Public broadcasters around the globe face money, creative challenges

Public broadcasters from around the world are meeting this week in Singapore, and so far two major themes have emerged – digital technology and money.

Matteo Maggiore, Controller of International Policy at the British Broadcasting Corporation spoke about investing and even surviving in a difficult financial atmosphere. “The problem is, of course, the financial straits that all public sectors in the UK and elsewhere is facing these days, and that puts a lot of financial pressure on the BBC,” said Maggiore, according to the Straits Times. “The main challenge will be to sustain the resources for an investment that has to grow in time rather than decrease.”

The BBC is implementing a 20% budget cut, a reduction discussed in detail at a CCLP forum last week. Limited resources for US public broadcasting were the topic of discussion at CCLP’s July forum.

Freshening public broadcasting storytelling and presentation was also a topic of considerable discussion.

“The public service messages that need to be conveyed cannot be told in a dry, didactic manner, which cuts little ice with today’s sophisticated audience,” said Teo Ming Kian, the chairman of Singapore’s MediaCorp, according to ChannelNewsAsia. “To come up with innovative ways to engage viewers, public broadcasters will have to refine and improve our story telling techniques.”

MediaCorp, which is hosting the convention, is unusual among public broadcasters because it is a for-profit company, going back to its start in radio in 1936. According to its website, MediaCorp’s holdings include an all-news channel, print, classifieds and even movies.

But according to Teo Ming Kian, its unusual structure means it must be even more sensitive to current programming and financial trends. “Broadcasters like MediaCorp, which have a public broadcaster’s role but run commercially to earn our keep, a duality, which I concede is not very common in the world, have to be even more sensitive to such changes,” he said.

Paula Kerger, President of PBS, spoke as if she wanted to emulate MediaCorp’s model. “We can no longer be comfortable in our silos of television, or radio,” said Kerger, according to WorldScreen. “We must become public media companies- in every sense of the word. To redefine public media for the digital age we must revitalize our content across platforms, stay on the cutting edge of technology and innovation, and ensure our economic sustainability.”

The Public Broadcasters International (PBI) annual meeting, the organization’s 20th gathering, ends tomorrow.