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Broadcasting is a general term, used in referring to various forms of communications, which distributes various media contents, such as video and audio, to a certain audience. Public service broadcasting is a form of broadcasting developed, funded and in control of the public for the public. It is neither formed for commercial purposes nor under the control of state for state broadcasting. Rather a public service broadcast is formed for the purposes of public interest. In addition, public service broadcasting is free from undue political interference and commercial force pressures. Public service is formed and developed for the interests, and purposes of public. For example, public service broadcasting facilitates communication of important information to the public, as well as educating and entertaining the public (Albrow et al 2007). It works under the principles of pluralism, respect of diversity, independence of the editorial group, appropriate public funding accountability to the public and transparency.
Majority of the global economies operate under democratic political systems. Public service broadcasting forms the basis, and cornerstone of a democracy. This is due to the fact that public service broadcasting is the means, through which the public is educated and informed of the political decision. This paper seeks to evaluate the role and importance of public service broadcasting in the society. The various advantages of public service broadcasting to society will be of great importance in this paper. The paper will also evaluate how public service broadcasting differs from other ways of organizing and controlling broadcasts.
Role of Public Service Broadcasting
Public service broadcasting plays an imperative role in society, and specifically in democratic states. It plays an imperative role in ensuring education to the community, especially for the marginalized and disadvantaged communities. In addition, it plays an imperative role in facilitating cultural values practices, education and enforcement among the people, since it’s made by the people for the people. Public service broadcasting also facilitates enforcement of best practices and standards in broadcasting. This enables education and informative programs to facilitate development of opinions and contributions towards current debates that shape how the people are governed. For example, through public service broadcasting, an issue affecting the society may be discussed, and since the role of a democratic government is to listen and act in response to the demands in the public, new legislations may be introduced. In addition, it facilitates revisions, regarding various legislations responding to the needs of people (Casault 2000).
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Public service broadcasting provides a platform, where the information and knowledge can be communicated to the people without discrimination. It also fosters the improvement of the indigenous contents through incorporation of technology to upgrade the indigenous systems and contents (Jakubowicz 2012). Incorporation of technology in the traditional systems and contents facilitates innovations and creativity in the process of developing programs. This facilitates captivation of larger audiences for the public service broadcasts.
Public service broadcasting also provides a framework, and platform, where different stakeholders in the society hold discussions about various issues, affecting the society. For example, it creates a platform, where decision makers, such as legislators, media professionals, and the public engage in various discussion of public interest. Public service broadcasting also facilitates stimulation of international debate on issues affecting the public. For example, issues primarily discussed in public service broadcast include civil societal issues, education on various issues, affecting the public and education on cultural values and practices (Collins 2010). It also plays the role of strengthening partnership with various stakeholders in the society, such as creation of alliances with other media professional for the purpose of reinforcing media pluralism. Such alliances are essential in ensuring independence of the media, and editorial work in both public and private broadcasts.
International Principles of Public Service Broadcasting
Although there has not been an international treaty or body, which directly addresses the issues of public service broadcasting, various organizations with knowledge and expertise in public service broadcasting have developed various standards that regulate public service broadcasting in the international community. These standards have been stated as the important aspects that a public service broadcast should consider in the process of public service broadcasting. The international organizations have considered six principles, under which public service broadcasting should operate (Wilde 2004).
Public service broadcasting should be based on the principle of universality. This principle is based on the fact that public service broadcasting should not present any form of human discrimination. The broadcasts should be easily accessible and available to all people in terms of the content systems and technology. All people within an area, covered by the public broadcast should be able to receive the signals of a public service broadcast and other services, provided by the public service broadcaster. Public service broadcasting should also be based on the principle of diversity, where the programs broadcasted are wide to capture different people in terms of cultures, race, and issues. Diversity in public service broadcasting can be enforced through development and provision of variety of programs. The diversity should capture issues, related to quality of the content; educational and information features of broadcasts should ensure diversity. Diversity ensures that all people have access to information and quality content on various issues and concerns in the society. Diversity of public service broadcasting is essential in ensuring that all people are included in the public service broadcasts as well as diversity of issues and concerns (Khabyuk & Kops 2011).
