All 7 entries tagged Cultural Citizenship
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September 25, 2008
ITV Escaping Public Service Broadcasting Requirements
I wondered why shots of Michael Grade loomed large in some broadcast news footage of the end of the Labour Party conference. The very next day it is announced that OFCOM are allowing ITV to reduce its Public Service Broadcasting requirements with regard to regional news. Presumably Grade has been doing some heavy lobbying behind the scenes to get that position adopted by OFCOM. It has been a key part of his survival strategy for ITV (I still wouldn't want my pension fund to buy in though). The OFCOM PSB review has been published today is available here as a PDF.
Michael Grade (presumably waxing lyrical about ITV Content!)
Commercial Broadcasting can't deliver anything but Junk OFCOM seems to be saying
Of course OFCOM put it more politely than that but as the emphasised areas shows the content which actually makes broadcasting worthwhile doesn't attract the advertising / mass audiences required to gain that advertising:
Viewers have access to a wider range of content than ever before, on digital TV and
online. Multichannel broadcasters now make a significant contribution to public
service content, particularly in sport, entertainment, archive and acquired
programming, and in one case, news. But they provide very little original
programming in the genres under most pressure on commercial public service
channels – current affairs, nations and regions programming, challenging UK drama, UK scripted comedy, and UK drama and factual programming for children. This is unlikely to change as provision on the commercial PSBs declines, because most multichannels do not reach the audiences required to justify large and risky
investments in these areas and will themselves face increasing economic pressure.
Despite the fact that Michael Grade puts himself about rabbiting on about content is king the sad reality is that for ITV to have any hope of becoming a license to print money again as it was in the past it does need to get rid of that embarrssing encumbrance of actually delivering any kind of service rather than lowest common denominator TV targeted at those who reject any form of challenging content.
In another posting there will be more analysis of the latest OFCOM consultation document about creating new models of Public Service Broadcasting (multicasting) for the digital era. Clearly with a serious economic downturn still deeepening and with much advertising migrating onto the internet any cost centres such as regional news which are relatively expensive to run and by definition have capped audiences are going to be cut back as far as possible.
However we still have to consider whether ITV has much to offer in a realm of fragmenting audiences where increasingly very few broadcast TV programmes are going to reach mass audiences measured in the millions. That is the obvious outcome of offering diversity, however the ITV model seems ill placed to offer genuine diversity.
Regional programming and therefore regional representation is under serious threat from this tendency within ITV. What OFCOM hasn't been discussing within it s remit is whehther there could be a much upgraded role for local and regional newspapers in providing aspects of public service multicasting. As broadband takes hold and as the push to get super high speed broadband across the country intensifies the delivery platfoms for multi-media journalism which is able to deliver local and regional news and information services.
Already my local newspaper The Coventry Evening Telegraph has a pretty good web presence and get as local as my local councillor (globally). Why not let ITV drop its public broadcasting remit altogether increase the amount of money it pays for its broadcasting licence and put the proceeds into developing super-high speed fibre optic networks in the most remote parts of the country who will be most affected by ITV's forthcoming pusillanimous status. Let moron TV pay for creating the new information networks the country so badly needs.
The growth of multi-media journalism and the development of cheaper methods of recording uploading and editing means that local papers are increasingly becoming the multi-media content providers of choice through the process of convergence. Arguably it is they, rather than conventional TV, who can provide the cmpetition to the BBC which is already well on the way to being a multi-platform provider genuine local competition in terms of news and regional programming.
Possible Development Models for PSB
There are of course other areas which ITV wishes to withdraw from which can't be dealt with by changes in the existing local and regional mediascape such as current affairs. Once upon a time Granada TV used to deliver absolutely amazing current affairs programmes which often went much further than the BBC dared to in terms of challenging the positions of the government of the day on subjects such as Northern Ireland for example. Look what happened to Greg Dyke when the BBC challenged the government over its ridiculous adventurism into the Iraq War. The reality is that public service broadcasting is still too closely tied to the powers of the government of the day and the debate taking place around public service broadcasting needs to argue for more independence for the BBC on the grounds of cultural citizenship.
