A Call for Action on PSB in Africa
Posted on 24th January 2014
Elizabeth Smith, Chair, Commonwealth Media Group and Consultant, Transforming Broadcasting
A Call for Action on Public Service Broadcasting in Africa emerged from a conference at the Pan African Parliament in Midrand on December 2 and 3, 2013. It was run by Afrimap, with support from the Pan African Parliament. It called for the following:
"The African Union should encourage states to sign and ratify, and assist them to implement the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance by including principles relating to media freedom and the independence of broadcast media in the benchmarks to be developed for implementation of the commitments and principles of the Charter, and in particular by urging Member States to
- "nurture, support and consolidate good governance by promoting democratic culture and practice" and "promote the establishment of the necessary conditions to foster citizen participation, transparency, access to information, freedom of the press and accountability in the management of public affairs";
- facilitate "effective participation of citizens in democratic and development processes and in governance of public affairs"
- promote "freedom of expression, in particular freedom of the press and fostering a professional media";
- ensure fair and equitable access by contesting parties and candidates to state controlled media during elections;
- support the PAP's campaign on "Press Freedom for Development and Governance: Need for Reform"; and
- task its relevant bodies to prioritise monitoring the digital transformation policies and processes in the respective countries.
"The Pan-African Parliament should intensify its campaign on "Press Freedom for Development and Governance: Need for Reform" (adopted during the First Ordinary Session of the Third Parliament in October 2012) by
- establishing a working group including members of civil society media organisations to engage African governments and institutions to remove restrictive media legislation and promote media freedom and universal access to the information on the continent;
- promoting the transformation of state broadcasters into public service broadcasters as defined by the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa;
- promoting the review of broadcasting regulation, using as a benchmark the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa;
- lobbying for the amendment or repeal of laws that restrict freedom of the media, including the internet, in many African countries, based on the Declaration that says that "any restrictions on freedom of expression shall be provided by law, serve a legitimate interest and be necessary in a democratic society", and giving special attention to legislation."
Elizabeth Smith was a panellist at this conference and supported the involvement of the Pan African Parliament in the drive to transform more state broadcasters into PSBs. She urged states to follow the recommendations and to move ahead with broadcasting legislative reform, along the lines recommended by the conference.
A few days before the conference, on 26 November 2013, Elizabeth Smith received an Honorary D.Lit from the University of Westminster for services to broadcasting. As Sally Feldman put it in the Citation: "Underneath all of her efforts was her unshakeable belief in the importance of public service broadcasting - and of spreading its values and principles across the world. She could hardly be accused of clinging to the BBC model, though. Somewhat surprisingly, she is not wedded only to the license fee model, feeling that there are other ways. Broadcasting is best when there's competition, she believes. And she approves of innovative ways of making public money available on a competitive basis to any broadcaster - as has been done to some extent, for example, in New Zealand and Singapore. What is needed, she believes, is more pressure on governments and politicians rather than on the broadcasters themselves. And that is why consumer groups are so important. They really can make a difference, she says. This is why she was Chair of the UK's Voice of the Listener and Viewer Trust and why she continues to support similar groups that are emerging around the world."
In her reply at the graduation ceremony, Elizabeth Smith commented: "Public service broadcasting is now under great strain in many parts of the world, and major changes are inevitable. But it is essential that even if the existing institutions change out of all recognition, the core ethos of PSB should survive. Rather than existing to sell products or serve the government, the objective of PSB is to serve the public. This is harder and harder to achieve in a world of personalised media."
The Media and the Need for Commonwealth reform - 26th March 2011
Ivory Coast to move towards Public Service Broadcasting - 24th April 2011
Climate Change and the Media: Tell it as a story - 18th May 2011
Media Regulation: Broadcasters and Social Media - 1st June 2011
NBC plans to move towards PSB - 15th June 2011
Lesotho Broadcasters adopt Guidelines for Election Coverage - 25th July 2011
The Bhutan Broadcasting Service - on the road to PSB - 27th October 2011
Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation - 8th December 2011
WSIS helps the internet's contribution to media freedom - 15th May 2012
The role of PSB in supporting Social Media - 8th December 2012
A Call for Action on PSB in Africa - 24th January 2014
Public Service Broadcasting and Development - 3rd March 2014
Moving towards Public Service Broadcasting - Progress in South Sudan - 6th October 2014
South Sudan starts setting up its Public Broadcasting Corporation - 22nd November 2014
Hopes dim for Public Service Broadcasting in South Sudan - 10th March 2015
Prospects Brighter for the South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation - 12th March 2016
Progress in South Sudan Broadcasting - 10th July 2016
© Transforming Broadcasting