EBU General Assembly
Ladies and gentlemen!
Good morning everyone, and welcome to Oslo and to Norway. Thank you for the invitation to EBUs General Assembly.
What would have happened if we had grown up without our public service media?
What would have happened to us as informed citizens?
What would our societies have looked like?
How would our individual mindsets have been?
When I was a kid, we had only one Norwegian TV channel: the NRK. I must admit that some Saturday evenings with my family, gathered in front of the TV, could be a small challenge. My interests and wishes and what was that evening’s entertainment was not always in sync. We watched the weirdest of shows. Still, all of us did it – and we did it together. And the day after, when we went to school or work, everyone else had seen the same.
Many things have changed since those days. Technology is transformed. The media landscape is obviously very different. Today in Norway we have TV2, handheld devices and of course internet.
Still, our public service media’s role in providing the entire population with access to a broad range of content has not changed dramatically. Your importance in our lives and in shaping our societies is still central.
In Norway, NRK’s goal is to contribute to a better understanding of the society, each other and ourselves. To inspire us to be more inclusive and curious. To strengthen Norwegian and Sami media pluralism and diversity.
In order to do so, you have to – and I quote – provide content that people find, choose and love. To be close to the audience, and exist for everyone’s benefit. To create open meeting places, lasting experiences and build new understanding.
I know that you, here in this room, is a diverse group of people and organizations. I can therefore talk only from my own experience regarding public service media:
You aim to convey facts and news of high journalistic standard. You explore and reveal, get us behind the scenes. And you explain the world – so we can become more informed and be able to connect the dots ourselves.
You create history, by showing people’s stories. You even change people’s lives – by showing us how other people live.
You entertain us – with humor and drama, and sports. From the Eurovision Song Contest, via Top Gear to Ski Flying World Championships.
Through news coverage, documentaries and groundbreaking entertainment you affect us all. Director-General Eriksen mentioned the Norwegian – and now international – tv-series SKAM – or SHAME; is a good example that captures almost all of these three: Assisted by high ratings, the series managed to highlight very relevant issues, like domestic violence, social pressure, sexual identity and religion. It gave us a fictional reality, presented in a way that broadened our minds. Changed our hearts.
When we discover the world, it becomes real.
When we see people, they exist.
When we know something, we can make up our minds and decide what we think about it. And make free, informed decisions.
Public service media very often succeed to assist us – the audience – in doing so. And you do more:
In 1995, the first director of MIT Media Lab, Nicholas Negroponte, wrote about the “Daily Me” – an individual communication source – specially made, just for you. Back then, it was science fiction. Today, it is a common part of our everyday lives. We have our private “youtubes” on our news feed, on our social media platforms, and our taste in music and literature is influenced by algorithms.
Is it bad for us? Not necessarily. We get the opportunity to save time – avoiding things we don’t like, get bored of or lack interest in.
Public service media help us to see life – with all its components. You don’t give us the Daily Me. You give us the Daily We. Not “youtube”, but WeTube. By creating platforms for everybody, with an extreme width in content, I can risk to be informed about things I didn’t know I needed. Or liked. Or even knew existed.
I think this is good for us – and good for our diverse, multifaceted societies. By learning new things, meeting people that are completely different from us – and have very different opinions, I think we get more tolerant, and we can build societies that are more robust. Build better democracies. By giving everyone a chance to be heard and seen, we prevent fragmentation and dangerous polarization.
The truth, the reality, can be uncomfortable. Public service media is in many ways the antidote to fake news. As you all know, today, trust is a scarce resource, a most valuable means. And when we doubt, relevance diminishes, and we turn to something else. Perhaps to fake news, not the real news. Which is why we need the independent public service media even more – committed to the truth and to high journalistic standards.
At your best,
You make us see our common history, and create our collective memory
You bring us together as active participants with freedom of speech
You build and preserve democratic, diverse communities
All this is part of your purpose, and we need you more than ever.
Thank you for your attention, and I wish you a successful meeting!