The OFCOM models will be discussed more fully in a later posting. For media investors the advice still remains the same get your money into Sky (if you can stomach Murdoch), Google or Branson. currently the ITV model seems to have little to recommend it especially as itsog: target audience are the least likely to be keeping up with technological change, highly focused contextual advertising is where its at and ITV doesn't look as though it going to provide this. Director of th BBC Mark
Thompson at a speech to the Royal Television society on Friday 26th September laid down a challenge to the OFCOM models being proposed:
To me, the debate needs to become more ambitious, more imaginative and less defeatist. We need a solution that supports the vital creative and editorial role which Channel 4 plays in our system. But we shouldn't throw in the towel when it comes to ITV and Channel Five - both have a critical role to play in investment, in creative diversity and in public service delivery. The public wants all to remain in the family. And they don't want the stabilisation of any of the commercially funded public service broadcasters at the price of destabilising or weakening the BBC. (Mark Thompson Speech edited Guardian version)
In the meantime I will leave you with some of the thoughts of Stephen Fry from an extended essay on his blog. Hard to disagree with him really so get writing to OFCOM:
I genuinely cannot see that the nation would benefit from a diminution of any part of the BBC’s great whole. It should be as closely scrutinised as possible of course, value for money, due humility and all that, but to reduce its economies of scale, its artistic, social and national reach for misbegotten reasons of ideology or thrift would be a tragedy. We got here by an unusual route that stretches back to Reith. We have evolved extraordinarily, like our parliament and other institutions, such is the British way. (Stephen Fry Blog. The whole thing is worth a read)
I have just discovered a news story on the BBC website which states that Andy Burnham the Culture Secretary wishes to speed up the OFCOM process which anyway has few outside of porfessional bodies contributing to it. Given that as reported he seems to wish to pre-empt the OFCOM findings one can only be even more suspicious of some insider dealing from Michael Grade to offload the ITV PSB committment:
The culture secretary also said the government would speed up the ongoing review of public service broadcasting.Ofcom is currently running a consultation, but Mr Burnham said that rather than wait for its recommendations in the New Year, the government would press ahead now with discussions about possible changes to policy.Among the proposals is a plan to share the BBC's licence fee revenue with other commercial broadcasters like ITV and Channel 4.Mr Burnham said: "All options are open at the moment, but it is important that we are all prepared to accept we have to make trade-offs." (BBC News story Friday 26th September 2008)
Independent report from April 2008: Public service broadcasting must reform to survive, says watchdog
July 16, 2008
High-Speed Broadband coming to Britain from BT
Yesterday BT announced one of the most significant moves of its history and one of fundamental importance to the future of UK PLC which is its willingness to invest in Hi-speed broadband networks. It is almost impossible to exaggerate the importance of this announcement as a hi-speed network is crucial for maintaining parity in the global marketplace. In ten years time any country which does not have the majority of its population accessing these networks will be severely diadvantaged for advanced economies will be highly dependent upon these networks.
The Current Situation
Only a few months ago I was reporting on the problems of taking the next step in the development of the UK as an important hub within the developing networked society. This centered around the issue that Britain currently lacked and had no plans for a high-speed broadband network. From a media and general economic perspective having a network like this is the essential next infrastructural step to keep UK PLC at the front of the pack. In a few years time countries that do not have a hi-speed broadband network will be economic laggards. From the perspective of the domestic consumer the introduction of high-speed broadband will enable households to download streamed moving images at High Definition (HD) levels of quality driving large flatscreens. This means that games, films, TV style programmes can al be accessed through computers and if necessary stored on domestic servers etc. Increasingly business is depending on the use of files such as these as well. Internal corporate communications and external marketing of moving images will be able to be downloaded from company servers. Imagine how useful that would be for travel companies or estate agents. Viewing the hotel you want to stay in or a house you are interested in viewing would be great for prospective clients and could cut down on work from the companies. From the perspective of media students who will be looking for media work there is likely to be lots more of this in the business sector in the future.
This Financial Times technology report gives the current realistic situation for UK download speeds which are currently slower than German & France! This FT report on the BT announcement has a useful video embedded.
BT to pump £1.5bn into broadband
Britian's future has just changed for the better with the announcement made yesterday from BT that they will invest around £1.5 billion into high-speed broadband networks:
The plans would bring 40% of homes in reach of an ultra-fast service by 2012. BT is also planning to put fibre-optic cable into about 1 million homes, making the service even faster for those customers. (BBC story 15 / 07/08)
The domestic bait is the promise of a fantastically diverse entertainments / work from home system:
The group's plans should enable homes to run so-called "multiple bandwidth-hungry applications" which would enable some family members to watch high definition movies while others were gaming or working on complex graphics projects. (ibid)
There is one major obstacle in the way and that is the current regulatory environment which is discouraging BT from investing in a system like this. To install it into homes would be an immensly expensive operation and BT currently has to provide a universal service down copper wires which can't carry much information compared with optic-fibre cables. Unless BT is allowed to charge realistic rates on its investment then of course it isn't going to do it:
A spokesman for the firm said BT hoped to discuss updating its current universal service obligation with the watchdog.Under current rules BT must provide a copper connection to all homes, however, the firm says this is out of date and unnecessary for updated services based on a fibre-optic connection.BT's rival Virgin Media already uses fibre-optic cables, which are faster than BT's copper lines, although the final connection to the home user is done with traditional coaxial cable. (ibid)
Digital Divide or Cultural Citizenship?
Of course different charging structures for different services will raise complaints from many quarters that universal equality of service will not be available with poorer families not being able to afford the high-speed services. This again opens up the dangers of a 'digital divide'. No government is going to be able to justify higher taxes to subsidise BT in installing entertainment lines to domestic properties. Rory Cellan Jones' blog offers some useful comments on some of the costings involved however we need to think bigger than this at the levels of regulation and what we demand and need to be active citizens in a digital future.
At this stage perhaps we need to reinvent the notion of public service 'broadcasting' into a notion of public service media access based upon the central concept of cultural citizenship. This would help the concept fit the digital age as currently the very term 'broadcasting' is rapidly becoming an anachronism. Arguably there is a case for the so-called annual TV licence fee to be increased by say £10 pa with that amount ring-fenced for the ongoing installation of hi-speed optic fibre cables into domestic properties. This money would go to BT on the understanding that universal access was developed within a certain timeframe. This would ensure that in say fifteen years time there wasn't a huge inequality in terms of access for bad access will undoubtedly be educationally disadvantageous for the worst off.
