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.
- Listen to the lecture:[audio:Barbara_Thomass.mp3|autostart=no|bgcolor=#eff5f2] (Download a recording of Thomass’s lecture (mp3, 9,4 MB).
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.
- Barbara Thomass: Public Service Broadcasting in a Multimedia Environment: Programmes and Platforms (pdf, 86 KB).
- Presentation of Thomass, Ruhr-Universität Bochum.
- RBB: Deutsche und Polen, website about the relationship between Germany and Poland.
- Thierry Chervel: Let’s Talk European, article in Norwegian about the European website signandsight.com.