to carry 15% of public service content.

At the dawn of the 2000, the inter-related challenges of digitalisation & convergence has, willy-nilly, led to a set of often unrelated practices that suggest the preliminary contours of public service media (PSM). Although yet to be formally termed in India as such, the introduction of a subscription-free DTH service by DD, the provision of news headlines via SMS and dial-in by AIR and subscription-free Mobile TV service by DD together convey fragments of a techno-centric move towards an integrated public media.

But the odds are clearly stacked against the idea of such a public media: be it the traditional challenges of being under-endowed, and severely over-staffed; committee after committee recommending the sale or renting of its infrastructure to private entities; the corporate press refusing to play a progressive advocate, while rival broadcasters/operators constantly eyeing its tangible and non-tangible assets; the lack of informed research and hence complete silence on public media in both media curricula and in advocacy agendas.

 Amidst all this, one realistic opportunity for the future of PSM entails embracing decentralization. While this holds the possibilities of synergies with existing Informatics infrastructure (already decentralized like in Village/District Information Centres), this will require spectrum reform that is oriented towards public interest, and not private interest as has been hitherto. 

In parallel, energies should be directed at the discursive level; here, there is a need to initiate periodic public assessment of PSM. Such citizens’ report could be aimed as much to provide international comparisons on the quality and direction of PSM (akin to comparative assessments of, say, corruption, business environments, human rights etc) as to enhance the boundaries of disclosure on national public utilities. 

Vibodh Parthasarathi maintains a multidisciplinary interest in media and development policy, business history of creative industries, and governance of media infrastructure. Currently at the Centre for Culture, Media & Governance (CCMG), Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, he is the co-editor of L’idiot du Village Mondial (Editions Luc Pire/ECLM, 2004), Media and Mediation (Sage, 2005), The Social and the Symbolic (Sage, 2007), and most recently Communication, Culture and Confrontation (Sage, 2010). Having directed a study on advocacy trends in media reform, his ongoing projects address Curriculum development for Policy Literacy, Exhibition policy & Curatorial practice, and the dynamics of Television News markets in India; he is also in the process of evaluating the ecology of news media spawned by digitalsation in India, part of the multi-country initiative Mapping Digital Media. Parthasarathi is on the Board of the Centre for Internet & Society, International Advisory Board of the India Media Centre, University of Westminster, the International Editorial Board of Global Media and Communication and is founding member of the Centre for Social Ecology. His last documentary, Crosscurrents: A Fijian Travelogue (54, 2002) explored facets of ‘reconciliation’ in the aftermath of two military coups in Fiji.

How to Foster Scholar-Practitioner Participation in Public Media Debates?

Preconference speaker and facilitator Minna Aslama (Fordham University / University of Helsinki) presents takeaways from a grants programme on scholar-activist collaboration, titled Necessary Knowledge for a Democratic Public Sphere (2006-2010). 

Funded by the Ford Foundation and coordinated by the Social Science Research Council, the programme supported projects about and around media reform and justice issues, ranging from grass roots alternative participatory media activism in Los Angeles to national telecommunications policy intervention in Brazil. The lessons learned for the future of public media pertain both to the themes of the grants projects, as well as to various collaborative models they represent.

This work focused on the US, but also recognized the growing need to link national and global governance and policy agendas.   This mission also required rethinking the incentive structures that surround—and shape—academic knowledge production, including new ways of encouraging researchers to collaborate with and target audiences beyond their academic peer communities.

The programme begun with conversations between activists, advocates, and academic researchers, about the strengths and weaknesses of knowledge production and evidence-based activism in these fields.  Clear systemic needs emerged, including: more timely and responsive production of research for communications activism and advocacy; better access to and sharing of data and better mechanisms for finding and utilizing relevant research; stronger and more diverse research capacity in the communications arena, leading to better institutionalization of communications policy work in the academy; and greater attention to the international scope of communications policy and reform.

 These broad areas can be seen as crucial also in the specific context of the debates about public media, and specifically when we think of scholarly involvement in those debates: We need to think what kind of research is needed, how we can make that knowledge interesting, relevant, and accessible to multiple stakeholders of the debates, how we can connect and collaborate with different stakeholders (thus making public media–relevant research matter for practitioners in the field, as well as within universities), and finally, realising the international dimensions and sharing best practices of theory and praxis.

