The Administrative and Financial Aspects of PSB: The FBCL Experiences

Mr. Sireli Kini,
CEO, Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Limited

Abstract: The speaker argues that PSB can generate funds through fiscal discipline, and advertising built around the charges strongly influenced by competition and popularity ratings and Government grant. But the dilemma still exists whether to adopt BBC model or American (Commercial) Model for advertising.

Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) is broadcasting with a purpose: to enhance the quality of public life, authorize individuals and social groups to participate more fully and impartially. It is policy obligated unlike private or commercial broadcasting that is profit motivated and is concerned only in large audiences. Policy-motivated broadcasting is engrossed in reaching the largest possible audience. PSB derives its legitimacy from the provision of basic role and accomplishment of its cultural and promoting the culture of peace missions. While the commercial radio stations tend to place more emphasis on entertainment over education and information. The emphasis is reverses in PSB.

The global trend relating to deregulation and competition enhancement posed a serious threat to the legitimacy of PSB thus demanded a redefinition of its mission, It has been argued that necessary re-appraisal of basic service in a deregulated and competitive media environment must not mean that PSB is measured on the basis of ratings, but rather that it functions as a corrective to the programmes by commercial broadcasters. In addition to the task of catering for ethnic, religious, linguistic but also minorities, it is imperative to state the task of information processing and archiving that goes beyond current affairs reporting, and this allocate to PSB the function of electronic archives or possibly museums.

In case of Fiji, the Fijian and Hindi services of the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Limited (FBCL) have accepted the role of custodian of two vernacular languages. In their programmes, they always ensure that high standards of languages are maintained. The FBCL plays a dominant role in the Fijian oral tradition it has been active in promoting choral singing and local artists. These activities are conceived to be part of public service broadcasting. Because it had accepted this role as a part of its PSB roles, it now has valuable historical audio materials in its archive.

As PSB is policy motivated, FBCL has been active in promoting healthy living, multiracial harmony, influencing individuals and groups to participate effectively, gain or engaged in meaningful employment and increase creativity. Programmes related to disaster awareness, environmental issues, crime prevention, child up-bringing etc. were been produced and presented in harmony with the national policies.

FBCL as it strives to enhance its performance, as a public service broadcaster tries to improve its appreciation of the communal property regime that is prevalent and strong in developing economics. The essence of Ithe communal system is preservation of land system, which prohibits alienation. In contrast, to market cultures where individual property rights are not only recognized but also considered essential to functioning market system, traditional culture believe land to be more than a tradable community. This is part of Fiji's cultural, social and economic heritage. This ancient doctrine remains strongly held in the pacific because the main source of sustenance, including markets such as tourism services, continues to be based on the land. Since non-land —based economic resources in the Pacific economics are either limited, or have limited economic value, land today is valuable as it was when farming and fishing were the only source of sustenance.

The importance of PSB is therefore unquestionable, but its provision is continually been challenged by insufficient funding to pay the cost. Provision of PSB faces the difficulties of how it is funded. In the case of Fiji, Fiji Broadcasting Corporation recognized quite early in its existence of what is needed for development of PSB. A country can only have as good a good broadcasting services, as it was willing to pay.

FBCL initially in its early clays was torn between the realization that most fruitful source of revenue was advertising and the feeling that listeners would be happier without advertising. The conflict was, in essence, that between non- commercial BBC model of broadcasting and American (commercial) system, built around advertising charges are strongly influenced by competition and popularity ratings.

It soon become clear that money to run broadcasting on the line of BBC was not going to be forthcoming in Fiji from Government subsidies.

The fluctuating level of funding for PSB from the annual national budget posed planning problems for management. Most countries in the Pacific face this problem. The triennial funding arrangement solved this problem to some extent at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation where the ABC is guaranteed with the same level of funding for three years.

The 1996 Fiji Public Enterprise Act provided an opportunity to explore other funding arrangements to ensure that provision of PSB at accepted quality and quantity would not be hindered due to inadequate funding a common understanding is reached between the Government and the broadcaster to the content, quality and quantity of the PSB. All cost factors were identified and incorporated into a three agreements under which the government was required to pay.

I am aware of the argument that commercial broadcasters can also provide PSB. The nature of PSB as I have outlined would deter commercial broadcasters from being engaged in PSB activities until it contributes into its bottom line ... profit. PSB is too important to be left entirely to advertising or the market to provide it's funding, as they susceptible during political uncertainty and market failures.

The provisions of PSB in Fiji would have been badly affected if it were funded from the advertising dollar during the political turmoil it currently faces. PSB is not affected by when advertisers were hesitant to spend because of the uncertain situation. PSB funding is intact under the contract. The contract also protects the broadcaster from demands for programmes other than those specified in the contract.

Broadcasters sometimes assume that policy makers understand the importance of PSB. I think it is our duty to ensure that our policy makers understand that without the efficient and effective provisions of PSB, the country and its people would have an irrecoverable loss. The loss is present and future generations.