Broadcast by the Public, for the Public

The image shows an antenna at the summit of Baigura with Labourd in the French Basque Country in the background.
Antenna on the summit of Baigura: Image by Iñaki LLM, under CC-BY-SA 4.0

At a time of a worldwide pandemic, access to digitized cultural heritage has proven more important than ever. Institutions such as galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAM) and other preservers of knowledge have opened up their inventory and vaults allowing educators and creative minds to find moments of enlightenment and awe. These monumental digitization efforts make knowledge and cultural artifacts, tokens of our past and our modern society, visible.

The same mission is now also taken on by media outlets whose primary purpose is public service, the public broadcasters. The biggest public broadcasters in Germany are now, for the first time, licensing material under a Creative Commons License. The high quality animations provided by the german broadcaster ZDF under CC BY 4.0 and CC BY-SA 4.0 licenses are now being used by several Wikipedia projects and highlighted as featured videos by the Wikimedia commons community. The educational clips are watched more than a million times each month. Broadcasters ARD and Deutschlandradio will follow this path soon and make content from their vast archives available under Creative Commons licenses.

Around the world, broadcasters are grasping the urgency of the moment to serve the general public. A joint statement a “global task force” of international public broadcasters reads:

“Our countries may differ by culture and language, but we all share the common duty to Inform, Educate and Entertain. Our engagement with audiences of all ages across a range of broadcast and online services is critical to our success in serving them whenever, wherever and however they want.”

The broadcasters further state: “The Global Task Force is particularly proud of the speed with which public media across the world have responded to the challenge of supporting the education of children who are learning at home […]. Public service media is uniquely placed to play this role.”

As a movement that supports free knowledge, we commend the global task force and would like to add that the high-quality educational content being provided by public broadcasters should be

  • freely licensed, wherever possible
  • paid fairly
  • accessible everywhere (and not subject to geo-blocking)
  • accessible anytime (without an expiry date for informational and educational content)

Publicly funded educational content should be permanently available to all, following a few simple rules. There are clear benefits in sharing basic knowledge and educational content with everyone under free licenses:

  • Tax savings: Free teaching materials can be shared at any time. This means less expenses for schools.
  • Opportunities for online cooperation and collaboration: Teachers have the opportunity to share their learning materials with each other and develop them further together.
  • Reaching a wider audience: Making education available to everyone, including those who can’t afford expensive teaching materials
  • Open up education: Provide educational content that can also be used outside the classroom, for example in Wikipedia.

The Wikimedia movement is driven by the mission to make the sum of all knowledge freely available to everyone. Having reliable access to news and developments in the field of politics, society, and science is an important part of participation in knowledge and culture. A lot of the journalistic work worldwide, including reporting and fact-checking, is publicly funded. This work should therefore be available for the public to use, share and remix.

The international language communities in the Wikimedia Projects have adapted and built upon the content provided by the ZDF. There are dubbed versions available in English, Dutch, Welsh and Esperanto. There are subtitles available in numerous other languages.

The international public broadcasters can benefit from the experiences the german broadcasters have made. They should now follow the leadership of various cultural institutions like the Dutch Rijksmuseum who make their content more visible and beneficial to artists and educators worldwide. In a time of crisis, we can learn together.

Bernd Fiedler, Project Manager, Public Policy, Wikimedia Deutschland

policy.wikimedia.org - Stories by Wikimedia's Public Policy Team: Stephen LaPorte, Allison Davenport, Sherwin Siy, and Jan Gerlach.

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