The Collaborative Grants programme itself was vehicle for building, testing, and extending the collaborative model of scholar-practitioner cooperation. The idea was to let the field of media reform and justice define itself, in that no thematic guidelines or limitations were set in advance. While the specific projects varied from big to small, from participatory action research to quantitative content analyses of news, the projects clustered around three main themes, each relevant to debates around public media:

Media Ownership: Several projects addressed the question of ownership, including work on media diversity, media localism, and the regulation of children’s and educational content. Unsurprisingly, this work has broadly supported the view that concentrated ownership results in less diverse programming, less local coverage, and less attention to public-interest obligations with respect to protected groups, such as children. Clearly, the relevance, and the need, for public media, however broadly defined,

Digital Inclusion, or extending the benefits of the internet and other new technologies to underserved populations.  Digital inclusion mixes technical, social, and political challenges, ranging from infrastructure build-out, to the definitions used to describe inclusion and digital services. This has been a key mission of most European public broadcasters in their transformation to public service media organizations.

The Future of Community Media:  Collaborative Grants have supported the efforts of a range of local media organizations to better understand the implications of digital convergence for their work, including their changing relationships with local constituencies. In many countries where the public service broadcasting model has shaped the media landscape, grassroots, local and community media has often remained relatively marginal. Yet, its impact and relevance as public media is growing even in those contexts.

The main lesson in terms of public media debates, in particular for scholarly work and engaged scholarship, is that researchers could and should broaden their scope of collaboration and tap into the work outside of conventional public media organizations. The Collaborative Grants programme illustrates how civic organizations – from national consumer organizations to community radio stations – are working to strengthen public interest media in different ways, how they can benefit from research, and how scholars can make new practices visible to other stakeholders, including policy-makers.

Other invaluable lessons pertain to the scope, scale, and design of collaboration between practitioners and scholars. As documented in a book, Communications Research in Action, about and by the grantees, the models of participatory research and engaged scholarship may vary, the collaboration itself can pose numerous challenges, and the avenues and formats of dissemination of knowledge need to be carefully planned. Still, all the grantees attested to the power of collaborative work.

Consequently, an idea emerged from the Collaborative Grants programme: These lessons should be capitalized specifically regarding public media and a multi-stakeholder network should be developed, to discuss the role of media not only in supporting democracy and servicing culture/s, but also as a tool of economic inclusion and prosperity, globally. More about that idea in the break-out session of the pre-conference!

Minna Aslama is Visiting Lecturer and Affiliate Fellow at Fordham University, and researcher at the University of Helsinki. Her research interests include new conceptualizations of media audiences and the concept of ‘participation’ in the web 2.0 era, public service media and content diversity, and media policy flows in the globalizing media environment. In addition, she is especially interested in new forms of collaboration emerging in relation to the media justice and reform movements. Prior to and in between her academic career, she has worked numerous jobs, for instance at the Division of Advancement for Women of the UN Secretariat, the Finnish Broadcasting Company, and most recently, as the Program Officer for the Necessary Knowledge for a Democratic Public Sphere program at the Social Science Research Council.

Mapping Media Ecosystems—From the Hyperlocal to the Global

Preconference speaker Tom Glaisyer will be presenting highlights from the United States portion of the global Mapping Digital Media project; here he provides some background on how the research team he led as a Knight Media Policy Fellow at the New America Foundation contributed to the analysis.

During the last 18 months, the Knight Media Policy initiative has sought to  formulate policy and regulatory reforms to foster the development of a healthy media that satisfies the needs of democracy in the 21st century.

This work has sought to build upon the The Knight Commission Report, Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in a Digital Age

Collaboratively MPI’s fellows and staff have researched, analyzed, and promoted policies that are committed to maximizing the public interest potential of innovative media, supported by partnerships with communities, researchers, industry, and public interest groups. Very specifically, the initiative has focused on responding to the opportunity presented by the FCC’s Future of Media Inquiry that has sought to gather views  around media policy to inform the FCC and other government agencies.  The output has included reports available here, and formal comments to the agencies available here.

