Public Service Media laboratories as communities of practice: implementing innovation at BBC News Labs and RTVE Lab [open access article]

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European Public Service Media (PSM) have implemented innovation departments or labs that seem to be useful for experimenting and developing innovative ideas regarding technologies, content, audiences and other areas. We have identified 17 PSM labs. We analyse these units through the lens of the Model of Coordinated Action developed by Lee and Paine (2015) and the concept of “Community of Practice” that describes how a group communicates, learns, participates and transforms their practice, drawing from Wenger’s theory (1998).

This study addresses how innovative PSM labs are managed, focusing on the cases of BBC News Labs and RTVE Lab. The methodology is based on participant observation in their workplaces, as well as semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of 23 managers and employees. The results highlight that both teams manage innovation in their functional organization through learning processes among their professionals and transfer their innovations to other areas of their respective corporations.

PSM labs encourage their team members to innovate through a collaborative culture that makes it possible to identify them as Communities of Practice that foster coordinated action and learning in their work. Their organizational culture relies on a strategy that seeks to increase their public service function.


Public Service Media (PSM) are undergoing a transformation compelled by technological changes, audience fragmentation, the increase in the supply of content and the need to differentiate themselves from competitors (Glowacki and Jackson 2013). The PSM crisis also affects their social legitimacy and their ability to adapt to the digital ecosystem (Campos-Freire, Rodríguez-Castro, and Blasco-Blasco 2020, 671). In this context, the sustainability of PSM requires the implementation of management models of organizational change (Nissen 2013, 82) by means of value creation strategies that allow PSM to be repositioned, considering their loss of relevance in the digital ecosystem (Fernández-Quijada et al. 2015; Virta and Lowe 2016, 246). The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the need of European PSM to provide public service and to fight misinformation (Túñez-López, Vaz-Álvarez, and Fieiras-Ceide 2020).

Despite structural, financial, and political difficulties, PSM are trying to respond to market challenges through initiatives that promote innovation, offering quality news content that provide added value to users and differentiate them from commercial competitors (Lowe and Steemers 2012). Several PSM have been catalysts in the development of digitization and technological innovation (Meier, Bracker, and Verhovnik 2017), placing innovation at the heart of their strategy (Jakubowicz 2010; Cunningham 2015), which is developed at different paces. Although the European Union lays down a set of guidelines for common implementation and the European Broadcasting Union promotes innovation among its members (Arriaza-Ibarra 2012), some PSM have demonstrated their inability to adapt to change due to a lack of initiative and strategy (Glowacki and Jackson 2013).


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María Teresa Zaragoza Fuster & José Alberto García Avilés (2022) Public Service Media laboratories as communities of practice: implementing innovation at BBC News Labs and RTVE Lab, Journalism Practice, DOI: 10.1080/17512786.2022.2088602

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