PSB as an institution in a neo-liberalising world



Three key points:


Broadcasting is a national affair


Broadcasting is for the Public Good


Broadcasting is a means of entertainment and profit




Idea of Public Sphere


British PSB as THE PSB model?


Potted history of BBC


coordinated effort by government and radio manufacturers to provide a Broadcasting service...


otherwise radio manufacturers would soon go out of business.


BBCo - 1922-1926; Private Company

BBC - 1927 onwards; Public Corporation


BBC not under direct Government control nor under a Ministry of Broadcasting; weak BBC governors (appointed by government of the day) and strong internal Board of Management run by strong leader - Director General - in the first instance the celebrated John Reith (1922-1938)


This 'Reithian' ethos is sometimes lazily defined as straightforwardly elitist, patrician, authoritarian, stifling. But it was always more complex than that. When Reith talked of bringing to British people 'the best' of things ideas and culture and information they did not know they wanted but which he, at least, knew they needed in an era of mass democracy-he undoubtedly played the neo- Victorian paternalist to perfection. What could be grander, after all, than his quintessential claim that broadcasting should give a lead to public taste rather than pander to it? 'He who prides himself on giving what he thinks the public wants is often creating a fictitious demand for lower standards which he himself will then satisfy.'4 Yet Reith went on to say very clearly that the whole point was to bring the best' into the greatest number of homes'. If broadcasting was a force for the improvement of taste and knowledge and manners, as well as a means of promoting social unity, the task was to enable men and women throughout the country to take an interest in things from which they had previously been excluded. And if all British people were to be led on to higher things, the BBC needed to attract a mass audience. It needed to be truly popular.5 Hence the classic formulation of the BBC's mission being to 'inform, educate, and entertain': in part, an expression of the desire to build rounded, enlightened citizens by exposing them to the broadest range of material; in part, a recognition that only through the enticement of popular programmes would decently sized audiences ever be secured for all the tougher, more 'improving' fare. (Hendy, Life on Air.)




but PSB should also be expressed in terms of an expanding democracy: The…



So right from the beginning, Reith and the government generally (though they had great doubts about broadcasting ‘controversial material’, wanted a service that would promote what might be called a modern democratic system via a responsible control mechanism of indirectly applied monopoly (BBC as separate from direct control by Ministers)



Other countries wanted British type PSB eg. India (1947)


But is British PSB model importable?



Factors which inhibit importation


a) national culture


b) glocalisation - specific recognition of a local culture by the larger system of which the local  is a member.


c) varied ethnicity/religion in one state


d) changing historical and political circumstances



I wish to argue that it is the latter which leads the other 3 factors in securing or undermining PSB of a British/BBC kind.



The most obvious form of factor (d) is that of clientelism: that the PSB organisation serves the party in power at the time rather than some universal standard of PS output.


Eg. India and its broadcaster: Doordashan – served Indira Ghandi’s Congress party and then with political change, the Janata party.



Reasons for this clientelism:


Politics of complex states – after independence many states were complexes of various ethnic groups which were ruled by a dominant party/one party state or eventually by a military dictatorship – eg Nigeria.


Strong government/weak opposition: Media does what it’s told. No danger of the opposition getting into power so government can rule the roost including the media who can’t be critical a la PSB ideals – another eg. Indonesia.


Alternatively Yugoslavia fell apart in the 1980 and devolved into a set of states where one ethnic group was dominant. Thus the media served that state/dominant ethnic group. (esp. Milosevic’s Serbia)




In the case of India and later Poland where States were fragmented by incommensurable political, cultural and ethnic interests…


The government had to juggle these competing interests just to balance things and not to let internal civil strife rear its ugly head.




But this reasoning can used for more self-serving purposes:


Where the government bullies the media into putting on programmes that serve the political imperatives of the government of the day…



Especially when it comes to election time and the governing party is trying to get votes from all different kinds of voters.


Gets the PSB bosses to put on programmes that will please voters in this or that region…which hopefully will turn into votes for the governing party.




A variant of this was Poland in the 1980 and 90s during and after the transition from communist rule to democracy.


The overthrow of the General Jaruzelski’s communist government by Solidarnosc (the union based socio-political movement) created big hopes of popular democracy and freedom of speech ie. free pluralist media.


