A HANDBOOK FOR TELEVISION AND RADIO PRACTITIONERS IN COUNTRIES-IN-TRANSITION Media Management Manual John Prescott Thomas A HANDBOOK FOR TELEVISION AND RADIO PRACTITIONERS IN COUNTRIES-IN-TRANSITION Media Management Manual John Prescott Thomas Broadcasters’ Media Management Manual Media Management Manual A Handbook for television and radio parishioners in countries-in-transition By John Prescott Thomas © UNESCO 2009 ISBN No. 978-81-89218-31-7 Printed by Macro Graphics Pvt. Ltd.
Published by: Communication and Information Sector United Nations Educational Scientific & Cultural Organization UNESCO House B-5/29 Safdarjung Enclave New Delhi - 110 029 Tel : + 91 11 2671 3000 Fax : +91 11 26713001 /02 e-mail: [email protected] org Disclaimer The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.
The author is responsible for the choice and the presentation of the facts contained in this publication and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of the UNESCO and do not commit the organization. Contents Chapters Foreword Introduction 1 What’s the media game? 2 What are the media for? Media legislation, regulation and governance 4 Management structures and organisation 5 Strategic planning and financial management 6 Programme planning and production 7 Resource planning and resource management 8 Editorial management 9 Managing people Conclusion Appendices A A code of editorial principles and practice B A line-management structure for a typical broadcasting organisation C A plan for restructuring a broadcasting organisation D A glossary of financial terms E A guide to allocating overhead costs to budget centres F A guide to the financial aspects of a business plan G A matrix for a risk-management strategy H An outline format for a programme proposal I An outline format for a programme budget J An outline format for a resources booking form K An outline format for a management information system report L A checklist for programme review of a news-magazine format M A form for the authorisation of covert recording N A format for a job description O A format for an appraisal and career-development form Case Studies Case-History 1: How enforced radical change transformed a strategic plan Case-History 2: How alternative thinking made a successful series possible Case-History 3: How television and radio can work in partnership Case-History 4: How investigative reporting served the public interest The author Page 6 7 9 12 18 31 46 59 70 76 84 89 90 98 100 105 106 108 114 116 118 120 122 124 125 126 128 130 134 136 137 138 Broadcasters’ Media Management Manual Foreword
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Today, Public Service Broadcasting, whether run by public organisations or privatelyowned companies, is not only challenged by political interests, but also by increased competition from commercial media. The advent of the digital age has ushered in an array of commercial satellite-to-cable channels that threaten public service broadcasting audience loyalties. If viewers are to be retained, there is a pressing need for more dynamic and innovative public broadcasting. Free from political interference and pressure from commercial forces, Public Broadcasting’s only raison d’etre is public service. It speaks to everyone as a citizen. Public broadcasters encourage access to and participation in public life.
They develop knowledge, broaden horizons and enable people to better understand themselves by better understanding the world around them. With its specific remit, which is essentially to operate independently of those holding economic and political power, public service broadcasting provides the whole of society with information, culture, education and entertainment; it enhances social, political and cultural citizenship and promotes social cohesion. In the past ten years, UNESCO has been actively engaged in exploring more deeply the concept of public service by specifying the functions, particularly in the fields of education, science and culture, which it is meant to perform, and the means required.
Member States called upon the Organization to support public service radio and television broadcasting so that it can fulfill its cultural and educational mandate. UNESCO has continuously supported capacity-building of media professionals, responsible for production, and programming, particularly in issues related to editorial independence, ethical standards and effective and dynamic management. It is in this context, and upon the request of a great number of developing countries media managers, that UNESCO has initiated this handbook. The manual is designed with a specific focus on Public Service Broadcasting, but it could be used by every interested individual or media practitioner. It’s a straightforward guide that can help make a broadcaster’s programming more vibrant and engaging.
It also offers advice to media executives on how to refine their management structures and practices, to keep their companies operating smoothly. What’s more, it provides practical tips on how to create sustainable financial plans which will help propel public service broadcasters into the future. We believe that this reference book can enhance both the economic and the civic competence of journalists and broadcasters. We hope that it will promote a free and pluralistic journalism and assist broadcasters’ companies in becoming more independent and sustainable; both of which are fundamental for modern democratic societies. Armoogum Parsuramen Director and UNESCO Representative to Bhutan, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka
Introduction If you’re looking for a theoretical textbook full of trendy management jargon – or for a technical buffs’ guide to the latest electronic wizardry – this isn’t it. Nor will it give you a universal blueprint for the ‘right answer’ or the ‘best method’ – panaceas for which I’m repeatedly asked at international conferences and seminars but which don’t, I’m afraid, exist. What it will provide is a repertoire of practical management tools – approaches, structures, systems and techniques – which have been proved to work in a variety of broadcasting contexts and which are particularly relevant to countries-intransition. For whom is it intended?
Though it includes a chapter on media institutions and governance, it’s not primarily concerned with the constitutional and political aspects of media management, which are already wellcovered in many other publications. Rather, it’s a hands-on guide for senior and middle managers who want to see their operations flourish and succeed in a rapidly-changing and increasingly competitive environment. Its aim is to help them make the most effective use of whatever levels of resources, money and staff are available within their own organisations. Rich-country colleagues who are already into HDTV, multi-platform distribution, large-scale webcasting, podcasting, mobile reception, interactivity, ‘quadruple-play bundling’ and the rest may find some of it old hat to them.
