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IAPMR Newsletter
Issue No. 1 - March 2022

Welcome to the new IAPMR Newsletter!


As part of the new activities undertaken by the International Association of Public Media Researchers, we are launching the IAPMR Newsletter. This will be an open space to share the activities organized by the IAPMR, as well as the most relevant developments, news and events regarding Public Service Media, both for PSM scholars and practitioners. If you think you have some interesting publications or events that could feature in forthcoming issues of this newsletter or in our brand new website, please let us know at contact@iapmr.media.

In this first issue of the IAPMR Newsletter you will find the following content: the RIPE@2022 Call for Papers, an interview with Gregory Ferrell Lowe, founder of RIPE@, a conversation with Dominik Speck in our Emerging Scholar's corner, a Research Round Up focused on the funding challenges PSM are facing, a summary of the IAPMR@Dialogues from last fall and information about the new leadership team.

This newsletter has 3,960 words and will take you around 30 minutes to read.

RIPE@2022 CfP still open

The Call for Papers for the RIPE@2022 Conference is still open, after the deadline was extended until the 4th April 2022. This year's conference, "Between the Fourth Estate and the Fifth Power: Conservation and Innovation in PSM journalism", will take place in Vienna, Austria, between the 18 and the 21 September 2022. The 11th biennial RIPE conference, sponsored by ORF, Austria's public service media provider, and hosted by the University of Vienna, invites paper proposals relevant to the concerns about the role of public service journalism as an essential and foundational part of the Fourth Estate to effectively challenge the negative impact of the fifth power.

Here are the topics of specific interest to which you could contribute with your abstract:
  • Policy developments affecting news and journalism for PSM organizations
  • Developments in journalistic and editorial practice in the digital media environment
  • Challenges and opportunities posed by commercial interests as the fifth power
  • Challenges and developments in news and current affairs across relevant platforms
  • Criteria for PSM as the Fourth Estate in the digital ecology.
  • Declining trust in public institutions, alternative public and strategic alliances
For further information about how to draft and submit your proposal, check the conference's website (https://ripe2022.univie.ac.at/).

Important Dates & Deadlines


Submission of paper proposals (extended): 4 April 2022
Submission of full papers: 15 August 2022
Conference: 18-21 September 2022

Interview with Gregory Ferrell Lowe

Dr. Gregory Ferrell Lowe is professor in residence at the Northwestern University in Qatar, where he is also the Director of the Communication Program. Besides his broad academic experience in Tampere University, he has also worked as a Senior Advisor for Strategy and Corporate Development at the Finnish national broadcasting company, Ylesradio (Yle). During this tenure at Yle, in 2001 he founded the Re-Visionary Interpretations of the Public Enterprise (RIPE), an international initiative for the development of public service media. He has served as the initiative’s Continuity Director since 2002. He is a former President of the European Media Management Association (emma) and Chair for the World Media Economics and Management Conference (WMEMC).
Can you tell us about your current projects? Which issues are in your spotlight right now?
I continue to be involved with the RIPE project, of course. The 2020 conference marked the 20th anniversary of the conference and book model created with an international group of colleagues in the late 1990s. It has been a lifetime’s work. I am proud of all that we have accomplished and grateful for the role I have played in this. Many colleagues and friends have been involved and merit credit for the success of this initiative in university-industry collaboration.
 
In recent years I’ve been wondering how to be of useful service to the wider world beyond the OECD countries where PSM is well established. Most of the world lacks the heritage, support and scale of resources to create a public media sector. How to support efforts to develop a public service orientation and media services in the public interest in the highly diverse countries of the so-called “Global South?” I am working with another group of colleagues on that question. We are calling it RIPE+ and have hopeful intentions to develop useful answers. I am collaborating with Minna Aslama Horowitz and a brilliant student at NU-Q, Mr. Temesgen Tewolde, on meta-analysis of media-related publications featuring GS research. Work is needed to construct contextualized approaches that require collaboration with colleagues with situated engagement and nuanced understandings, such as Marius Dragomir (Center for Media, Data and Society at Central European University), Winston Mano (University of Westminster), Anis Rahman (University of Washington), and Bouziane Zaid (University of Sharjah).

