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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