alexa Politics and Broadcasting: Case Studies of Political Interference in National Broadcasting Systems.
Social & Political Sciences

Social & Political Sciences

Journal of Mass Communication & Journalism

Author(s): T H QUALTER

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BROADCASTING is the most pervasive, and therefore one of the most powerful, of agents for influencing men's thoughts and actions, for giving them a picture, true or false, of their fellows and of the world in which they live, for appealing to their intellect, their emotions and their appetites, for filling their minds with beauty or ugliness, ideas or idleness, laughter or terror, love or hate? The truth of this statement from the Beveridge Committee on British broadcasting is not now questioned. Indeed the danger today is that govern-ments, instead of ignoring the power of radio to influence opinion, will exag-gerate it and take needless precautions against the "contamination" of the public mind. Such an attitude has long been recognized as characteristic of totali-tarianism, but in this paper I am concerned to show that the "fundamental freedoms" of speech and of the press do not always extend to the broad-casting services, even in states with otherwise strongly established democratic traditions. In the two countries examined, Great Britain and New Zealand, broadcasting is a government monopoly, operated in Britain through the British Broadcasting Corporation, a semi-independent public corporation, and in New Zealand through the New Zealand Broadcasting Service, a government department under the control of a minister. According to a recent announce-ment from New Zealand, however, the Government intends "to end direct date control of radio and television in New Zealand and create an indepen-dent three man corporation to assume control from 1st April 1992.° The government of both countries have demonstrated that they regard broadcast-ing rights as a privilege not to be extended to all who might claim access to them. The two episodes described below were chosen because in each case the author was able to make a fairly complete documentation of them at the time. Further study and, in particular, an intimate knowledge of New Zealand broadcasting over a lengthy period suggest that while each incident was unusual enough to excite passionate debate among those involved, neither was in any sense unique. The government of both countries have shown consider-able respect for the ideals of democracy and free speech. In each country, however, incidents occur in which the governments feel justified in denying or restricting the use of broadcasting facilities to their opponents. The purpose of this paper is not to condemn all such governmental inter-ference in broadcasting programmes.

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This article was published in The Canadian Journal of Economic and Political Science and referenced in Journal of Mass Communication & Journalism

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