In favour of public service broadcasting.
As current financial stories in the US conspire to make it fairly obvious that giving the greedy unregulated chances to enrich themselves is pretty well guaranteed to lead to excesses, we thought it timely to defend a non-market led power in broadcasting, that of a properly funded public service broadcaster. We particularly value one that is in no way funded by advertising or sponsorship since this provides an even greater difference in emphasis and culture.
This is the case in the UK but here the opposition Conservative party seems to be thinking in terms of castrating the BBC, hiving off some of its output like the Radio 1 and 2 channels into the commercial sector and leaving a rump that would pose much less of an audience threat to commercial interests.
The argument for a licence-funded public
broadcaster is more easily made, we opine, in the UK and Europe where
public broadcasters dominated early broadcasting, than in the US where
the commercial model dominated from early days.
The economic argument.
Without regulation there will be a tendency to consolidation and monopoly in business and such tendencies need some form of curbs to prevent monopolies since these tend to be less innovative than businesses in a highly competitive environment.
In broadcasting we would argue that diversity
is even more important since its "product" affects
the way in which the very nature of society and business is
The cultural argument.
It is also axiomatic that a public service broadcaster's remit is likely to include such concerns as reflecting national and regional cultures and identity with less pressures from the accountants to do so only when it favours the "bottom line"; indeed the BBC remit trinity, to educate, entertain and inform, still has much resonance.
In that trinity, the entertain part is the one most
likely t be affected by competition from the commercial sector,
which needs to deliver a sizeable audience of the right demographic
to attract advertising, subscription or pay-per-view revenues.
The inform part is also important and again an area
where the public service remit is likely to lead to a wider range
of output and more choice than a purely commercial environment.
The cost and benefits of
public service broadcasting.
Looking at the figures for the BBC of some 170 USD a year for two main TV channels, 24 hour TV news, and five analogue national radio networks plus additional digital and local radio analogue services and more digital radio and TV output to come seems to us to compare pretty favourably with the USD120 per annum subscription to US satellite radio (and even better compared to subscription satellite or cable TV packages). There is no charge for radio as such since it rides in on the back of TV.
True it depends in part on economies of scale and is a form of tax rather than a strictly voluntary licence payment but it does seem to us an excellent investment of the public's money just as the BBC World Service is an excellent investment by Britain's Foreign Office.
In addition as technology allows on-demand access to archives, the existence of a vast public archive will be of tremendous value to a country.
In all pretty well a no-brainer we would argue
for all but the mean minded or the greedy in the commercial sector.
Public service and non-profit is far from a dirty concept: it's
one that benefits society in general and also is to the long-term
benefit of business.
Any views? Please comment
on the above. For that matter, if you can put the time aside,
we'd like your "Guest comment" pages this year to stimulate
more feedback and dialogue.
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