A public service broadcast should also ensure independence in terms of influence of commercial interests and political interests. Decisions, regarding public service broadcasting should be free from the influence of the state and other interested parties in society. For example, decisions, regarding programming in a public service broadcaster should be based on the professionalism. In addition, the programs developed and presented in public service broadcasters should be based on the public rights to know, rather than undue influence and pressures of the state, political kingpins and other commercial interests. This enables development of programs to confer with the interest of public, without biasness of different issues and concerns (Hanna 2010).
The programs, developed in a public service broadcast should be based on the principle of impartiality and non-partisans. Although impartiality is closely related to independence, it used to ensure that different stakeholders did not use their power and capacity to influence programming in public service broadcasting. For example, the government uses public funds, when promoting a particular view point to the public, which is inappropriate for public service broadcasting. In doing so, the public service broadcaster will be promoting a particular viewpoint, showing impartiality, which is against the principles of public service broadcasting. Another example is a situation, where the public service broadcaster supports an agenda or position of a particular political party (Casault 2000). This also shows impartiality in opinion, which is against the principles of public service broadcasting.
A public service broadcaster should also be based on national identity and culture, without preference for particular culture or race. Public service broadcasting should build a sense of national identity in terms of belonging and participation of different people from different races and cultures. In majority of the countries national identity reflection is an explicit obligation for the public service broadcaster. However, some organizations have expressed controversy of this principle, due to aspects of restriction of editorial freedom. In addition, there has been concern that this principle can lead to promotion of the dominant culture, rather than promotion of multiculturalism (Khabyuk & Kops 2011).
Public service broadcasting should be funded directly by the public, where there is a general charge on users, or a license is introduced into the broadcast, where people pay certain fees. The concept of license fees and charge on users has promoted independence, making public service broadcasters less susceptible to the influence of government. The public bodies are charged with the responsibility of determining the effective fees and rates that are charged to the public. However, in some countries funds for public broadcasting services are voted by legislators (Wilde 2004). This has been an effective means of funding public service broadcasting. License fee collection has been termed as a costly and difficult task. In addition, there have been concerns that collection of such license fees is difficult, due to various political and economic factors. In addition, majority of the countries do not have structures in place that facilitate collection of the fees. This leads to the high cost that may be incurred in the process of collecting these fees (Jakubowicz 2012).
Importance of Public Service Broadcasting
Public service broadcasting presents myriad of benefits in the global societies, and especially in developing countries. It facilitates improvement of democratic frameworks, improving governance in the country. Through education and availability of information, public service broadcasters play an imperative role in reduction and alleviation of poverty efforts. It facilitates empowerment of marginalized groups, with less political and economic influence in the state. This is due to the aspect of providing a voice with the voiceless aspect of public broadcasting. It enables different groups’ ability to access media waves, since public service provides support for the local programs, producing debates with themes based on issues, affecting the marginalized groups in the community (Wilde 2004).
Public service broadcasters improve the ability of general population to access a broad spectrum in regard to various issues, which are of public concern. For example, public service broadcasters play an imperative role in the process of improving understanding governance processes and institutions. Especially majority of the marginalized groups are less informed on the political processes and institutions. It provides a medium, through which education and awareness is created in the public. It facilitates development of national capacities, through development of quality local radio and television programming. It provides a framework, where the principles of rule of law, democracy and good governance can be expressed and educated to the public. It facilitates promotion of tolerance and understanding on various groups in the society, developing and creating cohesiveness, which promotes unity and peace in the country. For example, most of developing countries are characterized with civil strife, ethnic tensions, and violent retributions. Public service broadcasters provide a framework, where diverse groups can debate and contribute to various issues and concerns, affecting their society. It provides a common sense of national identity, since other commercial and state media provide partisan presentation of programs (Collins 2010). The international principles of public service broadcasting are essential in providing framework that prevents partisan impartial programs, and dependency on various commercial interests, and political interference. This enables the ability of public service broadcasting representation to view in perspective of different grouping in the state. Therefore, public service broadcasting facilitates developing of national cohesiveness, increasing unity and peace between different groups in the community.