But the difficulties of reforming the existing political system meant that despite activists desire for a critical PSB type media…


The government wanted a media that was supportive of it.



In 1992 the broadcasting Act provided for a classic  form of PSB – open, wide-ranging, outside of political clientelism



BUT by 1995 the Broadcasting Council who were the media regulators were seen by the Polish president as being obstructive…


They had been put under pressure to give a commercial licence to a media company that would be friendly to the regime. They would not do this so the President of Poland condemned them for excessive independence!!


In the case of Poland we have a sophisticated polity and public who in a transitional state from one regime to the next still find their PSB corrupted by the political logic of the day.




In the UK though:

Constitutionalism and the party cycle model (Labour/Conservative cycle) of political change has stabilised PSB in the UK.


Also no bottom up and varied popular political movements demanding change to which government felt they had to be responsive – thus pushing media into making the required responses.



Other systems which have very stable yet different PSB are Sweden and Germany.


Sweden runs on the concept of folkbildning -  where socially representative bodies – unions, temperance groups, farmers free church and sports movements were given a 60% stake in PSB



When Sweden reformed its PSB in 1992—94 this 60% stake was handed over to 3 foundations which took charge of the 3 main departments of Sveriges radio.


Sweden now allows for commercial systems and of course out goes the independent organisations that guaranteed the PSB ideal.



Germany made control of the media a function of the Constitutional court and the ‘Lander’ -  regionally based groups representing various social interest.


This elaborate democratic system was to get away from any taint of Germany’s nazi past with its control of the media for political purposes.



In Latin and South America there is virtually no PSB.




However, perhaps the most significant changes in the broadcasting landscape policy-wise have been in Europe since the 1980s


This is because of:


a) gradual move towards multi-channel broadcasting


b) move from centralised political control of Euro broadcasting


c) internationalisation of broadcasting via satellite across 1990s...





 EU has its foundations in an accord over industrial production between European states - 1951 (6 year after end of WW2)

 6 European states get together, recognising that relations may go wider than merely industrial matters -  ie. extend to social and cultural matters.





 Public Service Broadcasting was the dominant model for all the EU states right through the 1970s and into the 1980s. This also protected national political ambitions and constitutional arrangements over broadcasting.

  Cable and Satellite – prospect of multi-channel commercial broadcasting opened up questions about whither European broadcasting?


 It also raised matters of LIBERALISATION - link to Thatcher reforms of nationalised industry and privatisation in UK in 1980s as an classic e.g. of this


EU now beginning to discuss a ‘cultural and Audio-Visual common market’

1984 – GREEN PAPER FROM EU: “A Common market in Broadcasting”

 the dominant PSB model made liberalisation very difficult in EU as a whole to adopt as policy. AND massive imports of US material offended EU countries sense of identity.


1986 Council of Europe gave a directive recommending that Member States should standardise satellite tech specs and a European TV stations should be established.  AND

 27/4/1989 EU directive  on standards for HD-TV.

Thus further attempts to define a European communications market

And then…


 3/10/1989 TV without Frontiers - this is THE document that really starts the quest for a European/EU A-V policy.

 recommends quotas for European produced TV for all member states; thus attempting to limit the amount of non-European (US) material on TV.

 And: each member state should be prepared to screen material from any other member state – thus encouraging free flow of ‘information’ between states.

 And: 10% of broadcasters budgets should be used to take material from Independents – a challenge to the dominant PSB model (remember UK had this anyway as a model re: C4 and then Peacock recs)






Problem: France and Germany among others came to non-PSB late so were not that keen on  abandoning it.

 Problem: cultural self-determination – right of states to show what they wanted to show as judged appropriate to their people


 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam: protocol allowing retention of PSB but not at expense of development of commercial broadcasting.










 But once you embark on convergence it encourages a global market in AV and subjects each country to flows of goods across its borders and tends to undermine the expansion of weaker countries’ individual markets that cannot, because of their having signed up to EU-wide agreements, protect themselves.

 1997 Green paper on Convergence



 Modernisation of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive 2018.


Why was the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) revised?