I can say only that more than twelve years of working with broadcasters in countriesin-transition – many of whom have no real tradition of pro-active management and would envy the resources you had decades ago – have shown that this is exactly the kind of practical guidance they want and need. That’s not, of course, to imply that the latest technologies should be inaccessible or irrelevant to countries-in-transition. Indeed, given the speed of change, some of them may be in a position to ‘skip a technological generation’ in broadcasting, just as they have in adopting mobile telephones ahead of land-lines. But the basic management principles in the manual apply to them too. I’m indebted to many organisations and individuals for their contribution to developing these ideas.
To the BBC, of course, where I spent most of my working (and therefore my learning) life. To Westcountry Television, for the experience of starting-up from scratch a completely new and ground-breaking operation and for introducing me to the world of commercial broadcasting. To the Cabinet Office Top Management Programme and its remarkable tutors, for some revelatory insights into modern management principles and practice. To the Thomson Foundation, the British Council, the UK’s Department for International Development, the Council of Europe and the OSCE for opportunities to work with broadcasters and governments in some Broadcasters’ Media Management Manual wenty countries-in-transition; their assignments have been the source of much of the material in this manual. To UNESCO for making the manual possible. And to the very many professional colleagues and friends with whom I’ve been privileged to bat around ideas and opinions over more than forty years. Particular acknowledgements are due to Dick Bates and Zofair Ammar for their input on financial management and to Phil Speight for his suggestions on editorial and production practice. If there are errors in the manual the fault is, of course, mine alone. The terminology I’ve used is generally that of British broadcasting conventions and practice. (‘Regional’, for instance, usually efers to regions within a country, rather than to wider geographical groupings of several countries – like the Middle East or the South Pacific. ) Where that might risk confusion, I’ve tried to clarify what’s intended. Because its operations are more complex, many of the illustrations are taken from television but the principles are manifestly equally applicable to radio. We’re facing an era of change on an unprecedented scale and at unprecedented speed. Let’s together ensure that the media lead the way down the road of management reform and progress. That way the development of broadcasting can also bring with it broadcasting for development.
John Prescott Thomas Bristol 2009 9 1 What’s the Media Game? 10 Broadcasters’ Media Management Manual T he truth is that nobody really knows – yet. The only thing that’s absolutely certain is that the old certainties have gone for good. The BBC was designed in the 920s on the pattern of the British civil service to run a monopoly. If it had stayed that way, it would now be as dead as the dodo. As will be any broadcasting organisation which fails to adapt to the new media environment. (And, sadly, the dodo doesn’t even know that it’s extinct: none of us gets to read our own obituary. ) There’s no market more dynamic and fast-moving than that of the media.
New technologies – and convergence among existing ones – are causing monumental shifts both in consumer behaviour and in the potential for content providers and distributors. Some will emerge as big winners; but the actual take-up by consumers is by no means universally assured and is constantly changing. (Viewers with access to 24-hour television news services currently watch them for only nine minutes a day on average; in Britain, ITV has already closed down its rolling-news channel. ) As digital technology brings with it a previously unimaginable proliferation of media outlets, the audience share of any individual broadcaster must inexorably fall.
The figures are already a fraction of what they were even ten years ago: programmes once watched by or 20 million viewers are now lucky to attract five million and the figures are still falling. In fact, in this new media world, to speak of broadcasting in its traditional sense may become an anachronism. Though people are still spending a lot of time in front of their screens, they’re devoting much less of it to viewing broadcast schedules. In 2006, internet use in Britain exceeded broadcasttelevision viewing for the first time; at the time of writing, Google’s UK advertising revenue has already overtaken that of the terrestrial commercial television channels. So content providers are increasingly integrating terrestrial transmission with satellite, cable, broadband and telephony.
And with print: the web-sites of newspapers are increasingly indistinguishable from those of broadcasters; which raises interesting questions for regulators in countries where, historically, the regulatory regimes for the two means of publishing are significantly different. For broadband distribution of similar content, which rules should apply? DVDs, video-on-demand, interactive channels and video games are all transforming the traditional viewing experience. PVR (‘every viewer his or her own scheduler’) enables the audience to by-pass commercial breaks, with major consequences for conventional advertising revenue. With the spread of broadband, the internet is becoming a distribution network on a scale inconceivable when its only access was by slow and expensive dial-up links.
Mobile reception is making significant inroads, suggesting that ‘place-shifting’ will be the next step-change beyond (now long-established) time-shifting: viewers will be able to watch their own television on a laptop or other device anywhere in the world via the internet. And the simplification – and the cheapness – of authoring equipment and software means that anyone can now shoot and edit their own material and blog and vlog it world-wide over the net. (You can already 11 buy an Apple PowerBook loaded with Final Cut Pro for less than ? 200. ) The use by the professional media of more and more so-called UGC (user-generated content), both on-screen and in print, suggests that the ‘citizen journalist’ is becoming a reality.
We’re seeing a democratisation of the airwaves – a major shift from a channelbased to a network-based world, from ‘push’ to ‘pull’ consumption. That doesn’t mean, of course, that ‘linear’ broadcasting will disappear; indeed, it’s likely to remain the principal content-source for very many people. But it will have to learn how to co-exist with many other competing outlets and to survive with much-reduced audiences. In the face of this revolution, what can conventional broadcasters with limited resources do? The answer is: stop being conventional. Even if many of the new opportunities are not realistic options for you, get rid of outmoded ideas, dismantle old-fashioned structures, abandon bureaucratic procedures and build in flexibility and fast-moving adaptability.
