Public Broadcasters, the Internet, and Democracy. Comparing Policy and Exploring Public Service Media Online
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This thesis is a study of public service broadcasting facing a digital media system. Its focus is on internet services since the mid-1990s. With a comparative design, the thesis discusses how public service broadcasters seized opportunities and handled challenges related to the internet, and how national and supranational regulatory regimes and policy actors coped with public service broadcasting venturing online. I concentrate on publicly owned former monopolists, assessing four such institutions in three states: the British BBC, Norway’s NRK, and the ARD and the ZDF in Germany. I argue that traditional practices of media policy do not suddenly change in the digital era. Rather, settings for public service are to a large extent still defined within well-established frameworks, and dependent on the conditioned legacies of each state’s political culture. Discussing similarities and differences in the development of the institutions’ internet activities, and their corresponding national regulations, I find the development characterized by ad hoc solutions. This also applies to the EU policy regime, built on a competition law-logic. With the latter regime, I argue, we are incapable of grasping the autonomous democratic functions of public broadcasters’ online services. Moreover, the regime pro- vides insufficient space to play out national differences. The thesis goes on to explore the democratic functions of public broadcasting institutions in an online environment. With a founding in normative public sphere theory, I contend that there is a potential in online communication not only for dialogue, but also for dissemination. Both communicative forms should be utilized by public service actors in ways that consistently counter processes of enclosure and balkanization in the public sphere. On this basis, I develop a scheme for public service media online. By scrutinizing marginal parts of the cases’ internet activities I lastly explore this scheme, and the limits of public broadcasters’ publicly funded online offers. Thereby, I aim to revitalize discussions about the functions of public service as a media policy tool in the digital era. In my view, public service media remain relevant. The thesis substantiates why, and outlines how.
Part I: Final ContributionPart II: The five articles constituting part II of this thesis are all single-authored by Hallvard Moe, and have all been published elsewhere. I have not revised the articles for inclusion in the thesis. Notwithstanding some basic formatting, the articles appear as they did when submitted for their original publication (see appendix 3 for a brief postscript updating the two empirical articles which were finalized first). Here, I list the time of final submission and original publication, as well as copyright information, along with the complete reference for each article.Article 1: “Commercial Services, Enclosure, and Legitimacy: Comparing Contexts and Strategies for Public Service Media Funding and Development”, pp. 51-69 in Gregory Ferrell Lowe and Jo Bardoel (eds) From Public Service Broadcasting to Public Service Media. RIPE@2007. Göteborg: Nordicom. Final version submitted August 2007 and published January 2008. All rights reserved. Copyright Hallvard Moe, 2008.Article 2: “Public Service Media Online? Regulating Public Broadcasters’ Internet Services – A Comparative Analysis”. Television & New Media 9(3): 220-38. Final version submitted September 2006 and published May 2008. All rights reserved. Copyright Sage Publications Ltd, 2008.Article 3: “Between Supranational Competition and National Culture? Emerging EU Policy and Public Broadcasters’ Online Services”, in Ib Bondebjerg and Peter Madsen (eds) Media, Democracy and European Culture. Bristol: Intellect Books. Final version submitted March 2008 and published winter 2009. All rights reserved. Copyright Intellect Books, 2008.Article 4: “Dissemination and Dialogue in the Public Sphere: A Case for Public Service Media Online” Media, Culture & Society 30(3): 319-36. Final version submitted June 2007 and published May 2008. All rights reserved. Copyright Sage Publications Ltd, 2008.Article 5: “Discussion Forums, Games, and Second Life - Exploring the Value of Public Broadcasters’ Marginal Online Activities” Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 14(3): 255-70. Final version submitted December 2007 and published August 2008. All rights reserved. Copyright Sage Publications Ltd, 2008.