PSM and the Digital Challenge: Purpose, Value and Funding

The UK is home to a unique and diverse system of Public Service media (PSM) whose success in serving audiences and supporting the UK's creative economy is widely lauded but whose future is now under threat due to a changing economic and competitive media landscape, new audience habits and concerns about PSM funding mechanisms. This three-year project funded by the UK Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) investigates the purpose, public value and funding of PSM. At a time when changes in distribution and in the economics of the media industry have fueled consolidation and the rise of powerful global competitors, it examines the challenges faced by PSM in the UK and how they deliver public value.  New functions such as countering online mis and disinformation are not merely additions but rather they re-position PSM as elements of 'critical media infrastructure' which is a focus for this project.  

The project commences in July 2023 and is led by Gillian Doyle (Principal Investigator), Professor of Media Economics and Co-Investigator Raymond Boyle, Professor of Communications, in the Centre for Cultural Policy Research (CCPR) at the University of Glasgow.    At a pivotal moment for the UK in determining the future role of Public Service Media and how it is to be funded, central aims for the research are to build understanding of the value that PSM creates for society and of how it can best be sustained in the face of unprecedented competitive and political challenges.  

Using multiple case studies, the scope of the investigation will cover: 

  • the changing functions and purposes of PSM organisations in the digital era; 
  • how the value that PSM generates for society can be evaluated and measured;   
  • how the ability of systems of PSM to withstand, adapt to changing conditions and recover from stresses can be protected and improved;   
  • the efficacy of alternative funding models for PSM in the UK;  
  • implications for public policy. 

At a time of concern about how PSM can adjust successfully to technical, organisational, economic and political threats and about how systems of funding for PSM ought to change to ensure that they continue to flourish in the global arena, this project and its outputs are intended to deepen and enhance public understanding of the changing role and value of PSM in the context of a rapidly evolving media ecology. 

Project contacts: 

Professor Gillian Doyle (PI): 

Professor Raymond Boyle (Co-I):