  • The media landscape has shifted dramatically in less than a decade. Instead of sitting in front of the family TV, millions of Europeans, especially young people, watch content online, on demand and on different mobile devices.
  • Global internet video share in consumer internet traffic is expected to increase from 64% in 2014 to 80% by 2019 Taking these new developments into account, as well as the Commission proposal to review the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD), the European Parliament and the Council reached in June 2018 a political agreement on the revised rules. This paves the way to creating a regulatory environment that is fairer for all players in the audiovisual sector, including more flexibility to broadcasters in terms of advertising, protecting minors and tackling hate speech in all audiovisual content, better promoting European audiovisual productions and ensuring the independence of audiovisual regulators.

Which type of audiovisual media services are covered by the new Directive?

The existing rules already cover traditional TV broadcasters and video on-demand services. In the updated rules the scope of application has been extended to also cover video-sharing platforms.

What does the Directive consider to be a video-sharing platform?

In the revised Directive, a video-sharing platform is defined as a commercial service addressed to the public:

  • where the principal purpose of the service is devoted to providing programmes and user-generated videos to the general public, in order to inform, entertain or educate;
  • which is made available by electronic communications networks; and
  • where the content is organised in a way determined by the provider of the service, in particular by displaying, tagging and sequencing;

This means that services such as YouTube will fall under the scope of the revised Directive. Audiovisual content shared on social media services, such as Facebook, will also be covered by the revised Directive.

While newspaper websites remain outside the scope of the Directive, standalone parts of newspapers' websites which feature audiovisual programme or user-generated videos will be considered as video-sharing platforms for the purpose of the AVMSD. However, any occasional use of videos on websites, blogs, news portals will be outside the scope of the Directive.

What are the new obligations for video-sharing platforms under the revised Directive?

Member States should ensure that video-sharing platforms put in place measures to:

(i)   protect minors from harmful content (which may impair the physical, mental or moral development); access to which would have to be restricted; and

(ii)  protect the general public from incitement to violence or hatred and content constituting criminal offences (public provocation to commit terrorist offences, child pornography and racism or xenophobia).


What is the country of origin principle? How will it be improved?

The aim of the country of origin principle is to protect media service providers established in one Member State from restrictions imposed by other EU Member States receiving their services. Audiovisual providers do not need to comply with rules of 28 different Member States, only with those of the country where they are established.

The new Directive confirms and facilitates the country of origin principle in the following ways:

  • ensuring transparency among Member States on jurisdiction: it will be easier to determine the country whose rules apply to each provider, thanks to a database which will contain a list of providers under Member States' jurisdiction. This information will be publicly available;
  • aligning the procedures in case of exceptions to the country of origin for TV broadcasting and video on-demand services;
  • introducing grounds for derogations for EU Member States as to serious risks to public health and public provocation to commit terrorist offences;
  • introducing a new urgency procedure for derogations in case of public security concerns and public provocation to commit terrorist offences.

What was agreed on advertising?

The proposed rules strengthen provisions to protect children from inappropriate audiovisual commercial communications of foods high in fat, salt and sodium, and sugars, by encouraging codes of conduct at EU level, where necessary.

The advertising limit of 20% of broadcasting time will apply from 6:00 to 18:00 (i.e. broadcasters can place advertising up to 20% of the viewing time in that period) and the same share is allowed during prime time (from 18:00 to midnight).

The new advertising rules are expected to have a positive economic impact for TV broadcasters and increase their capacity to invest in audiovisual content. This change is important for the competitiveness of the EU audiovisual industry.

How will the protection of children from harmful and illegal content be strengthened?

Children watch less TV and more and more on-demand and online videos. However, the current AVMSD protects them more on TV and less in the online world. This inconsistency will now be fixed. The new rules will:

  • ­require that programmes that may impair the physical, mental or moral development of minors. Video-sharing platforms will now also have to put in place measures to protect minors from harmful content. Such measures consist of tools for users to report and flag harmful content, age verification or parental control systems.
  • ­require that the most harmful content, such as gratuitous violence and pornography, shall be subject to the strictest measures providing a high degree of control (such as encryption and effective parental controls).
  • ­encourage EU co-regulation on content descriptors which provide sufficient information to viewers about the possible harmful nature of the content. The industry should develop common content descriptors because age ratings without additional explanations on this rating do not always give sufficient information to parents.


How is European culture strengthened by the new Directive?

