Third parties voices in a public service media negotiation of identity: “diversity” discourses and the Belgian PSM


European Public service media (PSM) are torn between different tensions such as the need to attract a large audience while having the mission to serve the population (Horsti & Hultén 2011). In the last years, corporate social responsibility (CSR) discourses emerged in European PSM (Tania Fernández-Lombao, Andrea Valencia-Bermúdez, and Francisco Campos-Freire 2017). The Belgian PSM, a key and influential actor in Belgian’s media landscape (Komorowski et al. 2018), is using “diversity”, which is often use in CSR discourses (Hou and Reber 2011), as a keyword of its current organizational change and its long-term vision. It develops a “diversity” policy not only because of obligations appearing in its management contract but also because it is pushed by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and other stakeholders.

“Diversity” can be understood (and used) by PSM (and third parties) in various ways, from organization management to social cohesion, through marketing use (Horsti & Hultén 2011) or innovation (Mayer et al. 2018). Using the perspective of the constitutive role of communication in organizations (CCO), in which communication is making the organization (Schoeneborn et al. 2018), communication around “diversity” is seen as one of the “sites” where the economic and social tensions are negotiated and therefore where the PSM is constituted. In the CCO perspective, the organizational boundary is continuously (re-)established through communication and involves third parties, which “becomes particularly evident in the case of CSR, where practices of stakeholder involvement invite third parties to co-constitute these communicative boundaries” (Schoeneborn and Trittin 2013).

This study intends to understand the interplay between different third parties’ discourses of “diversity” and how the organization defines itself through this concept. An analysis of “diversity” discourses holders that are interacting with the PSM will be done in order to understand the third parties that might be co-constituting the organization. In order to catch and understand the variety of voices, a mixed methodology is used including discourse analysis through a variety of sources intended to communication (press releases, managerial discourses, social network and media content related to the topic, etc.) as well as in-depth interviews with key staff members responsible of (any form of) communication: PR, managers, HR, diversity manager, media content producers, etc.

Results are expected to show that, while a communication strategy about “diversity” might be found in the PSM (Maier and Ravazzani 2019), such organization has a polysemic and complex use of “diversity” in its communication, which is negotiated with several third parties. A mapping of the negotiation of the PSM’s identity through “diversity” discourses is expected to be created, integrating the PSM in its polyphony of voices, including third parties.