Taking the high ground: the struggle for ideas in UK broadcasting policy

19 Oct 2007

In 2006, consideration of UK broadcasting policy focused on the BBC and, in particular, on four issues: governance, accountability, pluralism and the definition of public service broadcasting. The extensive and intensive debate about these institutions and issues was shaped both by technological change, affecting the structure of the broadcasting sector, and by changes in ideas about the BBC and its role. In the paper, changes in official UK discourse, notably in successive official enquiries into the status of the BBC (Crawford, Ullswater, Beveridge, Pilkington, Annan and Peacock), which shift from a vision of monopoly supply with control vested in Government to pluralism in supply and control with users, are identified. The idea of the user (viewer and listener) as a consumer and a citizen is considered and the construction of notions of accountability as residing with the consumer rather than the citizen is traced both to T H Marshall?s ideas about citizenship and to the Peacock Committee?s successful mobilisation of the idea of consumer sovereignty.

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