Under the new rules, TV broadcasters will continue to be obliged to broadcast at least 50% share of European works (including national content) in viewing time. Video-on-demand services – which already have to promote European works, need to ensure at least 30% share of European content in their catalogues and should give a good visibility (prominence) to European content in their offers.

The new rules also include a mandatory exemption for companies with a low turnover and low audiences. It could also be deemed inappropriate to impose such requirements in cases where – given the nature or theme of the on-demand audiovisual media services– they would be impracticable or unjustified.

Overall, strengthening the promotion of European works for on-demand services will lead to a broader and more diverse offer for Europeans. This will have a positive impact on cultural diversity and bring more opportunities for European creators.


Will the Member States impose financial contributions for European works on media service providers targeting a specific territory? How will it be enforced?

It is a fact that broadcasters are investing more in European works than video on demand providers. While European TV broadcasters invest around 20% of their revenues in original content, this figure represents less than 1% for on-demand providers. Therefore, when Member States impose financial contributions on broadcasters that are not under their jurisdiction,the investment of those broadcasters in European audiovisual works should be taken into account, with due consideration of the principle of proportionality.

Why is a share needed at EU level? Won't it be an extra-burden for businesses?

Mandatory shares of European works in catalogues of on-demand services already exist in more than half of EU Member States. This is required either as a standalone obligation (e.g. Cyprus, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia) or in combination with other joint or alternative obligations (e.g. France, Croatia, Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain). The required shares in the catalogues vary considerably between Member States (10-60%). This is why minimum harmonisation at EU level is needed, so that all Europeans can have access to European audiovisual content.

It should not be a significant burden for businesses: according to a 2015 study by the European Audiovisual Observatory European films already accounted for 27% of all films available in video-on-demand catalogues in the EU.


 2 dimensions to the development of EU policies:

 a) Economic – liberalisation (dominant?)

 b) Political/Cultural: the idea of Pan-European culture.


The ultimate conflict in this is that between Convergence and Pluralism

 EU-regional/Global market in hardware and software leads to economic and cultural dominance (CONVERGENCE) from already strong players

  This is undermining of the developing economic infrastructure

 and cultural autonomy weaker individual EU states (PLURALISM) (prob of nationally desired/defined pace of determination of econ development being forced along at the pace of EU supra-national rate)

 especially those in the Southern Mediterranean who were gradually joining the EU. (and this extends to the old  East European counties who have joined the EU)




 Satellite TV and the emergence of European Trans-national TV – 1960-1990


 Satellite television is television delivered by the means of communications satellite and received by an outdoor antenna, usually a parabolic mirror generally referred to as a satellite dish, and as far as household usage is concerned, a satellite receiver either in the form of an external set-top box or a satellite tuner module built into a TV set


With Pay-TV services, the datastream is encrypted and requires proprietary reception equipment. While the underlying reception technology is similar, the Pay-TV technology is proprietary, often consisting of a Conditional Access Module and smart card


Home Box Office (HBO), which had leased a transponder on the satellite, became the first programmer to transmit programming signals to the cable TV providers, and that really encouraged the cable TV industry. In 1977, the first satellite-delivered basic cable service, Christian Broadcasting Network, or the CBN Cable Network started functioning, which was followed by Turner Broadcasting System (TBS).


HBO led the field in the US starting in 1972 with the satellite/cable link to 365 homes on Penn. But broadcasting sport, notably the Frazier/Ali match in 1975 and relaying that to initially two local services extended their reach such that by 1985 HBO had a nationwide network of 6000 local cable operators that took HBO i.e. 20mln subscribers.


Equally the other key player was Ted Turner – who started in TV in 1970 but got permission in 1976 from the FCC to begin transmitting a satellite to cable service – WTBS. Like HBO this grew into a national network. But what made Turner famous was his creating  a satellite to cable 24hrs news service. In 1980 he started CNN – cable News network and expanded into Asia in 1982.


With increased objections from the Pay TV stations against the free use of their programming channels, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) founded the Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) in 1980, which required people to have a black box or DTH satellite receiver, purchased from the broadcaster to receive the scrambled programming signals. The early 90s saw the use of digital encryption technology that completely secured the programming signals, and saw the entry of many Satellite TV providers.



The planning for DBS-TV in Europe and Asia at 12 GHz took place in 1977 at the World Administrative Radio Conference. And in 1983, the formal plan was made for the western hemisphere, also at 12 GHz..