Educational Infrastructure and Networked Society Futures
These likely developments also raises the issue of ensuring that educational institutions are guaranteed the highest possible quality links. Currently the exponential development of the world wide web in developing data heavy content means that many schools and colleges which at one time had connection speeds which were more than adequate are now lagging. The ever increasing need of students and staff to utilise YouTube and similar sites is giving IT managers headaches throughout the educational system. New media specifications at A level for example are also demanding that student work is available online for moderation putting even more strain on currently overloaded dystems. At the strategic level government needs to be preparing educational institutions for a high-speed broadband world, otherwise the educational system which should be providing tomorrow's leaders for a fully developed networked society will be lagging.
changing the Regulatory Structures
It is important that all MPs are familairised with sober rather than hyed up notions of what the networked society might look like. I'm highly sceptical of the notion of Media Studies 2.0 and an assumption that independent and individual contribitions to networked society are developing into anything serious in economic terms rather than the creation of cultural and social networks /communities are likely to be thin rather than thick. Nevertheless Ofcom needs to be persuaded that the changes in regulations that BT requires are largely put into place however there needs to be the 'but' of universal access. BT can quite justifiably argue that it simply isn't economic to deliver this. It is responsible to its shareholders many of which are pension funds with ordinary peple's money invested. It is safe to make the presumption that nationalisation and public subsidy isn't going to be the path taken therefore the licence fee linked to notions of cultural citizenship seems the best way forward. I notice that Ofcom already has a Citizenship and Convergence consultation paper published. It is important that readers start to interact with these initiatives as the future of digital citizenship within a networked society is a high-stakes issue.
July 11, 2008
Cultural Citizenship and The Importance of the Media
Citizenship is something which has been under development since at least the American Revolution. For a considerable period of time notions of citizenship were based upon concepts and a history written by T. H. Marshall however this model has proved to be unsatisfactory in many ways and new concepts such as cultural citizenship and green or ecological citizenship are now emerging in response to changing societies.
T. H. Marshall's Theory of Citizenship
T. H. Marshall wrote about the development of citiizenship in Europe. He argued that there were theree aspects of citizenship which had developed since the time of the French Revolution.
In the first instance there was citizenship formed around civil and economic rights. These were comprised out of the rights to trade, property rights and rights to a fair trial. Marshall identifies these as laregly developing during the course of the 18th century.
These were significantly developed during the 19th century and comprised of the rights to free association and the right to vote in democratically held elections. These 'rights' were of course fought for hard and it should be remembered that even in the UK a full one person one vote system wasn't in operation until the mid 1970s as there had been a property vote in Northern Ireland for the Stormont regional form of government.
The British welfare state founded in 1945 wished to eradicate the five great social evils of poverty, illness, homelessness, ignorance and lack of work.
- Social citenship has become rooted around these areas and in the UK institutions were established to deal with these issues:
- The National Health Service (NHS)
- A standardised public education system providing education for all up until 15 (later to become 16)
- The creation of a mass council housing and the eradication of slums
- A social insurance system which provided some income for those made unemployed and also one which provided a system of universal state provided pensions.
There are issues with T. H Marshall's approach. Certainly the developments in these areas of citizenship haven't been a smooth progression and were fought for hard politically.
Cultural Citizenship & The Media
Cultural citizenship deals with the aspects of life which create a sense of being and identity within an individual and groups of individuals. This sense of social being is what is decribed as social ontology. This symbolic aspect of society is very much related to citizenship and is culturally embedded:
notions of cultural citizenship point to the importance of the symbolic
dimension of community. Cultural citizenship is concerned with ‘the degree of
self esteem accorded to his or her manner of self-realisation within a society’s
inherited cultural horizon’ (Honneth 1995:134). (My emphasis. Stevenson N: What is Safe? Cultural Citizenship, Representation and Risk)
What is represented in all media forms is therefore an essential part of citizenship which through combining all aspects of citizenship means that every individual is embedded in a mutually constructed system of rights and responsibilities. A society progresses so the elements within a concept such as citizenship deepen and change.
The media is now so fundamental to creating and communicating ideas, representations and senses of communities both thick and thin and the institutions which themselves may be thick or thin. With the development of a variety of web based tools such as blogs which allow for anybody with access to a computer and the internet to publish the creation of a rich electronically based public space has now become a reality which can keep developing. This can provide us with both material and symbolic needs in which physical needs (food & shelter) interact with and are a part of cultural and social needs expressed through the symbolic which is a crucial aspect of what the beingness of humans is. Stevenson notes against much postmodernist thinking:
...that notions of cultural difference are not incompatible with with the more normative emphasis of a theory of human needs. (Stevenson 1995 p 197)
The social theorist Nancy Fraser has argued that cultural recognition in terms of identity and representation, whether that be by ethnicity, gender etc must be accompanied by wealth redistribution if it is to be a meaningful right. If people are poverty stricken then to have abstract rights of representation is largely meaningless.
Social theorists are trying to arrive at a formulation which sees representation and the symbolic world as an important area for the development of individuals as citizens for the various aspects of media are the key platforms and opportunities for representation. The social aspects of citizenship such as education are tied into cultural citizenship information streams adn opportunities for interactive representation. This means that media content and control is far too important to the well-being of advanced societies to allow it to becoem commercialised. Without a good media system people would lack, information, education and representation.