And even if (or, rather, especially if) you’re a publicly-funded outfit, learn the cost-saving lessons of successful commercial operations and apply them internally. Get competitive by optimising operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness. That or, I’m afraid, wave goodbye to your audience. You don’t actually need state-of-the-art technology to do this, though of course it’s nice to have. Nor do you need to have mastered the works of the latest management-speak gurus. What you do need is a different way of looking at things and the will to put that new thinking into practice. That’s what this manual is all about. 12 Broadcasters’ Media Management Manual Whats the Media Game? 2 What are the Media for? 13 I you’re a commercial broadcaster, the obvious answer is to earn money for your shareholders. But it’s not as simple as that. Even if you’re commercially-funded, you may well have public-service obligations written into the terms of your broadcasting licence. And even if you’re state-funded, you may have to supplement your income from public money by raising commercial revenue from advertising or other sources. There are now very few public-service broadcasters which are financed wholly and solely from public funds; the BBC, Japan’s NHK and ABC in Australia are the only major ones. The first two funded by a licence fee and the third by a government grant.
So, one way or another, you’re quite likely to be operating in a ‘mixed economy’. Where do you sit in that market? As the range of digital opportunities grows, the argument that the spectrum is a scarce resource requiring firm regulation becomes less sustainable (more on this in Chapter Three). So we’re likely to see commercial broadcasters acting more and more as dealers in a commodity and radio and television stations finding themselves free to adopt an engaged editorial line, as newspapers have done for decades. The first signs of these changes are already with us: Fox News is a strong example of the second, with an explicitly-declared political agenda; examples of the first can be found almost everywhere.
But, in news at least, it seems likely that ‘due impartiality’ will continue to be a requirement for broadcasters which are publicly-funded. Of course, most countries-in-transition aren’t there yet. How might their media position themselves? Let’s start from first principles. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 19 states: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information through any media and regardless of frontiers. Very many countries have signed up to this declaration. So in how many of them is Article 9 observed?
The answer is that only 20% of the world’s population live in such free-media societies. The ‘least free’ media environments are in Asia, where many governments see dissent and opposition as ‘not conducive to the general good’; in such countries We need to establish that free media are an essential element in civil society. That’s an idea which it’s still difficult to get past what we might call the ‘Ministry of Information mentality’. 1 Broadcasters’ Media Management Manual there’s a long way to go. But nor should western democracies feel complacent: in the 200 press-freedom league-table issued by Reporters Without Frontiers, while the Nordic nations led the field, Britain ranked 24th and the United States only 44th.
We need to establish that free media are an essential element in civil society. That’s an idea which it’s still difficult to get past what we might call ‘the Ministry of Information mentality’. While governments will rightly have their own press and public relations operations, we should maintain that it’s not right for them to control directly – still less to monopolise – national broadcasting institutions. Even where they’re publiclyfunded, broadcasters should be free to treat information from government agencies exactly as they would treat information from any other source (with one or two exceptions, like dealing with national emergencies or natural disasters, which are considered in Chapter Three).
Though western European nations haven’t, historically, been at all immune to the politicisation of broadcasting, the role of the media should nowhere be to act simply as a mouthpiece for the government of the day. Rather, their duty is disclosure in the public interest: the revealing of information and the holding to account of public institutions and individuals for their statements and actions. (Remember the old definition of news as ‘something that someone, somewhere, would rather you didn’t know’. ) It follows that public-service media should, overall, represent properly and fairly all voices in society. In particular, when a majority view has prevailed, they should be able to ensure that the views and interests of minorities are still safeguarded and find expression. Is this an utopian ideal? No – because it already exists in many countries.
And because the ‘Ministry of Information’ model is becoming, in practice, less credible and sustainable almost by the week. Here are just five examples: n In an East Asian country, the authorities are anxious to ensure that the internet isn’t used to spread ‘incorrect’ ideas – so they apply filters in order to police web traffic. But inventive bloggers have got round this by devices such as spelling ‘democracy’ – a trigger-word – with a zero instead of an o. Anyone can read and understand it but the computer doesn’t recognise it. This then becomes a cat-and-mouse game, with each side manoeuvring to keep one jump ahead of the other; information suppressed on one web-site also quickly pops up somewhere else. In an African country some years ago the government banned an issue of the major national newspaper which included an article critical of the authorities. This achieved little other than to make the government look foolish, because the article had already been published electronically and was available world-wide on the web. n In a country in the Caucasus, the state broadcaster made no mention for three days of a ferry disaster in which many had died. Meanwhile, everybody had heard about it on the grapevine and people were already demonstrating outside the ferry company’s headquarters, wanting to know what had happened to their relatives. (The demonstration wasn’t reported either. n In the Arabic-speaking world, some state broadcasters operate restrictive 1 regimes; but satellite broadcasting takes the independent voice of al-Jazeera to a television audience of many millions of their people in a common language. n In the former German Democratic Republic, long before satellite transmission was common, many television aerials in border areas were regularly swung towards the west to receive alternative sources of information and opinion. All this suggests that one of the best arguments for persuading politicians of the merits of free media is that imposing direct control doesn’t ultimately work. The sheer volume of web-traffic, for instance, will in the long term make it un-policeable.
There are already more than 7 million servers in the world and that number is growing by a million a month; the world-wide web has 3,000 billion pages and another 2,000 are added every hour. China has already given up trying to control the Wikipedia web-site. Even where governments are rigorous in suppressing free expression, the idea that by doing so they control the way people think is often illusory. In the Soviet era, the two major state media mouthpieces were Izvestia (The News) and Pravda (The Truth). Among the Russian people, a well-known joke was that v Pravdye nye izvestia; v Izvestiye nye pravda: ‘There’s no news in The Truth and no truth in The News’.
When people know that information is being suppressed or manipulated, they become contemptuous of the official media and find their own alternative sources and means of expression. And even when governments profess to act from the best of motives – maintaining national unity in the drive to development, for instance – the results can be counter- productive. The financial scandals of the 990s in South-east Asia showed how, far from protecting decent values, restrictive control of the media simply served to conceal massive corruption. If governments really want the media to be a tool for development, that should include being a tool for democracy.
