Public Media Autonomy and Accountability: Best and Worst Policy Practices in 12 Leading Democracies

Rodney Benson, Matthew Powers, Timothy Neff


Public media’s contributions to democracy are well established. Less widely known are the specific policies that make these contributions possible. This study finds that professional autonomy and civic accountability in public media are supported by (1) funding established for multiyear periods; (2) legal charters that restrict partisan government influence while also mandating the provision of diverse, high-quality programming; (3) oversight agencies, whose “arm’s length” independence from the government in power is bolstered through staggered terms and the dispersal of authority to make appointments; and (4) audience councils and surveys designed to strengthen links to diverse publics. Public media governed by policies that continue and extend, rather than depart from, these best practices will likely be the most successful in maintaining their civic mission online.


public media, media policy, comparative media systems, journalism, democracy, digital transition systems, journalism, democracy, digital transition

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