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Public Broadcasting, History of

Jamie Medhurst

Subject History
Communication and Media Studies » Communication Studies
Media System » Media History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Public broadcasting is notoriously difficult to define, and yet it has been at the center of debates in →  media policy for decades in those countries where it exists. Proponents of public broadcasting argue that at its heart is the notion of providing the “best” in programming for all, while detractors would argue that it is a form of state control over what we can listen to or watch (→  Public Service Broadcasting: Law and Policy ). Public broadcasting can also be defined in economic terms (funding from the state or public taxation), cultural terms (maintaining and supporting a minority culture), social terms (broadcasting for the “social good”; →  Public Goods ), →  audience terms (the listener/viewer as citizen) and, finally, as “that which is not commercial broadcasting.” In relation to the final statement, Tracey (1998) has suggested a simple epigram for defining public broadcasting as opposed to broadcasting funded by commercial means: the former gets money to make programs while the latter makes programs to get money. However simplistic, this is what public broadcasting is about in essence (→  Media Economics ; Cost and Revenue Structures in the Media ). A history of public broadcasting can usefully be divided into three periods: the early history from the 1920s until World War II, the immediate postwar period, and the 1960s onwards. Scannell (2000) has argued that ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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