But as far back as 1978 Brian Haynes who had made a documentary for Thames TV on Turner decided to have a go himself at launching a European service. He gained space on the European Space Agency’s transponder but he struggled to gain the agreement of the necessary one signature of a member of Eutelsat – the regulatory body overseeing telecomms in Europe. Haynes needed a downlink point and since all Eutelsat signatories had refused to permit a downlink point in their countries from which a linkage to cable could be made, Haynes eventually persuade Malta to take the signal in 1981. Then Haynes sought and got reluctant agreement from the PO and the Home Office for an uplink to Eutelsat because Malta a member of the EBU was backing the idea. About 4mln was raised from various sources and on 26th April 1982, the service was launched. Cable operators were keen and by the first night, Finland and Norway’s cable providers were able to accept a downlink.


This was against the backdrop of no pan-Euro legislation and no permission to take advertising. Indeed at that time there was no commercial TV in most European countries.


Jean Chalaby notes: Satellite TV plc (Haynes’s company) was in English and it was a diet of pop music, soaps, cheap TV series and sport. But nonetheless advertising inasmuch as it was allowed in some countries, came from Unilever, Coca Cola and Philips – and these were huge Corps.


Meanwhile in a general round up of development in media, Murdoch had called a conference of his people and was advised to get a foot in the European door of the new media initiatives. Pulling a team together to do precisely that , Murdoch stumbled across the financially ailing Satellite TV plc of  Haynes. It needed £6mln to keep going and by the Summer of 1983 Murdoch had bought the company for £1 plus the debts.


It transpired that Murdoch had attempted to get into satellite in the US but had been blocked by HBO and the Discovery channel who had bought up all the spare transponder capacity. That failed project had been called Skyband. It was suggested that he call his new London based European service Sky.


What he wanted was a UK service primarily but he needed to go into Europe because of the far more extensive cable network to which to downlink the satellite signal. Years later the head of Sky  news John Ryley was to remark that Sky thinks with a ‘British mentality’..but he failed to note in this remark of 2008 that Sky had 50mln connections in Europe.


Slowly then, the beginnings of trans-national TV service in Europe was emerging. To whit, France joined in after ORTF had been devolved into 7 TV companies but still wanted to increase the reach of French culture and ideas. However, no one company saw it as its responsibility to take French culture to other nations until a former French diplomat, Patrick Inmos stated putting together a plan whereby French public TV and the French speaking services of Belgium and Switzerland would  cooperate  in creating a satellite/cable service. Using a Eutelsat from Feb 1984 the service broadcast 3hrs a night into cables services in Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, and then Scandinavia. And because it was PSB created, it did not use ads so no challenge to its cable hosts. By 1986, CBC and Quebec TV took a feed from the service, thereby opening a North American market.

The immediate success of what was called the TV5 service led to a new  German based service in late ’84 called 3Sat. that was backed by ZDF (FDR) ORF (Austria) and SRG (German speaking Switz)

It was clear that Sat TV and moreover trans-nat Tv in Europe was a coming thing and to this end by march 1985 a Dutch co FilmNet had been formed with backing from some of the Hollywood major cos. This spread across Northern Europe. Significantly this was a pay TV service. Pay TV expanded to 2.5mln subscribers across 13 countries in the early 90s when FilmNet was bought up by a South African co Multichoice. Anew holding co was formed to take care of Film Net called Nethold. By 1997 it was bought out again by Canal+ - the major French TC co by then under a much more neo-libralised regime in france.


In Britain as we have seen Murdoch was on the move but what was key was the UK govt openness to new media ventures and also the 1982 Hunt Cmtee report on DBS and cable which recommended that the govt should award franchise for the development of cable esp. Thorn-EMI backed the idea and developed Thorn-EMI cable progs to launch 3 services: Premiere (films), Childrens Channel and Music Box. The latter a music TV service  was a slot on Sky from Feb 84 and then a full channel in cahoots with branson’s Virgin group. Music Box ultimately reached 3.3mln people across 10 European countries.


But too many of these Co’s struggled to turn a profit, and in deed Music Box failed to, and lost 15mln before opening negotiations with MTV  and finally with ITV Co’s who created it as Super Channel in Jan 87. 

