Power Without Responsibility (JN 500)
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Power Without Responsibility (JN 500) Broadcast Journalism: History and Issues Case study: Northern Ireland Broadcasting Ban
Lecture Outline 1. The BBC – History 2. Principles of Public Broadcasting 3. ITV and Competition 4. The Rise of 24-hour News
5. Case Study: Northern Ireland Broadcasting Ban
1. The BBC – History BBC introduced as independent institution – aim of freedom from political and commercial influence, unbiased (like the press). Status partly determined by limitations of broadcasting spectrum. BBC also a national, ‘universal’ institution – like education, health, welfare, etc.
1. The BBC – History BBC also ‘hegemonic’ institution – promoting a national ‘consensus’ where “certain forms of expression were preferred over others; certain art forms regarded as legitimate but not others; and certain groups regarded as ideologically suspect...” (McNair 2009, p. 109).
John Reith, the DirectorGeneral of the BBC 1927-38, prioritised the educative and ‘civilising’ functions of public broadcasting.
1. The BBC – History The BBC’s reputation was enhanced by its contribution to the national wartime effort – helped to unify nation.
Bureaucratic, ‘civil service’ ethos. Beveridge Report in 1947 recommended continuation of BBC monopoly.
Television regarded as poor cousin of radio: medium regarded as conveyer of ‘light entertainment’.
2. Principles of Public Broadcasting Traditional idea of public broadcasting: “catering for all sections of the community, reaching all parts of the country regardless of cost, seeking to educate, inform and improve, and prepared to lead public opinion rather than follow it” (Curran & Seaton 2010, p. 343). 1977 Annan Report abandoned ‘broad consensus’ about the public good with liberal pluralism requiring diversity of independent voices (See Freedman 2001). Prepared regulatory way for satellite and cable broadcasting.
2. Principles of Public Broadcasting Public broadcasting under threat since rise of multichannel media environment. Attempts to defend public broadcasting included Garnham’s (1990) equating of public broadcasting with the public sphere. Collins (1992) drew on idea of negative and positive freedoms to argue merits of mixed broadcasting system.
“… public service is not a static or dated ideal, it is one we need to redefine and develop” (Curran & Seaton 2010, pp. 341-2).
2. Principles of Public Broadcasting Contemporary defense of public broadcasting not about hierarchy of ‘quality’ or ‘taste’ but more about independence and expression of diversity of voices. I have defended public broadcasters as public institutions that engender conflict and debate and argue they must be preserved as a “dilemmatic space” (Honig 1996): “The ABC is not an old-fashioned ‘public’ monolith in a new multi-channel ‘privatised’ world, but an institutional expression of a ‘publicness’ which is necessarily multiple, contested and fragile. And this is the real strength of the ABC” (Craig 2000, p. 113).
3. ITV and Competition Tory government in 1954 introduced commercial television. The new service was named ‘Independent Television’. ITV companies formed a news service ITN that was subject to same programme and coverage constraints as BBC: ITV licensed for limited period, banned from broadcasting its own opinions, and impartiality imposed.
Political struggle over introduction of commercial television: pro position argued it would promote industry and commerce, anti-position argued it would result in declining cultural standards.
3. ITV and Competition “It has often been claimed that ITV was a vulgar debaucher of cultural standards. In the pursuit of profit it merely pandered to the lowest common denominator of public taste. More recently a far more subtle case has been advanced which is not so crudely anti-commercial. This claims that ITV was, rather, an energizing, populist force which gave expression to working-class culture” (Curran & Seaton 2010, p. 163).
3. ITV and Competition In initial years (1955/56) ITV had little effect on growth of television audience and did not impact on BBC viewer numbers but this changed in later years. Still, as late as 1960 fewer than 60% of licence holders had two-channel sets (Curran & Seaton 2010, p. 158) Commercial television structure informed by Beveridge report: recommendations of spot advertisements over programme sponsorship, and regionalisation of broadcasting. Drive for commercial broadcasting due to high costs of production.
3. ITV and Competition “ITV’s most important contribution to television was to develop a format for the news” (Curran & Seaton 2010, p. 160).
“Before ITN there were no newscasters. When an employee of the BBC appeared on screen, his or her name was not revealed. … ITN changed all that. Suddenly, bright young men and women were standing in streets or sitting in studios reading the news or asking rude questions of politicians” (Fraser, cited in McNair 2009, p. 119).
3. ITV and Competition Channel 4 launched in 1982. Commercially self-funded but ultimately publicly owned.
Original remit to provide programming to and for minority groups. View that British television did not reflect nation’s cultural diversity. Channel also provided strong arts and culture profile. Subsequent move to more mainstream programming. Publisher of programmes made by independent production companies.
4. The Rise of 24-hour News Late 1980s saw the rise of 24-hour, transnational television journalism.
Cable Network News (CNN) launched in 1980. Came to prominence with Challenger disaster in 1986 and first Gulf War in 1991.
4. The Rise of 24-hour News “News on ‘real-time’ satellite and cable became a flow medium, rather than a medium of record; a turbulent river of journalistic data into which one dipped one’s toes from time to time…” (McNair 2006, p. 109). Real-time satellite news brought into being a global public (McNair 2006, p. 109).
