Digital giants becoming ‘powerful gatekeepers’ to what we watch – EBU boss

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Digital giants such as Google, Amazon and Facebook are becoming “powerful gatekeepers” of what we watch and hear, according to the boss of Europe’s public service broadcaster alliance.

Noel Curran, director-general of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), said traditional broadcasters were finding it “increasingly difficult” to reach viewers.

In a statement marking the EBU’s 70th anniversary, Mr Curran stressed the value of PSBs such as the BBC and ITV, which operate for the public benefit rather than for commercial interest.

Public service media is often where people turn first for trusted, accurate and impartial news

He said: “As the algorithms of Silicon Valley powerhouses become ever more dominant curators of what European audiences consume – especially for younger viewers – we are finding it increasingly difficult to make our content visible to our audiences.

“Public service media are investing heavily to ensure that people can see their content when they switch on their screens and are developing digital alternatives to US corporations.

“But US platforms are increasingly becoming powerful gatekeepers to what we watch, promoting their own programmes and those of their commercial partners.”

The EBU represents 116 organisations in 56 countries in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, and produces events including the Eurovision Song Contest.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>The BBC is one of the UK’s public service broadcasters (Aaron Chown/PA)</figcaption>
The BBC is one of the UK’s public service broadcasters (Aaron Chown/PA)

Mr Curran, who served as director-general of Ireland’s national broadcaster RTE between 2011 and 2016, also stressed the importance of trusted PSBs in a world increasingly populated with fake news.

He added: “Public service media is often where people turn first for trusted, accurate and impartial news about the world around them, at home and abroad.

“It’s where parents feel comfortable leaving their children, safe in the knowledge that they won’t be exposed to harmful content.

“And in an increasingly atomised world, where loneliness is reaching epidemic proportions, public service programming creates viewing moments that bring nations together and provoke national conversations, such as Blue Planet, World Cup final football matches and the Eurovision Song Contest – a unique, collaborative and joyful event that only public services broadcasters could have created.”

Mr Curran also called on regulators, such as Ofcom in the UK, to champion the European media sector at large.

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