Communication and Social Policy, Vol. 4 - 1997, No. 4
The intellectual and political assaults on the welfare states of affluent societies are one half of a process of what Joseph Schumpeter calls .creative destruction.. The other half is the social construction of the idea and reality of the global information society. In this essay, the reasoning applied to dismantle the welfare state is examined, with particular attention being paid to its implications for the role of the state as cultural patron and guarantor of rights of access to the means of communication. Also examined are ways in which dominant visions of the information society draw upon the same reasoning that is applied to dismantling the welfare state. Contrary to prevailing mythology, the main trajectory of the development of the global information society is not toward the establishment of a free market, but rather it is aimed at the articulation and enforcement of rights of property ownership on behalf of global media and telecommunication cartels. One response to these decades-long developments has been a movement for a new global constitutionalism aimed at the establishment of global social and cultural policies which would parallel the already welldeveloped efforts to constitutionalise global market principles. The essay reviews some of these efforts.
Amartya Sen's 'Capabilities' Approach To The Evaluation Of Welfare And Its Application To Communications
To concern ourselves with the welfare state is to concern ourselves with entitlements. This raises the question, entitlements to what? This essay examines the relevance of the thought of welfare theorist Amartya Sen for the subject of communication theory and policy. Sen.s perspective originates from a normative egalitarianism derived from a Kantian emphasis on the position of the other, which he poses in contrast to utilitarian views on welfare. Sen observes that it is possible to make the same set of resources or utilities available to different persons or groups and realise that some are capable of making more effective use of them than others. Applying this capabilities approach to communication policy leads to the conclusion that it is not access in a crude sense that is crucial, but the distribution of social resources which make access usable. The point of framing the analysis in this way is that the focus shifts from a mechanistic and crude preoccupation with utilities to enhancing the satisfaction of media users. needs in the realm of communication.
In a world in which people are increasingly identified as consumers and audiences, it is more important than every to invoke them as citizens. Citizenship elevates human activity to include legal, political, and social rights to participate fully in a democratic society. However, citizenship is also a discipline and a tool of discrimination that permits governments to exercise extensive control over who can participate and the extent of that participation. This article addresses the dual nature of citizenship as it applies to critical new spaces shaped by high technology. Specifically, it takes up citizenship in what Castells and Halls call the "technopoles" or regional concentrations of science, technology, and venture capital whose icon is Silicon Valley. The article uses citizenship to critique new manifestations of the technopole phenomenon and concludes by considering different forms of regionally based citizenship that provide alternatives ways to think about progressive social development.
The multi-lateral system of the ITU has been losing out steadily to a trade paradigm in telecommunication, culminating with the WTO agreement in February 1997. Against this background, this paper looks at the issue of the accounting rate system, how liberalisation is further undermining a main pillar of ITU activities, and the impact and options for less developed countries. The US has seen its international call settlement deficit grow to over 5 billion dollars in 1996, providing an essential net revenue for a number of less developed countries. The US is now threatening to greatly reduce payments, unilaterally overriding the current ITU bartered system. Analysis reveals that the growth in deficit is caused mainly by the call-back and refilling activities of US carriers. It is also likely that the introduction of loopholes by the US into the recent WTO agreement is at least partly motivated by a co-ordinated strategy at the WTO and ITU. Other developed countries, however, strongly oppose the US move, and are pursuing legal action to prevent the US implementing its threat. Yet in the long term, the accounting rate system is anyhow in decline, yielding to a number of trends. It will most likely be replaced by a trade based system, with a minimal multilateral element. From the point of view of less developed countries currently benefiting, the future thus looks bleak. The decline of multi-lateral determination of accounting rates, and its replacement by unilaterally or trade determined levels, will inevitably lead to significant loss of revenues. Their bargaining position in relation to ensuring that any new system will continue some transfer from wealthier to poorer countries is weak, and they have had little real support from UN organisations.
Public Service Broadcasting And New Media Technology: What the BBC Has Done And What It Should Have Done
This article analyses the response of one of the world's leading public service broadcasters to new media technologies - satellite, cable, digital broadcasting and interactive information technologies. It shows how and why the BBC has largely abandoned any serious attempt to exploit these for public purposes. It argues that the BBC.s attempts to exploit them for commercial purposes are both ineffective and threaten even its traditional public service remit. The article suggests that the BBC.s policies on new technology have contributed to a pervasive .common sense. in UK political debate that new technologies cannot be utilised for public service goals. The article takes issue with this "common sense" by demonstrating how generally accepted arguments for the continued validity of public service broadcasting apply equally to public service use of new technology. Finally, the article argues that an expanded notion of public service broadcasting cannot be divorced from a more general challenge to current free-market orthodoxy.
In an era when citizenship no longer guarantees access to all of what were considered basic services, the emphasis on heritage to enhance social cohesion seems to have grown. Apart from reinforcing traditional heritage activities, the custodians of national culture are attempting to foster belonging through the digital dissemination of cultural artefacts. Ironically, the same market-driven neo-liberalism which favoured the dismantling of the welfare state seems to underlie the production of electronic culture. Moving the heritage-technology link from the context of commerce to that of citizenship allows for the consideration of broader societal interests. Such a process can lead to a renewed social contract between citizen and state that would reassert social rights as well as institute a cultural right to access essential communicative resources for citizenship. These rights would be reciprocated by responsibilities of citizens for the ethical and conscientious use of common resources for the public good.
A major debate in Australian cultural studies in the 1990s has been the "cultural policy debate". Drawing upon theories of governmentality developed by Michel Foucault and others, there has been a move to understand cultural institutions in terms upon their relationship to the formation of citizens in modern liberal democracies. While such work can provide considerable insight into contemporary media and cultural policy processes, there are significant gaps in the Foucaultian approach, most notably its difficulties in incorporating the significance of citizenship rights to policy processes. The article explores general issues about the relationship between citizenship, participation and policy formation, and discuss their significance in light of Australian media policy debates about content regulation for commercial broadcasters, local content regulations and, more recently, censorship and the future of public broadcasting. It questions attempts to automatically equate citizenship with participation in policy processes, as well as attempts to present such participatory processes as an innately progressive alternative to bureaucratic or governmental decision-making. Instead it proposes that the relationship between expertise and participation constitutes one of the central animating dynamics of policy formation in advanced liberal political formations.
The volume of scholarly production in the field of cultural and communication studies has been rapidly increasing during the past decade. Much of this work, however, remains unknown or inaccessible to most of the academic community. A few dissertations are released by small commercial publishers, houses usually without the infrastructure for international marketing and distribution. This means that even in the best of circumstances, most quality academic dissertations become known and available to no more than a fraction of the potentially interested scholars.