European communication spaces and digital broadcasting

By using online media, public service broadcasters can enable communication across national borders in Europe, Barbara Thomass says.

Pub­lic ser­vice broad­cas­ters can play an impor­tant part in crea­ting more cross-bor­der pub­lic com­mu­ni­ca­tion in Euro­pe. The online offe­rings of broad­cas­ters would be instru­men­tal in achie­ving this. We should think of such a pos­si­bi­li­ty not as a way toward a uni­fied Euro­pean pub­lic sphe­re, but as a com­plex sys­tem of in each other nested com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ve spaces, says Pro­fes­sor Bar­ba­ra Tho­mass at the Insti­tute for Media Stu­dies, Ruhr-Uni­ver­sität Bochum.

With a lectu­re tit­led «Pub­lic ser­vice broad­cas­ting and Euo­pean pub­lic sphe­res – rea­sons and pos­si­bi­lities for pub­lic ser­vice online media,» Tho­mass con­tri­buted to a semi­nar on pub­lic ser­vice broad­cas­ting and the Inter­net at the Uni­ver­sity of Ber­gen on April 26–27, 2007.

Cross-bor­der com­mu­ni­ca­tion in Euro­pe faces many pro­blems, not least created by lan­gua­ge bar­rie­rs, Tho­mass noted. Com­mer­ci­al media seeking to report more on Euro­pean issues will often encoun­ter limi­ted mar­ket inte­rest. Thus, pub­lic ser­vice broad­cas­ters could play a vital part sin­ce they are insu­lated from mar­ket for­ces via pub­lic fun­ding.

How can Euro­pean pub­lic sphe­res emer­ge, Tho­mass asked. By natio­nal media discus­sing Euro­pean ques­tions, or the aggre­ga­tion of natio­nal pub­lic sphe­res at the Euro­pean level? After many unsuccess­ful attempts at crea­ting pan-Euro­pean media, this option seems unlike­ly. How­e­ver, the­re is a tendency towards a Euro­pea­niza­tion of pub­lic sphe­res as Euro­pean issues are becoming more visib­le.

Tho­mass sug­ge­sted to address the issue with the con­cept of in each other nested com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ve spaces, inste­ad of the well-known pub­lic sphe­re con­cept. This would make it easi­er to loca­te the poten­ti­al of cross-bor­der com­mu­ni­ca­tion, espec­ial­ly whe­re diver­se lan­gua­ge com­mu­nities are involved.

On the prac­ti­cal level, coope­ra­tion beyond natio­nal bor­ders could be encoura­ged. Tho­mass cited the examp­le of the regio­nal pub­lic ser­vice broad­cas­ter RBB in Ger­ma­ny, which has coope­ra­ted with Polish TV on seve­r­al pro­jects. This should be encoura­ged on the Euro­pean level, Tho­mass argued. What is nee­ded is poli­ti­cal will to strengt­hen the Euro­pean dimension in natio­nal pub­lic ser­vice remits.

It is obvious that pub­lic ser­vice broad­cas­ting must be rede­fined to incor­po­rate online media and plat­forms, Tho­mass said. Online media could be bet­ter suited to faci­li­ta­te Euro­pean com­mu­ni­ca­tion spaces than the tra­ditio­nal linear flow of pro­gram­mes from natio­nal broad­cas­ters.

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