Broadcasting in crisis, says President

At opening of DCU media and communication research conference, Michael D Higgins calls for ‘moral compass’ in use of new technology

 President Michael D Higgins: ‘We are living in a digital age’. Photograph: Reuters/Vincent Kessler

President Michael D Higgins: ‘We are living in a digital age’. Photograph: Reuters/Vincent Kessler

 

President Michael D Higgins has said public service broadcasting is in a time of crisis in the modern world of social media and communications.

He said the proliferation of world media had created a situation in which broadcasters shifted from being service providers to simple participants in a widening commercial sector.

President Higgins was addressing the opening of the International Association for Media and Communication Research Conference at Dublin City University (DCU) yesterday evening.

“What indeed could be more important than the relationship of an ever more rapidly developing technological sector to what is perceived by some as our ever more fragile public world?” he asked the delegation at the beginning of a speech that dealt largely with the challenges posed by rapidly developing forms of media.

There was a need to understand and debate the newly emerging relationship between communications and society, he said.

How we respond to emerging technologies poses great ethical and moral questions.

“Old oppositions will not serve as a substitute, nor will a longing for a previous order of State control. The new and deeper democracy has to be won, and founded in the heat, and at the heart of the new technological form and its delivery.”

Referring to past observations on broadcasting, he said “mega-mergers” were now the pursuit of “search giants and social network corporations”.

“We are living in a digital age; a time when information has never been more accessible,” he said. “There can be no doubt that technology has dramatically changed the way in which we relate to the world and, indeed, to each other.

“Today, citizens no longer depend solely on newspapers and national broadcasting corporations for information.”

With a cautionary note, the President said there were potentially both upsides and downsides to the new era or social media.

“Never has there been a greater need for those who have access to such technology to be equipped with a strong ethical and moral compass,” he said.