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Would we create it if it did not exist? The evolution of public broadcasting in Jamaica

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In many western democracies, public service broadcasting institutions (PSB) have long been criticised, their legitimacy thwarted by technological, cultural and political developments. However, while the future might appear bleak to those who have a nostalgic vision of PSB, more encouraging and forward-looking visions are possible. As an example of forward-looking vision, this paper looks at the evolution of public broadcasting in Jamaica from the establishment of the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) in 1962, to its dismantlement in 1997, and to the formation of a new public broadcaster, the Jamaica Public Broadcasting Corporation (PBCJ), in Spring 2006. Throughout this history, and notwithstanding its many challenges, public service broadcasting continues to be a vital institution in Jamaican social, political and cultural life. Some of the questions that spur from this complex history are: In an era characterised by the everexpanding choice of media channels, while governments in wealthier countries are trying to get rid of their PSB, why is a new public broadcaster being re-established in the Caribbean island? What are its characteristics? Finally, could this attempt to recreate a public broadcaster in Jamaica be indicative of broader trends pointing to the necessity of preserving, or re-creating, public spaces in commercially saturated media environments? Although the lack of financial resources is a major challenge for the newly born PBCJ, efforts to re-build a public broadcaster speak to Jamaica's continuous desire to create a valuable alternative to commercial media. Attempts to create an efficient and socially relevant institution of public service broadcasting are discussed.
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Keywords: Caribbean media; Jamaican TV; Jamaican media; public media; public service broadcasting

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Publication date: 2007-11-05

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  • The International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics is committed to analyzing the politics of communication(s) and cultural processes. It addresses cultural politics in their local, international and global dimensions, recognizing equally the importance of issues defined by their specific cultural geography and those that traverse cultures and nations.
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