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This essay intends to discuss the following
Digital Broadcasting will have a fundamental
effect on viewing patterns, popular culture and audience identity.
This will be done firstly by looking at
the history of the BBC and the original intention of Public Service Broadcasting.
It will discuss how by John Reith’s successful approach to broadcasting,
the BBC became a National Institution creating popular culture and a National
Identity. It will examine how these first steps and ideas have major role
in the introduction of Digital Broadcasting today and whether the initial
‘Reithian’ values have any meaning in today’s society. It will finally
conclude what effect if any, these changes will have on British life as
a whole and whether the fear of change is justified.
In the 2oth century the advance of technology
has been fundamental in the way we live our lives today. The recent introduction
of Digital Broadcasting to Great Britain has caused many technologists
to become swept up in a sense of awed enthusiasm about the infinite possibilities
of the new digital age. In its early stages digital broadcasting is only
available to a minority and it will take ten years or so to become a new
way of life.
Digital Broadcasting has thousands
of new services to offer its viewers and listeners. Instead of pictures
and sound being transformed into waves, the new technology turns them into
a series of digits which are transmitted through the air and received by
television or radio aerials. Digital Broadcasting is more efficient than
analogue, giving space for six channels where analogue would give you one.
Digital brings better picture, better sound quality and more choice and
cinematic style. The new era gives the audience greater interaction with
its broadcaster and also the opportunity to shop, book holidays, bank and
play games all form remote control.
It is not just television that is
going digital. Radio too will offer the listener a transformed experience
in what we enjoy the most. The sound quality will be crystal clear and
free from interruption. New digital radio sets will offer a built in display
panel which will show graphics as well as facts and figures relating to
the programme you are listening to.
These are the things that we have
come to expect from a broadcasting journey lasting 80 years. The new technological
change is revolutionary as radio was 75 years ago and as television was
25 years after. Overnight we will move from a world of scarcity with limitation,
to a world of plenty where an infinity of services become possible.
The fear of change is as great as
its was 77 years ago when broadcasting began. The digital age brings risks
as well as opportunities. The risk that globalisation of culture may threaten
national identities; that the powerful gateway controllers may restrain
rather than promote diversity; the risk of a possible two class society;
the information rich, ready an able to pay for their increasingly expensive
media, and the information poor who cannot. Are these threats true to life
? How could this be avoided?
The introduction of digital broadcasting
has followed a similar pattern to the advent of broadcasting itself 77
years ago by its gradual availability to all. In 1922 the British Broadcasting
Company was founded. Owned by a consortium of radio manufacturers Peter
Eckersley one of the companies first employees said,
"The BBC was formed as an expedient solution
to a technical problem".
The government had decided that there
was going to be no radio free for all. Led by 33 year old John Reith the
BBC set to work at inventing broadcasting. The BBC was set up as a public
service, meaning that the provision should be public goods rather than
of a private commodity.
Funding the public service was decided
when it was felt that advertising could limit the number of programmes
broadcast. Therefore to move away from the governments intervention a licence
fee paid for by the owners of radios sets would mean money could be reinvested
into the research and development of the service. Advertising was ruled
out by the Sykes Committee of 1923 because of the detrimental effect it
had on programmes in America. The American notion of broadcasting was based
on freedom whereas John Reith’s British one was completely different.
In 1926 the Crawford Committee decided
that the BBC should become more selective in its programmes and it was
"the broadcasting service should be conducted
by a public corporation acting as a trustee for the national interest and
its status and duties should correspond with those of a public service."
(NEGRINE, Politics and the Mass Media,
The early creation of public service
broadcasting saw the
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John Reith, 1st Baron Reith, Lords High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, BBC history, BBC, The Listener, Television licence, Public broadcasting, Reith Lectures, BBC Radio 3
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