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Interview: Ingrid Deltenre
Public Value as a benchmark for Public Service Media
Quality media and quality journalism are currently under considerable pressure: due to political influence of governments, restrictive austerity measures and the ongoing digital transformation, among other things. How do you assess the current situation when it comes to the most important social and democratically relevant challenges related to media quality?
In Central European democracies such as Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France, and also in Scandinavia or the UK, the main threat to quality media stems from themselves. Because they often believe they have to compete with superficial online and other free media in terms of speed, dramatization and personalization. That’s wrong! They must remember their fundamental values: Credibility, integrity, competence, and independence. These values make up their accountability – and this is the relevant currency – especially today in times of fake news. For only if users receive credible and relevant information will they be willing to pay for it, regardless of the distribution channel through which they use the content. Can Public Service Media quality be defined and evaluated at all? If so, which demands, or quality criteria are important for this?
The quality of public – as well as other – media can be measured by asking their audience. On the one hand, this is about assessing the credibility of a medium. On the other hand, it is about evaluating its relevance to important socio-political issues. In other words: Is the voice of the Public Service Media in question heard, and do people believe what this media says … and shows. Public Service Media are always required to be distinguishable and distinctive from commercial media. How could one recognize the “distinctive quality” of Public Service Media?
A general distinction between public and private commercial media is difficult, because there are also many private commercial media that meet the same quality standards as public media, especially in the print sector. But for Public Service Media it is a must that they have a “Public Value” – a benefit for the public. For commercial media, on the other hand, even if they are characterized by very high quality, the benefit for society is not an imperative.
Why is quality assurance important for Public Service Media?
Without quality assurance, Public Service Media has no right to exist. Because only the highest possible quality – and their relevance to the topics – make them indispensable to the society they serve. Digital transformation and artificial intelligence are current challenges for all media.
Does this result in new quality criteria? Does this require a European, international perspective and dimension (especially for Public Service Media)?
Digital transformation and artificial intelligence are not the goal, but a means to an end. In relation to Public Service Media, this means: How do we have to adapt so that we make the best possible use of the technical possibilities and of artificial intelligence to be able to satisfy the needs of our audience even better – for relevant and credible information, regardless of the distribution channel. It is worth looking beyond the country’s borders, because one can learn from other Public Service Media.
You have extensive experience and competence in questions of Public
Service Media quality. How do you assess the ORF Quality Assurance System in international comparison?
ORF’s radio and television production enjoy a very good reputation among their audience – more precisely: their audiences. That is not by chance. It is due to a constant striving to keep improving its own quality. This requires a comprehensive Quality Assurance System. The ORF’s Quality Assurance System is one of the best in Europe in the field of public broadcasters. ORF has every right to be proud of this.
Ingrid Deltenre is an internationally recognized media expert,
she was director of Publisuisse and Swiss Television. From 2010 to 2017, she was Director General of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).