Many aspects of society have changed in the last years, resulting in a drastic change in the media landscape. With the numerous lockdowns, the changes in consumer behaviour and media consumption were nothing like we have ever seen before. Not only was there an increase in subscriptions to streaming services, there was also an increase in news readership as the whole world wanted to follow the latest updates on the pandemic. It is clear that commercial media are doing great, but what about public service broadcasting?
The effects of a lockdown
The increase in media consumption sounds like a good thing for the media industry right? Well, the industry is actually struggling. In the last decade advertising revenues became one of the most important sources of income for multiple media companies. Due to budget cuts of numerous companies during the lockdowns, there was a reduction in marketing deals. Losing one of the most important sources of income has resulted in a lot of media professionals losing their jobs and media companies that mainly focus on their online offerings. The change in the media landscape is evident and resulted in the competition being worse than it was pre COVID-19.
This is especially problematic for public service broadcasting. John Reith, the founder of the BBC, defined Public service broadcasting as a phenomenon that has the assignment “to inform, to educate and to entertain”. A public service broadcaster has a public service mandate with the objective to fulfill certain social, cultural and democratic needs which will hopefully result in pluralism and celebration of diversity. To achieve all these goals, the broadcaster receives funding from the government. While this funding is important for the broadcasters to not go extinct, it is not always guaranteed. Governments at the end of the day decide how important funding is, and where it should go. Especially since the lockdowns and declining economy, funding for public service broadcasters is now put on the back burner.
All about clicks
In this media landscape sales and clicks are more important than ever. Public broadcasters don’t have another choice than to also compete with the commercial broadcasters. The negative effects of this are showing, as the public media and broadcasters are increasingly influenced by media logic. Media logic is connected both with the ideas of production of media content and with the area of media effects. This simply means that there is an increase of the same format that is used to gain as many clicks to stay alive in this media landscape.
It is worrying when the media landscape is increasingly driven by getting certain numbers
A lot of media outlets are using clickbait titles and celebrities to attract attention. The problem lies here: Public broadcasters have the mission to disregard this aspect and to cater to minorities. This also explains why public media receives most of its funding from the government because the end goal is to improve pluralism in this society. So, it is worrying when the media landscape is increasingly driven by getting certain numbers to stay alive and relevant, as this can cause a loss in the quality of news and stories that are published. It is therefore important that public broadcasters receive enough funding so that they can focus on their goal of serving society, and not on financial gain.
What can we do about this?
We often underestimate our powers as consumers but consumers actually have the ability to cause change. We can support public broadcasters by, of course, watching them. This is one of the most important things we can do. There are actually a lot of interesting programs and shows they provide and watching something different than Netflix can maybe feel like a breath of fresh air. It is definitely worth taking a look at their website. They offer talk shows, a variety of documentaries and even podcasts!
Besides watching and reading public media, you can also choose to donate monthly or a yearly fee to support your favourite broadcasters. The great thing about this is that a part of the money you donate can actually be subtracted when doing taxes, which means you pay less but help them out even more!
Last but not least, we can always use our voices to show how important we find this subject. We can take different measures to let the government know that the public broadcasters are struggling right now and that they need more funding. Using social media to voice this is a possibility, but we can even organize a peaceful protest to try and put this issue on the government agenda. Of course, organizing a peaceful protest takes time and effort, but it is definitely worth it to protect public service broadcasting!
Edited by: Rita Alves