Who knows what public law is? A street poll opened the Edinburgh Television Festival on Wednesday and set the tone for the debate that kicked off Britain’s biggest TV industry gathering: younger street respondents, in particular, often it became alarmingly difficult to identify which channels and offerings for legal public streaming, because instead, many said they would rather watch Netflix. A survey that would probably not be very different in Germany.
For public service broadcasting, it is the highest alert level when stations are not only unused, but no longer even known by a generation that no longer sees linear television as the most obvious medium of mass communication. Therefore, leaning on an aging society may be a temporary solution for commercial providers, but not for public service broadcasters. If all age groups are no longer reached, the legitimacy of wanting to be financed by all is lost. First morally, but sooner or later also politically.
In Britain and Germany, public service broadcasting is currently being debated more intensely than ever. It should be abolished when right-wing political forces have their way, either here or on the island. However, the triggers for the current debates differ. As we grapple with the scandal surrounding former RBB director Patricia Schlesinger, the government of Boris Johnson, who is still prime minister, has questioned public broadcasting deals in Britain or put them up for sale. Here as there, however, the question is: What speaks for a strong public service broadcaster?
And so the Edinburgh Television Festival discussed “What can public broadcasters do better?”. First of all, all kinds of obvious and well-known answers were found. You just have to be careful not to lose the young. Two different ideas of how this can be achieved are interesting: Do you have to take inspiration from the Edinburgh Fringe arts festival taking place at the same time and offer something for every niche and every taste so that everyone can find themselves? Or do we need blockbusters that build traction and, as a must-see, also captivate a young audience?
An illustrious panel of British TV producers disagreed, even depending on their own portfolio. Perhaps, however, a change of thanks should begin before. “I once took a YouTuber on a BBC date, where we were parked in the canteen for 20 minutes because the guy from the station had an appointment. The YouTuber got up and said ‘I don’t need that’ and left,” says British television producer and journalist Pat Younge.
© EdTV Festival
Jon Thoday, David Abraham, Jane Turton, Pat Younge, Fatima Salaria and Patrick Holland
Even before selecting a programme, it is the attitude of the big broadcasters who previously had no choice, who have not yet adapted to the new competition, and the current retro trend, which also exists in Britain, does not exactly help, says David Abraham. From 2010 to 2017 he was director of the public broadcaster Channel 4, financed by advertising. This is how he runs away from the problems with the young target groups in the direction of older viewers who are still available in large numbers. You don’t inspire young talent with that.
And you lose the opportunity to risk something on the show. Because that is the responsibility if you don’t have to worry about refinancing, says Fátima Salaria, general director of the production company Naked. Colleague Jane Turton, CEO of All3Media, sees the biggest challenge to modern public service broadcasting, precisely because of changing media use, in an urgently needed answer to the question of how to actually measure success. public service significantly. Speed? call numbers? Talk about the city? “9 pm ratings are no longer the measure of things,” she says.
Overall though, all the producers present agreed: BBC and Channel 4 are pretty good. This is where the nature of the discussion about public broadcasters differs from our sharp debate in light of the RBB scandal: the UK attacks are purely politically motivated, so defending PSBs is in the interest of the entire industry. , emphasized all those present. in Edinburgh. It runs the risk of unbalancing an ecosystem of creativity and production that has grown naturally. Less BBC and Channel 4 would not automatically lead to more private content.
In Germany, on the other hand, we have been experiencing an uncomfortable combination of two debates for weeks: that of better regulation which is urgently needed in order to prevent fraud and embezzlement, and a fundamental debate about the mandate as if one had something to do with the other. The former manager of Channel 4, David Abraham, provides invaluable food for thought for the debate on public service, which is becoming a fundamental issue in our country.
Debates about the need for public broadcasting services come at a time when it’s becoming increasingly clear that the beautiful age of streaming was ultimately financed on credit and that early providers had to cash in on their growth fantasies. , radically cut services or even have to turn them off. “We always have to keep in mind that with PSBs we have a sustainable concept,” says Abraham. Public service broadcasting is not a hot topic and for us as users it is reliable insurance at a time when many other market participants are concerned.
Commercial providers of ad-supported software are desperate to shift usage to the Internet and on-demand, and to capitalize on this very shift. Facebook is imploding and the Metaverse is complete shit, according to Abraham. Nobody knows how stable all these market participants are. Public service broadcasting is even more important from the point of view of users, but also from the industry. They provide continuity as customers, as well as to the audience as a platform for entertainment and public discourse, regardless of whether the companies have just celebrated the fall of Silicon Valley or not.