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Media Culture and Society - Essay Example

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Public broadcasters have a unique responsibility to the public. They must provide quality content in order to enhance the cultural and political dialogue. They must ensure that their content is neither too narrow in its appeal nor too broad. …
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Media Culture and Society
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Download file to see previous pages Matthew Arnold once fought to ensure that the cultural life of a nation should be available to all, not merely the rich in their fancy salons, and the BBC has in part been part of that mission. But the issue of balance is a tricky one as Scannell discusses in his article on the BBC. How far should the BBC go in appealing to the public? How much should the public pay? These are difficult issues that will be explored in the court of this paper.
In the course of his article on the subject Paddy Scannell discusses the BBC's monopoly on public broadcasting, its history, and its responsibility to the public. The basic premise behind state control of broadcasters is that these organizations are simply too important to be left to their own devices (Scannell, p4). The government needs to control them because politically and culturally they have a real power over peoples lives. They project into peoples' homes any number of stories, news items, and current events. They can also project into homes negative ideas that may lead to negative consequences. Such was the thinking in the early days of the BBC. Broadcasting should be controlled by those who know best.
And yet a number of people resent the extreme control that the government possesses over broadcasting, and this led to an eventual liberalization. Rather than having the BBC be funded out of general revenue, it would be done so by subscription. The TV license fiasco is behind much of this problem. Unmarked vans drive up and down the streets of Britain seeking to detect unlicensed televisions (TV Vans). To American eyes, this is something out of North Korea. To Britons, it is part of the history of the BBC. For many years, commercial television was seen as an unalloyed bad. When new channels were being auctioned off, they were given to the BBC, because “[i]n short, commercial television was regarded as failing to live up to its responsibilities as a public service. It was not fit, in its present form, to extend its activities, and the plum that the committee had on offer—a third television channel—was unhesitatingly awarded to the BBC” (Scannell, p9). Nevertheless, as Scannell argues, if a public broadcaster can create the right kind of show it can help to establish an enlightened democracy (Scannell, p5). This is part of the duty and challenge of public television. It can help to shape the minds of citizens and instill the best kind of virtues. Indeed, this is why many people support public television. But when they see shows such as Eastenders and the Weakest Link on their public television channels they wonder why they have to pay for them. This is part of the challenge of public television: not all tastes are alike. Eastenders in particular has come in for a great deal of criticism over the years. This soap opera which takes place in a fictional neighbourhood in London has been on the air for decades and has long been one of the most popular shows on the BBC. Eastenders is a show that presents working class life in Britain. There are some who argue that this is within the mandate of a public broadcaster and that those who oppose such shows are being elitist. The mandate of a public broadcaster is to appeal to all segments of the population. Not every show can be like Masterpiece Theatre or a high-level ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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