Reinventing Public Service Television for the Digital Future

Article excerpt

Reinventing Public Service Television for the Digital Future. Mary Debrett. Bristol, England: Intellect, 2010. 253 pp. $45 hbk.

There has been considerable ink spent in recent years bemoaning the dour outlook of traditional public service television broadcasting in the face of growing competition from digital commercial services. Mary Debrett, a senior lecturer in media studies at La Trobe University in Melbourne, takes a different tack to that competition by examining in some detail the ongoing story of six major public service broadcasters in four countries.

Chapters deal with Britain (the BBC, of course, but also Channel Four), Australia (ABC as the national broadcaster, and SBC, the Special Broadcasting Service, which centers on indigenous people), the United States (the Public Broadcasting Service), and New Zealand (Television New Zealand). Such a choice is obviously quite narrow - all these countries speak (largely) English and are industrial democracies. Inclusion of such developing regional powers as Brazil, India, or perhaps South Africa might have produced more generalizable results.

Three chapters - the first and the last two - take a broader approach and apply some of the specifics of each service to a more general sense of where things stand with public broadcasting a decade into the new century.

Despite its fairly narrow focus, this is still a useful assessment that finds much to be positive about, as opposed to traditional handwringing. …