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Public Value Study
Annual Public Value Studies are an important component of ORF's Quality Assurance System because they address problems and challenges that are still unresolved for Public Service Media. The studies provide a glimpse into the future of public
service broadcasting, explore untapped potential, and are thus intended to facilitate a sophisticated quality media discourse. Based on scientific analyses, the researchers make recommendations for action - both to the public broadcasters, who use the studies as a practical basis for their programming work, and to legislators and regulatory authorities.
In recent years in particular, Public Value Studies have often been interdisciplinary
and international in scope. Cooperation with other European public broadcasters and the European umbrella organization of Public Service Media (EBU) has proven its worth, as questions such as those concerning digital transformation ("Digital Transformation: From Broadcaster to Quality Network," 2020), increasing news avoidance ("Information Deprivation & News-Avoiding," 2019) or trust in Public Service Media ("Values and Trust," 2021) concern not only ORF but also other public broadcasters. The first study commissioned by ORF was entitled "Why migrants currently make little or no use of ORF programming in the areas of television, radio and online - and what innovations and measures can be used to appeal to them
more" (2007). During the study, Fritz Hausjell (University of Vienna), a journalism
and communications scientist, was able to show that migrants do not feel
that they are a "natural part" of Austrian society in most media. For this reason,
they would often turn to media from their countries of origin or specific media
offerings for migrants. The interviewees were working on developing some
formats where they would feel addressed if they were to exist on ORF. The
participants interviewed for the study also highlighted a lack of representation
of migrants among ORF staff. Hausjell suggested that the ORF should not only
focus more on migration in its content, but also show clear signs of openness
to migrant job applicants. If the editorial offices become more diverse, this will
also apply to the content.
The quantitative study "The Economic Effects of ORF Television" (2012)
by Mathias Firgo (WIFO), Oliver Fritz (WIFO) and Gerhard Streicher (Joanneum
Research) was able to show that ORF makes a significant contribution to
macroeconomic and regional value creation through its activities as a major
business enterprise. ORF's current expenditures and investments multiply
the value-added activities of other sectors of the Austrian economy. Among
other things, this showed that each euro of gross value added generated in
ORF's television operations in the form of wages, salaries and depreciation and
amortization contributed a total of EUR 3.20 to the overall gross value added
in the economy at that time. For every person employed in ORF television, there
are a total of five employees in other areas of the Austrian economy. Overall, ORF generated around EUR 1.8 billion in total economic production value in
2012. The results underpin the contribution of public television to Austria's
After the 2012 study dealt with the economic significance of ORF, Katharine
Sarikakis (University of Vienna) addressed the question of ORF television's
contribution to the intellectual value creation of Austrian society in their
study (2013). She defined three areas through which ORF contributes to this
intellectual value creation: In its preservation of cultural diversity and identity,
and in its innovative creativity. Based on scientific literature and empirical
case studies, the author noted the status quo and addressed some specific
recommendations for action to the company and legislators. Intellectual value
creation in culture is most effectively realized, they said, by making everyday
culture as much a subject of programmes as high culture. According to the
recommendation, the ORF's work in this area should be accessible on all significant
platforms (TV, radio, online) to reach all social classes and generation
groups and to consolidate the relevance of the ORF in the long term. The scientists
consider the support of the state and the regulatory authorities to be
indispensable in achieving these goals. For the area of identity, it is central
for ORF to consider the fact of demographic change as well as the growing
cultural diversity of Austrian society when producing its content. In addition,
the author recommends a programme focus on European topics and making
ORF's own reputation visible within the European public institutions and the
European Broadcasting Union (EBU). Finally, it is relevant to continue to fulfill
its own integrative function, for example by including people with special needs.
In the area of social innovation, the authors suggested producing entertainment
programs that give audiences critical access to their own social world.
Here the author emphasizes the important role of legislation and regulatory
authorities, which should provide ORF with additional resources to develop
such formats, especially for young people.
A study from 2016 deals with young people and their living environment.
The Public Value Competence Center was concerned at the time that people
kept talking about "young people" without really knowing who they were. The
study "Generation What? - The Online Experiment" set out to change this. As
part of a large-scale online survey, the study aimed to clarify, among other
things: How do young people see and define themselves? The online survey
contained a total of 149 questions, in which around one million young people
from 35 countries took part. In addition to a comprehensive data set of information
on the self-image of Europe's youth, a European public sphere was
created through the project. Public Service Media provided the platforms and
subjected the responses to the open online survey to scientific evaluation in
cooperation with social science institutes. Even if the results are not representative
of all young Europeans, i. e., cannot be generalized, they do paint a
comprehensive picture of young people living in Europe.
The study "Digital Transformation: From Broadcaster to Quality Network"
(2020) is particularly relevant for reaching young people. In his article "From
Public Service Broadcasting to Digital Platform: The Role of Artificial Intelligence,"
Reinhard Christl looks at the significance of the use of artificial intelligence (AI) for PSM. Although there was a great deal of scepticism about the use of AI for a long time, this is increasingly giving way to the realization that artificial intelligence - if used correctly - holds more opportunities than risks. The author believes that AI will radically change the media industry, precisely because the technologies are becoming increasingly available and cheaper. That's why it's crucial to develop a strategy for dealing with it. Christl sees artificial intelligence as a valuable tool that can support editorial teams in their work. Traditional journalistic values and quality standards must be combined with the new digital possibilities - in this way, public broadcasting can not only present a competitive alternative to platforms such as YouTube, Netflix, Disney or Amazon, but "a more transparent, intelligent and quality alternative to them".
In the same study, Uwe Hasebrink, Jan-Hinrik Schmidt and Stephan Dreyer of
the Hans Bredow Institute also wrote a paper entitled "Algorithmic Recommendations of Public Service Media Providers". Among other things, they discuss processes by which PSM providers communicate the content they produce
and acquire to an audience. This includes, among other things, the perception
of content, the arousal of interest and convenient use. While these mediation
structures were long characterized by linear use - at a specific time, on a specific
channel - an increasing change in usage behavior is becoming apparent
because of an ongoing digital transformation. The guiding paradigm is now
rather to make audiovisual content available ideally at any time and place.
This development has led to algorithmic recommendation systems gaining
relevance. On the basis of comprehensive databases and with the help of artificial
intelligence, very specific, i. e., personalized recommendations can thus
be made today. In addition to concerns about the centralization and monopolization
of many areas of the digital public sphere, the question of the social
consequences of these algorithmic recommendations is also raised time and
again. In addressing the consequences of these systems for public broadcasters,
the authors conclude that their use makes sense in principle and can be
justified, but that it would depend on the specific design. For example, Hasebrink,
Schmidt and Dreyer argue that diversity, as a central good of democratic
broadcasting systems, must also be a primary criterion for the discoverability
of content. They also argue that public media providers must establish best
practice standards, especially regarding the explicability and verifiability of
the systems, and especially in contrast to the often-impenetrable algorithms
of private providers. This is the only way to gain the trust and acceptance of
users. Of course, the use of these algorithms in the digital world is particularly
relevant if this online area can also be used accordingly.
In 2023 the Public Value Study focuses on "Entertainment in the digital age",
analyzing current challenges for PSM's entertainment production.
All Public Value Studies are published and available on zukunft.ORF.at.