It’s therefore important for media practitioners to persuade politicians and officials that, in the modern global context, they have more to gain than to lose by promoting media freedom. Before 980 the Kenyan government tended to view the institutions of civil society more as competitors than as partners in development. There was deep suspicion of any organisation with the potential for developing an independent power-base – which included the media. The government was able to ensure that the population was only partially-informed by discouraging the coverage of civil action organisations: equipment would be confiscated, publishers would be detained and vital advertising revenue would dry up for fear of offending the authorities.
But, as the country progressed from single-party rule to multi-party democracy, politicians began to accept that the state alone simply didn’t have the resources to deliver the development initiatives promised at independence. So the 989 Development Plan finally acknowledged that non-state bodies had a part to play alongside government and that the role of the media was crucial in promoting the wider public interest. The lesson is clear. If a government imposes direct control on the media, then civil society will indeed become a rival rather than a partner; and the more restrictive 1 Broadcasters’ Media Management Manual the control, the more opposition elements will seek to exploit alternative outlets for their political advantage.
Ultimately, governments are therefore better-served by public-service broadcasting which is firmly established outside the political arena. And, from the management point of view, it becomes increasingly difficult for a broadcaster to compete with rival outlets unless it has the credibility which comes from editorial independence. The experience of South Africa in 994 is perhaps the most positive recent example of a fundamental change in the government / media relationship. The South African Broadcasting Corporation, once an institution deployed explicitly in support of the nationalist government’s apartheid policies, was transformed into a force for democratic expression in which the broadcasters were given independent editorial responsibility.
As one observer commented: For the tens of thousands who stayed glued to their screens for Election 94, the image of non-racial, non-sexist harmony and goodwill that was beamed into their living-rooms held out more hope for South Africa than many of the parties could offer. In Thailand, privately-owned newspapers gave crucial support to democracy in the free elections of 99 and went on to bring public opinion to bear on making politicians accountable and endorsing the rule of law. In 1996 the first non-government television station began broadcasting, with an emphasis on news and documentary output. Radio became even more daring in giving a voice to alternative views – to the extent that even the state media began to change. Sadly, such freeing-up of the media can be short-lived.
In 1990, for the first time, two non-political appointments were made to the chairmanships of the state television and radio corporations of one central European country – and for two and a half years its broadcast media were actually among the most independent anywhere in Europe. It didn’t last: by 993 the government had won a ‘media war’ which removed their autonomy. It’s also ironical that, in the same country, some dissident publications which were actually tolerated in the later stages of communism have since been forced to close under the financial pressures of the new free-market economy. If the media lay claim to freedom of expression in the public interest, it follows that they must in turn conduct themselves ethically and responsibly if that reedom is to be justified (see Appendix A, Section 1). If they don’t, there will be many forces at large only too ready to take their freedoms away. It’s also important to persuade politicians that media coverage is most effective when it starts from the audience’s point of view, not from the establishment’s. I was once in an Asian country when the government announced a plan to ensure that all its children should be immunised against polio – a marvellous initiative which deserved universal recognition. So how did the state broadcaster deal with it? By covering a press conference at which the minister extolled his government’s (admirable, I repeat) enlightenment.
But what did the audience really need to know about the innovation? If you start from their point of view, you get quite a different order of priorities. What’s important to 1 them is: n The nature of the danger n What immunisation will do for your child n It’s universally available n It’s free n It’s safe n It’s painless (oral, not injection) n Here’s where to get it. The Americans have a good term for this kind of information: news you can use. Politicians (who often don’t really understand how the media work) can be slow to realise that it’s an approach which would win them more accolades among their people than any amount of PR posturing.
We practitioners need to work constantly to sell these messages. Whats the Media Game? 3 Media Legislation, Regulation & Governance 19 Media institutions Since the framework within which we work largely determines what we can and can’t achieve as managers, it’s worth considering the pros and cons of different systems. Designing a framework within which the media operate is a multi-layered process. Some elements will need to be specified in primary legislation; others may be delegated to an independent regulator with devolved statutory powers; media operators themselves will have their own internal codes of practice; and professional bodies may also endorse codes of ethics and standards.
One way or another, the framework needs to cover, essentially: n Media governance n The registration of media outlets n The licensing of media outlets (including licence fees) n The ownership of media outlets – particularly foreign- and cross-ownership n Licence award procedures n Licence compliance procedures n The regulation of media practice n Legal constraints on the disclosure of information be governed by regulatory codes which can be readily amended as circumstances change. An act of parliament, for instance, might establish the basic principle of observing acceptable standards of taste and decency but it’s the regulatory body’s code of practice which would interpret this broad intent in terms of the specific use of images, language or techniques. The regulator can then amend the rules in the light of experience without having to refer the matter back to government. Regulatory bodies
This principle of regulation at arm’s-length from government is also a safeguard against the media’s becoming a tool in the direct control of politicians: an aspect of the ‘separation of powers’ principle which is crucial in democracies. In Britain, politicians (of all parties) will from time to time fulminate against some perceived transgression by the BBC; but, historically, the minister responsible for broadcasting (again regardless of party) has always replied that the BBC is not a government agency, that he or she doesn’t exercise direct control over it and that the complainant should take the matter up with the BBC’s own (independent) Board of Governors. The Board of Governors has therefore acted as a ‘buffer’ between politicians and media practitioners: it has made the BBC a selfregulating body. In many parts of the world this is an alien concept.