ITV however had seen that Murdoch’s operations were pulling huge advert revenue so pushed ahead with Super Channel finding a market across Europe. So had their doubts about the financial viability of this..but Birt TV des not travel well….and nor did ‘alloallo and Kenny Everett Show or Benny Hill.

ITVs hopes were dashed – there was no adequate pan Euro advertising revenues to be gotten. Apart from Sky the other channel to succeed was another one noted for news – CNN. It came to Europe in 85 having taken off in much of the rest of the world in the early 80s. By early 88 it had 1.5mln connections.


And here RM comes back in. EBU wants an International Sports service and in 1988 signs a deal with Murdoch to run it. But Murdoch losing money. Not enough ads, and cable operators were wanting more money to carry Sky etc. So RM wanted shot of them to have more money to break into Europe further.

SES’s Astra satellite – a commercial operation out of Luxembourg get going in Dec 88. RM gets space on the satellite to launch his multi-channel Sky service But key is his move to DTH – direct to home via satellite downlink to a dish.


RM top dog in satellite TV courtesy of  sports TV and Astra+dishes and no more reliance on cable as the greedy piggy in the middle.


Avertising revenue – the sticking point.

Ad revenue was always a chimera – a fantasy. It was estimated in 1988 and confirmed in further research in 1991 that pan-Euro advert market was worth  perhaps up to 2% of the total ad spend of british advertising. Equivalent to one month spend on ITV and C4 at that time. And further there was a number of probs with pan-EuroTV ad:

1)      few companies had need of pan-Euro advertising

2)       lots of brands changed names in different countries anyway

3)      Ad campaigns unsuited to pan-Euro treatment. Needed different marketing strategies for diff countries.

4)      Advertisers had no central budget to manage  pan-Euro campaign; they organised around their offices in individual countries helped along by the local ad agency (disincentive to go for pan-Euro TV ad – local agency would lose their ad money) but for pan-Euro TV they needed one budget and one campaign.

5)      Could not control the how far the ad travelled so it may be seen in a country that does not have the product in its shops. And if there were only a few that had the goods then pan-Euro ads were wasteful.

6)      Audience numbers different between countries.

7)      Advert regulations differed from one country to another. esp for things like alcohol


But what the new broadcasters did bring apart from an acceleration of neo-liberalisation of media markets and cultural change in very heavily regulated PSB-centred state run systems

Was highly structured scheduling; this happens on Monday and this on Tuesday in this time slot etc – horizontal programming.


They showed cheap imports but also made their own progs  But production costs were far lower than in PSB. Economies of scale. Sky had 150 staff in late 80s, a PSB might have 10,000.


Pan Euro sat brdc brought choice to Europe TV in a time when PSB across Europe was focused not on what the audience wanted but on the cultural aims of individual nations states.


It forced the pace of the development of European media policy: the negotiations and implementation of TVWF 1989.


 TVWF: the original draft of it by the Council of Europe (inter-country meetings of Ministers) in 1987 sought to control the new boys. It wanted restrictions of all aspects of transfrontier broadcasting e.g. no sponsorship of progs by demanding that ads were only within ad breaks; no targeting of specific markets and that the satellite channels comply with each and every countries national media policies. Britain objected to these restrictions as it was very much in the vanguard of neo-lib policies under Thatcher, but more trad contries, Belgium, france, germany wanted these restrictions..


Fro the proposals that were set out in the 1984 Green paper through to the European Commissions directive of October 1989 there were battles. But the final version that had been re-written by the Commission was more liberal than the CoE’s initial version. This was because the Commission looked back to the 1957 Treaty of Rome – one of the EU founding documents as well as the Single European Act of 1986 that made it clear that chief aim of the EU was a single market – a transfrontier economic system. And thus the Commissions aim was to encourage free flow of all kinds of goods including TV.


Thus there was an easing off of the advertising restrictions as proposed and more importantly a pull back from the quota rule that  60% of broadcasters material had to be of European origin – it went down to a simple majority of 50%.


And it got round the proposed requirement to have sat brdcs accommodating all individual nations brdc rules and policies by making legal transfrontier retransmissions across EU states. All that satellite broadcaster had to apply was the laws and rules on media that were applicable in the country in which they were primarily registered and from which they operated.


Thus by the terms of TVWF, pan-European Satellite TV  came of age in that it was put in afar more sound footing legally.



