Public service media in divided societies: Relic or renaissance?

 

This briefing focuses on the media of countries that are divided, undergoing crisis or conflict, or where governance is weak. It argues that the role of public service media in such societies – sometimes called fragile states – is increasingly relevant and sometimes critical to underpinning political and social development for the 21st century.

Publication date: October 2015

Author: Phil Harding

Overview: The briefing, written by the former Director of News at the BBC World Service, Phil Harding and one of a series of BBC Media Action briefings on the role of a free media in fragile states, argues that public service media – more traditionally called public service broadcasting – have special characteristics relevant to divided societies. They can provide trusted news and platforms for independent public debate for all people in society. These media can contribute to social cohesion and political stability where much of the rest of the media (both traditional and social) may be fragmented along factional, religious, ethnic or other lines. And they can help people in divided societies to find common cause with each other, enabling them to transcend the politics of identity to rebuild their often fractured nations.

It argues that renewed energy should be invested in strategies that support media systems rooted in public service values of trust, independence, universality and putting the public interest before all others. Despite formidable challenges, support strategies could include a revitalised and more imaginative focus on supporting the reform of state broadcasters to help them become editorially and financially independent public service broadcasters.