Faculty partners with ABC to examine the future of public service media

5 September 2012

Public broadcasters and media academics from around the world have gathered in Sydney this week to debate the public media sector, an industry facing rapid change.

Co-hosted by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the University of Sydney, the sixth Re-Visionary Interpretations of the Public Enterprise (RIPE) conference features digital innovation, audience relationships and disaster reporting on its agenda.

The Hon James Spigelman AC QC today delivered his first public address in his role as ABC chairman at the conference. He was then joined by ABC managing director Mark Scott in a discussion on Australia's media landscape.

Scott believes the ABC's 80-year history indicates not only its place in Australia's heritage but also its continued relevance shaping the national psyche into the future.

"It was a remarkable piece of nation building to create the ABC at the height of the Great Depression," he says.

"The Australian parliament looked beyond those difficult times and took the long view that one day prosperity would return and that the ABC would play a part in uniting our young nation. Though separated from each other by distance, through the ABC we gained a national identity through shared, common values.

"Now, more than ever, the universality of the ABC - available everywhere, for all Australians regardless of age, geography or income - reinforces the importance of public broadcasting."

Elsewhere, Toshiyuki Sato from Japanese public broadcaster Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK) will use his experience of reporting on last year's Fukishima Daiichi power plant disaster to discuss the role of public service media (PSM) when covering issues of national security. Sato will suggest PSM have a significant impact not only on public safety during national disasters, but also in shaping responses in the aftermath of catastrophes.

Conference organiser and lecturer in online and convergent media at the University of Sydney, Dr Fiona Martin, says RIPE will address the new and changing roles that PSM can play in an "increasingly commercial and DIY media environment".

Despite its critics, Martin claims PSM are as essential to the modern media landscape as ever.

"All around the world we can see audiences investing more trust and indeed flocking to public service media as a reliable and trusted source of information; a place they can have a say in issues that are important to them," she says.

Martin points to a "singular ethical position" placing PSM in good stead for continued viability.

"The ABC particularly survives on its ability to meet the needs and interests of its audiences," Martin says. "It wouldn't be here still unless they really connected with Australians and clearly adapted rapidly to peoples' changing needs and interests."

The RIPE conference brings to completion the foundational work of chief event instigator, Professor Anne Dunn, who passed away this July. Dunn was a former ABC broadcaster and past Acting Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney.

Event details

What: Re-Visionary Interpretations of the Public Enterprise (RIPE) Conference 

When: Wednesday 5 September to Friday 7 September

Where: Opening day at ABC Ultimo studios, 700 Harris Street, Ultimo, NSW. See map and directions 

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