The Future of Television: Market Forces and Social Values

David Elstein

in Television Policy

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780748617173
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671113 | DOI:
The Future of Television: Market Forces and Social Values

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In this lecture, the author, former chief executive of Channel 5, explores British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's legacy to broadcasting which, he argues, is characterised by a shift away from social values to market forces as the key engines driving broadcasting. The Peacock Committee initiated this ‘sea-change’ by introducing notions such as consumer sovereignty and competition into television programming considerations. The author argues that the 1988 White Paper (Broadcasting in the 1990s: Competition, Choice and Quality) and the subsequent Broadcasting Act 1990, with their requirements for the allocation of ITV franchises by auction, the financial restructuring and sale of ITN, the separation of Channel 4 from ITV and the creation of Channel 5, will have damaging effects on the commercial sector of broadcasting and lead to the ‘demise of those high-cost, high-quality programmes like Poirot [and] Who Bombed Birmingham?’. He suggests that the licence fee will continue to provide funding for the BBC although his preference is for subscription, which he argues provides ‘the safest, most socially equitable, most politically insulated form of funding the BBC’.

Keywords: Margaret Thatcher; broadcasting; Peacock Committee; consumer sovereignty; competition; television programming; Broadcasting Act 1990; BBC; ITV; funding

Chapter.  3899 words. 

Subjects: Television

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