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Can a GVC-oriented policy mitigate the inequalities of the world media system? Strategies for economic upgrading in the TV format global value chain

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The TV format business has evolved rapidly since the formation of a global format trading system at the millennium, with one notable exception: the UK remains the world’s leading exporter. Considering the UK was once a net importer of (US) TV formats, it is a remarkable turn of fortune that poses two questions: what lies behind it and can the recipe be applied elsewhere? This article argues that British broadcasting regulation helped build a local TV production sector that excels at export, and that it contains the core elements of a global value chain (GVC)-oriented policy. Comparing UK initiatives with other nations and regions (the Middle East, Israel and South Africa) demonstrates the benefits of the British regulatory framework. Using the TV format trade as a case study, this article acknowledges that the world media system may be unequal but, contra to the cultural imperialism thesis and critical political economy theory, it argues that developing countries can take measures to scale their creative industries and, in particular, encourage local TV producers to participate more actively in the TV content GVC. Strategies for economic upgrading, this article concludes, must use IP laws to incentivize creativity, must not restrict international trade, and need to take into account the global nature of the TV content value chain to help local firms position themselves accordingly.
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Keywords: TV format global value chain; TV format trade; broadcasting policy; economic upgrading; global television; global value chain (GVC) analysis; media and development

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: City, University of London

Publication date: March 1, 2017

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  • The International Journal of Digital Television will describe and explain the transition to digital TV and wider trends in television. As switchover happens across the globe and television's operations and audiences are transformed, the International Journal of Digital Television will be at the forefront of efforts to understand the changes and developments.
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