While working with British colleagues in one country-in-transition, we were told unequivocally by a minister that, if he’d had his way, we’d never have been invited to give advice: ‘I’d have chosen Primary legislation The media scene is developing at an extraordinary pace. Any system therefore needs to be flexible enough to accommodate rapid change without the need for the constant revision of primary legislation. So instruments such as broadcasting acts should do no more than establish the institutions and embody fundamental principles; their detailed application should 20 Broadcasters’ Media Management Manual someone from South-east Asia, where they know how to make the media serve the government’s interests. I also remember talking with the Minister of Information in a West African country who was under pressure from his fellow politicians to ‘stop the media doing what they’re doing’. With remarkable enlightenment – and bravery – he was trying to wean his colleagues away from the expectation of media manipulation and towards a culture in which the government should expect to make its case to the people alongside alternative views. Sadly, he went in the next coup. A consultancy report on the state broadcaster in the same country showed how damaging political interference could be: Two factors are militating constantly against true professional independence: the formal relationship with the government and the limitations of resources, which are also funded by the government.
These are having profound distorting effects, both editorially and financially. The country’s FM radio service is already proving an attractive vehicle for advertisers and has the potential to mitigate some of the financial problems. But government interference means that the organisation is not in full control of its own airwaves and cannot therefore plan its schedule for maximum audience-effectiveness. So, if there is a political requirement to carry at length a live event like a party rally, there are consequences both for the editorial balance of the output and for revenueearning capacity. The regulatory system for commercial broadcasting is usually different from hat of the public services. In Britain, the government has delegated the overseeing of the industry to an independent regulatory institution – OFCOM, the Office for Communications, which governs the entire communications sector, including telephony and spectrum management (as does AGCOM in Italy) – with statutory powers to award broadcasting licences and to police the conduct of the operators. Again, regulation isn’t seen as a direct function of the state. But the British system is in the process of significant change. There has long been a view that it’s unacceptable for the Board of Governors both to govern the BBC and to sit in judgement on its performance.
The BBC has therefore already been made answerable to OFCOM for a number of regulatory issues and that list is growing; the BBC has since re-constituted its Board of Governors as a more independent Trust. Many voices in the industry see this as no more than a holding measure and the beginning of the end of the Board of Governors concept. There are arguments that there should now be a single common regulator for all broadcasting outlets, whether publicly-funded or commercial, so that everybody is obliged to work to the same standards and be held to account in the same way. This would require the internal role of the BBC Governors to be fulfilled by non-executive directors sitting on a single corporation board, as with any other enterprise.
That argument is becoming increasingly persuasive in a changing media world and this manual suggests that it offers a sound regulatory model which can be applied in most contexts. One of its advantages is that it can ensure equity of treatment for the three tiers of broadcasting – public, 21 commercial and community. (In South Africa, commercial and community broadcasters successfully lobbied the regulator to impose on the SABC detailed public-service obligations which would reduce what they saw as unfair competition on their territory. ) Registration and licensing There can be no real objection to the principle of registering media outlets: the requirement to register a newspaper, for instance, can hardly be described as an interference with the freedom of the press.
Indeed, it’s right that members of the public should be able to identify the owners and publishers of a newspaper – if only to know whom to sue if they think they’ve been mistreated in its pages. Registration is accepted pretty well universally. But it should be a right as well as a duty – not liable to refusal or withdrawal at the discretion of politicians or officials and not requiring periodic renewal. The licensing of newspapers is quite a different matter. Because it places the ultimate control of periodicals – and therefore of what they report and how they comment on it – in the hands of the licenser, it is indeed potentially a denial of press freedom.
The only real purpose I can see for granting such licences is to have the power to revoke them and so, under that threat, to keep the media compliant and subdued. Because there’s no finite spectrum for the publishing of printed matter (as there is with broadcasting), the argument for ‘rationing’ a scarce resource isn’t sustainable. In fact, in most democracies, the licensing of printingpresses disappeared two hundred years ago. But in countries like Malaysia and Singapore the right to print newspapers and periodicals is still granted only by government permit – and the permit may be withdrawn if the government doesn’t like what the media are printing. Broadcasting does present a different case.
We might say that a free press should be constrained only in the same way that a private citizen is constrained: by common laws governing issues such as libel, slander, contempt of court, trespass, copyright and so on. But the allocation of broadcasting frequencies is determined by international agreements among governments and it’s therefore not only reasonable but also essential for those governments to have mechanisms for controlling their domestic allocation. While, in principle, any citizen might have access to a printing-press, access to the airwaves still requires a ‘gatekeeper’. In a development context, the media have a vital role to play in educating the public, making people aware of their rights, encouraging participative democracy, exerting pressure for enlightened governance and exposing wrongdoing. 22
Broadcasters’ Media Management Manual Though, as we’ve seen, digital technology is making a vast multiplicity of outlets technically possible, many economies will be unable to sustain unregulated commercial competition on a very large scale – certainly if there is to be any concern for diversity, quality and public service. This has already been seen in some Balkan states, where political change was accompanied by a headlong rush to set up literally hundreds of commercial stations in countries with tiny populations and a very low GDP. Needless to say, the advertising market couldn’t support this volume of output and many of them didn’t last long.
On the commercial front, there are those who argue that’s fine: a free market should indeed be left to find its own level. Few countries-in-transition are likely to agree that such an approach will meet the real needs of their people – particularly of the poor. In a development context, the media have a vital role to play in educating the public, making people aware of their rights, encouraging participative democracy, exerting pressure for enlightened governance and exposing wrongdoing. The development of regulatory and licensing systems in some countries of the former Yugoslavia was also able to mitigate tendencies to use the airwaves to inflame ethnic hatred.
Universality, independence and diversity are key to this concept of public service. Indeed, a colloquium conducted by the New Delhi Centre for Media Studies concluded that: The official media, increasingly market- and consumer-orientated, are out of tune with the values needed to promote broadbased human development. Development communication is most effective when practised as part of social action locally, rather than delivered top-down by media professionals. And here’s another quote from a media conference: The country needs a non-profit information consortium which would provide the kind of information that society needs but which commercial broadcasting is not providing …..