What are your thoughts on the development of PSM scholarship since RIPE began (that is, in the las 20 years)?
RIPE has produced the most comprehensive catalogue of scholarship about the digital turn in public service media available today. Much thanks belongs to Nordicom at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Although that long-term publisher relationship is coming to an end after the forthcoming RIPE Reader that Manual Puppis is editing, due to changes in Nordicom’s orientation and needs today, the partnership has been valuable, appreciated and fruitful. We have co-produced an impressive and impactful body of published work that documents the digital turn in public sector media from the early period when PSB firms were first wrestling with the Amsterdam Protocol to the transition to PSM, to the development of networked and collaborative models, and more or less every area of R&D over the past 20 years and more. Of course, there has been a lot of important work outside the RIPE context as well, and I don’t mean to downplay any of that. But RIPE has been a unique and uniquely fruitful initiative. All without a formal organization and financed on a voluntary basis by universities and PSB firms.

What I find most exciting is the growing interesting, engagement and body of scholarship on PSM from countries outside the OECD club. Since 2014, partly as a helpful consequence and continuing legacy of funding from the Open Society Foundations for the Tokyo conference, RIPE has become increasingly global and inclusive. That is very exciting, and quite satisfying.

Looking back, do you think there is any particular discussion or debate around PSM that remains unsolved, despite being the object of extensive academic research?
Three aspects immediately spring to mind. We have struggled with the problem of how to separate the PS orientation from the PSB/PSM organization, without abandoning the importance of these organizations. It remains an open question as to how much public service provision is done outside the formal institutional framework, as well as how much self-serving organizational factors complicate provision within that framework. A second aspect is related. There is continuing need to critically examine the normative foundations of public service theory. Most of us who have been deeply engaged with this specialization are trained and grounded in Western cultures. The Western-centric heritage in scholarship and normative theory is both an asset and a problem.

The third issue that springs to mind is how to provide greater applied value from the scholarship the conferences and books produce. This challenge is not unique to RIPE, but it is especially pointed given our key intention to function as a platform for university-industry collaboration. The scholarly side of the partnership has more clearly benefitted than the practitioner side. More needs to be done to assess how much practical value RIPE@ has added and where, and to develop higher applied value. Given the volume of funding from PSM organizations, this is an equity issue in my view.

As the founder of the RIPE initiative, which topics affecting PSM do you feel will require the most involvement of both researchers and practitioners in the short future?
Let’s face it, the public service orientation and institution is in deepening trouble despite all the good work accomplished to develop both the theory and practice over the past 25 years. The shift towards the harder right in politics continues in so many countries and there has been recent worrisome growth in preferences for populist parties and authoritarian leaders even in Western democracies. There is persistent, relentless pressure to reduce financial resources for PSM, to narrow remits, to expand commercial opportunities and roll back incumbents. There is less fulsome support among many populations where PSM companies are established, and most efforts to transition state media organizations to PSM organizations have failed or are in retreat.

At some point we will have to think deeply and critically about how to articulate, defend, promote and develop the public service orientation in media beyond dedicated organizations.  We need to also accommodate the simple and compelling fact that PSM companies are not the only sources of public service provision (newspaper companies, community and alternative media, commercial media as well). Of course, there are many aspects within established PSM organizations that need research and further development. Such would include development in financial and organizational structures, advances in participatory engagement, building network collaborations, crafting compelling contemporary missions, and achieving innovation in service and program formats and platforms.

What would your advice be for a young scholar who is starting to work around Public Service Media?
It is important to be clear about why you have chosen this area as a specialization. Why does this resonate with you personally? What do you want to accomplish? My career is nearing the end of the formal employment years. It has been wonderful and an amazing journey because I chose something I care about – something that matters on the basis of principle, ethics and intrinsic value, not because it is popular or materially enriching. Your career needs to be about something more than a job. Whatever you choose as a specialization, make it about something bigger than yourself. Dream big dreams and do the hard work necessary to realize as much and as many as you can. An academic career is not easy. It is a demanding, often stressful and frequently difficult experience. But it also one of the best career paths anyone could choose. 

