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Comment: A Public Good Approach to Media Development

Johanna Martinsson's picture

A reader's comment to the blog post The Culture of Media Development on Both Sides of the Atlantic:

Thank you Ann-Katrin.  It was a pleasure to host the meeting in London to 
discuss the media development toolkit.

I wanted to comment on your analyis that Europeans are more comfortable than 
Americans with the notion of long term subsidy of the media.  I largely 
agree, although I think the dynamics of why this is are changing.

I've been slightly sceptical of the view, reiterated over many years 
(although not by you in your post), that Europeans favour a public service 
broadcasting model and the US a commercial model.  Apart from anything else 
it rather suggests that developing country or emerging economy societies 
themselves - who might ideally be expected to have quite strong views on this 
issue - are rather at the mercy of a whole bunch of external actors intent on 
foisting their own models on them.  I think the notion of country or region 
defined strategies have become more influential in recent years, and 
certainly the reality of major strategic exercises like the Strengthening 
African Media Initiative (STREAM)/Africa Media Development Initiative, and 
the emergence of democratic and decentralised networks like the Global Forum 
for Media Development, suggest that simply choosing between two Western 
models is far from what developing country media actors want to do.  I 
suspect they want their own models, or mix of models, tailored to their own 
circumstances.  Looking at the work of the BBC World Service Trust, which I 
have relatively recently joined, I've been a little surprised that relatively 
little of the work of the Trust is focused on supporting a public service 
model (although it's increasing again now).

That being said, I think there is a growing focus on long term subsidy in 
Europe, not least because the sustainability of the private media in the West 
is in such doubt, and because the performance of public service media - such 
as the BBC - has been so strong in recent years.

Clearly sustainability is a central factor and my suggestion is that we look 
at it in a slightly different way and I have outlined some ideas on a blog 
posted last week - this was in part inspired by some of the conversations we 
had at our media development toolkit meeting in London.  It can be found 

All best

James Deane
Head of Policy
BBC World Service Trust


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