Gilles Marchand

L’analyse de la valeur publique n’est pas un exercice de communication

La SSR termine cette année son premier cycle de «Public Value». Au menu, l’analyse de sa contribution à la démocratie, à la diversité, à la cohésion et à l’intégration et enfin à l’écosystème médiatique. Mais plus que les résultats, c’est le processus qui compte. Il ne se résume pas à l’offre de programmes, il concerne aussi l’attitude de l’entreprise de service public.

Toutes ces questions sont abordées dans cette interview menée par Roberto Suarez Candel, head of Strategy and Media Intelligence auprès de l’UER.

Roberto Suarez Candel: What was the reason, starting point, problem or challenge that urged you as a DG to consider the PSM Contribution to Society / Value mindset as something your organization should implement?
Gilles Marchand: Well, SRG’s situation is unique! Back in 2018, we faced a referendum to decide whether (or not) to retain the licence fee system, so questioning the very existence of the SRG. We won by more than 70%. But the campaign was brutal. For a number of weeks in the run-up to the vote, the polls suggested a very close result. The SRG was subject to attacks and criticism, without mercy. The very legitimacy of public service broadcasting was called into question.

In this situation, we decided to continue the debate by launching a process to observe our contribution to society. We had two objectives: First, we wanted to maintain an ongoing dialogue with the public. Second, we wanted to identify any potential gaps between how we see our contribution to society and the way it is perceived by society itself.

The Contribution to Society mindset can focus on several types of impact (economic, industrial, cultural, democratic, etc.) and consider different approaches (research, strategy, communications). What was your approach and why?
A combination of qualitative and quantitative methods.

We defined four basic pillars:

  • contribution to democracy;
  • contribution to diversity;
  • contribution to cohesion and integration;
  • and contribution to the media ecosystem.

In addition, we looked at various key issues, such as relationship with young audiences.  And for those key issues that we are following, we are trying to define specific measures.

These measures concern both the attitude of our organisation and its output. Output is clear, we are talking about programs.  But the attitude means the way we react as a company. A good example is transparency. Finally, we launched a public value barometer for SRG with questions about the way we are contributing to society. And we will monitor those questions every year.

How has applying the Contribution to Society approach benefited your organization? What have you achieved? What have you solved? Is your organization changing as a result of placing “DELIVERING VALUE” to the citizens at the centre of what you do?
We are in the middle of the first cycle. We will have a final report in December and proposed measures which will be discussed by the SRG Executive Board to be implemented in 2021.

But we already have a remarkable and important initial outcome:

  • The launch in October 2020 of a new streaming platform (so called «Play Suisse») that will offer films, documentaries and reports from the various regional units of the SRG in French, German, Italian and Romansh.
  • These videos will be organised by theme and genre.
  • They will be systematically subtitled in our national languages (French, German, Italian and Romansh.
  • And the platform will be totally customized by users, with personalised recommendations.

In this way, we are delivering on three key elements of public value: showcasing our diversity, contributing to cohesion, and enhancing our relationship with younger audiences. At the same time, we are drawing up a list of all the existing initiatives across our various regional channels that embody this contribution to society based on the four pillars we defined. In other words, we are also looking at what we are already doing.

From your DG perspective, what are the key success factors to demonstrate the value of your organization? What are the steps / actions nobody should miss? What should other DGs avoid?
The public value process is complex and faces two major risks:

  • the risk of drowning in its own complexity and not managing to demonstrate simply and effectively the focal point of the process across the whole organisation and society;
  •  and the risk of confusion about the objective.

This is not about redefining programme schedules, choosing the next co-productions or defining the sports that are broadcast. Nor is it a simple communication exercise. It is about improving the attitude of public service broadcasting and its global messages, both in terms of overall content and of the organisation’s reactions. To avoid these two risks, we need to constantly improve the way we explain the project to people, highlighting the quick wins. It’s not as easy as it sounds…

What did you do as DG that was instrumental to achieve your objectives connected to demonstrating the value of your organization? What advice would you give to other DGs that are about to launch their Contribution to Society strategies or need to step up their game in this area?
The DG must support and personally advocate the process because it is fragile. The process can be easily damaged… It’s essential to set up a small group that is representative of the stakeholders across the company to promote and lead the project, and to explain it to the whole organisation. The DG must also regularly remind people of the importance of the process. In this regard, I believe that the process is just as important as the results. This is why it is so important to develop a convincing internal narrative.

Finally, it is crucial that the DG does not see the process as a way of promoting his own actions. Because that invalidates the whole process.

In this sense, the public value process necessitates a great openness to criticism and negative feedback….

What is the next big thing related to the value of your organization that you would like to tackle? What are your aspirations?
At SRG, the next steps are very clear.  By the end of the year, we need to have finished the first cycle of the public value process, with a list of statements on current perceptions, together with a catalogue of optimisation measures that can be implemented rapidly.

We therefore need to develop and optimise quickly the way in which the process is presented and communicated within our organisation. And this is a major challenge because we work, think and communicate in four languages.

Finally, between now and late August, we need to define the principles for the second cycle of SRG’s public value process, including which method we will adopt and what the specific objectives are. We need to avoid the process being seen as a one-time project. Our aim is to set up an ongoing process.

How could the EBU continue to support you as a DG in this area?
I expect the EBU to provide critical and constructive support, benchmarking with other organisations that have launched public value processes, and best practices.


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