VALUE OF PUBLIC BROADCASTING

Public broadcasting, very simply, is broadcasting made for the public, funded by the public (through tax) and controlled by the public (through a responsive parliament and healthy, vibrant public debate). The defining feature of public broadcasting is its inclusiveness. Public broadcasting must be accessible to all and diverse enough to appeal to all. Unlike state broadcasting, which serves the interests of the state and the ruling elite, public broadcasting is uniquely positioned to serve the public in all its diverse forms.

Furthermore, public service broadcasters (PSBs) are protected from political and commercial pressures, therefore allowing them to best serve the public’s rights to freedom of expression and freedom of information. This is why public broadcasting has such a crucial role to play in democratic societies.

Defining features of public service broadcasting:

  • Accessible to all
  • Serving the public interest in all its shapes
  • Emphasis on quality, balance and impartiality
  • Provisions for minorities
  • Commitment to education of the public
  • Freedom to produce challenging and controversial programming
  • Independent from political and commercial interference
  • Forum for expression of national cultural identity

Independence of a public broadcaster is vital: independence for the Board and editorial independence for management. Securing independence means overcoming the prevailing mindset among those in power that the airwaves belong to the state. MISA believes the independence of a public service broadcaster in Swaziland will only be ensured if it is guaranteed in law. MISA is advocating for such a law to include the following:

· A description of the composition of the PSB Board to ensure it is broadly representative of the public and excludes office bearers with the state and people with financial interests in broadcasting

· A public and transparent board appointments procedure that minimises political and commercial interference

· A stipulation that no one has a right to influence the work of the Board

· Editorial freedom for the PSB management

· Accountability of the PSB is to the public through parliament, not an individual minister or ministry

· An adequate and secure funding mechanism that protects from arbitrary interference

For more detail on public service broadcasting law see the Article 19 Model Public Service Broadcasting Law in the law reform page.

MISA calls on the government to:

  • Enact legislation establishing a public broadcasting entity, recognising its full independence and public service mandate
  • Conduct organizational restructure allowing the merger of television and radio with one independent Board to develop the organizational policy
  • Allow editorial policies that capture the unique responsibilities of public broadcasting
  • Ensure training of management and staff on the ethos and purpose of public broadcasting
  • Secure a reliable funding mechanisms that will support program diversity and innovation

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