Gregory F. Lowe is professor for media management at the School for Communication, Media and Theatre of the University of Tampere, Finland. The US-born is founder and head of the RIPE Initiative (Re-Visionary Interpretations of the Public Enterprise, http://ripeat.org), a network for theorists and practitioners of public service broadcasting.
Public Value is for me…
…something the public actually values. Meaning what they find to be of particular importance or benefit for them. That is clearly a dimension of Public Value, but there is also a dimension that has to do with value in economic terms. Because there are so many requirements these days for what public money needs to be used – health care, transportation, education and the like. A lot of people are – in my opinion quite rightly – questioning the degree to which public money should be used for particular media.
I think, there is a good reason for using public money to pay for a valuable and important part of a media system. There are only a few really big operators, that have an enormous amount of influence and control. Especially if you think about small countries and particularly those that have unique languages or particular cultures. If you don’t have some domestic supplier who is specifically mandated to provide a range of services and programs in the public’s interest, it is not offered by a purely commercial company without benefit. Moreover, there is a value to the public but it’s not always clear that the public understands the value.
The main challenges for research on Public Value are…
…trying to study cooperations, which have their own understandable self-interest to think about. Their strategy, internal dynamics, management, the mission that they are trying to conceptualize – this stuff is very sensitive for them. They don’t really want that information floating around in the market to much. And they are often not convinced that giving their information to an academic researcher is useful enough.
A problem for younger students, who are just starting their research, is that they want to believe that what they are told is true. But in fact managers are responsible for positioning their company. And so it is really important that we be respectful to the people who are helping us to understand, but at the same time we have to be critical. This is really difficult because on the one hand you are quite dependent on these people. You can only really develop understandings if they give you the access and insights.
It is problem for younger researchers, because they don’t really have the experience yet. You continuously have to be able to get access and getting access means, that you really have to have a very good ethic. It takes time to build up relationships and establishing credibility. It is all about trust. Usually most countries only a hand full of people who really have that kind of access. So access is a big issue.
My expectations on this visit…
…had to do with the enjoyment of having some degree of curiosity satisfied. I have never been to Vienna before, so I was very interested to see what the environment is like. How is the University? What are the facilities like? Who are the students? Studies say that people tend to be the most creative, when they are in a new environment. So part of my expectation, whenever I go anywhere is to learn something. And I think that I will walk away from this with some useful knowings – about ORF, Austrian public media, the environmental situation and so on.
The other important thing is to leave footprints. We have the possibility to make some impression, to catch some deeper thought among students. Teaching is an opportunity to learn. I learn from what I think and I learn from what they think. I really do take time to ask questions and listen and engage a dialogue. As a professor it’s a lot easier to be a transmitter than a communicator.
Lowe, Gregory F. & Martin, Fiona (2014). The Value of Public Service Media: RIPE@2013. Goteborg: Nordicom. Avaliable online.
Lowe, Gregory F. & Steemers, Jeanette (2012). Regaining the Initiative for Public Service Media: RIPE@2011. Goteborg: Nordicom. Avaliable online.