The Decline and Fall of Public Service Broadcasting

The Decline and Fall of Public Service Broadcasting

The Decline and Fall of Public Service Broadcasting

The Decline and Fall of Public Service Broadcasting

Synopsis

Public broadcasting is the single most important social, cultural, and journalistic institution of the twentieth century. In the past fifteen years it has been assaulted politically, ideologically, technologically, and is everywhere in retreat. This book considers the idea of public service broadcasting and examines in detail the assault made upon it with specific emphasis on global developments and events in the United Kingdom, Japan, Europe, and the United States. Michael Tracey argues that public service broadcasting has been a vital and democratically significant institution now experiencing a terminal decline brought about by changes in political, economic, and technological circumstances. Based on years of research and extensive contact with leading public broadcasters around the world the author examines the idea of public service broadcasting and how for the most part it has vainly (and often ineffectually) struggled to survive in recent years . The author concludes that public broadcasting is, as was once said of Weimar, a corpse on leave. Its likely disappearance constitutes an indication of a real and deep-seated crisis within liberal democracy.

Excerpt

History is on fast forward. It seems that each day, each moment, something momentous is happening. This regime dies, that country is born, tribes and economies collide. Change is the call sign of the age. And at the heart of that process of change lies electronic communication, down wires, through the ether, from the heavens. Cable, earth-based transmitters, and satellites have become the dominant technologies of our time. The instruments of the modern age seem no longer to be just weapons of war, but forms of conversation, exchange, dialogue, understandings (and confusions) of a kind we have never experienced before. The globe never sleeps because global communications systems need never sleep. Where governments once addressed each other through the diplomatic pouch, the discreet whispers in a corner at formal meetings, through 'the proper channels', now they are made to speak to each other through global news distribution systems. Consider that during the Gulf War of 1991 the common source of information for the three principals, George Bush, Saddam Hussein, and King Fahd, was the Cable News Network (CNN), and that the American Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney was heard to mutter, 'like the rest of you I'm receiving my news from CNN'. While there may have been a touch of disingenuousness about this--Cheney would after all have had intelligence and analysis from the vast array of American intelligence agencies--the fact and nature of the comment suggested something significant, that the transnational propagation of news had come of age and . . .

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