The Development and Future of PSB in Macedonia: Towards the Construction of a Participatory PSB Model Cover Image

The Development and Future of PSB in Macedonia: Towards the Construction of a Participatory PSB Model
The Development and Future of PSB in Macedonia: Towards the Construction of a Participatory PSB Model

Author(s): Igor Micevski, Snezana Trpevska
Contributor(s): Mirela Rožajac-Zulčić (Editor)
Subject(s): Politics, Media studies, Communication studies, Policy, planning, forecast and speculation, Public Finances, ICT Information and Communications Technologies, Socio-Economic Research
Published by: Analitika – Centar za društvena istraživanja, sva prava pridržana
Keywords: North Macedonia; media; public service broadcasting; future; PSB model; finances; regulations; social, political and economic aspects; digitalization;
Summary/Abstract: Parliamentary democracy in Macedonia was established with the Constitution of 1991. The multi-party system is marked by an ethnically-based divergence where the main political parties are divided into two ethnic blocks representing the country’s Macedonian majority and Albanian ethnic community. The issue of the power balance between the two communities led to a brief war in 2001, following which a new agreement was reached to share power at both the central and local level. Over the last several decades the Macedonian political system has not evolved into a consolidated democracy. On the contrary, since the populist VMRO-DPMNE took over the government in August 2006, converse trends have led the state into a direction of stronger authoritarianism. Consequently three successive Freedom House reports categorized Macedonia in the group of so called ‘hybrid regimes’ – formal democracies that manifest authoritarian particularities. The last Freedom in the World Report states that Macedonia has lost its designation of ‘electoral democracy’ as it does not meet even the basic standards. One of these standards is related to providing “significant public access of the major political parties to the electorate through the media…” Taking into account the process of democratic consolidation and the development of the media system in Macedonia, this paper analyses the transformation of its public broadcaster and the pressure from below for greater civic participation in both its decision making processes and its content and programming. Applying Hallin and Mancini’s theoretical framework, Macedonia’s political system can be classified as being closest to the Mediterranean or Polarized pluralistic model with: a strong interventionist role of the state, political parties divided along ethnic lines and the ruling party entering into a coalition with the ethnic party that won the majority of votes from the Albanian electorate (parallel majoritarian democracy), political parties having a dominant role in the social processes and placing group interests before individual interests (organized pluralism), late democratization of institutions, deep clashes among political actors and contestation of the legitimacy of the political system as a whole (polarized pluralism) and a widespread culture of clientelism. All this bears direct consequences on the media system and on public service broadcasting. As the country has moved strongly towards authoritarianism in recent years, an assessment is necessary of where PSB stands now and what (if any) its future might and should be. This paper will discuss the challenges PSB in Macedonia is currently faced with and explore perspectives for overcoming the obstacles for its transformation by considering the four normative principles of PSB: citizenship, universality, quality and trust. Being central to the idea of PSB, these concepts are regained in the ongoing debates on PSB in a changed setting. PSB, by definition, is envisaged as a space which enables the flourishing of a critical and vibrant public sphere and, therefore, it has a crucial role in enabling citizens’ active participation in the process of social change. The normative value of Habermas’s theory of the public sphere remain a critical tool for studying the PSB role in contemporary democratic societies. Habermas argued that access to the public sphere should be open in principle to all citizens and it is in the PSB core remit to enable inclusiveness as a crucial democratic principle. The PSB should play a crucial role in sustaining the public sphere and providing citizens an opportunity to be part of it. In line with this, the paper examines the possibility of citizens’ stronger participation through the concept of Public Service Media and active citizenship. Initially, this paper aims to identify the challenges PSB faces in Macedonia compared with similar dilemmas in Western democracies, and, secondly, its goal is to position Macedonian PSB in a normative framework for future transformation. Two major challenges to PSB, of relevance to Macedonia, are identified in the literature with respect to the digital age: (i) commercial pressure and pressure from European competition regulation, by which it is claimed that PSB is pushed to the margins, making it obsolete, and (ii) technological pressure – meaning that new technologies and the internet era are dramatically changing the patterns of media consumption, so the main challenge for PSB is how to reach the fragmented audiences and how to encourage their motivation, as citizens, to participate in their programs. However, Macedonian PSB faces more pressing challenges. This is the reason why this paper is based on three main claims which will be further explored. First, Macedonian Radio-television (MRT), on top of challenges of commercial pressure and pressures from new technologies, faces the pressure of political authoritarianism as its most important predicament. Second, MRT has a future in the specific socio-political context only if it moves towards a ‘participative model’ to match the pressures from societal groups for participatory democracy, and, thirdly, establishing an enduring relationship with the public and civil society is the first condition for PSB to regain trust and legitimacy in the society. In the analysis of the transformation of PSB in Macedonia we have used the conceptual frameworks developed within the comparative media systems and media policy studies. In addition, in an attempt to detect the methods of transformation we rely on the critical theory of political economy and on those scholars and policy-makers who argue that PSB is still a legitimate form of media organization in contemporary societies, with the same basic functions adjusted to the new technological environment. We draw our arguments on the conceptual distinction between the three regulatory approaches for the future transformation of PSB, taking the stance that with the current societal and political tendencies in the country the policy makers and the national PSB should follow the approach of ‘adding to broadcasting’. This approach maintains the idea that the traditional broadcasting services of PSB are of crucial importance, but adds new services as equally important for its redefined remit. Following the introduction, the next section provides a discussion on the contemporary theoretical and policy debates concerning the future of PSB, also highlighting some of the key issues relevant for post-communist countries and describing the methodological approach. Section 3 contains an overview of the country’s political and social context, a brief description of the media landscape and the structure of Macedonian PSB. In Section 4 we isolate some of the most pressing political challenges – including the concerns that arise from the increased tendency toward authoritarianism. Here we also discuss the financial and technological aspects of the MRT operation and analyse the fulfillment of its socio-cultural functions. In Section 5 we discuss our findings in the context of wider theoretical debates and emphasize the key trends and challenges for the future development of PSB. We conclude in Section 6 with the development of ideas for the future of PSB that would overcome present political challenges and would be based on a participatory model. In the end, in Section 7 we give some recommendations for the future direction of the PSB transformation in the country.

  • Page Count: 66
  • Publication Year: 2017
  • Language: English