Emerging Scholar's Corner: Dominik Speck

Dominik Speck is Research Assistant at the Institut für Journalistik of the Technische Universität Dortmund, where he is developing his PhD on the topic of transparency of public service media organizations in four European countries. He is also a former Visiting Researcher at the Media Intelligence Service of the European Broadcasting Union. Dominik was awarded the EBU Best Paper Award for Emerging Scholars at RIPE@2021 for his paper “Enabling Visibility: Online Transparency Practices of German PSM Organizations”.
Can you tell us about your PhD project? What motivated your research?
I am comparing transparency practices, regulations, and policies of public broadcasters in France, Germany, Switzerland, and the UK, through document analysis and qualitative research interviews. My interest lies not so much in assessing whether transparency really lives up to its billing – i.e., an increase in financial efficiency, trust, or legitimacy – but rather on exploring the multi-actor processes through which PSM transparency practices and policies are debated, implemented, or reformed. My motivation stems from my interest in media accountability and organizational research, but not less from my experience as a journalist covering the media branch for a German media trade magazine for several years. From that perspective, I have often experienced German public broadcasters and their governance bodies as rather opaque and reluctant to communicate even favorable information. It is though fair to say that in recent years new transparency mechanisms have been implemented across the German PSM system, and it is these reform processes that also sparked my interest in the topic.

How can your research contribute to the study of Public Service Media?
So far, there are not that many studies that systematically analyze transparency practices, regulations, and policies in a cross-country comparative perspective, and particularly with a consistent framework and definition of transparency. This is maybe not that surprising, given that the concept of transparency is highly value-laden –which, after all, also makes for much of its appeal– but somewhat ironically, at the same time it is not very palpable. Analyzing transparency is thus a tricky endeavor. I want to develop a framework of PSM transparency nourished by insights from interdisciplinary organization studies, which I hope may prove useful for our field. Surely, demands for greater openness and visibility of PSM operations and governance will pop up then again in many countries. Understanding more about these processes could be useful for both PSM theory and practice, also with regard to the vast aspirations attributed to greater transparency inherent in many strategy papers, such as a boost in trust and legitimacy.

What are the main challenges you are facing in your research? Is any of them related to being a young researcher?
I did not feel particularly disadvantaged being a young researcher at any point so far. My main complaint may sound familiar to many colleagues regardless of their position on the career ladder: A lack of time for doing research due to other obligations, also resulting in a lack of time to properly digest the plethora of insightful and inspiring literature produced across our field and a lack of time for thorough reflection. Of course, covering a topic that at least in some of its aspects is considered delicate sometimes proves a challenge. Trying to understand more about change in somewhat cumbersome structures does not necessarily imply pushing at an open door. 
 

Research Round Up | Focus on funding

In each issue of this newsletter, the research round up will draw the focus to a specific topic that can resonate among PSM scholars and practitioners. In this first issue, we highlight three contributions dealing with different aspects of PSM funding, its legitimacy and it's influence on independence.
Funding Democracy: Public Media and Democratic Health in 33 Countries
Timothy Neff & Victor Pickard | International Journal of Press/Politics, 2021

Like other before them, Timothy Neff and Victor Pickard purport to show that there is a connection between a healthy media environment and a healthy democracy. This time the authors approach this “virtuous circle” by contrasting different aspects of the public service media systems in 33 countries (funding, audience shares and regulatory data) with their ranking in the Democracy Index of the Economist Intelligence Unit and their Gross Domestic Products. Apart from establishing five models of PSM systems worldwide (State-Administered, Liberal-Pluralist, Direct Funding, Commercial-Public and Democratic Corporatist) through a cluster analysis, the study conducted by Neff and Pickard also allows for the conclusion that well-funded and independent PSM are positively linked to healthy democracies.

Read the full paper here.

