Skip main navigation

Is public media in crisis?

Governments are increasingly interfering in the management and governance of public media organisations in multiple countries
© University of East Anglia

Governments are increasingly interfering in the management and governance of public media organisations. In recent years, Hungarian, Polish and Brazilian public media are examples of those that have been co-opted or captured by ruling parties.

This media capture in countries like Hungary means that the relationships between media and political interests are less transparent and more directly linked, putting editorial independence at severe risk. This is a growing trend across Central Europe.

In late 2015, when the ruling Law and Justice Party came to power in Poland, it introduced a bill that allowed government ministers to appoint the head of public radio and television as well as conduct mass staff dismissals according to how supportive their reporting had been of the new government.

Further interference in subsequent years has effectively transformed Polish broadcaster, TVP, into a mouthpiece of the state.

Media capture is often used as a means of stifling critical news outlets.


Public media is also struggling to survive in many places due to proposed budget cuts from state subsidies and declining public support to pay licence fees.

Without sustainable funds, public media cannot carry out the vital work or services its provides the public.

There are numerous interdependent reasons why funding can be a challenge including media literacy (people’s understanding of the role of public media), political pressure and the wider economy (e.g. recession, rate of unemployment, ability to pay).

Changing audience behaviours

As the media landscape continues to evolve technologically and access to multiple devices grows, it has brought with it an enormous variety of content. As a result, there has been a significant change in viewing habits, with audiences — particularly younger people — consuming content from a variety of platforms and streaming services, like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+.

While many public media organisations have evolved away from linear broadcasting, many are struggling to compete with streaming services and therefore maintain relevance with their audiences.

Journalist safety

Journalist safety is critical for press freedom and for news media to effectively function. If journalists cannot work without fear of intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrests or physical attacks, this will compromise their ability to work and increase the chances of self-censorship.

The risks have grown considerably this year with the targeting of journalists covering protests in countries such as Belarus, Hong Kong, the Netherlands and the United States.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the International Press Institute (IPI) are all useful sources of information about journalist safety.

Additional material

© University of East Anglia
This article is from the free online

Why Does Media Matter for Development?

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now