4. The Rise of 24-hour News In the U.K. two satellite broadcasting services started: British Satellite Broadcasting (BSB) and Murdoch’s Sky television. In 1990 BSB and Sky ‘merged’ as BSkyB with majority ownership by News Corp. Huge losses offset by News Corp global profits – BSkyB announced profit in 1992. Murdoch gave Sky comparative editorial independence and broadcaster’s reputation grew.
4. The Rise of 24-hour News The BBC started ‘World Service Television News’ (WSTV) in 1991 – independent of BBC’s financial structure – differentiated from U.S.-centric CNN. Now includes BBC World News, BBC World Service and BBC Worldwide. BBC World News is the BBC’s commercially funded international news and information television channel, broadcasting in English 24 hours a day in many countries across the world. BBC World News is available in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide, around 300 million households and 1.8 million hotel rooms.
5. Case Study: Northern Ireland Broadcasting Ban Political and media background: 1979 killing of Thatcher’s colleague and friend Airey Nieve. 1984 bombing of the Grand Hotel Brighton. http://news.bbc.co.uk/ont hisday/hi/dates/stories/oct ober/12/newsid_2531000/2 531583.stm
5. Case Study: Northern Ireland Broadcasting Ban In 1985 Thatcher in America was asked by Sunday Times reporter for her reaction to a programme that had an interview with the IRA Chief Of Staff. She replied she ‘would condemn it utterly’. She spoke on that U.S. tour of the need to starve the terrorists of the ‘oxygen of publicity on which they depend.’
5. Case Study: Northern Ireland Broadcasting Ban 1985 - Real Lives series featured programme ‘At the Edge of the Union’ examining both sides of the conflict in N. Ireland through two politicians on the Derry City Council: Martin McGuinness, Provisional Sinn Fein and rumoured to be a leading figure in the IRA, and Gregory Campbell leader of the Democratic Unionists. Both elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly and routinely interviewed. As they were elected politicians the producer did not refer programme up to DG level and it was billed to be shown in the Radio Times.
5. Case Study: Northern Ireland Broadcasting Ban Home Secretary Leon Brittan requested BBC withdraw programme. The BBC Board of Governors, against convention, saw the programme and withdrew it. Programme was eventually screened after editing. BBC and ITN journalists went on strike for press freedom. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrWIbWMJCOg
5. Case Study: Northern Ireland Broadcasting Ban May 1988 – the government requested the postponed screening of programmes about the shooting by British soldiers of an IRA bomb squad in Gibraltar: ITV programme, “Death on the Rock” and BBC Northern Ireland programme. Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe requested postponement until after inquest warning about “trial by television” but BBC chairman and Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) Chairman refused. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7MBqTw2vl0
5. Case Study: Northern Ireland Broadcasting Ban In October 1988 the Thatcher government announced a ban from the airwaves of organisations in Northern Ireland that were believed to support terrorism. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/h i/4409447.stm http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/h i/northern_ireland/7674184 .stm
5. Case Study: Northern Ireland Broadcasting Ban “The Government have decided that the time has come to deny this easy platform to those who use it to propagate terrorism.” With these words Douglas Hurd, the then Home Secretary, imposed direct censorship for the first time in Britain in peacetime. (Johnson 1998, p. 49). Then BBC deputy director general John Birt said the ban would damage “some of the most cherished elements of a free society – freedom of expression and the independence of the media.”
5. Case Study: Northern Ireland Broadcasting Ban Voices were banned but not the words of suspected supporters of terrorism. BBC and ITN bypassed the ban by using actors’ voices which were dubbed over footage. ‘...the longer the ban went on, the issue became the ban itself. When Gerry Adams travelled on fund raising tours around America he was able to claim that he could be heard there but not in Britain where he was a ‘non person’ (Johnson 1998, p. 50). After 6 years ban was lifted.
5. Case Study: Northern Ireland Broadcasting Ban “As a Government instrument of censorship it failed, and it failed because it was inefficient. It banned the voices of Sinn Fein but not their image, and for the medium of television, the image dominates the verbal discourse. Although it repressed argument, it failed to have any effect on acts of terrorism (Johnson 1998, p. 51). Hurd admitted that in the short term the ban succeeded in denying Sinn Fein a platform but over time the measure became self defeating. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yqXeIYmtsc http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/aug/18/-sp-bbcreport-facts-impartial
Collins, R 1992, “Public Service Broadcasting and Freedom”, Media International Australia, No. 66: pp. 3-15.
Craig, G 2000, “Perpetual Crisis: The politics of saving the ABC”, Media International Australia, No. 94: pp. 105-116.
Freedman, D 2001, “What use is a public inquiry? Labour and the 1977 Annan Committee on the Future of Broadcasting”, Media, Culture & Society, vol 23: pp. 195-211.
Garnham, N 1983, “Public Service Versus the Market”, Screen, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 6-27.
Johnson, J 1998, ‘Censors in the undergrowth’ British Journalism Review, vol. 9: pp. 49-54.
McNair, B 2009, ‘Broadcast journalism in the UK’, News and Journalism in the UK, 5th edn, Routledge, London.
McNair, B 2006, Cultural Chaos: Journalism, news and power in a globalised world, London, Routledge.
Seaton, J 2010, ‘The BBC under threat’ and ‘Broadcasting and the theory of public service’, in J Curran & J Seaton, Power Without Responsibility: Press, broadcasting and the internet in Britain, 7th edn, Routledge, London.