Stevenson (1995 p 198) for example has identified four different kinds of human need that have a relationship between culture and communication:
- The need for knowledge about the operation of expert cultures
- The need for an understanding of the desires, demands and need interpretations of others who are distant in time and space
- The need to understand ourselves as a social community
- The need for aesthetically and non-instrumentally defined cultural experiences
It seems to me that theses are the fundamentals underlying a public service broadcasting system. Theses are the reasons why everybody who has any sense of citizenship must rally behind the BBC and its licence fee as the full digital age dawns. Any compromise inevitably betrays the weakest in society by throwing to the slick talking media dogs whatever platform they are pushing. Can we improve the BBC? Of course but lts do that from the strong base that has evolved so far.
Oxford University Synopsis. History of Welfare State
January 27, 2008
BBC: Moving to a Multicasting Environment and Creating a Vibrant Digital Public Sphere for the 21st Century
Sir Michael Lyons: Chair of the BBC Trust
The best and bravest brains in media policy need to think outside of the top-slicing box. Britain once again needs to lead the civilised world into a new media era, to protect the creation of valuable but vulnerable programming and creative artists.(Maggie Brown Media Guardian)
The development of the content of the BBC Online which I generally consider to be an excellent public resource has not been without its controversial side. This has particularly come from firstly: those who had no concept of how the web could be developed and how that development could be influenced by strong Broadcasting institutions with their roots in 'old media'; secondly those who have a strong vested interest in the BBC failing such as News Corporation.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the future of what was once called broad-casting (the production of a limited amount of content targeted at large to very large audiences has largely been a thing of the past for several years. There will of course always be occasional events which comfortably generate local audiences of more than 10 million at the time but these will become increasingly rare. Massive stories about Royalty, England in a World Cup Final (if it ever happens again), probably the upcoming Olympics in certain finals if there is a national interest (oh and Dr. Who! ):
The Doctor Who Special on Christmas Day won a 50% share of the total television audience, averaging over 12 million viewers and peaking at 13.8 million. These are the Doctor's best viewing figures since the Tom Baker days of 1979. (Caroline Thompson operating officer for the BBC Jan 2008)
It is many years since the BBC was promoting a heavyhanded patrician Broadcasting policy largely dominated by a Reithian discourse that was often accused of being elitist. This posting starts to explore the history of BBC online and the policies that have underpinned it. It also looks briefly at the enemies of the BBC in the populist broadcasting / multicasting domain as well examining the pusilanimous attitude of New Labour in the face of the populist freemarketeers such as Sky and its ilk circling around an increasingly embattled BBC which is doing an excellent job. This blog takes the position that many people don't know what they've got 'til its gone'! As far as I'm concerned everybody who is taking out a subscription to Sky is banging a nail into the future of high quality British multicasting.
The Development of BBC Online
25 April 2006:
Ashley Highfield, the BBC director of new media and technology, also announced proposals to put the corporation's entire programme catalogue online for the first time from tomorrow in written archive form, as an "experimental prototype", and rebrand MyBBCPlayer as BBC iPlayer. (ibid)
It was announced that all future BBC digital output and services around three concepts -
Mr Highfield said the share concept would allow users to "create your own space and to build bbc.co.uk around you", encouraging them to launch ther own blogs and post home videos on the site. (My emphasis)
At the heart of the play concept is MyBBCPlayer, which will allow the public to download and view BBC programming online and was today rebranded as BBC iPlayer. (My emphasis)
The find concept relates to next-generation search and unlocking the BBC archive. From tomorrow internet users will for the first time be able to search for details of the corporation's entire programme catalogue as far back as 1937. (My emphasis)
Is it "All About Audiences"?
So, as far the Trust is concerned this is not a debate about the interests of broadcasters. In our view it's not even about the interests of the BBC, narrowly defined. It is – or it ought to be – a debate about the interests of audiences.(My emphasis: Sir Michael Lyons, Chairman of the BBC Trust, to the IPPR Oxford Media Convention 17 January 2008)
I would go further and in doing so seek to expand the remit of the debate into broadcasting into that of cultural policy in general. As with other policy environments and discources this raises the issue of citizenship. Just as there is a concept of social citizenship so there is a concept of cultural citizenship.
It seems the 'New' Labour government can't keep its hands off the BBC for a moment and there is already another round of examining the public servivce broadcasting (multicasting) systems in this country. At the heart of this is the continuing attempt to remove some of the BBC's rights to the whole of the licence fee which is often simply described as "another tax" by the more simple minded. Rather than being this it is a licence fee which runs a core element of what can be described as cultural citizenship which ensures that there is a good system of representation at the heart of the British nation, a system which isn't controlled by government but which has accountability.
This blog argues that it isn't "all about audiences" rather it is all about the creation and maintenance of a system of citizenship which has public service broadcasting / multicasting at its very heart. Those citizens are also the audiences. My concern is the construction and discourse which turns a citizen into an 'audience' and is something which will be discussed in greater depth on this blog. Here I wish to underscore the point that as the World moves towards an increasingly digitised and fragmented mediascape a core concept about media which needs to be maintained is that of citizenship.
The Changing Media Environment
Many people have a stronger sense of themselves as individuals rather than as parts of communities. Minorities are becoming more confident about asserting their needs. Britain is becoming much more culturally diverse. We see increasing numbers of people who identify with multiple communities – social, cultural or geographical. There's a rising demand for personalisation and customisation – for services crafted just for you. (Sir Michael Lyons ibid)
Lyons then proceeds to make the following key points:
- The BBC cannot cherry pick its audiences as commercial broadcasters can. Because of the way it is funded, and because its Public Purposes mean that it has to engage with everyone in the UK, the BBC has to find ways to reach all its audiences in all their complexity. (My emphasis)
- This doesn't mean that every programme or piece of online content has to satisfy every individual licence fee payer – although some kinds of BBC output should appeal to very large sections of the audience. (My emphasis)
- But it does mean that every audience member must find enough they value from the BBC to justify the licence fee and to provide the means by which the BBC can engage with them in order to deliver its Public Purposes. (My emphasis)
I think it will be useful to start to unpack these ideas bearing in mind that I prefer the concept of the cultural citizen to that of "the audience".