In a deliberate fashion, MPI researchers have sought to understand  media ecosystems. This has occurred  at three levels:

(a) The national level

(b) The city or regional level. Our team completed case studies on ScrantonSeattleWashington D.C., The Triangle area of North Carolina, and Minneapolis-St. Paul.  

(c) the hyperlocal level, where researchers affiliated with our project have undertaken research in in Columbia Heights in Washington D.C., and in Mebane, Siler City, Apex, and Garner. North Carolina.

All of this research, interesting as it is in the abstract,  has been done with the mindset that it should provide value to a policymaking process. Here is what we’ve learned:

Lessons about the substance:

- The ecosystems in which media is produced, distributed and travels is extremely complex. 

- No locale has fully adapted to digital media.

- Ecosystems across the country are diverging from each other as new entrants enter the market and take on roles previously held by incumbents.

Process lessons from local case studies

- Clearly defining the scope is important. Our case studies focused on the institutions of news and information in the communities we studied. We looked at particular stories only inasmuch as they illustrated a point and content analysis was done in a limited fashion in one case study only.

- Significant value comes from comparative analysis. 

- They can be used in multiple contexts. They were compiled with a federal government audience in mind, but were found to be useful to prompt conversations at a local level. They can play a useful role in bringing media players together.  

Our research has also informed other efforts to map local ecosystems, such as the Knight Foundation’s Community Information Toolkit

Overall, we have found the work very informative, and something that has provided persuasive insights that have informed the national level media mapping project we are in the process of completing for the Open Society Foundation’s 60-country Mapping Digital Media project.

Tom Glaisyer coordinates the Media Policy Program at the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative.  A Ph.D. candidate from Columbia University’s School of Journalism, he has focused on the interplay between media and political processes and institutions.  Before joining New America he acted as a consultant and analyst leveraging online platforms for knowledge management as well as for building and sustaining advocacy networks. He holds a Masters Degree in International Affairs from Columbia University, a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering and Economics from the University of Birmingham in England, and has passed the qualifying exams of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

pubmedia-networks:

We created this video to explore ways in which people are using and conceptualizing public media networks—involving both traditional public broadcasters and new public media players. It’s a first effort to depict emerging systems of creation, curation and connection as they might operate in the life of a single fictional family.

The video is based on the work we have done in the fields of media and law with support from the Ford Foundation, critically examining the meaning, value and appropriate structures of emerging public media networks in the digital age.

Join the Conversation

We hope the video will spur discussion—both online and face-to-face. (See the #pubmedia tag on Twitter for an ongoing dialogue.) Please distribute and use it freely  for noncommercial purposes and with attribution. Also available are related handouts on public media functions and the imagined family featured in the video. Or make your own videos about how public media works and how it should evolve to serve you.

In addition, there are many different courses of action that people can take with respect to public media, including:

Questions? Post them here.

Thanks for watching, and for spreading the word.

—Jessica Clark, Center for Social Media, American University
—Ellen Goodman, Institute for Information Policy & Law, Rutgers—Camden  

 


Mapping Digital Media: studying digital media from a civil society perspective

Preconference speaker Marius Dragomir introduces a major research project of the Open Society Foundations, and shares some preliminary findings:

 “Mapping Digital Media” surveys the impact of new and digital media on news, across 60 countries.  Over recent years, the Media Program and the Information Program of the Open Society Foundations (OSF) have followed the changes that have affected the media, redefining how media outlets can operate sustainably while staying true to their values, what journalists can achieve in different contexts, who consumes their output, and what the wider social effects may be. In its work with media, OSF promotes the very values underlying these concerns – pluralism and diversity, transparency and accountability, editorial independence, freedom of expression and information, public service (public interest), and high professional standards.

The Mapping Digital Media project started in 2008 when a series of discussions on the project’s methodology were launched, and is assessing, in the light of these values, the global opportunities and risks that are being created for media around the world by the following developments:

 - the switchover from analog broadcasting to digital broadcasting,

 - the emergence and growth of new media platforms, especially on the internet, as sources of news,

 - the ever closer convergence of traditional broadcasting with telecommunications.

