Marko on the Role of Public Service Media in Tackling Fake News and Propaganda
“Public service media (PSM) are legitimate and needed keepers of democratic order, and should play a crucial role in combating misinformation and propaganda,” believes Davor Marko, non-resident CMDS fellow during a panel discussion in Vilnius, Lithuania, organized by the Eastern European Studies Centre in Vilnius and the MEMO98 in Slovakia, who conducted an intensive monitoring of PSM performance in ten Central and Eastern European countries to detect trends related to fake news. In order to perform this role, PSM need to be depoliticized, independent, considered as reliable source of information and to catch up with ongoing trends affected by technological development and digitalization. Unfortunately, in most of the post-Soviet and post-socialist countries this is not the case.
As preliminary results of the research by MEMO98 show, the cases of Hungary and Poland are considered as bad examples of politicized broadcaster and are heavily misused by authorities to spread fake news. On the other hand, Belorussia is a country where an authoritarian government has instrumentalized public media to spread propaganda on a continuous basis.
The findings of the research were discussed by participants of the panel. While Marko compared some observed trends to those indicated in the region of Western Balkan, and provided some positive examples from the globe, Radka Betcheva from the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) emphasized that public media should stick to the core values while reporting. She distinguished propaganda from fake news, and said that several public media such as the BBC, Finland's public service media or the Danish public radio have already developed mechanisms of verification and fact-checking to tackle fake news. The EBU has initiated several activities to support its member organizations, including ‘peer to peer reviews’, which means that members from one country visit others in order to observe their work.
Other panelists discussed the specific cases and particularities relevant for their countries. Andrzej Krajewski, journalist and media expert, commented on the situation in Poland, concluding that “Polish RTV is not running fake news because its entire program is fake”. Audrius Matonis from the Lithuanian National Radio and Television shared his experience of the country’s public media and explained how local authorities put pressure on them through budget re-allocation. Finally, Solvita Denisa-Liepniece from the Baltic Centre for Media Excellence, Latvia, highlighted the importance of media literacy and stressed the educative role of public media.