28 Sep 2012    Reports/ Presentations

Exposure Diversity and Public Service Media

An international workshop co-organised by the NCCR Trade and the Institute for Information Law (IViR), Amsterdam.

Public service media have traditionally played a leading role in the realisation of media diversity as one of the prime objectives of contemporary media policy.
With the explicit inclusion of the promotion of diversity in their mandate, public service media are not only committed to diverse organisational structures and the supply of a diverse programme offer (internal diversity), they also set a standard for other, mostly commercial programme offers, thereby contributing to the overall diversity of supply in media markets (external diversity). For some time now, this mission has not been restricted to the broadcasting realm, but also extends to the new media markets. Yet, in a time when the number of digitised programme outlets and types of media content offered to users is exploding, the viability of existing media diversity policies is no longer self-evident. Nor is the role of public service media in this regard. Existing diversity policies, of which public service media are a part, lean primarily on safeguarding a diversity of supply. A growing body of research, however, demonstrates that users, when confronted with the digital abundance, are exposed to less rather than more diversity. But without effective exposure to diverse media content, traditional media diversity policies become somewhat meaningless.  Effective exposure to diverse media supply requires that users are assisted in making sense of the enormous amount of information on offer, that they have tools and strategies at hand to make smart and diversified choices, but also that obstacles to actual media access are removed. In such a situation, public service media are increasingly challenged by policy-makers as well as academics to re-invent themselves as an institution. Can it still be the task of public service media to add to the digital abundance, or to offer types of content that are almost certainly available elsewhere – providing users are able to find them? Or could their mission be shifting from providing diverse supply, to stimulating and enabling users to benefit from the diversity of media content offered elsewhere? If so, how should this mission be given form? And will the answers to these questions differ, depending on whether one adopts a European or a US perspective? The goal of this workshop is to explore the potential role of public service media in promoting diverse exposure in times of information overload and new obstacles to information access. This invitation-only workshop will bring together eminent experts from different disciplines on both sides of the Atlantic to enter into an informed dialogue and to brainstorm on the future role for public service media. While the first three sessions will introduce preliminary ideas for the future role of public service media in stimulating diversity of exposure, the final session will be dedicated to exploring other ideas. In the spirit of “outside-the-box” thinking, participants are invited to contact the organisers in order to ‘pitch’ ideas for inclusion in the final session. The number of participants was limited to invited experts to allow focused discussion.

Selected contributions will be published in a special issue journal co-edited by Mira Burri and Natali Helberger. Approval has already been granted by the well positioned in the field, International Journal of Communication; publication is expected post peer review process in early autumn 2013.

The contributions selected include:

  • Natali Helberger (University of Amsterdam), Conceptualizing the role of public service media in the promotion of exposure diversity
  • Mira Burri (University of Bern), Contemplating a ‘public service navigator’
  • Tarlach McGonagle (University of Amsterdam), The public service media’s educational tasks and exposure diversity
  • Tom Gibbons (University of Manchester), Active pluralism: Participation and engagement as basic public media policy principles
  • Andra Leurdijk (Council of Europe), Insights from the discussions at the Council of Europe’s Expert Group on Public Service Media
  • Damian Tambini (London School of Economics), A license for size: Competition law design as a media diversity safeguard
  • Sandra Clio Cortesi (Harvard University), Formation of a youth and media lab: How young people use new media and its implications for public service tools
  • Ellen Goodman (Rutgers University), Definitions of public media: a functional approach

Exposure Diversity and Public Service Media