Creating a healthy media: what the Public Service Broadcasting Forum taught us

openDemocracy's Public Service Broadcasting Forum of 2010 yielded diverse views on the future direction of British broadcasting. The challenge, in light of Leveson, is to find a positive, participatory definition of the way our media should function.

Daniel MacArthur-Seal
23 May 2012

The Leveson inquiry has brought much welcome attention to the practices of the press and their relationship with politicians, with more to come. Since the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone hit the front pages, public and media attention has finally been drawn to a subject too long confined to a narrow group of media men, consultants, and academics.

There is, however, a danger that a more closed process, equally if not more likely to transform the media landscape, will lose the attention it deserves. That is the transformation of the BBC, which continues on a course charted not by the feigned public consultation of the Strategy Review, but by the executive and Trust’s own private dialogue with ministers.

In 2010, before the subject of media reform was quite so fashionable, openDemocracy attempted to shine some light on this process, as well as pose some solutions to the challenges the public service media, foremost the BBC, was contending. Through the Public Service Broadcasting Forum which I edited, openDemocracy brought together some of the more interesting said media people, consultants and academics to discuss possible changes to the BBC in the provision of public service media.

After several months of written debate, a summary of which can be found here, a conference was convened in partnership with City University’s department of journalism, with sessions on the BBC, other broadcast public service media, and online opportunities.

With Leveson, the focus is on creating and enforcing a regulatory system that prevents and remedies media malpractice. There is a need, however, for more than this negative definition of how the media can serve the public interest. Given its history, resources, and status, the BBC will remain the key contributor of public service content even as it undergoes change and faces competition. It is vital that its role is not overlooked in the deliberations on how to create a healthy media which is conducive and not corrosive to our democracy.

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