THE NATURE AND SCTRUCTURE OF MEDIA “INSTITUTIONS” AFFECTS WHAT IS AND IS NOT MADE AVAILABLE TO THE AUDIENCE. One important distinction which can be made is between PUBLIC and PRIVATE. Aims, objectives and means of financing are quite dissimilar. Taking a look back on history, in Britain’s BBC (radio), was initially the British Broadcasting company (a private body) which became the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1927. With this, the BBC turned the most significant medium of mass information, news and debate until the arrive of television. With this, PSB can be defined as a system which is meant to operate primarily in the public interest. “the public” in this sense was a national body of people, only differentiated by region, which affected radio stations.

REITH, the first general director of the BBC wanted to bring culture to ordinary people. Saw broadcasting as an educational tool which would aid democratic principles of participation. For him, it would bring cultural offerings to the greatest number of people. REITH was against the use of broadcasting only for entertaining purposes. Debates, news and dramas that the viewers wouldn’t see if television wasn’t there. But his notion of culture was oriented more towards upper class terms. Also, broadcasters should lead rather than follow public taste.

During WWII, radio listeners resisted to the Reithian notion of public service when they were able to perceive propaganda for the war. Audiences were also exposed at commercially produced American radio stations broadcasting in Europe, much lighter and populist in tone and content. Listeners, liking this change in style and programming began to demand changes within PSB. Reith resisted the pressures towards commercialization, being wholly in favor of maintaining a monopoly and independence of expression.  SCANNELL (1990) argues that these structural arrangements were far more important to the development of broadcasting in long term rather than the content or style. 

AFTER THE WAR, TV emerged as an increasingly popular medium on both sides of the Atlantic. The “high culture” BBC world was threatened by the emergence of COMMERCIAL TELEVSION in the 50s. Their monopoly ended.  The idea of commercial television was to MAXIMISE REVENUE THROUGH ADVERTISING. Therefore, they were more likely to producer programmes on the grounds of potential size of the audience rather than encouraging sophistication. PSB had to adapt to keep its place. Commercial television doesn’t need to be seen as an alternative to public but as an extension to it. However, the means by which revenue is raised in commercial tv influences policy and programming at least as much as the government influences PSB.  In Britain, the setting up of Channel 4 in the early 80s illuminates the growing recognition of need for television that would more fully reflect the interest of minorities within the audience. Channel 4 was aimed towards said under-represented tastes. As a result, commercial interest was at first slow and cautious, but now Channel 4 is well stablished modern interpretation of PSB.

Other CONSTRAINTS exist on the operation and funding of TV: political control, state and legal, and TECHNOLOGY itself. The BBC unlike the commercial companies, has been funded through mechanism of TV license and by a special charter from the government, so its relationship with it is complex. The control degree is arguable, but there are examples where the state has openly intervened to SUPRESS INFORMATION or to force the BBC to use info in particular ways like during the war. Although Britain has been taken as the prime example for PSB, a lot of countries have followed, CBC in Canada, ABC in Australia… USA though, the dominant model is a commercial one. PSB existed mainly in the form of “educational TV” until the late 60s, when the PSB ACT provided for networking of educational channels and setting up the PUBLIC BROADCASTING SERVICE, which took control of creative management. The most innovative example of programming by the PBS was the creation of CHILDREN’S TV WORKSHOP, making Sesame Street. For many years, public service in the USA relied on programmes bought from the BBC, but in the 80s the BBC entered and agreement to sell cable network, undermining the provision of “quality” programming in America.

In recent years, there has been a massive increase in channels thanks to the introduction of cable and satellite technology. This and also video, has meant the role of the audience has changed. Current debates have shifted away to deregulation and the changing relationship between providers and consumers. Other developments such as SVODs may fragment the audiences even more. Although there are many more channels, much of what is available falls into a culture range. Furthermore, far from Reith’s idea of high culture and education, your access to television depends on your money.