RIPE is an acronym for Re-Visionary Interpretations of the Public Enterprise. Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) has a rich history in Europe, an interesting but shorter history in the USA, and is now beginning to emerge in the wider world. There is growing interest to develop a public service media sector in many countries where governments and citizens are committed to healthy democracies and domestic media contents and services.
Where PSB has deep roots and a strong presence, the biggest challenges in recent decades are related to preserving the sector and making the transition to PSM — online services as well as traditional broadcasting. In countries without a PSB heritage, the essential challenge is to create a public service system of some kind. That is a complicated task because there is often a legacy of state media that people confuse with public media, and there are powerful commercial interests that often resist this development for fear of unwanted competition. Increasingly the RIPE network is looking not only at traditional institutional arrangements, but also non-institutional approaches. We believe there will be a lot for European PSM organisations to learn from the rest of the world in the future.
Financing has been complicated in recent years by economic recession, budget cutting and austerity measures. The ‘licence fee’ approach to funding is falling out of favour politically and in popular preferences. Costs and complexity continue to increase with each wave of new digital technology, most recently with the investments required to develop mobile media services. Audiences are more fragmented and young people, especially, perceive the role and function of media differently than earlier generations. International pressures are growing and create complications because PSB is primarily domestic. It is supposed to be facilitator of home language programming and services intended to satisfy the distinctive social, cultural and democratic needs of host societies.
The RIPE network is discussing, debating, critiquing and conceptualising what is needed to guarantee public service in media today. This international project that is dedicated to reinventing, redefining, and recreating the meanings and practices of public service in media. Although much of the original idea in PSB has continuing relevance despite rapid and sweeping changes, it is clear that conditions, needs and situations are much different and more varied today.
RIPE is devoted to strengthening collaboration between media researchers and (mainly) strategic managers (i.e. university-industry collaboration). The RIPE network has about 300 members at present. These distinctive communities are interrelated but independent. Collaboration isn't always easy, but it is the best way to achieve innovation. We are constantly working to ensure that each community receives good value from participation, with the understanding that what counts as 'good' varies according to professional criteria in each community.
The RIPE initiative is managed by Professor Gregory Ferrell Lowe who heads the Media Management programme at the University of Tampere, a graduate studies programme in the School of Communication, Media & Theatre. Prof. Lowe is the RIPE Continuity Director and his role is mainly to secure the continual development of this initiative in practical terms. He does this as a voluntary service. Prof. Lowe earlier worked (1997 – 2007) as Senior Adviser for Corporate Strategy & Development at Ylesiradio (Yle), the Finnish national PSB company, and was the Head of Programme Development for several years (2002-2005). He is American with a background in commercial radio.
The ‘RIPE model’ has been developed over the years to 1) ensure results that benefit both scholarly and practitioner interests, 2) encourage discursive engagement and collaboration between the two communities, and 3) produce a conference experience that is valued by participants for both scholarly and networking experience — what we refer to as ‘the RIPE Experience’. In our view, the informal links and shared social experience is as important for long-term development as the formal aspects and professional accomplishments. RIPE is about fertilizing creativity and encouraging innovation, not for its own sake but for the well-being of democratic and cultural life and the health of social relations.
The model has two components. The first is a bi-annual conference in the even years and the second is the publication of a RIPE Reader in the odd years. The later features thoroughly developed chapters that originated from selected conference papers, in each case ‘the cream of the crop’ as a cross-section of those that best addressed varied pertinent aspects of the selected theme for each conference. Those selected for inclusion in each Reader represent roughly the top 10% (and are subjected to peer review). Each Reader has a specific theme, and all are produced with the goal of achieving both theoretical importance and strategic implication.
Each conference is co-sponsored by a leading public service media company and hosted by a leading university department or school in the field of media research and teaching in each national context. Typically there are additional supporting sponsors that may include national research academies, media foundations, government ministries, and civil society organisations.
The conference is limited by design to about 60 scholarly papers to facilitate deep discussion, focused thematic work in topical workgroups, and robust networking. Each conference includes about 20 managerial and policy-maker participants, on average. The first day is always held at the practitioner host’s headquarters and the other two days at the university host site. Conference sponsors organise sociable events with a keen appreciation for local culture and flavour as an important part of the RIPE Experience enjoyed by all participants.
There have been seven RIPE conferences to date:
1. The RIPE@2002 conference was organised collaboratively by Yle, the Finnish public broadcasting company, and the University of Tampere, Department of Journalism and Mass Communication. The theme was Broadcasting & Convergence: Articulating a New Public Service Remit.
2. The RIPE@2004 conference was organised collaboratively by DR, the Danish public broadcasting company, and the University of Aarhus, Department of Information and Media Studies. The theme was Mission, Market and Management: Public Service Broadcasting and the Cultural Commons.
3. The RIPE@2006 conference was organised collaboratively by NPB, Netherlands Public Broadcasting, and the Amsterdam School of Communications Research (ASCoR) at the University of Amsterdam. The theme was Public Service Broadcasting in a Multimedia Environment: Programmes and Platforms.
4. The RIPE@2008 conference was organised collaboratively by ZDF (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen), Germany’s national public service television broadcasting company, and two universities: The Medienintelligenz programme together with IAK Medienwissenschaften at the Johannes Gutenberg-University of Mainz and the Institute of Media Design at the Mainz University of Applied Sciences. The theme was Public Service Media in the 21st Century: Participation, Partnership and Media Development.
5. The RIPE@2010 conference was organised collaboratively by the BBC and Ofcom, the British regulatory agency and at the University of Westminster, Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI). The theme was Public Service Media After the Recession.
6. The RIPE@2012 conference was organised collaboratively by the ABC and the University of Sydney, Department of Media & Communications. The theme was Value for Public Money – Money for Public Value.
7. The RIPE@2014 conference was organised collaboratively by the NHK (Nippon Hoso Kyokai), the Japan Broadcasting Corporation, and the Institute for Media and Communications Research at Keio University in Tokyo. The theme was Public Service Media Across Boundaries.
8 The RIPE@2016 conference is being organised collaboratively by VRT Belgium, the PSB organisation for the Flemish-speaking community, and the University of Antwerp in partnership with the Free University of Brussels. The theme is Public Service Media in a Networked Society?
You can learn more about the book series, called RIPE Readers, (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013) by visiting the Nordicom website (Nordic Information Centre for Media and Communication Research), the publisher for the series. All of the RIPE Readers through 2013 are now available as free downloads in PDF format! So download your personal copies today!