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Public service media and the partnership agenda. Matching public policy with PSB strategy

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In recent years, in repositioning themselves as public service media, public broadcasters have increasingly built on cooperation and partnership activities in various domains (culture, education, innovation, etc.). While the focus on partnerships has been induced by policy-makers, public broadcasters have realized the legitimizing nature of their collaboration activities. This article seeks to analyse the partnership agenda from a regulatory and public broadcasting strategy angle. It questions whether the new practice to enforce partnerships between public broadcasters and other actors through management contracts is transposed into public broadcasters’ day-to-day reality and which problems might arise in that respect. Evidence derives from a comparative analysis of public broadcasting rhetoric, strategy and practice in Flanders (VRT), the Netherlands (NPO) and United Kingdom (BBC) and builds on a series of expert interviews with broadcasting representatives conducted between August 2010 and September 2011. Setting out from (among others) Graham Murdock’s Digital Commons model, this article aims to recommend improvements for the partnership agenda and nuances highly idealistic theoretical approaches. The main argument is that there is a misfit between theory, policy rhetoric and public broadcasters’ actual strategies. This does not mean that there is no legitimacy in the idea of a networked public broadcaster. In fact, the partnership agenda is crucial for the sustainability of public service media. However, it cannot and will not be successful if enforced in a top-down way exclusively.

Keywords: Digital Commons; cooperation strategies; partnership agenda; public service media; public-private partnerships

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Vrije Universiteit Brussel

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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