...every audience member must find enough they value from the BBC
Firstly let us substitute the concept of cultural citizen from the nebulous one of "audience". I have no doubt in my mind that every single citizen in this country - and also many global citizens have gained enormous value from the BBC, even if after the time they have left school they never watch listen to or access BBC content again.
The embedded values and the links with education alone and the educational broadcasting alone have provided enormous added value to the country as a whole. Those who are mentally tied to quantitative research methods or "metrics", as the trendy term seems to be, will conveniently ignore all this embedded value which has significantly contributed to the general Social / Political / Economic / Cultural (SPEC) environment that is Britain today.
Secondly let us look at the notion of "every audience member...". Well I think this is certainly an arguable point. There is a national grid for electricity, there is a legal obligation for all houses to attached to the telephone system should the citizen require it, there is a nationally levied road tax which all vehicle owners MUST pay however little they use their vehicle. There is an NHS system which is always available to all even if some people never get have accidents and die peacefully in their sleep without a day's illness or if they decide to continually go private. All of these things are aspects of contemporary citizenship and all of them rightly allow for individual agency.
Given the importance of creating and maintaining a multicasting system which provides information etc in as unbiased a fashion as possible which can act as a core part of every single citizens training as a citizen the notion of Public Service Broadcasting / Multicasting is fundamental to our way of life and everybody who is working should be contributing towards this. In return for this we should be expecting high quality rather than the dumbing down which has been a feature of populist media otherwise known as 'lowest common denominator'.
The Dangers of "Topslicing" the BBC Licence Fee
Sarkozy with a 'supermodel'. Oddly just as New Labour wants to dumb down the BBC as much as possible man of the Right in France Sarkozy wants a "French BBC"
One of the biggest dangers to the future of Public Service Multicasting and the future of the BBC as a powerful global player able to stand up the bullying of the 'Media Moguls' such as Rupert Murdoch and News International is the concept of 'topslicing' the BBC. This was something when the pusillanimous Tessa Jowell was the Culture Minister and is currently still being threatened. Given that this week we have already lost the culture minister with the resignation of Peter Hain citizens should be extremly dubious about the abilities of government ministers to be able to control this area.
Given that New Labour caved into Murdoch in their bid for power in 1997 everything that this governement do in relation to media and the BBC must be treated with an enormous amount of scepticism. Already the BBC has become the third most used site in the UK which is an extraordinary success story yet there is still whingeing in the wings about the license fee. The fact of the matter is that in terms of content and quality the BBC is topping the world league because to compare the use of Google or Yahoo is to compare using a TV company with a phone directory not an entirely adeqaute comparison:
The BBC website is number three in the UK. The two companies above us - Google and MSN - and the two companies below us, Yahoo! and eBay, are all the American giants. How we can adapt to that and operate on a global scale while still being predominantly funded through the UK licence, that's an issue for us.(Ashley Highfield)
From the perspective of public service multicasting Highfield's comments would be well served by some decent quality qualitative research into the length of use as well as frequency of access to the BBC website citizens make. It is something which can also be partially achieved through the BBCs own Analytics figures which I'm sure it has.
What is topslicing?
It is as Lyons elaborates below:
...the suggestion that a part of each licence fee should go to a body that would use the money to subsidise public service content from broadcasters other than the BBC.
Firstly let us as with the term "audience" analyse the underlying discourse that the BBC is dragged into here and seek to change it. Subsidise means to assist or to keep down the price of a commodity (Chambers dictionary defintion).
Well the notion of 'topslicing' uncoincidently emerged from the Jowell era after the BBC got into trouble with the government over Iraq. Please note that all the bad things that were expected to happen after the invasion happened have happened and there were no "weapons of mass destruction". However in the wider political context topslicing must be seen as a method of disciplining the BBC by government. For this reason alone it is right to oppose it.
"Topslicing" is more than this though. Throughout the period of 'New' Labour there has been a continual undermining of the BBC and the Public Service Broadcasting ethos. This has been very much because of the pressure applied on the BBC since the 1990 Broadcasting Act under the Conservatives and which New Labour have followed in their love affair with Rupert Murdoch. There will be more on the relationships with Murdoch and Greg Dyke's revelations after his resignation elsewhere in the blog.
Thankfully the Guardian's media correspondent Maggie Brown has made the point loud and clear when it comes to topslicing:
What no one raised at the Oxford media summit is that the top-slicing idea, which may see the cutting down and undermining of the BBC, is quite at odds with international developments.
Just across the channel, French president Nicolas Sarkozy is not only besotted with Carla Bruni. He is also a huge fan of the BBC. So much so that he plans to end the French public service channels' partial dependence on advertising and turn them purely non-commercial
Why Give Licence Fee Subsidies to Commercial Enterprises?