The gaps which need to be filled are in education, public issues, culture, the arts and children’s programming. A contribution from a country in the developing world? No: in fact the views of an American delegate commenting on the media scene in the United States. (There’s more about how to ensure you’re really in tune with your audience in Chapters Six and Eight. ) A market-driven commercial sector alone is therefore, for quite understandable reasons, unlikely to meet all the needs of a society, whether rich or developing. So it’s right that there should be a system for awarding broadcasting licences and ensuring that any public-service requirements in the terms of the licence are delivered.
It should be clear that what’s being licensed is the provision of a specified service, not just the use of a specified frequency (though that service may, of course, be devoted entirely to sport or to entertainment, if that’s what you want; the classic definition of public-service broadcasting is, after all, that it should ‘inform, educate and entertain’). How should the licences be awarded? Not directly by a ministry, we should maintain, but by that independent regulatory body operating at arm’s-length from government. 23 In most contexts, a straightforward tendering system for granting licences will be perfectly appropriate; but the process must be open, transparent and representative of the public interest. It’s therefore also right that the terms of the licence should be properly demanding.
We should expect them to include at least: n Commercial ownership of the broadcasting organisation n Frequencies allocated n Transmission coverage to be achieved n Technical standards n Nature of the service and minimum hours of transmission by programme category n Minimum percentage of locally-produced programming n Minimum percentage of programming commissioned from independent producers (if relevant) n Maximum minutes of advertising material per hour n Compliance with the regulatory codes of practice n Mechanisms for dealing with complaints For multiple-channel distributors such as cable companies there may also be what’s known as a ‘must-carry’ requirement: that their ‘bundle’ of services must include certain specified channels.
This is usually applied to ensure that there’s a free-to-air public-service element in the total offering. programmes and its treatment – it should always be a non-governmental body which is responsible for monitoring and judging performance. So, in most cases, it will make sense to entrust both kinds of activity to the same independent body. It’s important too that, as well as dealing with compliance and the ethical responsibilities of the media, the regulatory body may be given a duty to protect their freedoms and to speak out when they come under threat, from whatever source. Independent regulatory bodies How should such a body be set up and the members of its governing board appointed?
Ultimately, even if indirectly, this is bound to be a function of government or, preferably, of some kind of cross-party mechanism. But there are ways of ensuring that the nominees are not just politicians’ cronies or political placemen. In some countries, vacancies on regulatory bodies have to be advertised and, in principle, anybody may apply and selection is overseen by an independent public appointments commission; that’s the UK’s system. In others, particular interest groups (industry, trade unions, religious bodies, arts organisations, the education sector and so on) may have the right to nominate candidates; that’s the case in Germany.
And South African law requires the members of its Independent Communications Authority to have ‘suitable qualifications, expertise and experience in the fields of, among others, broadcasting and telecommunications policy, engineering, technology, frequency band planning, law, marketing, journalism, entertainment, education, economics, business practice and finance’. Compliance with licence terms In ensuring compliance, it may be that the quantitative aspects of the licence terms (the elements which can be measured objectively and aren’t matters of judgement – such as transmitter coverage, hours broadcast, percentage of local programming and so on) could be ensured by a government agency. But in qualitative matters – the content of 2 Broadcasters’ Media Management Manual A tall order, you may think.
But even when the appointments have ultimately to be endorsed by a minister, such measures may at least ensure that the regulator is broadly representative of society in general. Under the South African system it is parliament, rather than the government, which oversees the appointments process. Appointments are also made on a rotating basis – so avoiding ‘clean-sweep’ change at politically sensitive times such as the run-up to elections – and the regulator’s independence is constitutionally assured; legislation limits ministerial powers to broad policy directives (which must be published) and excludes any government involvement in particular licensing decisions.
All of this challenges ‘the Ministry of Information mentality’. In other countries, even where the transplanting of patterns of parliamentary government and elections have established a formal framework of legitimacy – as in some South-east Asian countries – the habits and attitudes required for a healthy civic culture and true participatory democracy have often remained undeveloped. The regulatory body will, of course, also need a team of professional full-time staff to implement policy on the ground. They are likely to require regular reports and returns on quantitative compliance and may sample-monitor output or conduct spotchecks on qualitative matters, both editorial and technical.
And there will usually be an annual assessment meeting at which the broadcaster will be held to account for its overall performance. responsibility not only for awarding licences but also for ensuring compliance with their terms. Unless with this responsibility comes the power to impose sanctions on transgressors, the regulator will be a toothless creature. The government should therefore also delegate to the regulator the power of applying sanctions: for instance, to admonish broadcasters, to require them to broadcast corrections and / or apologies, to fine them, to suspend their licences – or even ultimately to revoke a licence altogether. (A commercial broadcaster in Britain was once cautioned for a breach of the productplacement rules.
A second flagrant violation of the code brought it a fine of ? 00,000. More recently, a broadcaster was fined more than ? 1 million for the fleecing of viewers during a phone-in competition. ) But the more extreme penalties should seldom, if ever, need to be invoked, if only because of the broadcasters’ instincts for self-preservation. The regulator will probably draw up more than one code with which broadcasters must comply if they’re to retain their licences. There’s likely to be, for instance, a technical code and a code governing advertising practice. But the most vital will be the programme or editorial code, which embodies the rules by which the station’s day-to-day output will be judged.
