To discuss this question I will first introduce the definition of regulation and the methods that are used to govern media industries around the globe. This will enable me to understand what regulation is and will prepare me to concentrate on deregulation. To begin with deregulation I will look at the American Media and the effects of the Telecommunication Bill 1996, which helped to introduce deregulation into the American Radio industry. From this I will be able to show the effects of deregulation and I can compare it with the recent Communication Bill being introduced in the UK by the end of 2003. With my findings and discussion I will be able to conclude whether or not deregulation would lead to diversity, without loss of quality.
In the British media industry various media text consists of guidelines, which by legislation or by code of practise, ensures that it is socially responsible towards the audiences it is targeted. An early example of this can be seen when the British Broadcast Corporation (BBC) was set up in 1927 under a royal charter with John Reith as Director-General. Reith used the charter to prevent the government from having any direct involvement with the running of the BBC. Reith also declared that the BBC should provide to its audience;
So with regulation the media industry tries to ensure that radio content and the way is broadcasted is done by a standard level of quality. In all there are three different methods to regulate the editorial content of radio industry around the world. This is largely due to the kind relationship the media industry share with the politics and policy makers of the country it is broadcasted in. These are known as the following: Free Market, State Control and Social Responsible.
The free market model means minimum intervention from governments, and other forms of hierarchical power. An example of this is can be seen in the country, USA. Because of its political policy of free speech, as governed by the constitution, not much regulation is done on the kind of media output broadcasted on radio. Furthermore the Telecommunications Act of 1996 deregulated all radio rules. This meant no restriction on cross media ownership of the media.
State control model can be defined as full intervention from governments, bodies, or a person in hierarchical power. It is very much opposite to the free market model. An example of this is seen in country of Italy. Its Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi owns and controls the largest newspapers and broadcasters. Other examples are seen in far eastern countries like China and North Korea whose government controls what is published or broadcasted on media texts.
Social responsible model has some intervention from either government or regulatory bodies to ensure a level of decency is governed in media texts. For example the British broadcast regulator “The Radio Authority” ensures that no use of strong languages is heard before the 9:00pm watershed. It is decided upon the basis for the greater good of society. Also regulated is the ownership of the media. An example of this can be seen in the Broadcasting Act 1996. One of its legislation in cross media ownership was that a media organisation could purchase a 20% share control in T.V provided they did not exceed a share interest of 20% in another medium.
Overall there are three known kinds of ownership regulation models used in the media industries. These are known as the Manipulative, Hegemonic and Pluralistic models (Trowler 1996: 63 – 82). The manipulative model suggests that those who own and control media organisations also manipulate their media output. They do this in order to become more powerful and richer. The hegemonic model suggests that media organisations follow one view of the world subscribed by societies privileged classes that presents to a media output a dominant set of ideas. The pluralistic model suggests that the market force is lead by the audience and their set of ideas. This leads to a large number of media outlets adopting catering for its many audiences.
As established the editorially, technical and ownership aspect of media output has had a history of being regulated in various different ways. However the term deregulation has been recently introduced in the media industry, particularly in countries like the USA and UK. Deregulation has been defined as: “The dissolution of rules and regulations.” Price (1998:334). The first example of deregulation in the UK can be seen in the legislation of the Broadcast Act 1990. During the white paper stage in 1988 the Conservative government highlighted three key issues in broadcasting:
“Choice, Competition and Quality.” The government felt that if competition among broadcasters increased then listeners and viewers would have more choice. This meant that only successful stations outputting high quality programmes would attract high ratings to survive and bring in the required advertising revenue. But did this method of deregulation helped to create an expansion of choice without loss of quality? If we look at the Telecommunication Bill 1996, which helped to deregulate the radio industries in the USA, we can see the effects of deregulation. Before the bill was passed a media company could not own more then 40 radio stations in the USA. However after the 1996 bill the media conglomerate Clear Channel now owns over 1,250 radio stations. That is almost a third of all American radio stations owned by one conglomerate.
Clear Channel provides a valid example of one of the trends that have begun with deregulation. This trend is known as horizontal integration. This allows for conglomerates to either merge or take over other media companies in the same medium. Many have followed suit around the world, including the UK where conglomerates like News International and Persons Group have used horizontal integration to expand providing more choice and diversity in their programming. This is the pluralistic argument that allows audiences to select their own bias in the media.
Another argument to support this form of deregulation trend is that it allows advertisers a guarantee sell with one media conglomerate, reaching out to the variety of audiences listening to the radio stations owned by Clear Channel. Clear Channel has also diversified into the advertising market, particularly within the UK. By using their contacts in this field they can establish clients to market their products on Clear Channel’s own radio stations. This in return guarantees revenue for their stations.