A group of media experts, under the banner of The Public Service Media and Public Service Internet Manifesto, have declared that: “The Internet and the media landscape are broken”.
In a move that runs counter to the often-heard populist calls for the BBC and other public service media to be defunded, the manifesto demands the safeguarding of the existence, independence and funding of such organisations, warning that “the dominant commercial Internet platforms endanger democracy…As currently organised, the Internet separates and divides instead of creating common spaces for negotiating difference and disagreement.”
The manifesto is the creation of a 200-strong group of international media experts, who engaged over several months in an online discussion and collaboration process utilising the ecomitee.com platform. It is part of the research network ‘Innovation in Public Service Media Policies’ (InnoPSM), funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Council, led by Dr Alessandro D’Arma from the University of Westminster and Dr Minna Horowitz from the University of Helsinki.
Professor Christian Fuchs, Director of the Communication and Media Research Institute at the University of Westminster and a co-initiator, explains that the group believes that democracy requires Public Service Media and a Public Service Internet. “The digital giants such as Facebook, YouTube/Google, Netflix, and Amazon dominate the Internet. The results have been monopolies, dataveillance, algorithmic politics, digital populism, the Internet as huge shopping mall, filter bubbles, fake news, post-truth culture, and a lack of debate,” he says.
The solution, the manifesto argues, is the creation of a Public Service Internet so that Public Service Media are enabled and properly resourced to be able to provide online platforms that have a not-for-profit imperative and the digital remit to advance information, news, debate, democracy, education, entertainment, participation, and creativity with the help of the Internet.
“Public communication is more than business,” asserts Dr Klaus Unterberger, Head of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation’s Public Value Department. “It’s a public purpose. The global pandemic, accelerating climate change and increasing social inequalities have demonstrated the urgency of accountable and reliable news beyond fake news and polarisation. We need a new Internet that provides a public sphere for citizens, not just for consumers. The existing infrastructure of Public Service Media must play a vital role in creating an alternative to the dominance of data companies. There are new opportunities for strengthening the public sphere and democracy. This is why we call for action.”
In the coming months, the Manifesto will go global and ask supporters to sign it. There will be several activities and events addressing media and communications policy makers, Public Service Media, civil society, and the public in order to create a broad coalition for the creation of a Public Service Internet.