Provided that broadcasters have in place proper systems for ensuring compliance with the codes (such as the principle of ‘referring up’ – see page 82), they can be a powerful shield in the face of criticism, whether from governments or from other sources. Appendix A suggests how such a programme code might work. It’s not an example from any single source but a compilation and a distillation of sound principles from several Regulatory codes The regulatory body has devolved to it the 2 The regulatory body has devolved to it the responsibility not only for awarding licences but also for ensuring compliance with their terms. Unless with this responsibility comes the power to impose sanctions on transgressors, the regulator will be a toothless creature. contexts – both from regulatory instruments and from broadcasters’ own internal codes of practice.
Nor is it a formula for universal application: any such code must be drawn up with proper sensitivity to the culture of local society. But it’s not a bad summary of the kind of standards to which we should, as professionals, aspire. The acknowledgement of cultural differences is essential – and this isn’t an issue only between (as it’s often now presented) the Muslim and the nonMuslim world. Western nations too have their own taboos and nuances of acceptability. American programmes have often to be adapted for transmission in Britain because of what’s seen as excessively violent content; on the other hand, American audiences tend to have a rather more prudish attitude to sexuallyexplicit content than do Europeans.
In its coverage of a terrorist bomb incident, Italian television felt able to show much more horrific illustration of the carnage than did British television – though both had access to exactly the same footage. At an educational television conference (admittedly some years ago now), the Danish delegation showed a teenage sexeducation programme which addressed menstruation in a frank and open way. The broadcasters from Southern Europe, including Bavaria – and also, interestingly, those from Israel – said at the time that it would be impossible for them to transmit such a programme to schools. Repeatedly, the model code emphasises the need to protect children from inappropriate, manipulative or potentially corrupting material.
Some regulators aim to achieve this by imposing a mandatory ‘watershed’ in the schedule – a time (usually around 2:00) before which all broadcast material should be suitable for family viewing and listening but after which more ‘adult’ treatments are acceptable. Such a watershed is likely to be variable at times of rapid social change. Some would argue that, in the video age, it’s also become unrealistic. Many primary school teachers can tell horror-stories of how even very young children have been able to view at home material they would never be allowed to see in a cinema. Again, this is a matter which has to be resolved within the local context, with on-air warnings where appropriate. Editorial freedom and disclosure Day-to-day editorial management is covered Broadcasters’ Media Management Manual in Chapter Eight. But there are two aspects with legal implications which we should consider here. The first is the disclosure by the media of ostensibly confidential information which they acquire through leaks. The model code in Appendix A makes it quite clear that leaking is generally done not by the media but to the media, often by politicians themselves (or by companies, or whatever) or by their representatives. Any entity with a vested interest may quite sensibly want to keep some of the information it possesses under wraps and to invoke sanctions against employees who leak it. But maintaining that ecurity is their responsibility, not the media’s. If such information should come the way of the media, it’s their role in civil society to disclose it for public consideration in the public interest (think of Watergate). This principle was well put by one of the most famous editors of The Times, John Thaddeus Delane, as long ago as 82: The first duty of the Press is to obtain the earliest and most correct intelligence of the events of the time and instantly, by disclosing them, make them the common property of the nation ….. The Press lives by disclosures; whatever passes into its keeping becomes a part of the knowledge and history of our times.
In countries with strong freedomof-information laws, such as the Scandinavian countries, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, this principle is clear and explicit and is a significant enabler of investigative journalism. On the other hand, a law such as Britain’s Official Secrets Act of 1914 (passed as a panic measure, with little debate, in the run-up to the First World War) made even the possession of restricted official information a criminal offence. Effectively, it allowed a journalist to be imprisoned simply for doing his or her job. That’s not, we should maintain, an appropriate use of the criminal law. The second issue is the protection of sources. In some countries (in Sweden, for example) media practitioners are protected by law from being compelled to reveal the sources of their information.
But almost everywhere, even without such legal protection, they accept a moral and professional obligation not to disclose a source when they’ve given their word not to do so. Journalists have gone to prison rather than betray this confidentiality: in 2005 in the United States a federal judge jailed Judith Miller for refusing to confirm the source of leaked information in the Plame case; in 2006 Lance Williams and Mark FainaruWada were sentenced to 8 months for contempt of court for a similar refusal in a case involving alleged drug-taking by professional athletes. Without that assurance – and the confidence that it will be honoured – much journalism in the public interest would be impossible.
Lord Denning, when he was Britain’s most senior appeal-court judge, put it like this: If the press were compelled to disclose their sources they would soon be bereft of information which they ought to have. Their sources would dry up. Wrongdoing would not be disclosed ….. Unfairness would go unremedied ….. Misdeeds in the corridors of power – in companies or in government departments – would never be known. 2 (Please note that these are the words of a senior member of the judicial establishment, not of some wild-eyed, gung-ho media revolutionary. ) The case-history on page 37 gives an example (from India) in which investigative journalism discovered serious criminal activity, exposed it in the public interest, enabled the criminals to be brought to justice and initiated significant improvements in health-safety practices. Media ownership
The media are an industry and media development is a global phenomenon. Driven by technology and the market, media industries are everywhere proliferating, fragmenting, combining and diversifying. No country can insulate itself completely from these trends. And, indeed, foreign ownership can bring important inward investment to the country, in the media as in other fields. In some countries it may also provide some guarantee of media freedom. There can clearly be no universal formula for what degree of foreign ownership is acceptable or desirable but any limitation should certainly be included in the terms of the licence; 15% to 20% is a common figure.
The terms should also ensure that foreign ownership should not traduce the interests, culture and heritage of the host country. More than one government has sold off the seed-corn of its frequency spectrum to foreign providers, only to see the local audience sold short. When television was first launched in Fiji, the government granted the New Zealand company TVNZ a monopoly for twelve years of its only terrestrial channel. In a small developing country, the broadcaster’s rigorously commercial plan was, unsurprisingly, based on low capital investment, minimum operating expenditure and a high level of low-cost imported programming from Australia and New Zealand.
