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

4 September 2012

ABC Chairman James Spigelman
"New ABC Chairman James Spigelman AC QC will deliver his first public address at the 2012 RIPE Conference."

A vital gathering of international scholars and media practitioners will debate the challenges facing public service media in a time of increasing uncertainty for the bi-annual RIPE Conference.

The sixth Re-Visionary Interpretations of the Public Enterprise (RIPE) Conference will explore topics across this year's theme, 'Value for Public Money - Money for Public Value', at a raft of events from Wednesday 5th to Friday 7th September 2012. The high-profile event attracts media professionals and academics from around the world, converging to discuss current local and global issues for public service media (PSM).

Jointly hosted by the University of Sydney's Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), this rare forum will open meaningful dialogue between academics and practitioners as the industry grapples with rapid change.

Digital innovation, audience relationships and disaster reporting are just some of the topics on the agenda across the conference's mix of panel discussions and presentations by leading industry and academic figures.

Among the impressive line-up of guest speakers is the new Chairman of the ABC Board, the Hon James Spigelman AC QC, who will deliver his first public address in this role. He joins ABC Managing Director and alumnus of the faculty, Mark Scott AO, for a discussion on the ABC and Australia's media landscape on the conference's opening day on Wednesday 5th September.

Toshiyuki Sato, Executive Controller at Japan's public broadcaster Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK), will also lead a talk on his experiences covering the Fukushima nuclear crisis, evaluating PSM's role in disaster reportage.

ABC Managing Director Mark Scott says the conference highlights the "shared commitment to the public interest" driving both media scholarship and public service media practice.

"RIPE conferences are living examples of the mutual reliance of the academies and the public service media in open societies," Scott says.

"They have different histories and they serve different functions in their societies. But the universities and the public broadcasters tend to share some characteristics too - recognition under law, nourishment from public funds, service for the common good, custodians of collective memory, respect for accuracy, aspirations to high quality, expectations of accountability, open debate, and traditions of independence."

Scott believes the ABC's 80 year history indicates not only the institution's important 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. A genuine national broadcaster in the national interest.

"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."

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".

"RIPE is a forum to discuss the extraordinary changes taking place in the media industries and how public service media can best meet the challenges of convergence and internationalisation of the media," says Dr Martin.

Despite its critics, Martin claims public service media 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.

While noting PSM are not immune from the financial struggles confronting commercial media, with high dependence on government support in a landscape dominated by commercial enterprise, Martin points to a "singular ethical position" placing PSM in good stead for continued viability.

"The ABC particularly survives on their ability to meet the needs and interests of their audiences," Martin says. "They 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, Associate 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.


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

When: Wednesday 5th September to Friday 7th September 2012

Where: Opening day - ABC Ultimo studios, 700 Harris Street, Ultimo, NSW

Details: Visit the RIPE website for full conference program. Contact Fiona Martin for more information.

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Contact: Emily Jones

Phone: 02 9114 1961

Email: 3542233c1a643e3e243619092514063e090c1a1c1d3b6a2f2c