Public service media, innovation policy and the ‘crowding out’ problem
Christian Herzog & James Meese | Communication Research and Practice, 2021

Public Service Media organisations have been accused of crowding out the market. From a neoliberal perspective, commercial media have complained about the allocation of public funding to digital PSM activities distorting the market. Christian Herzog and James Meese bring together this ‘crowding out’ paradigm with an analysis of the innovation policies deployed by two PSM organizations subject to different regulatory frameworks: ZDF (Germany) and ABC (Australia). The authors show that despite the ZDF's innovation policies being much more restrictive and bureaucratic than the ABC's more liberal approach, the innovations undertaken by the German PSM are much more resilient than those by the Australian broadcaster. Herzog and Meese propose a framework that allows for the comparative study of such innovation policies by analysing four factors: the size of the PSM organisation in relation to its market, the relation between the public and private sector (which impacts the way the 'crowding out' argument is articulated), the regulatory frameworks and their legal traditions.

Read the full paper here.

The State of State Media. A Global Analysis of the Editorial Independence of State Media and an Introduction of a New State Media Typology
Marius Dragomir & Astrid Söderström | CEU Democracy Institute, 2021

The funding of a PSM organization can also influence its editorial independence. That is one of the starting points of the report "The State of State Media", where Marius Dragomir and Astrid Söderström analyze 546 state-administered media outlets in 151 countries. To do so, the authors apply the State Media Matrix, which looks at three main factors affecting a state media outlet: its funding, its ownership and governance, and its editorial autonomy. After applying this tool, Dragomir and Söderströms were able to identify 7 different state media models, ranging from state-controlled media to independent public media outlets. Their sombre conclusion is that only 18 media outlets qualify as independent, 11 of which are based in Europe.

Read the full report here

For more information about the different PSM funding models, their main strengths and weaknesses, you can check this resource by the Public Media Alliance.

IAPMR@Dialogues - Fall 2021

The first edition of the IAPMR@Dialogues allowed us to converse with leading scholars in the field of PSM. In case you missed them, here is a brief summary of the main issues approached in each of them, as well as the links to the videos, so you can watch them anytime you want.
Bricolage & Fluidity: Towards 'Post Channel' PSM?, by Prof. Lizzie Jackson
Prof. Lizzie Jackson (Lond South Bank University) was the first speaker of the IAPMR@Dialogues. In this webinar, "Bricolage & Fluidity: Towards 'Post Channel' PSM?", she was joined by Madiana Asseraf-Jacob (EBU Media) and Vilde Schanke Sundet (University of Oslo).

As young people’s media consumption habits are increasingly linked to media universes rather than media channels, Lizzie Jackson reflected on whether we are moving into a post-channel era or whether channels will remain as part of the bricolage. She uses this term to refer to the aggregation of different types of media clustered around a central theme or purpose, something that we would traditionally associate with the idea of a brand. Lizzie Jackson pointed that while bricolage has been around for quite some decades, it has gained relevance in the current digital ecosystem, where media are a remediating flow of assets that form and reform due to the need to fit multiplatform delivery, and where professional and user content coexist.

In this regard, for Public Service Media organizations to effectively approach young audiences, they need to pay attention to two main organizational challenges: to commit to increase their collaboration by enforcing new approaches to media production, such as virtual production -where film, television and gaming production, among others, are intertwined- and to adapt their financial structures to enable cross-department working.

In the debate that followed Lizzie Jackson’s talk, some interesting points were made. Madiana Asseraf-Jacob drew the attention to the debate on whether PSM should use their mother brand for their services for young people or whether they should opt for a fully independent brand. For its part, Vilde Schanke Sundet also wondered whether the distinct media habits of young audiences are the result of a specific generation or if, instead, they derive from a particular stage in life. Further research into this question should be developed, as it would be crucial for the definition of PSM strategies. 

Building Bridges: PSM law, theory and practice, by Prof. Karen Donders
The second webinar was an opportunity to debate around the three pillars of Public Service Media approached by prof. Karen Donders (Vrije Universiteit Brussel/VRT) in her latest book: theory, law and practice. Hilde Van del Bulck (Drexel Univeristy), Anette Alen-Savikko (University of Helsinki) and Klaus Unterberger (ORF) were the commentators in charge of the discussion.

