of the Committee of Ministers to member states
on the remit of public service media in the information society
(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 31 January 2007
at the 985th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)
The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Article 15.b of the Statute of the Council of Europe,
Considering that the aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve a greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles that are their common heritage;
Recalling the commitment of member states to the fundamental right to freedom of expression and information, as guaranteed by Article 10 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;
Recalling the importance for democratic societies of a wide variety of independent and autonomous media, able to reflect the diversity of ideas and opinions, and that new information and communication techniques and services must be effectively used to broaden the scope of freedom of expression, as stated in its Declaration on the freedom of expression and information (April 1982);
Bearing in mind Resolution No. 1 on the future of public service broadcasting adopted at the 4th European Ministerial Conference on Mass Media Policy (Prague, December 1994);
Recalling its Recommendation No. R (96) 10 on the guarantee of the independence of public service broadcasting and its Recommendation Rec(2003)9 on measures to promote the democratic and social contribution of digital broadcasting, as well as its Declaration on the guarantee of the independence of public service broadcasting in the member states (September 2006);
Recalling Recommendation 1641 (2004) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on public service broadcasting, calling for the adoption of a new major policy document on public service broadcasting taking stock of recent technological developments, as well as the report on public service broadcasting by the Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on Culture, Science and Education (Doc. 10029, January 2004), noting the need for the evolution and modernisation of this sector, and the positive reply of the Committee of Ministers to this recommendation;
Bearing in mind the political documents adopted at the 7th European Ministerial Conference on Mass Media Policy (Kyiv, March 2005) and, more particularly, the objective set out in the Action Plan to examine how the public service remit should, as appropriate, be developed and adapted by member states to suit the new digital environment;
Recalling the UNESCO Convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions (October 2005), which attaches considerable importance to, inter alia, the creation of conditions conducive to diversity of the media including through public service broadcasting;
Conscious of the need to safeguard the fundamental objectives of the public interest in the information society, including freedom of expression and access to information, media pluralism, cultural diversity, and the protection of minors and human dignity, in conformity with the Council of Europe standards and norms;
Underlining the specific role of public service broadcasting, which is to promote the values of democratic societies, in particular respect for human rights, cultures and political pluralism; and with regard to its goal of offering a wide choice of programmes and services to all sectors of the public, promoting social cohesion, cultural diversity and pluralist communication accessible to everyone;
Mindful of the fact that growing competition in broadcasting makes it more difficult for many commercial broadcasters to maintain the public value of their programming, especially in their free-to-air services;
Conscious of the fact that globalisation and international integration, as well as the growing horizontal and vertical concentration of privately-owned media at the national and international levels, have far-reaching effects for states and their media systems;
Noting that in the information society, the public, and especially the younger generations, more and more often turn to the new communication services for content and for the satisfaction of their communication needs, at the expense of traditional media;
Convinced therefore that the public service remit is all the more relevant in the information society and that it can be discharged by public service organisations via diverse platforms and an offer of various services, resulting in the emergence of public service media, which, for the purpose of this recommendation, does not include print media;
Recognising the continued full legitimacy and the specific objectives of public service media in the information society;
Persuaded that, while paying attention to market and competition questions, the common interest requires that public service media be provided with adequate funds for the fulfilment of the public service remit as conferred on them;
Recognising the right of member states to define the remits of individual public service media in accordance with their own national circumstances;
Acknowledging that the remits of individual public service media may vary within each member state, and that these remits may not necessarily include all the principles set out in this recommendation,
Recommends that the governments of member states:
i. guarantee the fundamental role of the public service media in the new digital environment, setting a clear remit for public service media, and enabling them to use new technical means to better fulfil this remit and adapt to rapid changes in the current media and technological landscape, and to changes in the viewing and listening patterns and expectations of the audience;
ii. include, where they have not already done so, provisions in their legislation/regulations specific to the remit of public service media, covering in particular the new communication services, thereby enabling public service media to make full use of their potential and especially to promote broader democratic, social and cultural participation, inter alia, with the help of new interactive technologies;
iii. guarantee public service media, via a secure and appropriate financing and organisational framework, the conditions required to carry out the function entrusted to them by member states in the new digital environment, in a transparent and accountable manner;
iv. enable public service media to respond fully and effectively to the challenges of the information society, respecting the public/private dual structure of the European electronic media landscape and paying attention to market and competition questions;
v. ensure that universal access to public service media is offered to all individuals and social groups, including minority and disadvantaged groups, through a range of technological means;
vi. disseminate widely this recommendation and, in particular, bring to the attention of public authorities, public service media, professional groups and the public at large, the guiding principles set out below, and ensure that the necessary conditions are in place for these principles to be put into practice.
