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Drivers of Innovation in European Public Service Media Organisations

Next up at ECREA 2016 are Annika Sehl and Alessio Cornia, whose focus is on the presence of public service media online. Online news consumption across a range of devices is now very prevalent, but the online reach of public service news is widely divergent across different countries; in many countries public service media have been overtaken by social media platforms as sources of the news, in fact.

Part of this is also related to the funding models for public service media; funding sources range from entirely public funds to a subsidisation by advertising and other commercial sources. This is also linked to the political situation in each country; German public service media, for instance, are highly restricted by market competition policy in what they are allowed to do online, while the Polish government has interfered in deeply undemocratic fashion with the editorial direction of the public service media organisation.

Public service media must find a way to cope with this difficult environment, including developing new approaches to social and mobile media distribution. The present study explored such approaches by interviewing senior managers and editors at such organisations across six European countries.

In some such organisations, news production is now highly integrated: the philosophy is now story-first rather than format-first, and journalists no longer specialise in producing content for any one particular platform. In others, broadcasting remains central, and online distribution is a secondary concern; even if changes in consumption patterns have been recognised, the transition to appropriate new approaches is proving difficult.

Approaches to mobile news distribution also differ widely; other than at YLE in Finland, mobile apps and dedicated formats have yet to be fully developed. Similarly, social media distribution is seen as increasingly important, but also as a challenge. The concern here is that public service media risk a loss of control over distribution processes.

The factors influencing change thus include external issues (new technological advancements, available levels of funding, integrated and centralised organisational structures, and the degree of insulation from direct political influence), as well as internal drivers (the existence of a pro-digital organisational culture, and progressive internal leadership).