VIEW Journal Call for Papers on "Public Service Broadcasting In The Digital Age"

This special issue proposes a reexamination of public service broadcasting (PSB) in the light of the most recent technological, political and economic developments. Traditional public service broadcasters, ideally designed to serve citizens rather than consumers to inform the national conversations in well-informed democracies, face the double challenge of commercialization (since the 1980s) and digitization (since the 1990s). The question of their survival in this context has been posed again and again. The need for a redefinition seems inevitable.

However, the theme of the crisis of PSB is already forty years old. From the 1980s its “decline,” “fall,” and “survival” have been endlessly discussed. Yet this crisis may seem more acute today, as it is also a crisis of general interest channels (commercial as well): PSBs face not only their longstanding commercial competitors and cable, but increasingly web-based platforms as well. From a political point of view budget cuts and political interventions are on the agenda. Production processes are transitioning more rapidly than ever. The foundation of the traditional public service concept indeed might be crumbling. Public service ideals must be redefined, and so must be the agents which can best serve them, and their mode of financing and relation to the state. Such platforms are increasingly transmedia, and the word “broadcasting” in PSB is now no less problematic than “public service”.

Histories of PSB are usually organized around the BBC as the early, inspirational model: the three missions: “Inform, educate and entertain” (1926), the license fee, and the historical, inspiring leader (John Reith). Indeed, Western European PSB after World War II have all defined themselves in relation to the BBC. However, the BBC is but one case among many of a state wondering how best to organize, regulate, tax, censor, govern, repress, or encourage various new communications media (starting with radio, which provided the terms of reference for television). These designs in practice would come to reflect different political systems (communist, fascist, capitalist) and other factors, including geography, economic status, and linguistic and cultural traditions.

That said, PSB as a whole is reorganizing its structures and re-inventing its content. New ways to reach audiences are being explored. New definitions of PSB are being put forward. PSB is looking ahead to survive. Authors are encouraged to submit pieces that address this transition. The following questions are central to this issue:

  • Can the conservation and the diffusion of archives be a new central mission of PSB? Could the future of PSB lie in the past? (Bill Thompson (BBC) has recently redefined the BBC as a huge archive with some broadcasting activity, while a former chair of Arte wrote that the channel’s documentary activity was as much about providing an archive for the future than about broadcasting for the present).
  • Can the first mission of Reith’s tryptich, information, remain central? The recent debate of fake news seems to be but the latest chapter in a long history of threats to “quality information”, almost from the start of journalism: commercialisation, sensationalism, infotainment, talk shows. Can the crisis around “fake news” be exploited to rejuvenate public service broadcasting or platform as guarantor of quality news? Are certain categories of journalism more appropriate for public service (e.g. investigative journalism, citizen journalism)?
  • Which new platforms and/or new organizations can be seen as best “serving the public”, regardless of their link to the state? How should traditional PSBroadcasters be present on the web? Should television no longer be considered as central to PSB? Should news website (still based on verbal language), and even the resisting still play a major part as public service media?
  • How should public service organizations respond to increased audience participation? Should they seek young audiences in a proactive way, while traditional broadcasters have seen their audiences get older?
    What is the relevance of public service traditional institutions/resilient ideals, at a time where liberal democracy is threatened by the rise of populism and nationalism?
  • Why have academics written about PSB mostly in a positive, supportive way? Should PSB be considered still as an ideal originating in Western (Northern) Europe, while recent histories of the developing and former socialist world have shown us that other countries have relied on PSB especially for popular, national education, much like Western European broadcasters?
  • What is the present relevance of transnational media encounters (Nordicom, EBU) to PBS?

Practical

Contributions are encouraged from authors with different kinds of expertise and interests in media studies, television and media history.

Paper proposals (max. 500 words) are due on May 1st, 2018. Submissions should be sent to the managing editor of the journal, Dana Mustata. A notice of acceptance will be sent to authors by early June 2018.

Articles (3 – 6,000 words) will be due on November 1st, 2018. Longer articles are welcome, given that they comply with the journal’s author guidelines.

For further information or questions about the issue, please contact its co-editors Mette Charis Buchman, Jérôme Bourdon, and Peter B. Kaufman.

About VIEW Journal

See www.viewjournal.eu for the current and back issues. VIEW is supported by the EUscreen Network and published by the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision in collaboration with Utrecht University, Royal Holloway University of London, and University of Luxembourg. VIEW is proud to be an open access journal. All articles are indexed through the Directory of Open Access Journals, the EBSCO Film and Television Index, Paperity and NARCIS.