Guiding principles concerning the remit of public service media
in the information society
I. The public service remit: maintaining the key elements
1. Member states have the competence to define and assign a public service remit to one or more specific media organisations, in the public and/or private sector, maintaining the key elements underpinning the traditional public service remit, while adjusting it to new circumstances. This remit should be performed with the use of state-of-the-art technology appropriate for the purpose. These elements have been referred to on several occasions in Council of Europe documents, which have defined public service broadcasting as, amongst other things:
a) a reference point for all members of the public, offering universal access;
b) a factor for social cohesion and integration of all individuals, groups and communities;
c) a source of impartial and independent information and comment, and of innovatory and varied content which complies with high ethical and quality standards;
d) a forum for pluralistic public discussion and a means of promoting broader democratic participation of individuals;
e) an active contributor to audiovisual creation and production and greater appreciation and dissemination of the diversity of national and European cultural heritage.
2. In the information society, relying heavily on digital technologies, where the means of content distribution have diversified beyond traditional broadcasting, member states should ensure that the public service remit is extended to cover provision of appropriate content also via new communication platforms.
II. Adapting the public service remit to the information society
a. A reference point for all members of the public, with universal access offered
3. Public service media should offer news, information, educational, cultural, sports and entertainment programmes and content aimed at the various categories of the public and which, taken as a whole, constitute an added public value compared to those of other broadcasters and content providers.
4. The principle of universality, which is fundamental to public service media, should be addressed having regard to technical, social and content aspects. Member states should, in particular, ensure that public service media can be present on significant platforms and have the necessary resources for this purpose.
5. In view of changing user habits, public service media should be able to offer both generalist and specialised contents and services, as well as personalised interactive and on-demand services. They should address all generations, but especially involve the younger generation in active forms of communication, encouraging the provision of user-generated content and establishing other participatory schemes.
6. Member states should see to it that the goals and means for achievement of these goals by public service media are clearly defined, in particular regarding the use of thematic services and new communication services. This may include regular evaluation and review of such activities by the relevant bodies, so as to ensure that all groups in the audience are adequately served.
b. A factor for social cohesion and integration of all individuals, groups and communities
7. Public service media should be adapted to the new digital environment to enable them to fulfil their remit in promoting social cohesion at local, regional, national and international levels, and to foster a sense of co-responsibility of the public for the achievement of this objective.
8. Public service media should integrate all communities, social groups and generations, including minority groups, young people, old persons, the most disadvantaged social categories, persons with disabilities, while respecting their different identities and needs. In this context, attention should be paid to the content created by and for such groups, and to their access to, and presence and portrayal in, public service media. Due attention should be also paid to gender equality issues.
9. Public service media should act as a trusted guide of society, bringing concretely useful knowledge into the life of individuals and of different communities in society. In this context, they should pay particular attention to the needs of minority groups and underprivileged and disadvantaged social categories. This role of filling a gap in the market, which is an important part of the traditional public service media remit, should be maintained in the new digital environment.
10. In an era of globalisation, migration and integration at European and international levels, the public service media should promote better understanding among peoples and contribute to intercultural and inter-religious dialogue.
11. Public service media should promote digital inclusion and efforts to bridge the digital divide by, inter alia, enhancing the accessibility of programmes and services on new platforms.
c. A source of impartial and independent information and comment, and of innovatory and varied content which complies with high ethical and quality standards
12. Member states should ensure that public service media constitute a space of credibility and reliability among a profusion of digital media, fulfilling their role as an impartial and independent source of information, opinion and comment, and of a wide range of programming and services, satisfying high ethical and quality standards.
13. When assigning the public service remit, member states should take account of the public service media’s role in bridging fragmentation, reducing social and political alienation and promoting the development of civil society. A requirement for this is the independent and impartial news and current affairs content, which should be provided on both traditional programmes and new communication services.
d. A forum for public discussion and a means of promoting broader democratic participation of individuals
14. Public service media should play an important role in promoting broader democratic debate and participation, with the assistance, among other things, of new interactive technologies, offering the public greater involvement in the democratic process. Public service media should fulfil a vital role in educating active and responsible citizens, providing not only quality content but also a forum for public debate, open to diverse ideas and convictions in society, and a platform for disseminating democratic values.
15. Public service media should provide adequate information about the democratic system and democratic procedures, and should encourage participation not only in elections but also in decision-making processes and public life in general. Accordingly, one of the public service media’s roles should be to foster citizens’ interest in public affairs and encourage them to play a more active part.
