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IRIS 2012-3:1/2

Committee of Ministers

Declaration and Recommendation on Public Service Media Governance

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Vicky Breemen

Institute for Information Law (IViR), University of Amsterdam

On 15 February 2012, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers (CM) adopted both a Declaration and a Recommendation on public service media governance.

The Declaration starts by describing public service media as the most important tool for freedom of expression in the public sphere, enabling people to exercise the right to seek and receive information (Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, ECHR). Further, it emphasises the primary mission of public service media “to support general interest objectives [...] through a varied and high-quality mix of content” and the obligation “to serve the public in all its diversity, including minority communities [...]”.

Then the Declaration points at various other instruments regarding public service media (see IRIS 1996-10/4, IRIS 2007-3/5, IRIS 2009-8/3 and IRIS 2010-7/2). These call on Member States to secure the necessary legal, political and organisational conditions for public service media independence and to provide adequate means for their functioning. The CM underlines that new information and communication technologies give public service media “an unrivalled opportunity to fulfil their remit in new and more effective ways”. At the same time, striving to provide multimedia, interactive and non-linear services brings about certain challenges. To secure the succesful transition of public service media to a new media environment, the CM stresses the importance of an appropriate system of governance. The Declaration also identifies risks to pluralism and diversity if the current model of public service, commercial and community media is not preserved.

The Recommendation amplifies on these issues. The CM recommends that Member States “further strengthen and, where necessary, enhance the appropriate legal and financial environment [...] by drawing inspiration from the appended guiding principles, thereby guaranteeing the independence and sustainable development of public service media [...]”. The guiding principles should be seen as characteristics rather than precise mechanisms.

The first part of the guiding principles appended to the Recommendation discusses the challenges facing public service media. These include technological, societal, cultural and financial challenges. Examples are securing the right level of independence from the State and the transformation from public service broadcasting to public service media.

The second part of the Appendix examines the role of governance in meeting these challenges. Both external and internal governance arrangements need to be reviewed, and where necessary strengthened. In this regard, the CM explores what a new framework for governance could entail. To this end, the Recommendation sets out an interlocking set of criteria in three different tiers that represent the levels at which the model operates (“Structures”, “Management” and “Culture”). The criteria contain principles relating to accountability and independence (tier 1), effective management (tier 2), responsiveness and responsibility as well as transparency and openness (tier 3). These tiers and their principles are substantively elaborated on in the rest of the Recommendation. The focus lies on their importance and their contribution to the wider system of governance.

Declaration of the Committee of Ministers on public service media governance, 15 February 2012 EN
Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)1 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on public service media governance, 15 February 2012 EN