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Towards a market in broadcasting: a comparative analysis of British and German communications policy

posted on 2010-06-11, 13:40 authored by Christian Potschka
Political structures and the evolution of late capitalism in liberal Western democracies lend a common frame to the development of national media systems. However, whereas media policy from the post-war period to the mid-1980s was largely driven by socio-political concerns and coextensive with policy for public service television, this model has been vehemently challenged. Key factors were the convergence of erstwhile-separated industries and infrastructures, as well as the ambitions of the corporate sector and governments alike, to benefit from the economic opportunities offered by the communications revolution. By assessing the changing relationship between the role of the state, economic structures and technological innovation, this research investigates these processes in the UK and Germany. Both countries have the two key public service systems but also feature striking differences such as the antithetic political systems and democratic processes (majoritarian vs. consensus democracy). The basic assumption suggests that a genuine understanding of contemporary developments is only possible if political/economic as well as historic/sociological perspectives are incorporated into the holistic approach applied. Thereby this study gives consideration to key processes and events which have determined transitions between communications policy paradigms and regulatory regimes. Given the Anglo-Saxon tradition of regulating, key processes and events in the UK are often indicated by the appointment and report of a committee of enquiry. For the purpose of this study the most crucial of these is the Committee on Financing the BBC (1986), which first applied market-driven politics onto British broadcasting, and whose recommendations still serve as a blueprint for current communications policy-making. In Germany the KtK Report (1974) formed the basis for decisive reforms in broadcasting and communications. Apart from that, however, Germany features the characteristic of administering state interventions in as detailed a manner as possible through legislation. Of central importance are, therefore, the rulings of the Federal Constitutional Court, which continuously set decisive parameters for the development of the broadcasting system. The thesis follows two driving themes which have been identified as crucial in terms of the comparative dimension and are elaborated continuously in more detail. First, the focus is on the interdependencies between public and private sector. Second, implications and responses of the central vis-à-vis federal characteristic of state formation are investigated. In doing so, the thesis draws on vast sources of archival documents as well as exclusive material from a series of elite interviews with a purposively-selected sample of very high-level sources, including Chairmen, Director-Generals, ministers, very senior civil servants and so on. The thesis demonstrates how communications policy-making is carried out in both countries and how these processes are determined by national regulatory frameworks which are rooted within the borders of the nation state. As such the research findings have broader implications for commercial and public sector regulation.



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies


© Christian Potschka

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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  • en