The neo-liberal state and the crisis of public service broadcasting in the Anglo-American democracies /
French, Terry W.
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The NeO'liberal State and the Crisis ofPublic Service Broadcasting in the Anglo-American Democracies The purpose ofthis analysis ofthe present condition ofpublic service broadcasting in the Anglo- American democracies was to investigate whether such media can still be regarded as the primarypublic spherefor a dialogue between each nation 's civil society and the State. The motivationfor this thesis was based on a presumption that such fora for public discussion on the central issues of each society have become viewed as less relevant bypoliticians andpolicy-makers and thepublics they were intended to serve in the Anglo-American democracies over thepast two decades. It is speculated that this is the case because ofa beliefthat the post-war consensus between the respective States andpublics that led to the construction of the Keynesian Welfare State and the notion ofpublic service broadcasting has been displaced by an individualistic, neo-liberal, laissez-faire ideology. In other words, broadcasting as a consumer-oriented, commercial commodity has superseded concerns pertaining to the importance ofthe public interest. The methodology employed in this thesis is a comparative analysisfrom a criticalpolitical economy perspective. It was considered appropriate to focus on the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the\ United States because they comprise the four largest Anglo-American nations with democratic political systems andprimarily market economies. Justificationfor this particular sample is reinforced by thefact that case study countries also share a common socio-political and economic tradition. The evidence assembledfor this thesis consisted almost exclusively ofexisting literature on the subjects ofpublic service broadcasting, global economic andpolitical integration, and the ascendance ofthe 'free-market ' ethos in Western democracies since the late mid- to late-1970s. In essence, this thesis could be considered as a reinterpretation ofthe existing literature relevant to these issues. Several important common features werefound among the political, economic and broadcasting systems of the four case study nations. It is proposed that the prevalence of the neo-liberal world view throughout the political and policy environments of the four countries has undermined the stability and credibility of each nation 's national public service broadcasting organization, although with varying intensity and effect,. Deregulation ofeach nation 's broadcasting system and the supremacy ofthe notion of 'consumer sovereignty' have marginalized the view of broadcasting on any basis other than strictly economic criteria in thefour case study countries. This thesis concludes that,for a reconstruction ofa trulyparticipatory anddemocraticpublicsphere to be realized in the present as well as thefuture, a reassessment ofthe conventional concept ofthe 'public sphere ' is necessary. Therefore, it is recommended that thefocus ofpolicy-makers in each Anglo-American democracy be redirectedfrom that which conceived ofan all-encompassing, large, state-ownedand operated public broadcasting service toward a view which considers alternativeforms ofpublic communication, such as local community and ethnic broadcasting operations, that are likely to be more responsive to the needs of the increasingly diverse and heterogeneous populations that comprise the modem Anglo-American democracies. The traditional conception of public broadcasters must change in accordance with its contemporary environment if the fundamental principles of the public sphere and public service broadcasting are to be realized.