 Opportunities and risks with an impact on the values espoused by OSF appear to include the following:

Opportunities:

 i.  Better public access to all kinds of content/services

ii.  Reduced media start-up and distribution costs

iii. More efficient use of spectrum, multiplying the media outlets that can use the bandwidth

iv. Collaboration, easier production flow, cheaper equipment, etc., driving down production costs (such as shared media content on various platforms)

v.  Improved listener/audience/reader interaction and participation

vi. Greater transparency of information (leading to better journalism)

vii. Social and peer-to-peer networking, enabling prioritization of news sources and topics, and helping to disseminate edited content

viii. Availability of more spectrum for local and community media

 ix. Existence of increased number of platforms for civil society groups and activists to spread their message


Risks:

i.  Extension/replication of monopolistic positions and controls of political speech on new media platforms

ii. Dilution of public-interest journalism available free-to-air for a broad public

iii. Audience fragmentation, undermining business models that have funded quality journalism/media, and also undermining social cohesion by attenuating shared media experiences

iv. Difficulties in monetizing new platforms in sustainable ways to support quality production

 v. Weakening of lobbying/advocacy efforts by civil society groups due to confusion about the new techno-political nexus

vi. Potential loss of local programming due to prohibitive costs for both switch-over and maintenance of broadcasting costs for smaller, private (regional) stations

vii. Prohibitive costs for the consumer (set-top boxes, pay-per-view, etc.)

viii.  ”Digital divide” affecting equal access to news

ix. Social and peer-to-peer networking potentially narrowing the agenda of available information.

The sheer complexity and unfamiliarity of these issues, and the specialized language in which some of them are discussed, have discouraged civil society activists from engaging with them. As a result, the OSF Media and Information Programs are surveying the changes to examine the opportunities and risks as they occur in different countries. The aim of this project is to assess the impact of these changes on the core democratic service that any media system should provide, namely the provision of news about political, economic and social affairs. We are presenting these assessments in jargon-free reports that survey the situation in countries around the world. Cumulatively, these reports – along with overview analyses by the project leaders – are slated to provide a much-needed “guide for the perplexed” on the democratic significance of digital media.

Given its central focus on television services, the present project does not survey digital new mediacomprehensively, or encompass all the changes taking place in the newspaper and radio industries.

In order to make the project manageable, we restrict our survey to news output, focusing on the main sources and providers in each country. This does not imply that other kinds of output (drama, entertainment, feature films, even sport) are not influential in shaping people’s experience of new media. Indeed, these other strands may be considered when they directly influence news consumption and production.

We cover in this project a total of 60 countries from all continents. The countries included in this project are diverse. Some are fully “networked societies” which have completed digital switchover, others are part-way through the process, and others again have yet to start. Moreover, the take-up of new media does not necessarily correlate with progress in digitization; large parts of the developing world are “leapfrogging” stages in the industrialized world’s sequence of media technology take-up. This diversity will add to the value of the country reports in two ways: firstly, by isolating the factors that lead to such varied rates of technological take-up around the world; and secondly, by revealing how new media are being adapted for use in different political, economic and cultural contexts.

However, this diversity also raises questions about the possibility of obtaining data that are genuinely commensurable, and that provide a basis for valid comparative analysis. These questions are addressed in the methodology of the project, which will be available at the conference.

At the conference, we will present the geographies of the research, the core principles behind the methodology, the topics covered in the study and a summary of the current stage of the research. We will also show how we use these studies to produce impact at policy level and the various layers of stakeholders we are targeting through them.

We work in each country with a team of local researchers. In total, at the moment, 160 researchers are involved in this project. They are coordinated by a team of 6 regional editors and a central team of two main editors in OSF London. At the same time, the reports are reviewed by a six-member editorial commission of experts who helped us produce and refine the methodology for this project. An additional team of two editors, three proofreaders is in place for English editing. All the reports are produced in English.

In terms of editorial revision, we communicate in a hub-and-spoke manner, with the two main editors in London coordinating and communicating with the regional editors. Regional editors communicate directly with the researchers in their area. The whole team of local researchers, regional editors and main editors has also a common online platform for sharing thoughts, challenges in carrying out the research, etc.

