2005-02-18

Media independence

"Om inte vi gör det, vem ska göra det då?"
SVT, on an ad on SVT2 this evening;

"If PBS doesn't do it, who will?"
PBS, in similar ads in the US.

The SVT ad ended in the words "fri television," which translates roughly to "independent telelvision." Of course it's free as in free speech, not free beer: every resident of Sweden who owns a telelvision must pay a quarterly tax to Radiotjänst.

One could argue that this tax ensures that Sveriges Television and Sveries Radio remain independent from corporate influence. PBS now depends largely on voluntary donations from viewers and underwriting from sponsors instead of government support. Corporate blackmail, or at least self-censorship, was a problem for PBS when its longtime sponsor ADM was found guilty of price-fixing and PBS did not report on the story.

On the other hand, one could argue that the government subsidy amounts to a different form of influence. Can broadcasters dependent on government support be truly impartial when it comes to reports critical of the government?

In any case, the sort of self aggrandizing witnessed in these commericials shows that the "public" broadcasters in both the U.S. and Sweden believe they are providing a valuable service that cannot be provided by commercial broadcasters. Perhaps a regulatory system discouraging commerical influence in all media would be better, but I'm not sure how such a system could work; perhaps it's not always a bad thing to have commercial voices expressed via the media,

Then again, maybe it's good to have different forms of influence in media, so that each one balances the other and they server to keep each other honest.

3 comments:

daniel said...

Remember: All makt utgår från folket.

Michael said...

That applies to money too.

steve said...

The problem in the US is best illustrated by the Onion's point-counterpoint on the Media five years ago.

Point by Noam Chomsky, Professor at MIT: A Well-Informed Populace Is Vital To The Operation Of A Democracy

Counterpoint by Jeff Logan of USA Today: Dixie Chicks Fever Sweeps America!