The reality is that as the new mediascape continues to develop there is less and less need for ITV and Channel 4. This is proven by the decline in audiences, advertising increasingly moving online a corresponding crash in revenue for old media and in the case of ITV the crashing of the share price. A recent survey suggested that actually ITV had been doing alright on advertising revenue expressing surprise at the slump in the stock market value In this latter case the market is 'pricing in' the future estimates of ITV advertising earnings. In an era which in media terms is driven by the equation:
What you want, where you want it , when you want it
Do we need these traditional old media companies?
There is no need for all these traditional broadcasters. Personally I never use either ITV and very rarely Channel 4 (this was my favourite channel until the early 1990s when it became increasingly dumbed down). In the latter case this is to access the excellent John Snow and his team. I occasionally use Film 4. Increasingly audiences are migrating online. There are plenty of opportunities for commercial broadcasters to thrive there if they are any good. As it is they will have to compete with the BBC and increasingly the best quality Newspapers which themselves are increasing moving towards a multimedia environment. Indeed it is worth reminding readers that in a BBC made game on the rise of video-gaming made around 3 years ago David Puttnam commented that perhaps between 2015-2020 TV as we know it will have largely disappeared.
When I research articles for this blog I never seem to get good links coming up from the search engines from ITV or Channel 4. Most of the articles are researched down to the current Google listing of page twenty and occasionally even beyond this. The BBC frequently comes up. Whilst this finding can only be taken at more of an anecdotal level it points to the fact that when it comes to doing serious work on the web the BBC along with the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Economist, The Daily Telegraph score far more hits and I link into them far more frequently. As this is now a large film and media studies blog this might be taken as indicative that worthwhile content is not being provided by the commercial broadcasters and that their web presence is weak. If they can't find commercially viable audiences at a global level to pay their overpriced salaries then I certainly don't expect to subsidise them. It is a competitive commercial market and that is that!
My own suspicion is that the era for these companies is largely over and that they will probably disappear perhaps to be replaced by a plethora of more adaptive multimedia companies online. The ITV is a dinosaur best forgotten unless Michael Grade can use its past content creatively while turning it around to face the multicasting age. It should be able to contend with players such as Murdoch but it will have to do so without government support, however it should also have its remit to provide public service broadcasting / multicasting removed. Let it be an honest provider of pap within the regulatory regime of the moment. Its shareholders and those working for it in the past had an easy time of it as the other half of a duopoly. Let them work for their money and convince shareholders that they are a better bet than Google or Myspace. Personally I wouldn't want my pension invested with them at the moment.
Why is the BBC Different? Cultural Citizenship & The Public Sphere
The BBC is different because it sets a benchmark by which all other multimedia multicasting companies MUST meet or beat. The BBC isn't perfect and never will be, but by setting the benchmark for standards which effectively have become those of cultural citizenship in the contemporary era it gives us all a foundation upon which to demand improvements in content and comment upon issues such as over or under representation of specific groups or issues. This in short should be the central axis around which any public sphere (Habermas) should revolve and evolve. These are the standards by which we as citizens and therefore license fee payers should be judging the BBC and the content of its developing multicasting environment.
The notion of a genuinely interactive public sphere linked to access to knowledge and information and tied to a concept of citizenship is entirely antipathetic to commercial broadcasting models. Left liberalism has been so anti the patrician notion of the BBC that it has left the door wide open to rampant commercialism and as a result anybody foolish enough to try and change channels from BBC News 24 has to undergo a barrage of repeats of Big Brother or some other rubbishy "reality TV" show: thank you left liberal populists and your neo-con allies in News Corporation!
The notion of having a vital and influential public sphere means that a public service broadcasting institution should have far more independence than it does at present from the government of the day. There is no doubt that the BBC has to go cap in hand to the government of the day when a spending review and an updating of the licensing fee is sought. This is not to say that Parliament should not have some say in how this sort of instituion is run. A standing select committee for this and other cultural policy matters should be an important role, however this should be entirely divorced from matters of funding.
Funding through an automatically inflation-linked licence fee year on year should be the basic funding formula for the BBC however it should be able to access more funding when there is a specific case such as upgrading technologies on a national basis, such as instituting Freeview or BBC On-line for example.
This doesn't mean that every programme or piece of online content has to satisfy every individual licence fee payer
The second point that Lyons made in relation to the role of the BBC overlaps with my comments above. With the notion of fragmenting audiences and overlapping identities being very much the order of the day, let alone issues of personal preference and taste this is clearly a pertinent comment. We live in a media rich world which is getting richer by the day and offers extraordinary diversity. Pleasing all of the people all of the time is neither possible nor desirable providing most of the people most of the time with diversity combined with good quality is achievable.
Providing a plethora of content and also an environment in which content can be at least partially created by users is fundamental to the future of media and in this sense the programme suggested by the BBC has been very perceptive in its notions of how to interact with new media trends. The problem is that the very cultural heritage which we as citizens have already paid for as citizens is so rich and of such good quality and continues to be that the commercial operators cry foul! They persuaded the government to reduce the power and effectiveness of online opportunities such as the BBC iPlayer. It is this that is anti-democratic and is a clear case of government acting in the interests of a minority but powerful commercial group against the interests of those people who voted it in in the first place.
Of course this links into the first point made by Lyons:
the BBC has to find ways to reach all its audiences in all their complexity
Strange then isn't it that the government acts to curtail the BBC in an area of its key strength and advantage over crass commercialism. It is a case of citizens and audiences not getting the quality they deserve and have paid for already rather it is a case of commerce restricting access to increase its own bottom lines.
What is the BBC hoping to develop?
