Crisis or renewal : the origins, evolution and future of public service broadcasting 1922 to 1996
In the 1980s the future of public service broadcasting in Britain was called into doubt. Technological developments in cable, satellite and digital technologies were, it was argued, poised to end the condition known as 'spectrum scarcity'; while the emergence of a neo-liberal Conservative government, pledged to rolling back the frontiers of the state', was of the opinion that the current system of public service broadcasting provision was no longer necessary given the number of broadcasting channels now available; broadcasting, in its view, would increasingly be able to mirror the publishing industry in its structure and future regulation. Critics however, were loathe to accept the argument that technological considerations alone ought to drive broadcasting policy; and two key questions emerged. Firstly, how was public service broadcasting to be defended in a climate increasingly hostile to public service ideals and institutions in general; and secondly, and as a result of the first question, how was public service broadcasting to be understood? This thesis seeks to answer both these questions and argues that in the process of clarifying the nature of public service broadcasting in the past, that solutions for its defence in the future will be found. Public service broadcasting, was not, it will be argued, simply about institutions like the BBC, but evidence of a much broader and widely shared (across the political divides) understanding of the proper role of broadcasting in a democratic society (at least until the 1980s). In short, public service broadcasting in the past was never simply a response to a set of technological conditions; instead it was forged from a set of political, economic, Administrative and cultural ideas about the nature of society and broadcasting's role in it; and hence its ability to respond to the new conditions of the 1990s and beyond.