Satellite/cable TV - 1990 to today – the growing power of Murdoch.


Satellite TV since the late 70s has almost always (and certainly across Europe) been terrestrial based uplink to geostationary satellite, and then downlink to cable operators who then distributes the signal.


Around 1990 Murdoch amongst others gets places on the SES/Astra satellite that provides DTH – direct to home (aka. DBS - direct broadcasting by satellite) to cut out the middle man – the cable operator, and thus cut costs (given how weak the Euro advertising market proved to be, and Murdoch’s main purpose was that of capturing the british market).


note the existing context - that a) a lot of Europe was cabled – so cable operators were key layers on the multi-channel market and, b)  satellite and cable services were not only commercial – states e.g. France with its TV5 and Germany with Sat3 also launched multi-channel provision.


Several processes key to the enabling but not necessarily rapid growth of non-terrestrial trans-frontier European TV – Euro Satellite/Cable TV for short!


a)      Politics: the grudging acceptance of it in trad PSB states plus the European Commission’s ‘neo-liberalising’ defeat of the Council of Europe’s attempt to set up unreasonable regulations (within the terms of the TVWF 1989)


b)      Technology: SES as a (cheaper cos medium powered) alternative satellite service to that of Eutelsat over which member states had power to determine its uses and thus could obstruct transponder access.


c)      Economics: In the end, TVWF permitted a larger amount of non-European i.e. American material to be shown (from 40% up to 50% of broadcast material) and this helped commercial Euro TV providers to show more cheaper popular material, and this make the economies of scale work.


d)      Cable operators could cherry pick which channels they took on their networks which were also restricted by analogue bandwidth, and so again securing a stable and substantial audience was a problem (thus the desire to change to DTH systems) Even in 1991, out of 132mln TV homes, there was only 25mln cable connections across EU


e)      Ideological: slowly the idea of a multi-lingual cross-European (transfrontier) TV hoped for by the politicians, was collapsing, and satellite and cable was retreating, but increasingly successfully so, into predominantly national services offered by commercial or PSB operators. e.g.  Sky channels for UK; 3Sat and Pro7 German speaking areas; TV5 and TV4 Nordic countries. As one of the international operators Murdoch had done very well in the late 80s to get 15mln connections.


f)        Legal:  TVWF 1989 (and the 1997 and the 2003-07 ‘Audio Visual Media Services’ directive updates to TVWF ) confirm the principle) broadcasters only have to obey the media regs for country in which they are domiciled – where they have your main HQ. They do not have to take into account every regs of every country to which you broadcast – which would have a been a real pain.




The other key legal hurdle that was overcome was copyright and rights payments. This was a real tangle of interests. In many cases across the 80s and 90s, broadcasters simply ignored the people and companies to whom they owed rights payments.



They SatCab directive of 1993 sorted all this out. What it also did apart from ensure a centralisation of payment by an appointed agency to rights holders across, was to harmonize Europe’s copyright structure especially for matters of re-transmission for satellite and cable.


All terms of copyright – e.g. how many times can the music for this series be used etc must bet agreed between content creators e.g. composers, musicians and the content aggregators (TV Co’s) and content distributors (cable operators/satellite platforms)


…and the pan-European copyright collecting society – the centralised agency that manages the whole copyright payments procedure.


This stopped rights holders from blocking cross border transmissions on copyright grounds. It was either broadcast or no broadcast, but not  ‘in this country but not that one’.


Slowly then European legislators and regulators devised systems by which to shape the new trans-frontier TV services without hindering then unfairly –despite the occasional attempts of some of the to do so.


But nonetheless at 1991 only about 1/5th of homes had access to cable or satellite TV yet by 2006 of 164.7mln homes 97.7mln had cable or satellite and more significantly and this should be a clue as to reasons for growth – of 114mln homes in eastern Europe (post-communism) 40.5 mln TV homes had access.




But there is another techno reasons for enabling growth and this has to do with co-locational geo-stationary satellites.


Under the old Eutelsat arrangements – where transponder space was sold unilaterally by member states that were signatories to the Eutelsat system – broadcasters found that they were allocated places on a range of satellites stationed anywhere between 7 and 16 degrees East.


