The power of technology – and a call to arms to fight for control over it – resounded through the 2024 Jocelyn Hay lecture given by film director Baroness Kidron in Britain last month.

Kidron is an award-winning film director, whose credits range from the second Bridget Jones feature to TV documentaries. The annual lecture honours Jocelyn Hay, founder of the Voice of the Listener and Viewer, a British counterpart of ABC Friends (VLV is not to be confused with the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association, set up by Mary “Clean up TV” Whitehouse in 1965 and now defunct).

In her speech on 8 February, Kidron argued for the necessity of interrogating new communication technologies. She cited topical examples such as the Horizon debacle at the British Post Office and AI-generated abuses of children as evidence of the lack of responsibility of tech developers. She rejected the notion that it is too late or too difficult to bring about change, so long as we grasp the agency that language provides us.

A precondition for any such public debate is access to information and investigation provided by impartial media. Kidron also identifies as crucial the opportunity that public service broadcasting has in allowing us to discern, in our differences and similarities, “a collective vision of what binds us”. She poses the question “How much of the culture and quality of the legacy broadcast media should we fight to retain in the brisk march to digital first?”

Kidron’s primary concern is with the UK situation, particularly in an election year. But you may find resonances closer to home in her recognition of the importance of advocacy for public service broadcasting – for the priority it gives to democracy over technology and its cultivation of a common reality shared by all.

Read the transcript here (pdf)

Visit the VLV web site