In her reflection on the theory aspects of PSM, Hilde Van den Bulck agreed with Karen Donders on the need to let theory and empirical work communicate in a bigger scale and always with an eye to developing models that better fit the reality. In this regard, she highlighted Donders’ decision to include a case study about Polish PSM, as a way to shift the focus from the study of ideal types of PSM (such as the BBC) to a broader perspective on PSM diversity. Hilde Van den Bulck also rose the idea of redefining PSM as alternative media rather than mainstream media, not in terms of audience, but in terms of the distinctiveness of their content.

Anette Alen-Savikko delved into the law aspects of PSM. Departing from Donder’s work, she identifies three major trends: the tension between national and EU competences regarding the regulation of the internal market and the cultural aspects of PSM, the vital importance of regulatory frameworks in safeguarding both independence and accountability in PSM, and the need for evidence-based decision-making and policymaking. As a guiding point for the development of policy, she argues that any process has to start by asking what kind of society would we want to live in, and who can then fulfill the functions and how.
 
Last but not least, Klaus Unterberger provided a reality check from the practice side. While he fully agreed with Karen Donder’s conceptualization of PSM as a democracy-centered project devoted to the political, social, cultural and civic dimensions of citizenship, he also wondered how this definition can dialogue with three different challenges: the role that popular programming (such as entertainment and sports) should play in connection to citizenship, the challenge to approach citizens in a context of anti-democratic populism and extremism, and the difficulties that can be derived from perfectly composed definitions of PSM, such as the one drafted by Karen Donders, when trying to evaluate the performance of PSM, as these might be too ambitious and there might not be sufficient proof of evidence.
 
Check out this webinar’s video to fully delve into this lively and compelling debate around how to build bridges between PSM law, theory and practice.

The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere and PSM in Digital Capitalism and COVID-19, by Prof. Christian Fuchs
The final talk in the first series of the IAPMR@Dialogues was by prof. Christian Fuchs (University of Westminster), who celebrated the 60th anniversary of Habermas’ book “The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere” by reflecting on whether his work is still relevant today, in our digital media environment. He was joined by prof. Slavko Splichal (Univeristy of Ljubljana) as a commentator.

After conceptualizing the public sphere following Habermas’ work and approaching the economic and political transformations that the public sphere is currently undergoing, Christian Fuchs delved into the principles laid out in the Public Service Media and Public Service Internet Manifesto (have you endorsed it yet?). The underlying idea of the manifesto is to radically transform the Internet, to leave behind an Internet dominated by commerce, surveillance and misinformation and build one that is based on democracy, transparency, data protection and engaging information.

As the next steps, Christian Fuchs points to the need to allocate funding and resources to this project, to continue defining the digital remit of PSM in this direction and, most importantly, to develop a proper system to tax digital capital in order to sustain this rebuilt infrastructure. He concluded with a positive note, stating that a different media world is needed, one with a Public Service Internet and revitalized Public Service Media as cornerstones.

New leadership team

One of the most relevant changes for the association in 2021 was the handover from the outgoing to the new leadership team. The new leadership team is thankful to the outgoing leadership team of the association for facilitating the transition and is committed to do the work necessary to build on their excellent foundational work.
New leadership team
  • Alessandro D'Arma and Maria Michalis (University of Westminster) - Joint Presidents
  • Minna Horowitz (University of Helsinki) - Vice President
  • Michael-Bernhard Zita (University of Vienna) - Treasurer
  • Marta Rodríguez-Castro (University of Santiago de Compostela) - Secretary & Young Scholars
  • Florence Hartmann (EBU) - Industry Liaison Officer
  • Gregory Ferrell Lowe - RIPE Chairperson, acting in an advisory capacity
Thanks for reading this newsletter. If you have any resources, publications or events that could be of interest for the IAPMR community, let us know at contact@iapmr.media.
This issue of the IAPMR Newsletter was written by Marta Rodríguez-Castro with the support the IAPMR leadership team.
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