Public service from broadcasting to communication

Public service communication is an umbrella term for a variety of new and traditional communication activities, Jackie Harrison says.

The term pub­lic ser­vice com­mu­ni­ca­tion can widen the deba­te about the futu­re of pub­lic ser­vice broad­cas­ting, as it is an umbrel­la term for a varity of strands of new and tra­ditio­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tion acti­vities, accor­ding to Jackie Har­ri­son, Pro­fes­sor of Pub­lic Com­mu­ni­ca­tion at the Depart­ment of Jour­na­lism Stu­dies, Uni­ver­sity of Shef­field.

With a lectu­re tit­led «Euro­pean soci­al pur­pose and pub­lic ser­vice com­mu­ni­ca­tion», Har­ri­son con­tri­buted to a semi­nar on pub­lic ser­vice broad­cas­ting and the Inter­net at the Uni­ver­sity of Ber­gen on April 26–27, 2007.

Har­ri­son placed her discus­sion of pub­lic ser­vice com­mu­ni­ca­tion (PSC) in the con­text of the com­mu­ni­ca­tion pro­blems of the EU. EU citizens’ disen­chant­ment with the Union reached its cli­max with the «no» against the con­sti­tu­tion trea­ty in Fran­ce and the Nether­lands in 2005. Sin­ce, the EU has attemp­ted a more open com­mu­ni­ca­tion poli­cy, but this is extreme­ly limi­ted in sco­pe, Har­ri­son said.

Pub­lic ser­vice com­mu­ni­ca­tion should be based on a set of values, Har­ri­son argued: Truth­ful­ness, trust, inde­pen­den­ce and respect for human dig­ni­ty and diver­sity. These values could under­pin a EU-wide PSC mul­tiplat­form network.

Following the tra­ditions of pub­lic ser­vice broad­cas­ting, PSC should deal with these issues, Har­ri­son sug­ge­sted:

  • Pub­lic pur­pose and pub­lic ser­vice: PSC insti­tu­tions should have spec­i­fic obli­ga­tions.
  • Gover­nan­ce: PSC should be inde­pen­dent from govern­ment and com­mer­ci­al inte­rests. Inter­nal accoun­ta­bi­li­ty of pro­du­cers, con­su­mers and par­ti­ci­pants.
  • Con­tent: Diver­se ran­ge of con­tent and infor­ma­tion avai­lab­le to all.

In today’s situa­tion, such ideas might seem qui­te unrea­li­s­tic. The chan­ce for poli­ti­cal endor­se­ment of an expan­ded idea of pub­lic ser­vice which inclu­des new media plat­forms, and simul­tane­ous­ly is located on the Euro­pean level may admit­ted­ly appe­ar as qui­te slim. Still, con­side­red as a fram­ework for thin­king about the poten­ti­al of com­mu­ni­ca­tion poli­cy, PCS ser­ves its pur­pose.

Har­ri­son did not set out to spec­i­fy how PSC could be orga­nized, but did sug­gest the option of a pub­lic ser­vice com­mu­ni­ca­tor fun­ded by the EU. How­e­ver, she said that pub­lis­hers of indi­vi­du­al blogs also con­ceivab­ly could con­tri­bute to PSC, alt­hough PSC could not be entire­ly based on spon­tane­ous com­mu­nities.

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