In parallel with the editing work, the main editors maintain a database of comparative information that is fed into a mega-matrix once national reports are coming in.

The reports address policy-makers and advocates first of all as they contain a set of recommendations, which we promote in each of the countries we cover. Each report is taken and presented in each country to a gathering of main stakeholder and follow-up work with policy makers is being carried out by OSF jointly with the local researchers and local civil society organizations. At the same time, the reports are addressing funders and academic and the media as they create a wealth of data and information in a large number of countries. In many of these countries, the report is the first research of such scope and has become a research capacity building exercise. Finally, the comparative component in this project is very strong and is used for internationalising debates on the evolution of the media in various markets.

Aufderheide Offers Next Steps for Public Media Research

ICA preconference co-organizer and speaker Patricia Aufderheide sums up lessons from the Future of Public Media project:

In 2005, the Center for Social Media took on a six year gig providing a think-tank function for the Ford Foundation’s initiative on the future of public broadcasting. The project involved more than a dozen partners, mostly public broadcasting entities. It was our goal to help people both within and outside public broadcasting imagine public media for a participatory era.

When the project began, we encountered, of course, the unpleasant realities of that moment: public broadcasters hunkering down trying to avoid the winds of change and muttering about how nobody appreciated what they did, contrasting with brash and entrepreneurial media startups of all kinds—entirely unaware that there had ever been a discourse of the public interest and not interested in finding out, but quite sure they were democratizing/liberating the media space. It didn’t help that public broadcasting in the U.S. is profoundly balkanized, by design; we wrote all about it, to help policy makers and activists baffled by pubcasters.

We made a simple argument in many ways. The argument was that public media could now, for the first time, be user-centric, which meant that for the first time public media could properly prioritize its raison d’être—to engage people as potential and actual members of the public. Public media could now be defined not by zoned sectors but by mission and activity. We wrote an FAQ that took complex ideas brought into our project via John Dewey and Habermas and Nick Couldry and Ben Barber and more. We hoped we made them relevant and real for practitioners. We held conferences, had convenings, attended and spoke at endless meetings, contributed to federal government policy dockets, wrote academic articles, and synthesized our arguments in white paper that influenced high-level policy deliberations, Public Media 2.0: Dynamic, Engaged Publics.

And we saw that notion take on a life both within and outside U.S. public broadcasting, not entirely of our doing but as part of the mix we were certainly stirring. Within public broadcasting, organizations such as ITVS, PRX, the National Center for Media Engagement and the National Black Programming Consortium became hot centers for experiment, finding new young talent, and collaboration. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, long notorious as the place where good ideas go to die, became an aggressive funder of interactive, collaborative and participatory work with the very small portion of its budget it could allocate for digital experiments.  An informal network formed of pubcasters who embraced change in technical and business models as an opportunity to get down to mission. Some media makers outside the pubcasting silo, including journalists, became more engaged with public broadcasting, partly because journalism’s own business models were threatened.

Nonetheless, the public broadcasting silo at its core remains remarkably stable and reluctant to imagine a public media that has public engagement at its heart, for very expectable reasons. There is the institutional lethargy, compounded by the fact that many leaders are just old and comfortable enough to want to coast out. There is the fact that public broadcasters carry heavy maintenance costs they will continue to incur during a transition, and therefore don’t really benefit from reduced transaction costs. And there is the very real fact that public engagement is at its base a political act, a commitment to greater agency in a democratic system. While at one level this is Mom-and-apple-pie, in practice this often comes down to enabling people to have a voice that is unfamiliar, sometimes raucous (or at least sounding not like the others), and making demands for inclusion, participation and access to resources that disturb the known universe.

And the media explosion outside the pubcasting silo continues to be anarchic, exuberant, and mostly disconnected from a conversation about public purpose, public mission, and public engagement. The same thing is true in journalism, an overlapping category with public broadcasting, where there is exciting ferment at the digital edge, but still remarkable stability at the center. (Watch the documentary, Page One, to get an inside look at the New York Times’ tentative transition.)

