Back to Stories

EBU Legal and Public Affairs Assembly reflects on digital transformation of PSM

14 October 2016
EBU Legal and Public Affairs Assembly reflects on digital transformation of PSM

The role of big data in informing citizens and providing recommendations came in sharp focus during the 12th EBU Legal and Public Affairs Assembly.

Max Schrems, a well-known data protection advocate following his successful challenge against Facebook’s privacy policy, joined a panel discussion moderated by EBU Senior Legal Counsel Anne-Catherine Berg, covering the EU-US data protection Shield and the development of data usage principles which reflect public service values and respect user privacy.

Schrems highlighted that the Privacy Shield is an improvement compared to its predecessor Safe Harbor. However, it also includes data protection loopholes that need to be addressed.

In his opinion, the Privacy Shield will not work on the long run but from a practical perspective, there is currently no way around the fact that transatlantic data flows often fail to respect European laws. Stressing that US mass surveillance methods violate the fundamental rights of EU citizens, he said that Europe must ensure that transatlantic data flows do not infringe such fundamental rights.

As discussion moved on towards the possibility of using data with high ethical standards, Schrems urged Public Service Media (PSM) to ‘bring everyone together’ to counter the ‘echo chambers’ of social networks, which all too often fail to offer users pluralistic viewpoints.

RTBF Big Data Manager Pierre-Nicolas Schwab  argued that it is necessary to develop an approach to recommendation systems which integrates the values and remits of PSM in algorithms. The aim is to enable audiences to discover new content, broaden their horizons and break out of filter bubbles, which are behind a ‘trend towards mediocrity’. This is one of the priorities for the EBU’s Big data Initiative which addresses such issues both from a legal and technical perspective.

ZDF policy expert Pascal Albrechtkirchinger meanwhile pointed at the potential dangers of placing data flow liberalization to conclude major trade agreements like TTIP and TiSA above the protection of citizens’ fundamental rights.

France Télévisions Secretray General Francis Donnat captured the mood for the day in a keynote speech in which he urged PSM to change mentality and be brave by embracing the necessary transformations.  After presenting recent media market developments and the success factors of online platforms like Google or Facebook, he argued that PSM should remain distinctive to remain competitive.

Donnat said: “The Times are a changin’: we need to move from mass media to precision media. And we must find the right balance between our editorial approach, our public values and algorithmic recommendations.”

The ethical and societal challenges of algorithms and be addressed in depth during the EBU Big Data Initiative workshop taking place in Brussels on 12-13 December, which will notably offer participants a platform to reflect on how to translate public service values into an alternative approach to big data.


Panel Group 3-1.jpg

From left to right: Jérôme Cathala (France Télévisions), Francis Donnat (France Télévisions), Guillaume Klossa (EBU), Max Schrems, Anne-catherine Berg (EBU), Pierre-Nicolas Schwab (RTBF), Pascal Albrechtkirchinger (ZDF), Jenny Weinand (EBU)

Relevant links and documents

Relevant Links


Big Data Week : Insights Report (June 2016)