BLOG published on 06 Feb 2019

The unique role of public service media

Tony Hall (left) and Delphine Ernotte Cunci (right) with DG Noel Curran

Our President Tony Hall and Vice President Delphine Ernotte Cunci discuss the value and importance of public service media across Europe as they take up their new roles.

We are immensely proud to be taking on the Presidency of the EBU. It brings together 117 public service media organizations from 56 countries which, individually and collectively, make an enormous contribution to European society, democracy and culture.

Public service media organizations are unique in today’s media landscape. We alone make decisions purely in the interests of audiences, free of commercial or financial imperatives. It is a role that has become increasingly important and necessary in today’s fast-changing world.

Firstly, public service media organizations have a unique ability and responsibility to reflect our cultures. We know all audiences want to be able to watch big new shows from across the world, but we also know that they want to see their own lives reflected on air and on screen. They want programmes that respond to some of the most important issues currently facing their communities and their societies.

It is therefore vital not to confuse choice with diversity. There may be more and more content on offer to audiences, but less and less of it is truly independent and relevant to their lives and the societies they live in.

In Europe alone, public service media organizations invest over Eur 18 billion in local content every year. More than 80 per cent of that is spent on original productions. And we know that, where public service media funding is frozen or goes down, other investment does not fill the gap.

This is not just invaluable for our local creative industries, in terms of supporting home-grown ideas and talent. It is also essential in helping to shape our cultures and define our national identities.

Secondly, public service media has a vital role to play in bringing people together. Last year, the BBC published a worldwide poll that showed that more than three quarters of people believe their country is divided, and most believe that those divisions are getting worse. The reality is that, for many of us, our societies feel more fragmented than at any time in living memory.

This makes the universal mission of public service media even more important and relevant. It is part of our duty to reach everyone, reflect all voices, and help communities understand themselves and each other. That’s why EBU Members provide services in over 160 languages; have more than 260 services dedicated to linguistic, ethnic, or religious minorities; and 226 services for children or young citizens.

Thirdly, public service media is an essential beacon of trust in a ‘fake news’ world. Audiences today have access to more sources of news and information than ever, but the irony is that it has become far harder for them to find news and information they know they can trust.

This matters because democracies depend on it. A democracy that cannot rely on access to the truth is a democracy undermined. This is why the fundamental principles of accuracy and independence that define public service media have become increasingly valuable. Our role in standing up for accuracy in news and tirelessly seeking out truth has never been more needed.

Of course, all public service media organizations face real challenges in today’s landscape. The pressures on the sector are intense, whether competitive, financial, or political. But we believe the growing importance of what public service media organizations uniquely offer in today’s world also represents a major opportunity.  

Together with all EBU Members, we are determined to champion the value and importance of public service media across Europe at a crucial time. That includes standing up for what we need to thrive for the benefit of all audiences in the future.

A broad and up-to-date remit, so that we can continue to reach everyone with our mission – including online. A level playing field when it comes to regulation, so that we can continue to innovate and compete. Adequate and stable funding, so we can safeguard our independence and secure our future.

Above all, we are determined to make the most of this moment of opportunity by forging a new era of collaboration. We believe that all those who share the principles of public service media must now work together more closely than ever before, and ensure that all audiences can continue to have real and meaningful choice in a transformed media world.


Written by

Tony Hall (President)
Director-General (BBC/United Kingdom)

Delphine Ernotte Cunci (Vice President)
Chief Executive Officer (France Télévisions/France)