Gilles Trenel et Rachida Taame.

MedMedia will be publishing a series of interviews with experts and media players from the Southern Mediterranean region. Developed around the programme’s key themes, these interviews will help communicate its results and share the views of key media actors and experts with wider audiences in the partner countries.

This first edition is dedicated to the digital transition and the internal training policies of public broadcasters. In this context, MedMedia interviewed Rachida Taame, a media management and HR consultant and former head of training at the Moroccan channel 2M, and Gilles Trenel, deputy director of the Organisation and Information Department at France Televisions, where he is responsible for overseeing the digital transition. Both are contributing to a regional programme jointly implemented by MedMedia and the Permanent Conference of the Mediterranean Audiovisual Operators (COPEAM) which is aimed at improving internal training policies within public broadcasters in the Southern Mediterranean.

MedMedia (MM): What are the challenges of the digital transition for public broadcasters in the Southern Mediterranean?

Rachida Taame (RT): When it comes to the digital transition, public audiovisual media on the southern shore of the Mediterranean face the same challenges as other media across the world. Today, consumers want to have access to their programmes anytime, anywhere and on any type of device. But the expectations and habits are not the same when it comes to a TV screen, a computer, a tablet or a smartphone. The challenge is not simply to ensure multicasting. It is also necessary to rethink the design and production processes so that programmes can be consistently refined for each channel. The transition is technical but it also encompasses strategic, organisational, managerial, editorial, marketing, and economic aspects. The risk for public media is to fail in their mission or, worse, to disappear.

Gilles Trenel (GT): The digital transition is about modernising production tools, the conception of original narrative forms, as well as organisational schemes, production processes and jobs. Aggressive competition from the private sector and the flow of information no longer know any borders. It is thus essential that public broadcasters in the Southern Mediterranean engage resolutely in the digital transition by adapting it to their own “ecosystems”, to be able to compete and uphold public service values. For this, they should, without further delay, get into a dynamic of structural and editorial changes in their strategic objectives.

MM: Are these issues sufficiently integrated into broadcasters’ internal training policies in the region?

RT: Discussing training in the context of digital transition often triggers a response regarding the digitization of equipment or programmes. These are important aspects but it is essential to adopt a more strategic approach. The starting point is a clear definition of the digital transition project by the management, then an alignment of organisational and HR policies with a view to determining the impact on tasks and jobs that will disappear and emerge. In this context, training is envisaged not only as developing skills, but also accompanying change.

GT: Before developing training policies, the digital transition requires stakeholders to define, clarify and publicise the strategic objective of each organisation. This should lead managers to define the priorities, in order to deploy training adapted to the institutions’ environment. Progressive programmes can then be implemented to equip the company with the skills required to take on the challenges of the digital transition in all its aspects.

MM: What are the priority actions to be implemented?

RT: Priorities must be defined according to the particularities of each media organisation. In an approach to accompanying change, it is a step-by-step process that maximises the chances of achieving predetermined goals. Sometimes the management is not sufficiently aware of the strategic, organisational, managerial, editorial, marketing, economic or even survival challenges facing the digital transition. In these cases, the priority is to raise managers’ awareness. Exchange of best practices and benchmarking are particularly suitable formats to meet this need.

GT: These depend on the strategic objective set by the company and the various sub-objectives defined to achieve it. As in any major process of change, project managers are central. They must be involved and defend the options chosen. The actions to be implemented after the sequencing of the objectives must take the form best suited to the context. It is necessary to innovate and deploy all available means: individual coaching, team building, workplace learning, and group sharing of managerial experiences, thematic seminars, etc., to strengthen skills and identify good practices.

MM: What are the main obstacles to these developments?

RT: The first obstacle is resistance to change. The digital transition implies a disruption of jobs, organisation, and processes. The reaction will then be to try to protect the perimeters and preserve comfort zones. The answer is to take into account the human dimension; then to assess the extent of change and its impact on direct and indirect stakeholders. Then communicate and raise awareness about change and its issues. The full involvement of teams allows for the appropriation and the success of the project.

GT: Each institution has its specificities and hence its own brakes, whether human, organisational, technological, or financial. From a human point of view, the aversion to change is accompanied by suspicion and a dramatization of the consequences. The teams responsible for supporting change must consider these psychological factors and explain the necessity of changes, as often as necessary. The second major obstacle typically encountered is a deficit in project management skills. The digital transition impacts various branches, departments and operational units. A clear project and a reactive support team will allow better control of these changes and improved response to unforeseen events.