This meant that to get a really wide range of TV channels was not possible as you could only point your household satellite dish  at one satellite at one location. There was pressure to change this. In 1993 the somewhat Euro-sceptic Bruges Group brought together 5 PSBs involved in satellite TV and lobbied Eutelsat. Eutelsat was asked to provide one position at which to group TV relaying satellites – at 13 degrees East. This is co-location.


SES had already done that in late 80s at 19 degrees East so threatened to leave Eutelsat way behind in the market. (note that all of these arrangements for satellite broadcasting in terms of signals and position of sending them is a matter for the International Broadcasting Union – ITU)


SES/Astra medium power sats did not require householders to have huge dishes and they were looking to make all kinds of deals not least with Murdoch when the Astra beam included Britain – thus access to UK ad market for RM.


SES made deals with BT then the latter were looking to distribute TV across Europe from London – and London was base for lots of US TV companies. Further BT would procure customers for pales on SES satellites – which they did and signed up RM


Other factors that have led to expansion have been:


a)      fleets of satellites –Astra (SES) and Hotbird (Eutelsat) co-located in bunches

b)      dual feed dishes – that can receive two signals if satellites located fairly close to each other.

c)      Rise in number of transponders per satellite due to digitalisation and multiplexing. Typically 10 per sat in early 90s; now 64.



By end of 2006 Hot Bird broadcast 1050 channels to 12 mln homes across Europe and North Africa/Middle East.


Co-location of sats has led to a ‘shopping mall’ aspect to it all. Given the lots of channels beaming from one position and thus lots of dishes pointing towards that position not least in UK millions of sky subscribers on Astra, if a broadcasters want to get into the pay TV sat market then it needs to buy space on Astra.


And of course inevitably there emerges what might be called meta-arrangements where by large corps will buy up loads of satellite transponders and create a management package to supply satellite broadcasting to broadcasters –a sort to one-stop shop.




Wider Contexts of Broadcasting. WIPO/GATT.



Neo-Liberalism/liberalisation as ideology




Media Pluralism as ideal and relation to Public Sphere.


Note that Europe, including UK has had a far more collectivist notion of these things i.e at the heart of U/Euro broadcasting is the idea of Public Service


Than USA – which is far more free-market - and images that as an adjunct mechanism through which choice and individuality is registered


To not let the market determine the supply of media products is to impose state-led cultural ideologies about what citizens should think…


Except that to try to impose unfettered market mechanisms through which programmes and cultural gods are distributed is also a state led ideology of the free-market no matter what harm it does to others and indeed to the circulation of ideas – i.e. the harm to media pluralism.


From a US led perspective especially during the Bush years, where countries resisted importation of US material therewith the US accused those countries of unjustified protectionism


And tried to use international (global) trade mechanism to abolish other countries protectionist measures.


This level of Global policing of trade is a form of GOVERNANCE as opposed to GOVERNMENT:


Governance is the dispersed system of making binding agreements at national and international levels about the organisation and implementation of political and economic issues and things.


So which orgs are the key players in International trade?



World Trade Organisation (WTO) within which:


General Agreement on Trades in Services(GATS) operates.


1998 – US pushes for adoption of the pro-liberalisation approaches of the OECD: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. WTO secretariat produces a paper on trade in Audio-visual services in line with this. Thus starting international negotiations for an agreement for all countries to open their borders for trade of any other countries media products.


The argument is that national restrictions on imports of media services will frustrate open trade in images and ideas a version of the implied link between free-market and global cultural democracy. It will also limit corporate profitability.


The only other country than the USA to agree to this document was….the Central African Republic. USA not happy. Continues to wheedle and bully other countries into agreeing.


World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO): Property rights not least DRM global policies



Big players such as the US and to quite a degree the UK in terms of media production (esp. film in the US case) have an interest in promoting Intnl agreements that will help powerful medial players develop their markets.






UK/USA dominate media markets


80% of prog sales are US/UK


65% of formatted programme sales (soaps/reality TV etc.) are UK/US


Anywhere between 40% and 90% of films in any country are US made.




And of course the Internet


devolved away from the US government from 1997 onwards to almost complete devolution today under the auspices of ICANN and IANA



Still battles going on for who controls: techie interests or Political/state-based ones.


Problems of liberal models against authoritarian or conservative cultural and religious regimes. See Thailand recent spat with Facebook