Art for Whose Sake?
Direct government ownership of the electronic media has been commonplace in most of the world historically. In some countries, with the United States as the prime example, television has been privately owned but nonetheless regulated by the government. The question of the extent of governmental ownership and regulation would appear to be the primary issue in public policy toward television. And that it is, on the surface. The deeper questions underlying public policy toward television are: What is art? and What should be the government's relationship to art in a democracy? I must conclude that these two questions continue to be answered, across the breadth of society in nations all around the world, without regard to the enormous changes in art during the twentieth century.
Since shortly after World War II these changes have accelerated exponentially and expanded globally. Nonetheless, most cultural debate continues to frame questions regarding the relationship of government to art as if these changes had never occurred. In nearly all quarters there prevails the assumption that the nature of art remains immutable and that the pre-democratic patronage of art by rulers and elites is a legacy that must be carried on in contemporary democracies by governmental agencies. This notion of supporting art through public funding, moreover, conforms neatly with the idea of governmental control over television, either by direct ownership or by regulation.
The historical patronage of the arts by ecclesiastical, royal, and aristocratic entities in Europe, however, could never be effectively and