Public service broadcasters are essential in facilitating round table discussion and debates on various issues affecting the society, such as plans on poverty reduction, peace reconciliation, and dialogue processes. It provides a framework for the process of prevention of conflicts, and other issues affecting society, ensuring free flow of information. It also facilitates diversity of the information, since it brings information from various diverse groups in society. Other state and commercial broadcast do not present information and communication that presents the interest of public. Therefore, public service broadcasters provide nonbiased sources of education, information and communication, which are in the interest of the public. For example, public service broadcasting played a central role in facilitating creation of a platform in Sierra Leone for dialogue on the country’s reconstructions after the civil strife (Hanna 2010). It provided a framework, where the dialogue could occur in regard to efforts of achieving justice and reconciliation for the communities.
Public broadcasting is regarded as place, where different people from diverse groups in a country are considered as equal. It is essential in educating the citizens on various issues for the purposes of social and economic development of the society. It also provides a platform, where different cultures are integrated improving social cohesiveness of the community. These presentations and programs provide entertainment for the local communities (Albrow et al 2007). The perspective of entertainment comes in perspective of the various programs with education, cultural and cohesiveness aspects. They provide platforms, where the public can learn through various sensitization programs on various political processes in both local and national authorities. They also facilitate multi-cultural and multi-sectoral dialogue, and debating framework, where different stakeholders present different views about various issues, contributing into knowledge in society. The ability of public service broadcaster to connect with international community enables opening of the local authorities to various social and economic issues in the international community, affecting the local community (Casault 2000).
Difference between Public Service Broadcasting and Commercial and State Broadcasting
Public service broadcasting is different from commercial and state broadcasting in various aspects, since public service broadcasting are used in representing the views of the public, while private and state broadcasting are used to serve the interest of various stakeholder. Public service broadcasting is not based on dictates of profitability, while commercial broadcasting is based on profitability of various programs. Commercial broadcasts are based on various demands in the market, while public broadcasts are based on various issues affecting the society. The basic objectives of public broadcasting are provision of independent and impartial programs that identify with various groups in society. However, the basic objective of commercial broadcast is to provide market oriented programs that meet the various needs in the market. On the other hand, state owned broadcast is used to present various policies and views of the government on various issues affecting society (Casault 2000).
Public service broadcast is based on international standards of public service broadcasting. However, commercial and state owned broadcasts are based on the objective of the owners, such as profitability, presentation of a certain issue, and interest of various stakeholders. Programming of different programs in the public service broadcasting is different from programming in commercial and state owned broadcasters. Public service broadcasting programs are based on various needs of society, while state owned and commercial programs are based on the needs of the market, or the interest of various stakeholders in the organization. Financing of commercial broadcasting is done by the shareholders and the founders of the broadcasting organizations. State owned broadcasters are financed by the state, since they use them to present their views on various policies and issues affecting people. However, public service broadcasting is financed by the people, where people are charged fees for the purposes of financing the broadcast (Wilde 2004). However, this method has not widely been used due to difficulties in collection of the fees, as well as other economic and political factors. The most common funding of public service broadcasting is voting by legislators, as well as donations from international organization such as UNDP.
Commercial broadcasters are responsible for the owners of the broadcasting company in terms of programs developed, and competitiveness of the organization in the market. However, public service broadcasters are responsible for the public on developing programs that represent the issues affecting the public, rather than personal issues. On the other hand, state owned broadcasting corporations are accountable to the government, and represents issues of interest to the government. Evaluation of public broadcasting is done by the public, while evaluation of commercial and state owned broadcasting is done by private entities. The bases of evaluation are also different for state owned broadcasting, commercial and public service broadcastings. Public service broadcastings are evaluated on the basis of ability to represent the issues, affecting society. For example, the success of a public broadcast can be based on ability to unite people from different groups. Commercial broadcasts are evaluated on basis of profitability, and returns on invested capital, while state owned ones are evaluated on basis of profitability and ability to present the views of the government to the public (Albrow et al 2007).
In conclusion, public service plays an imperative role in society, and especially in developing economies, where issues of governance are characterized with various issues. Public broadcasting provides platform, where the public get educated on various issues of governance, such as economical and social ones. It presents a platform with national identity, where different communities can debate and dialogue on various issues affecting society. Public service broadcasting is different from commercial and state owned broadcasting in terms of controls, financing, programming and organization.
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