Public service media, universality and personalisation through algorithms: mapping strategies and exploring dilemmas
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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This contribution compares personalisation strategies of public service media (PSM) and how these are reconciled with PSM’s core values, especially universality. To this end, it combines mapping of a sample of PSM with in-depth analysis of Flemish VRT and Norwegian NRK. The theoretical framework discusses universality in relationship to PSM’s historical remit and to contemporary personalisation through digital options like algorithms. Subsequently, strategies of the sampled PSM are analysed, using data from documents, an online survey and interviews. Results suggest that most PSM, including VRT and NRK, engage in implicit and explicit digital personalisation, yet vary in type of engagement and in views on how personalisation strengthens or threatens universality. It is argued that histories and the understanding of technology within specific institutions affect their personalisation approach. We argue that policies focus on news and information but that negotiating universality and personalisation, while dealing with issues like filter bubbles and privacy, extends to the entire range of PSM programmes and goals.