Public media organisations are facing a multitude of challenges in an ever-increasing digital world, but they must not lose their core values along the way: Public Media Alliance leader warns.

In a recent speech, Public Media Alliance CEO, Kristian Porter, said while today’s public media organisations have to be open to rapid changes, they have to also ensure they remain accountable, accessible, impartial and independent or face losing the trust of their audience.

He said today’s organisations have to keep pace with new technology; be able to predict and react to fragmentation of audiences and changing news consumption habits; adapt to “ever-evolving and commercially-owned algorithms”, with their accompanying lack of transparency and deal with hate speech, online harassment, AI and misinformation and disinformation.

These inter-related challenges, he said, all required significant investment “especially when the rate of change is so rapid, and expensive”.

He said, however, public media organisations have to be aware that effective digital transformation is not just about keeping pace with competitors – “it’s about keeping pace with your audiences: their expectations, and their access to multiple platforms and multiple services”.

“Being present, revealing truth, and holding power to account has never been more difficult, nor more urgent. As geopolitics plays out as much in people’s pockets as it does in the real world, traditionally trusted public media are fighting an uphill battle”, he said.

In the two months leading to mid-May, he told the audience, AI platform, ChatGPT registered 100 million monthly users, with evidence that the service has been used to convincingly produce false news reports wrongly attributed to trusted brands such as The Guardian UK. He said it has been reported that there were already some 50 completely AI-generated “news” websites.

“For most public service media organisations, we are long past digital transition. Public service media now, by and large, reach most of their audiences through cross-platform services. While TV and radio still hold a dominant position with most audiences, it is the under-30s that are abandoning these legacy platforms. This is the future, and public media need to keep pace.”

For public service media, he said, reaching these audiences isn’t just about investing in new platforms and building new followings – it is about ensuring that core values are not compromised or forgotten.

Porter provided the audience of public media organisation with key takeaways for a “value-driven, trusted approach to digital transformation”, which included:

  • Remember who you are – your values ensure trust, and will stand you apart online
  • Be prepared to change direction – or reverse decisions if it secures trust
  • Be transparent, it will set you apart – demonstrate why you’re using AI, and how you use audience data
  • Look after “number one” – you will only survive digital transformation with your staff intact and happy
  • Be the best, not first – keep innovating but take the time to adapt, leave no one behind, and do it right

Read the full speech here