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Title: Seeing double? : duplication, diversity, and the public good of television
Author: Barrowclough, D.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2002
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This project is based around three main themes, which are developed in seven chapters. Firstly, we trace the development of a conventional wisdom about television, following 300 years of theory about public goods. This has now been comprehensively challenged, to the extent that today, the only convincing rationale for public intervention is that it should provide something distinctively different. Markets have proved to be very successful at delivering television, although they fail to provide a full range of programme types, or to serve the full range of tastes. There is argued to be a role for a "gap filling" social planner. This role must be seen in a broader context than usual, because gap-filler also causes indirect, spill-over effects onto other broadcasters. More subtle effects depend on how distinctive is the public broadcaster's programme profile, and whether it also sells advertising. We show this with a model of product differentiation in the tradition of Hotelling and Cournot, with special features that capture the unusual nature of the television market: in particular the role of third-party payment by advertisers. We embed this in a practical context, by designing and applying a series of quantitative performance indicators, measuring the extent to which British and New Zealand public broadcasters are truly distinctive. Thirdly, this project examines the quasi-market mechanisms introduced into television's finance and delivery. New Zealand and Britain offer two extremely different versions of these new kinds of economic arrangements, which emerged widely throughout the public sector in the 1990s, in attempts to marry the benefits of markets and competition with traditional ideals and mechanisms of public service. This gives us a unique laboratory with which to examine their effects, with all the more resonance given that television has always been one of the "classic" public goods. Their experience has been less encouraging than expected, which we argue occurred because the quasi-market objectives in both countries were ambiguous, and not backed up with appropriate mechanisms for monitoring and reward. This theme is particularly topical, given intensifying recent calls for British public broadcasting to follow the very radical New Zealand model. We conclude by asking whether television is still the best vehicle through which to deliver public service, given the potential of new technologies such as the Internet.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available