The Proposed Media City Salford
The advent of the networking model of society which is symbolised by the development of the internet is increasingly effecting how we envisage new ways of working and communicating in the contemporary world. Here an extract from a recent speech by Caroline Thompson shows just how far the notion of a networking society is reaching into core institutions:
Instead of the old hub and spoke arrangement, where London is the hub and the regions are the spokes, the BBC of the 21st Century will be based on a fully networked model. A model that will harness the power of human networks, tapping into a pool of creative energy across the country.(My Empahsisis: Caroline Thompson Chief Operating Officer the BBC Friday 11 January 2008
The move of the BBC headquarters to Salford is an important move and underpins in a physical and rooted way the virtual possibilities of media which is imnportant. Nevertheless it is recognised that new media is fundamental to the future of the BBC:
This will include the central Future Media team that leads the development of the BBC's offering across the internet, digital TV and mobiles, and also the Media Research & Innovation team. These are two of our most important businesses and, together with Future Media colleagues supporting programme-making areas based in Salford...The Director of FM&T, Ashley Highfield, believes this is a chance to reinvent Future Media and how the BBC goes about creating it. (My Emphasis, Caroline Thompson)
Rolling Out Web 3.0?
Currently Ashley Highfield is currently thinking beyond the Web 2.0 model already being developed and already more based upon audience interactivity to a Web 3.0 model:
The web 3.0 world puts a layer on top of that you could call editorial. It says this is probably what you were actually looking at. It says we the BBC know who you are. We've built up a good relationship with you through CRM. We know you were looking for a cop show from the '60s well here's a really good one that we know you - because we know something about you - will enjoy. (Ashley Highfield)
Thus far I have examined the notion of topslicing as yet another attack on the BBC from a government which isn't worthy of including the name 'Labour' in its title as it kowtows to the media moguls. I have also placed the debates about where the BBC should be going in the context of cultural citizenship. It is a concept that must be made central to the agenda of any serious media policy debate for it is this that will help to make Britain both competitive and a beacon of civilisation in less than ideal world. I have also examined somke of the thinking currently within the BBC and suggested that cultural citizenship is a term which should replace audiences. Issues of representation should always be at the heart of media debates and the BBC should seek to represent those aspects of life which more commercial media organisations are not prepared to risk. More funding of challenging films and programmes and increasing levels of access to older materials on the BBC are important aspects of developing a media manifesto for Britian's future.
From Ken Loach's ironically titled It's a Free World 2007. We can do without this 'free for all' in media. Citizenship comes first!
The Trouble With Trust: Building Confidence In Institutions:Mark Thompson Tuesday 15 January 2008
January 01, 2008
Please note currently under construction
For further Kinoeye reference pages please go to the: Kinoeye Reference Hub
Globalisation is a very important concept which helps to explain the state of the contemporary World. Media and Communications theorists have played an important role in developing the theories of globalisation going back to the work of Marshall McLuhan in the early 1960s. Globalisation itself can be broken down into several distinct spheres for the purposes of discussion. These spheres of course overlap in practice but it is useful to identify the spheres as economic, political, and cultural. If you have found this page and others associated with it as they are built, you are likely to have come from a films page. The importance of this more abstract work is to try and gain a more anchored understanding of what it is the fim makers are representing at the level of the underlying process which position particular human actors in these sorts of positions and which the film actors are portraying.
From Rocco and His Brothers 1960. Arrival in Milan carrying migrant labour from the Mezzogiorno
Whilst contemporary British cinema is currently perhaps the best in the World when it comes to representing these issues it should not be forgotten that other films have represented the economic and political processes which force migration and diaspora. Notable amongst these are Visconti's Rocco and his Brothers (1960) which charted through representing the developments in a single family the massive internal migration in Italy from south to north which was the basis of the Italian postwar 'economic miracle' , and Fassbinder's Fear Eats the Soul (1974) about the infamous Gastarbeiter economic system which existed in Germany and was crucial to its postwar economic re-development. By comparison Britain and France were reliant upon their colonies and empires which as they were breaking up also provided much needed labour upon which their postwar restructuring and development was based upon. Another film which shows the brutal exploitation of ordinary people especially women is Lucas Moodysson's Lilya 4-Ever based upon the true story of a Lithuanian teenage girl who gets trapped into the global sex-slave trade as the former Soviet Union is economically devastated by the shock therapy regime imposed by the Thatcher Reagan neo-liberal planners.
Image from Fassbinder's powerful film Fear Eats the Soul (1974) examining the Gastarbeiter sytem and also tackling ageism and attitudes to mixed race relationships in society.
Globalisation and Economics
In talking about globalisation and economics what is meant is the transformation of the different styles and types of economies into an integrated system in which each part becomes increasingly interdependent with the other parts.
The most important area of change has been the globalisation of financial markets. This is apparent in the flows of capital around the world with money being exchanged electronically. The money is used to finance international trade and for a range of investment purposes. Thiese could range to the investment in physical goods especially by Multinational companies (NMCs) or else by financial institutions using financial instruments such as the 'carry trade'. The carry trade is where institutions buy a currency such as the Japanese Yen which is at a very low interst rate. They then reinvest this money in a fairly safe currency like the US Dollar which pays a much higher interest. The finacial company concerned pockets the difference. (Mad or what?).
