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Road map for transforming state broadcasting into public service broadcasting - Elizabeth Smith

Road map for transforming state broadcasting into public service broadcasting - Elizabeth Smith

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Published by OSFJournalism
Paper presented in March 2011 at the conference on Rebuilding Egyptian Media for a Democratic Future in Cairo.

Elizabeth Smith, Chair of the Commonwealth Media Group, offered a road map for transforming State broadcasting into public service broadcasting on her paper. What is needed is a new Plan, drawn up in Egypt, by Egyptians, setting out the 5 stages to go through, with a time-chart for implementation:

1. define a new regulatory framework for broadcasting
2. define the objectives for Public Service Broadcasting content
3. define a governance framework which can deliver these objectives.
4. define the income sources for PSB content
5. set up widespread consultations about the draft Plan to ensure the widest possible support.
Paper presented in March 2011 at the conference on Rebuilding Egyptian Media for a Democratic Future in Cairo.

Elizabeth Smith, Chair of the Commonwealth Media Group, offered a road map for transforming State broadcasting into public service broadcasting on her paper. What is needed is a new Plan, drawn up in Egypt, by Egyptians, setting out the 5 stages to go through, with a time-chart for implementation:

1. define a new regulatory framework for broadcasting
2. define the objectives for Public Service Broadcasting content
3. define a governance framework which can deliver these objectives.
4. define the income sources for PSB content
5. set up widespread consultations about the draft Plan to ensure the widest possible support.

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Published by: OSFJournalism on May 14, 2013
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Elizabeth.smith226@gmail.com 
The transformation of state-owned media into democratic media in EgyptA Road Map for Transforming State Broadcasting into Public Service Broadcasting.
In Egypt, the time has come: there is now widespread support to drive through changeswhich lead to quality broadcasting and a media which is independent of the governingparty. To oversimplify a very complex area, what is needed is a new Plan, drawn up inEgypt, by Egyptians, setting out the stages to go through, with a time-chart forimplementation.
The first requirement is to define a new regulatory framework for broadcasting
The second is to define the objectives for Public Service Broadcasting content
The third is to define a governance framework which can deliver these objectives.
The fourth requirement is to define the income sources for PSB content
The fifth requirement is to set up widespread consultations about the draft Plan toensure the widest possible support.Currently, there is a state monopoly over terrestrial broadcasting in Egypt, exercised by anational agency, the Egyptian Radio and TV Union, which is subject to extensivegovernment influence. In July 2008, a new draft Broadcast Law was published and it calledfor a National Audiovisual Broadcasting Regulation Authority, which would be subject togovernment control. It provided for the allocation of licenses to the highest bidder, ratherthan on the basis of community interest. So a different draft Broadcast Law now needs to bedrawn up, providing for an independent broadcasting regulator, charged with serving thepublic interest.Let us look now at a practical plan for full PSB in Egypt. There need not of course be onlyone Public Service Broadcaster: there can be a requirement for PSB content from all or a
 
 
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range of broadcasters. It can be made a condition of their licence. The joy of this approachis that the licensees have to pay for it, rather than the public. However, it is not all thatpopular with commercial providers, and their agreement would need to be given before sucha scheme would work. Or you can have a system by which public money to provide PSBcontent can be bid for by any broadcaster. This is not too popular with broadcasters as thecontracts are usually 3-5 years which gives no guarantee of the continuity which they areargue is needed to invest in quality.From conversation with opinion formers in Egypt, it is clear that the consensus is for one bigfull PSB. If so, then it is actually best to start with a new organisation, to distance it from oldimages and old practices and old thinking. In some countries, such as Latvia, the old statebroadcaster was transformed into a PSB, but it has never shaken off its old image, and itsaudiences are low and it is struggling to command public respect and confidence. However,a successful transformation of an existing state broadcaster was achieved – initially - inSouth Africa. SABC was transformed from a white-dominated citadel to one appealing to,and staffed by, the new rainbow nation. Staff not happy to work in the new body wereoffered redundancy and quite a number took it, giving the new body the opportunity to recruitnew fresh youngsters of the racial mix required. However, there have been many disputesin recent years over Board appointments and dismissals, with allegations of excessivecloseness to the ruling party.Having decided whether it is a rebuild or a new structure, the next thing is to define
theObjectives
. These have to reflect the local culture but there are some universal valueswhich should be adhered to. These include:
Provide a free service of radio TV and modern media to virtually all the citizens ofEgypt
Ensure content to appeal to all sections of the public
Provide a trusted source of fair and accurate news
 
 
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Reflect the culture and values of the citizens
Ensure that the output is independent from Government control and influence fromany advertisers or sponsorsAfter defining the Objectives, the next task is to determine the
Governance Framework
 which can deliver these Objectives. As I have already indicated, it is helpful if the new bodyis supervised by an Independent Broadcasting Regulator, rather than a Ministry ofInformation. Heading the PSB should be a Board whose duties include all the accountingprocedures to establish whether the Objectives have been met and whether the money hasbeen wisely spent to serve the public. Such Boards are often appointed by the Governmentbut this has its dangers. The best possible formula for an independent Board is some sort ofelectoral process, and some members who are there ex officio for some non-Governmentalappointees.
Income Source for the new PSB.
The aim should be:a dedicated source of income, rather than taxation. There cannot be independence if thePSB is part of the Government budgeting and accounting system, with employees asGovernment civil servants. The income can come, however, in a regular Government grant,or from a dedicated tax, such as with Thailand’s Sin tax which devotes the income fromalcohol and tobacco to the PSB. Or there can be a dedicated license fee, payable by all whoreceive the TV programmes. (The danger here in the long run is that as viewing via pcincreases, the basis for the license fee will fade). In some countries, for ease of collection,this is added to something such as the electricity bill. Or one could go for the US modelwhich is a small Government grant but with most of the money coming from what the PSBstations themselves can raise though sponsorship and donations. This works best in richcountries. But once the money is given to the PSB, it is up the PSB to decide how to spendit and to publish clear and regular accounts and reports detailing what it has gone on.Where the income comes out of Government taxation or from a licence fee or a dedicated

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