16. Public service media should also actively promote a culture of tolerance and mutual understanding by using new digital and online technologies.
17. Public service media should play a leading role in public scrutiny of national governments and international governmental organisations, enhancing their transparency, accountability to the public and legitimacy, helping eliminate any democratic deficit, and contributing to the development of a European public sphere.
18. Public service media should enhance their dialogue with, and accountability to, the general public, also with the help of new interactive services.
e. An active contributor to audiovisual creation and production and to a greater appreciation and dissemination of the diversity of national and European cultural heritage
19. Public service media should play a particular role in the promotion of cultural diversity and identity, including through new communication services and platforms. To this end, public service media should continue to invest in new, original content production, made in formats suitable for the new communication services. They should support the creation and production of domestic audiovisual works reflecting as well local and regional characteristics.
20. Public service media should stimulate creativity and reflect the diversity of cultural activities, through their cultural programmes, in fields such as music, arts and theatre, and they should, where appropriate, support cultural events and performances.
21. Public service media should continue to play a central role in education, media literacy and life-long learning, and should actively contribute to the formation of knowledge-based society. Public service media should pursue this task, taking full advantage of the new opportunities and including all social groups and generations.
22. Public service media should play a particular role in preservation of cultural heritage. They should rely on and develop their archives, which should be digitised, thus being preserved for future generations. In order to be accessible to a broader audience, the audiovisual archives should, where appropriate and feasible, be accessible online. Member states should consider possible options to facilitate the accomplishment of such projects.
23. In their programming and content, public service media should reflect the increasingly multi-ethnic and multicultural societies in which they operate, protecting the cultural heritage of different minorities and communities, providing possibilities for cultural expression and exchange, and promoting closer integration, without obliterating cultural diversity at the national level.
24. Public service media should promote respect for cultural diversity, while simultaneously introducing the audience to the cultures of other peoples around the world.
III. The appropriate conditions required to fulfil the public service remit in the information society
25. Member states should ensure that the specific legal, technical, financial and organisational conditions required to fulfil the public service remit continue to apply in, and are adapted to, the new digital environment. Taking into account the challenges of the information society, member states should be free to organise their own national systems of public service media, suited to the rapidly changing technological and social realities, while at the same time remaining faithful to the fundamental principles of public service.
a. Legal conditions
26. Member states should establish a clear legal framework for the development of public service media and the fulfilment of their remit. They should incorporate into their legislation provisions enabling public service media to exercise, as effectively as possible, their specific function in the information society and, in particular, allowing them to develop new communication services.
27. To reconcile the need for a clear definition of the remit with the need to respect editorial independence and programme autonomy and to allow for flexibility to adapt public service activities rapidly to new developments, member states should find appropriate solutions, involving, if needed, the public service media, in line with their legal traditions.
b. Technical conditions
28. Member states should ensure that public service media have the necessary technical resources to fulfil their function in the information society. Developing a range of new services would enable them to reach more households, to produce more quality contents, responding to the expectations of the public, and to keep pace with developments in the digital environment. Public service media should play an active role in the technological innovation of the electronic media, as well as in the digital switchover.
c. Financial conditions
29. Member states should secure adequate financing for public service media, enabling them to fulfil their role in the information society, as defined in their remit. Traditional funding models relying on sources such as licence fees, the state budget and advertising remain valid under the new conditions.
30. Taking into account the developments of the new digital technology, member states may consider complementary funding solutions paying due attention to market and competition questions. In particular, in the case of new personalised services, member states may consider allowing public service media to collect remunerations. Member states may also take advantage of public and community initiatives for the creation and financing of new types of public service media. However, none of these solutions should endanger the principle of universality of public service media or lead to discrimination between different groups of society. When developing new funding systems, member states should pay due attention to the nature of the content provided in the interest of the public and in the common interest.
d. Organisational conditions
31. Member states should establish the organisational conditions for public service media that provide the most appropriate background for the delivery of the public service remit in the digital environment. In doing so they should pay due attention to the guarantee of the editorial independence and institutional autonomy of public service media and the particularities of their national media systems, as well as organisational changes needed to take advantage of new production and distribution methods in the digital environment.
32. Member states should ensure that public service media organisations have the capacity and critical mass to operate successfully in the new digital environment, fulfil an extended public service remit and maintain their position in a highly concentrated market.
33. In organising the delivery of the public service remit, member states should make sure that public service media can, as necessary, engage in co-operation with other economic actors, such as commercial media, rights holders, producers of audiovisual content, platform operators and distributors of audiovisual content.