Financial globalisation really got under way once information technology had improved. Global markets can now operate in real time and funds can be transferred instantaneously.
another key aspect of economic globalisation is the continuing increase in wealth and power of Multi-National Companies. They are largely responsible for the massive increase in global trade since the middle of the 1980s. The largest ones have economic turnovers and earn greater amounts of money that far exceed many smaller nations. As a result say Abercrombie et al MNCs:
...are largely beyond the control of any national government (Abercrombie et al 2000 p 153).
With the increasing intensifcation of the networked society Castells identified a tendency for the increasing power of criminal networks which have a global reach.
Globalisation and Culture
It is argued that there is an increasing globalisation of culture especially through the:
- The increasing power and extended global reach of Mass Media Companies - which are often MNCs. Some argue there is a form of cultural imperialism being operated through mass media companies
- Mechanisms of mass tourism
- Increasing flows of migration as a response to economic change
- An ideology of consumerism which some argue is 'debasing' local cultures
- The marketing activites of Multi-National Companies (MNCs)
In the field of culture these influences and processes have lead to the theorisation of hybridity which refers to the ways in which these processes are articulated in tensions and changes concerning local customs and practices in relation to emerging standards and ideas often present in the cosmopolitan mega-cities or megalopolis.
Globalisation and Politics
In the realm of politics but with strong overlaps to economics there has been a rise in the importance of powerful international agencie such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). These are in an increasingly powerful position to regulate the World economy and thus limit the powers of national states.
Political sociologists have identified a number of issues which appear to be eroding the power of national states. These include environmental issues, citizenship rights and definitions, migration and inter-ethnic / inter-racial conflict.
Abercrombie, Hill and Turner. 2000 (4th edition): The Penguin Dictionary of Sociology. Harmondsworth: Penguin
Globalisation A BBC Hub Page
December 31, 2007
Representing Changing Britain: Ethnicity and Hybridity
If you have arrived here from the Chronology of European Cinema Page it is because the film you are interested in can be understood as part of a theme you will find the film you were after hyperlinked below. Hopefully you will be interested in following up the thematic approach as well.
Some of this page is still under development however there are a range of useful links available.
(See also Kinoeye Reference on Globalisation)
This is the second of the themes being covered in Contemporary British Cinema. One of the most important things that a form of mass media should be doing is ensuring that it represents aspects of social change in society for no society stays fast-frozen in time for long. Britain has had a proud history of being a safe haven for many persecuted individuals and groups and they have often played an important role in the developments of British history itself not only making Britian what it is today but shaping it for things to come. In many ways British cinema as a whole institution doesn't do a very good job in representing social change and different aspects of the multiple layers of society which form Britain today.
It must be emphasised here that in writing of British cinema I'm considering the whole institution of the cinema which is largely in thrall to rampant commercialism in the twin forms of the multiplex and Hollywood dominance of film making and it concommittent marketing power. It is ironical that it is British TV which has been central to the maintenance of good quality and challenging films in Britain since the early 1980s up until the present day.
The main purpose of this page is to introduce some of the concepts of ethnicity and hybridity and the importance of these representations for the development of the concept of cultural citizenship. By talking of citizenship this implies that citizens should have a right of representation within the media, however as with most rights they have to be hard fought for as it is not perceived as being in the immediate interests of those in the dominant positions to give those positions up without a fight. There will then be a list of hyperlinked films which are ones which have dealt with this aspect of social change in Britain. Lastly there will be a general webliography however the individual film entries will hold the film specific links.
The Concept of Ethnicity
Sorry under construction
The Concept of Hybridity
Sorry under construction
List of Relevant Films
Links will redirect to film specific pages once these are ready.
Institute of Ideas. (They run the Culture Wars review site)
Meet the Immigrants. A joint BBC & Open University Broadcasting initiative helping to create a better understanding of global issues.
October 29, 2007
Qualifying as a British film & tax relief
One of the puzzling questions for A Level Students is what counts as a British film. It isn't very obvious as the murky world of film financing , tax dodges (sorry breaks) can make very unlikley films "British. Because of this there are several benchmarks that can be applied. Everything below the introduction is taken from the UK Film Council site. Clicking on the links will bring you to the current definitions.
For most normal people rather than international financiers, the so called "cultural test " is the one which we would apply. To pass the cultural test the proposed film must get 16 out of 31 marks. The full table of how to get this can be found by clicking on the appropriate link. This cultural test is largely in accord with the principles of "Cultural Citizenship" which seeks to ensure a diverse set of representations of people within a particular culture at a particular historical moment.
However for the purposes of the exam you will need to be aware of the differing benchmarks and definitions. It is worth pointing out again that the British film industry is much more than British Films. Many people are employed in software or technical positions which are largely dependent upon Hollywood. Thus the British film industry can be doing well when the range of British films produced can be very thin on the ground
Qualifying as a British Film
Qualifying as a British film provides a number of advantages; productions are eligible to apply for UK Film Council funding and for the benefits of the UK’s tax relief structures. Films can qualify as British in one of three ways. They must meet the requirements of one of the following:
- One of the UK’s official bilateral co-production treaties, or
- The European Convention on Cinematographic Co-production
- The Cultural Test (Schedule 1 to the Films Act 1985)
For information on qualifying as a British film via the UK’s official bilateral co-production treaties or the European Convention, click here.
For information on qualifying as a British Film using the Cultural Test, click here.
For information on the UK's system of Tax Relief for British Films, click here.
European Certificate of British Nationality
British qualifying films are eligible for an European Certificate of British Nationality. For information on qualifying for an European Certificate of British Nationality, click here.