The Commonwealth Broadcasting Association

The rise of digital and social media has brought with it new challenges for CBA members

In February 1945, representatives of six broadcasting organisations that had closely cooperated during the Second World War came together in London to form the Commonwealth Broadcasting Conference.

From that initial meeting, the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association (CBA), was born – the largest global association of Public Service Broadcasters, with members in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Australasia and the Pacific.

The CBA’s members range in size, and income, from the BBC, ABC Australia and CBC/Radio Canada to many smaller broadcasters that still strive to provide relevant and engaging programming for their audiences. But all, regardless of size, need to build public confidence in order keep both audiences and funding. The role that these broadcasting organisations play during times of crisis, disaster and emergency helps to build and maintain public trust. That’s why the CBA provides training and key resources, such as an online interactive course focused on broadcasting during emergencies.

The CBA works with its members to provide support for Public Service Broadcasting and the principles of free and independent media in the Commonwealth. It is a forum for members to exchange ideas and share experiences. At present, the key focus for the CBA is supporting public broadcasters through digital transition. New digital media technology provides a myriad of opportunities for broadcasters. More content can be offered, such as multiple language channels, using the same or reduced bandwidth. There is rightly a great deal of investment in new media technologies bridging the ‘digital divide’. But while new media is attractive to many investors, it is still traditional broadcasting, particularly radio that has the reach. A wind-up radio requires no independent power source or internet access.

The UK based Secretariat has an international Board with eight representatives from throughout the Commonwealth. Moneeza Hashmi from Pakistan (HUM TV) is the current president, with Gary Allen (RJR, Jamaica) and KVL Naryan Rao (NDTV, India) as vice presidents. The Secretariat is staffed by a team of project managers with an online editor, financial manager and secretary-general, Sally-Ann Wilson. Core funding for the CBA comes from member subscriptions with additional work funded by project specific grants from international philanthropists, foundations and trusts.

A unique world view

New media has increased the possibilities for broadcasters but there are substantial challenges in keeping abreast of new technology, especially on the financial side. And with more choice, audiences are becoming more fragmented and complex. The great challenge for public service broadcasters everywhere is to provide engaging and relevant programmes. It is only by offering high-quality content that these broadcasting organisations will be able to build trust and keep audiences, otherwise people will just turn over or turn off.

The CBA has responded to this demand for high quality content with the WorldView project. It was designed to provide support and ‘seed funding’ for documentary film makers, enabling them to develop and tell strong and engaging stories in innovative ways. The project has seed funded more than 350 documentary films, each one providing a different perspective and new insight. Many of these films are world-renowned and two have been nominated for Oscars. These are the stories that provide context to news and current affairs – human stories that connect the audience with people in the wider world, highlighting similarities not differences.

The project enables new and emerging filmmakers everywhere to share and showcase their own short films. WorldView’s sister project, Your WorldView provides a unique platform – film makers keep their rights but can tell their stories and demonstrate their talent. Broadcasters can review films and pick the stories that will work best for their audiences. It’s a win, win solution!

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