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To test or not to test: Comparing the development of ex ante public service media assessments in Flanders and Norway

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Taking the implementation and impact of emerging assessment methods for new public service media activities – the so-called ex ante tests – as a case in point, this article analyses evolving means of governance and accountability, and evaluates the thesis that claims the locus of governance power shifts from government to commercial competitors. The article does so by way of a comparative analysis of Flanders and Norway, illustrating the path dependency in this process. Based on the overall context of the EU approach to public service broadcasting, and public service broadcasting’s history and position in the two countries, the article compares the legal aspects of the ex ante evaluations, their main procedural aspects, the services subject to evaluation, the implementation of the mechanisms and the challenges that arise from these new instruments of governance. It compares for a number of parameters including the actors involved (as initiators, executers and evaluators) and their leverage power, the procedures developed, the services targeted and the level of time, money and effort invested. The analysis serves as an illustration of a more general trend towards an audit culture and towards a shifting locus of power from government to include other stakeholders, especially commercial competitors that have a growing power to determine policies regarding public-funded media institutions. At the same time, the analysis confirms the path dependency thesis, showing how the organization of these processes still depends on historical, political, economic and cultural specifics. Such insight is important to assess the impact of the recent crisis of public service media. In closing, the article points to implications both for media research and for practitioners.

Keywords: EU; Flanders; Norway; accountability; comparison; ex ante tests; governance; public service broadcasting

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: University of Antwerp 2: University of Bergen

Publication date: 2012-04-23

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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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