It often seems in the early 21st century that market-based arguments have won the day. You will note that I did not say ‘solutions’ because, in the field of broadcasting, my ‘argument’ is that we desperately need a mixed economy in broadcasting, with media policy and regulation which respond to, and articulate, wider cultural values than the market and money.
It is a measure of the importance of media policy that control over broadcasting, like foreign affairs and defence, was a power reserved to Westminster. It ought to be repatriated, but how valid would such a development be in the light of a globalised media economy and ecology? And what could a Scottish parliament and government do, faced with the powerful forces which transcend both Westminster and Brussels?
Do our creative industries really need protection and quotas in order to survive let alone prosper? And what about the well-known ‘Scottish cringe’, the fear that our broadcasters do not quite reach the standard despite the achievements of so many, of whom James Naughtie and Kirsty Wark are just two of the most prominent.
The answer, in part at least, can be found in a comparison with the film industry.
Why is British television seen, broadly, as a great success story while the UK film industry is and always has been on a rollercoaster of highs and lows? Why have we managed to sustain success in broadcasting and especially in radio (again especially the BBC stations)? The answer is surely the existence of media regulation, along with the certainty of the licence fee.
Regulation is a help, not a hindrance: by requiring diversity in genres, maintenance of minimum standards and, as in Channel 4, a need