Public Media as a Service

Finland serves as a model country for press freedom. The international press organisation Reporters without borders publishes a yearly Press Freedom Index, where Finland ranks nr. 1 in 2016, 7th time in a row. We have a public broadcasting company Yle, which has been entiteled to collect its funding through taxation since 2013.

With several national TV and radio channels Yle reaches often the largest share of audience according to the research organisation Finnpanel. According to the Act on Yle the Finnish public broadcasting company serves also the audiences of certain language minorities. All of the other content between these big audience hits and small obligatory  productions is of course often being debated and critisized by citizens. Do we need to be taxed for humor, sports or talk shows hosted by an Yle reporter? Is there a chance that the media owner steers the composition of documentaries or news? Do we need a public broadcaster that produces content competing with the commercial media houses instead of just reporting public and nationwide issues?

In the 25th UNESCO conference for Press Freedom in May 3rd in Helsinki a new declaration was adopted. In this ‘This is your right!’ Finlandia Declaration all 199 UNESCO member states are addressed to enhance the right for information, media diversity and cultural expressions through the media in terms of fundamental human rights. Thus, apart from taste differencies on the everyday content, I think we still need a public broadcaster which is relevant, represents press freedom and uses the latest tech solutions to stand tall in today’s media landscape of Finland. We can enjoy talk show hosts like Ali Janghiri, who represented Yle very colourfully in one of the sessions at the conference.

The Helsinki Press Freedom conference also celebrated the 250 years of Freedom on Information Act in Sweden and Finland. The celebration with ranking 1st in press freedom were announced as arguments for¬† organising the main event in Finland. The conference was a success and served also as a great marketing action for the next year’s conference close to the opposite extreme of media landscape, Indonesia.

Indonesia, as stated by the realistic associate professor Ade Armando at a panel discussion, has a weak public broadcasting company. Among the almost 100 commercial TV channels, the public broadcaster serves mainly for government announcements, which are commonly concidered more or less propagandist.

Being a contradictonary and diverse country, one of Indonesia’s governmental challenges is its citizens’ scattering on 11 500 islands in the Pacific Ocean. Still pluralistic voices lack on publicity. The violentions against press are common and the country ranked 130 out of 180 on press freedom in 2016. Whom are the journalists serving when putting their lives in danger? In George Orwell’s words on media: “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed – everything else is public relations.” Thus, where in Indonesia will these voices of critisism, civic activity or the cultures of several minorities be heard, if not in its public media?

Indonesia’s GNP has more than doubled in the past decade, but by a strong regime typically for rising economies increasing the income gap and internal tensions. The next step on the state level concerning freedom of expression and media education will be the issue of rights on information and expression. Will the country be able to establish a relevant and free public media? Now UNESCO and its member states turn their eyes on Indonesia for the 2017 conference. Encouraged by all of us Indonesia could be guided towards freedom of expression, which commonly is considered as the key to legitimate democracy.

The government has the role of issuing and implementing legislation on the fundamental human rights such as freedom of expression and to information, to education and to be equally treated as citizens. Will this happen through education, public media as a service or other means, remains to be evaluated by the next conference of press freedom. We as media professionals can meanwhile take the genuine Helsinki spirit with us and let it push our work towards a more open, fair and relevant media landscape. Public media serves all citizens, with a special attention to the weakest. Let us not leave one stone unturned until we have made a difference, in Indonesia and globally. This is our right!