Society of African Journal Editors

International Journal of Communication: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Communication Studies

Public Service Media in the Digital Age| Diversity by Choice: Applying a Social Cognitive Perspective to the Role of Public Service Media in the Digital Age

Authors: Christian Pieter Hoffman, Christoph Lutz, Miriam Meckel, Giulia Ranzini

Journal: International Journal of Communication: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Communication Studies

Hopes for a new abundance of diverse media content have long been tied to the rise of the Internet. Ensuring diversity remains a fundamental objective of media policy. However, media policy is still largely focused on public service media. In this article, we introduce a new theoretical perspective to inform media policy, focusing on the concept of diversity experience and users’ motivation, awareness, and ability to seek diverse content in a transforming media environment. We argue that our understanding of and regulatory approaches to media pluralism must be adapted to technological advances. Based on social cognitive theory, we propose an extension of the diversity debate by considering user cognition. We analyze challenges to users’ diversity experiences on a motivational, perceptual, and capability level. Given the (over)abundance of content available online, users must be willing and able to seek out diverse and serendipitous information. We derive a user-centric approach to media pluralism and diversity. Based on this framework, we outline criteria for changing the role of public service media in the digital age to focus on empowering users to actually experience media diversity.