The future of public
Broadcasting brings relaxation and interest to many homes where such things are at a premium. It does far more: it carries direct information on a hundred subjects to innumerable people who thereby will be enabled not only to take more interest in events which formerly were outside their ken, but who will after a short time be in a position to make up their own minds on many matters of vital moment, matters which formerly they had either to receive according to the dictated and partial versions or opinions of others, or to ignore altogether. A new and mighty weight of public opinion is being formed … (John Reith, Broadcast Over Britain 1924, quoted in Scannell and Cardiff 1991)
Public service broadcasting (PSB) is that sector of broadcasting that in Australia is represented by the radio, television and online services of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS). The concept has its origins in the philosophy and practice of broadcasting first seen in Britain in the 1920s when the BBC was founded. The first Director General of the BBC, John Reith, articulated a philosophy for PSB which deeply influenced the way in which broadcasting was subsequently established in the ‘dominions’ (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa), in Europe, in India and in post-World War II Japan. Its influence can be felt still in debates around the shape of broadcasting in places like Taiwan, Singapore and even the United States.
For Reith, broadcasting was essentially a ‘public service’ which would act as a ‘cultural, moral and educative force for the improvement of knowledge, taste and manners’ (Scannell and Cardiff 1991, p 7). It also had the social and political function of unifying the nation and of helping in the creation of an informed and enlightened democracy. The Sykes Committee, which had in 1924 made recommendations about how broadcasting should be organised in Britain, saw