The WikiLeaks phenomenon is an example of how messy the moment is. WikiLeaks supporters proclaim the absolute right to make public all information, while the site itself collaborates with leading mainstream media in order to make sense of the wash of information. Whereas mainstream media may be afflicted by a proclivity to bow to power, WikiLeaks enthusiasts show no evidence of understanding competing values in the sphere of the public interest.

Still, there are many, many interesting initiatives, all still awaiting the opportunity to be nodes on a network, and still currently standing as valiant experiments. The Mozilla-Knight News Technology Partnership is an active and creative example of attempts to design open, participatory, digital applications for journalism. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has funded six collaborative Local Journalism Centers, which so far have a “fits and starts” record. National Public Radio’s Argo project creates intensive local, web-based and user-informed journalism on nationally-important topics; it is funded by CPB and the Knight Foundation. The CPB-funded Public Media Corps, which we helped to incubate and document, is serving as an instructive inspiration for a nationwide public media initiative aimed at keeping kids in school. Public access television, a local form of citizen-made media that exists wherever cable franchises and localities agree to host it, is developing a pool of shareable material.

Jessica Clark, who was research director of the Center’s participation in the Ford initiative for the last five years, identifies five hopeful trends:

- Increasing ability to “create once, publish everywhere;”

- Knowledge sharing, often through unconferences;

- An increasing number of projects featuring community engagement, including those showcased by the National Center for Media Engagement;

- Strategic partnering/collaboration; and

- Paying attention to policy.

When we look up from hopeful trends and valiant experiments, though, we see what is still utterly lacking:

- National coordination or even shared standards among existing forms of public media to articulate a contemporary, shared public mission;

- Awareness among the general public of the significance of reliable, trustworthy, participatory media for public knowledge and action;

- Significant taxpayer support for participatory public media.

We believe that the six years of work within the Ford initiative, which overlapped to some degree with good work done in similar initiatives sponsored by the MacArthur and Knight foundations, resulted in a shift from complaining to vigorous and creative experiment within rigid, isolated structures and unpromising financial conditions. There is no doubt that the vision that energized us at the Center and that we articulated in Public Media 2.0 is shared by many creative and entrepreneurial practitioners, as well as scholars.

We think that the next phase of scholarly work can creatively explore, document, analyze and provoke in the following areas, and we expect to learn more during the pre-conference:

- Research on policy options to support media and communication platforms for public knowledge and action, including those applied in other but related areas such as Internet governance and seemingly unrelated areas such as anti-trust.

- Research on the success and even more critically, failure of experiments to create reliable, trustworthy and also participatory public media;

- Research on decision-making and participation in social and political process to better understand the role and function of media/communication for public knowledge and action;

- Research on the shifting dynamics of news production and dissemination, and the ways in which content becomes embedded in political and cultural debates.

- Research on rhetoric, framing, and agenda-setting around the mission, purpose and function of public media.

In the area of public media, scholarly research need not be engaged research, done in conjunction with practitioners or policy-makers. It need not be conducted as a public-intellectual exercise, with an aspect of the work committed to connecting the conclusions to public awareness and action. But we cannot imagine meaningful research on public media that is not grounded in a commitment to agency in public life—the ability of a society’s members to act as members of a public to address issues that affect the structure of their social lives. To that end, research projects that explore how people understand the function of public media in their societies and lives, how policy encourages and constrains public media, how public media can act most effectively to connect a society’s members to the issues that concern them all are grounded in the same commitment and concern. 

Patricia Aufderheide directs the Center for Social Media, and is a University Professor in the School of Communication at American University in Washington, D.C. She is the co-author with Peter Jaszi of Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyright (University of Chicago Press, July 2011), and author of, among others, Documentary: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2007), The Daily Planet (University of Minnesota Press, 2000), and Communications Policy in the Public Interest (Guilford Press, 1999).  She has been a Fulbright and John Simon Guggenheim fellow and has received numerous journalism and scholarly awards, including the Preservation and Scholarship award in 2006 from the International Documentary Association, a career achievement award in 2008 from the International Digital Media and Arts Association, and the Woman of Vision Award from Women in Film and Video (DC) in 2010.