What role should a public service broadcaster fulfill?
Rather than seek a singular definition of what is meant by PSB, it is helpful to establish what role a public service broadcaster should fulfill through the factors that determine whether it is performing as one. These range from universality, meaning the programme broadcast to be accessible to every citizen; diversity, which includes target audience, genre, and subject matter of programmes; independence from political and commercial oversight; and distinctiveness, excellence, and innovation, all of which pertain to the quality of programmes being offered and help differentiate public service broadcasters and their programming from commercial services, most of which focus on entertainment.
While dispute arises around the exact definition of PSB, agreement on other factors that make a PSB include public funding in the form of a fee or tax, or a remit generally assigned to the broadcaster by the government, which historically comes with the directive to broadcast shows to the public that inform, educate, and entertain.
Regardless of how ill-defined the concept is these various underlying principles are shared by PSB’s around the world. Institutions like the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and Ofcom reference these corresponding core values as something a PSB should embody. Chief among them is the inherent idea that media and PSB are a public good crucial to democracy through the contribution of information made available to the electorate through PSB, all of which should be universally available. Consequently, this leads to the importance of the distinction between what a public service broadcaster is and the meaning of publicly funded broadcasting.