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    Public service priorities in transition: catering for minority interests in the public service media environments of the UK and Finland

    Sihvonen, Mikko (2014) Public service priorities in transition: catering for minority interests in the public service media environments of the UK and Finland. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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    This thesis examines the impact of neo-liberal marketisation on the provision of two types of minority interest content; children’s and religious programmes, in the terrestrial broadcasting environments of the UK and Finland between 1986 and 2009. Utilising a customised explanatory model devised for this study: the Industrial Equilibrium Model, which combines elements of historical institutionalism and the Structure-Conduct-Performance Paradigm, the thesis provides an empirical record of marketisation-driven changes in broadcasting institutions and their impact on the provision of children’s and religious programmes. In so doing, the study allows us to evaluate the current state of and future outlook for minority interest content in the 21st century marketised multi-platform broadcasting environment. The thesis demonstrates that notwithstanding significant social, political, cultural, economic and demographic differences between the UK and Finland, similar marketisation-driven changes have taken place in the strategies of broadcasting institutions. Increasing competitive pressures produced by liberalisation and reorientation of regulation have forced commercial broadcasters in particular to focus increasingly on majority preferences and populist content in their programming, while catering for minority interests occupies a lesser role in the agendas of these broadcasters. The thesis demonstrates that popular preferences increasingly inform programming strategies and production resource allocation. The rise in the preference to use commercial and economic yardsticks in measuring the performance of broadcasting companies has also resulted in an increasing preference for costeffective and/or commercially lucrative types of programming with mass audience potential. All these changes have influenced the structure of the output of public service broadcasters, which is increasingly shaped by these populist, economic and commercial considerations, while the significance of the historically dominant social and cultural goals has declined to an extent. Through these changes in broadcasters’ institutional conduct, an understanding is gained of the impact of neo-liberal marketisation on the conceptual model of public service broadcasting. The thesis demonstrates that broadcasters and regulators have adopted an increasingly consumerist interpretation of the missions of public service broadcasting, and use viewing preferences of the audience majority to set their public service agenda. This tendency has compromised their ability and willingness to cater for certain disadvantaged minorities. By highlighting potential areas of vulnerability in the emerging model for minority interest provision, the thesis also presents recommendations for securing diversity and plurality in future minority interest provision.

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