Locallyproduced programming accounted for only 0% of the output and there was no adaptation even of international commercials for local audiences. There was nothing at all underhand in any of this: it was all clearly spelt out in the business plan which the government accepted, But local dissatisfaction with the service lasted for many years. Cross-media ownership is another matter. It would self-evidently be unhealthy for democratic pluralism if a single provider were to own, say, all the major newspapers and all the radio and television outlets in any country. Restrictions on such crossownership are clearly in the public interest and should be part of the terms of the licence; again, 20% is a common limitation.
Indeed, there’s a good case for setting the permitted levels in the primary legislation. The funding of broadcasting This is another area in which the tectonic plates are shifting. Public-service broadcasting is generally funded through a statutory levy on households equipped to receive its transmissions. There are many ways of collecting this fee. In Britain, viewers have to purchase a licence by mail, at a post-office or on-line. They may pay it by instalments; but, if they own or rent a television set, they must have a licence even if they never watch the public-service channels it funds (the publicly-funded radio services are free). Not to pay is actually a criminal, not a civil, 2 Broadcasters’ Media Management Manual ffence. The licence fee is thus effectively a regressive poll-tax – though one to which, historically, there’s been little public resistance. That may soon change. Other countries use different methods of collection: in France it’s now added to the annual bill for local property taxes; in Macedonia it’s an addition to the monthly electricity bill. In other countries, as in Australia, it comes in the form of a government grant paid for through general taxation. In most countries public-service broadcasters are now subject to hybrid funding, whereby a proportion of their income comes from public sources but much of it has to be raised commercially.
Hybrid funding can lead to tensions between public and purely commercial broadcasters when it leads the former to chase ratings and revenue at the latter’s expense: allegations of unfairly-subsidised competition and a dilution of the public-service mission are very common. In the United States, the stations of the Public Service Broadcasting channel supplement their core income by seeking, through energetic on-air campaigns, free-will donations from the people of the communities they serve. Commercial broadcasting has a wider range of funding options. Historically, the most common source has been advertising revenue, derived from selling air-time for commercials in slots between and during programmes across the schedule.
The proliferation of outlets is inevitably diluting this as a source of income. And, as technology enables viewers to ‘skip’ the commercials if they want to, it provides a less and less secure income stream. Another source is sponsorship, when an organisation pays to have its product or identity associated with a programme or with a broadcast event. Sponsorship too is going through a process of change. Whereas, in the past, it was regarded almost as the equivalent of a donation, it’s now much more aggressively brand-orientated. In the future, as the market fragments, it’s likely to shift its emphasis even more closely to the individual consumer.
An area of some controversy is product placement when, rather than buying advertising air-time, an advertiser pays to have the product included prominently within the editorial content of a programme; it’s long been an accepted practice in feature films. For years, ‘undue prominence’ of this kind has been prohibited by broadcasting regulators (and by self-regulating public-service broadcasters); but the new ability of viewers to evade the commercial breaks is making such placement an attractive alternative – and probably unstoppable, at least within fictional and entertainment formats. It should, however, have no place in news and current affairs programmes, where it would clearly jeopardise editorial independence. Then there is subscription, where a viewer or listener pays a monthly fee for access to a specified ‘bundle’ of channels which are otherwise encrypted and so unobtainable.
An alternative (or a supplement) is pay-perview, whereby the consumer accesses and pays for only the individual programmes he or she wants; this can also be used for video-on-demand services. And then there is the internet, initially used by broadcasters only as a supplementary service to their main channels but now increasingly a production and distribution medium in its 29 own right. As with newspaper web-sites, most internet broadcasting is still free to the consumer, as it’s seen as a spin-off from the core business – even if it costs the supplier a great deal of money. At present most providers mitigate those costs by selling advertising on the website but we may well see new kinds of subscription and pay-per-view extended to these services too.
Nor should we forget the programmes themselves as sources of funding. Through co-production, several broadcasters may contribute to the production budget in return for the right to transmit the result. It gives the participants access to formats and scales of production they couldn’t individually afford. Programme sales of completed productions to other broadcasters can also provide a significant revenue stream for high-volume producers and there may also be a market for retail sales to the public of cassettes or DVDs. The use of premium telephone lines in audience-participation formats such as phone-ins can generate a useful supplement to mainstream income, as can SMS messaging.
Small local stations may also compete – or even collaborate – with the local press in classified advertising (‘small-ads. ’). Where programmes – particularly longrunning series – attract large audiences, merchandising can be a significant revenue-earner. Apart from recordings of the programmes themselves, spin-off products such as tie-in books, toys and games can thrive on the publicity generated by the original broadcasts. Branded products promoting the identity of a broadcaster or a channel can also increase consumer awareness, particularly if they are distributed as part of a presence at public events. The governance of media organisations
If we assume a single, common regulatory body for all broadcasting (see page 20), there’s no reason why public-service and commercial broadcasters shouldn’t also adopt a common kind of corporate structure, based on normal company practice. This requires that there should be a board of directors and an executive (or board of management). A public-service broadcaster will usually operate under some form of charter and licence; a commercial company will have its own memorandum and articles of association within which the board must operate. The directors effectively constitute the company and are legally responsible for its conduct. They approve its strategy, assure its financial viability, oversee the work of the executive and are answerable to stakeholders for the company’s performance; but their role is essentially to set policy, not to micro-manage the operation.
In the case of a commercial company, their prime responsibility is to the shareholders who have funded the company and who expect a return on their investment; in the case of a public-service operator, it’s to th
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