“Two distinct types of national radio broadcasting emerged: in the US, the Radio Act of 1927 confirmed its status as a commercial enterprise, funded by advertising, while the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), founded in 1927, a d non-profit, public broadcasting monopoly, provided a model for several other European and Commonwealth countries (McChesney, 1993).”
-Thussu, page 14
Public vs. Private seems to be the debate of the hour, in an era when the government that epitomizes capitalism is accused on a daily basis of turning “socialist”. But aside from Tea Party-esque fanfare, the question is a valid one. Who can be relied on to be the provider of information?
On the one hand, you have the US model, where we say to have the freest media in the world - free from censorship or influence, where we can say what we want and listen to what we want. By “free”, of course, we me mean that major media channels are privately owned by large corporations who often let non-journalists enter the field of providing information, entities who may or may not have a political agenda of their own. They have the liberty to report the news they see fit and construct the language that they use because, well, they own it.
On the other, you have the state owned model in Britain, where the BBC tries to maintain it’s reputation as “more internationally credible than any other broadcasting organization in the world” (Thussu, 23) and is trusted by the English public more than the government itself. Of course, the BBC is not immune to weakness, especially that of seeking personal gain in the mad pursuit to “break the story”, as became evident in the Hutton Inquiry over the “sexying up” of government documents. The inquiry faulted the BBC for hastened and embellished reporting, lying to provoke, much like the yellow journalism of Hearst that fueled the Spanish-American War. Far more shady than pressure from the public, however, is the notion of pressure from the government - of how free from government influence state owned media can actually be. Daya Thussu notes the indirect influence the British government has had over the BBC. Despite its culture of criticizing its own government, the broadcaster has always been subject to the government direction of its output and transmission.
And that close to blasphemy in this country.
Here in America, people seem to have no faith in the role of government at all. Even if in Britain they are skeptical of the government, at least they trust that the government can fund a news agency without putting its hand in what is being reported. The government is at least trusted with protecting the right of free speech, even against itself. It is inconceivable to us in America that the government could run an agency without doing it solely for their political gain.
It seems the only thing we do trust in this country is the market. We tell ourselves that because of market forces, the best products will prevail, including news and information. But we seem to be a little too comfortable in putting our faith in system that at the end of the day is fueled by advertising. Let’s not forget that advertising has a money making end aimed at appealing to our emotions. Advertisers compete for our attention while watching us draw our wallets. Do we want our news sources to be in competition? Competition may lead to innovation, but a great part of innovation is invention - creating something new that isn’t already there. Competition makes people take steroids. If we happen to think that information is knowledge, we should value information like we value a baseball hero. Do we want it doped up on anything?