Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
RN18_02a: Public Sphere and Public Service
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Peter Golding, Northumbria University
Location: UP.4.209
University of Manchester Building: University Place, Fourth Floor Oxford Road

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Capitalism, Elite Publics and the Public Sphere

Sašo Slaček Brlek

University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

From the beginning public sphere theory has been haunted by the seemingly irreconcilable contradiction between the ideal of reasoned exchange between equals and the reality of class rule. The inherent contradiction was most succinctly put by Nancy Fraser: »Isn't economic equality—the end of class structure and the end of gender inequality—the condition for the possibility of a public sphere.« Drawing on the Amsterdam school of international political economy I propose a way to account for this paradox by acknowledging the stratified nature of the public sphere. I propose a distinction between elite publics, popular publics and counterpublics. They are defined both by the source of power in the public sphere, level of power as well as their orientation towards the public sphere. Elite publics are fractions of the bourgeoisie that possess economic power, which also grants them privileged access to the holders of political power. Accordingly, they act curtail the public sphere in two ways: by removing economic power from democratic decision making and by limiting political decision making to an exchange between elites. Popular publics – traditionally represented by the working class – possess neither economic power nor ready access to the holders of political power, but they do have numbers on their side. Their orientation is consequently a democratic one. Distinct from both of these are counterpublics, which are excluded or highly marginalised in the public sphere and organise for the purpose of inclusion.

The privatization of the commons, The Phenomenology of Public Service Broadcasting and Facebook

Mihaela Gavrila1, Emiliano Bevilacqua2

1Sapienza University of Rome, Italy; 2University of Salento

By focussing on the functioning of European public television and the popular social network plat-form, Facebook, this paper aims at exploring the privatization tensions at work in the concept of the Commons.

The resource of common goods is considered an expression of mutuality and social collaboration (Bollier and Helfrich 2013). Internet has long been considered as the public space of sharing common goods such as knowledge, taking on the philosophy of the "public" as a tool of democracy, valorisa-tion of common resources and guarantor of fair social distribution in terms of access (universality) and apparently overcoming the shortcomings of publicly mandated institutions.

However, as what happened over time with the disappearance of the strong epistemological reference framework that once connected the "public sector" to our collective potential and nonrivalled assets (Buchanan 1954; Ostrom and Ostrom 1971), with the goal of governing and amplifying personal re-sources, a similar development has also occurred within the new online public space (Alperovitz and Daly 2008). Even though "public" signifies “belonging to people", it translates, in reality, into "gov-ernment" which is often representative of the interests of hegemonic groups which inhibit the ability of people to control their common goods.

While this happens in communicative institutions, "delegated" by mandate, such as Public Service Broadcasting (David Hesmondhalgh 2013) it is also at work in social network sites such as Face-book, where audiences contribute their work, memories, passions, and lives without any control over the large shared memory database. The "common" becomes "private" when Big Data is accessed to share information in exchange for relationality.

The Public Service Media Sector in the age of the Internet; reconsidering public options in Romania

Raluca Petre

Ovidius University of Constanta, Romania

The premise of this paper is that the potential of public service media has been underused in the projects of democratizing media in emerging democracies. I aim to explore the options for the public media as hub of creative production and citizenship for content producers and beneficiaries. Recent contributions (Fuchs 2018) take a further step by opening the discussion on public service internet.

It might be high time to reconsider public options in the event of failing markets and uneven results of citizen or community journalism projects. I believe that one cannot impose quality journalism where there is no market demand for it, and one can hardly invent civil society in areas where there had been none.

In this paper I take a neoinstitutional and critical political economy stand and I use the contribution of Rodney Benson (2019) on the current structuration of ownership in the media in order to problematise the Romanian media sector and the specific structuration and options of the Romanian public service media field within. Romania is a fairly young democracy that has been struggling in the last three decades to overcome an authoritarian legacy and move towards a rational-legal polity. So far, media has merely managed to be the voice of change, rather than exerting agency over its own transformation (Petre, 2012).

Benson, Rodney (2019) “Rethinking the Sociology of Media Ownership” in Routledge Handbook of Cultural Sociology, 2nd edition, Laura Grindstaff ed., Routledge

Fuchs, Christian (2018) The Online Advertising Tax as the Foundation of a Public Service Internet. University of Westminster Press

Petre, Raluca (2012) Journalism in Times of major Changes; critical perspectives. Tritonic

Public Service Broadcasting and National News Agencies, between marketization, globalization and digitalization. Evidence from SEE countries

Romina Surugiu

University of Bucharest, Faculty of Journalism and Communication Studies, Romania

Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) and National News Agencies (NNA) greeted the new millennium in the midst of a societal scepticism pointing at these “legacy” media institutions. The emergence of new forms of journalism: citizen journalism, independent journalism or entrepreneurial journalism gave birth to a new rhetoric, whose main argument was that public service media was unable to adapt to new technologies, to a new economy, and to a new world of information. Moreover, the “mammoths” were portrayed as insatiable, consummating important portions from the national budgets. In Romania, in 2016-2017, media reported a total budget of 476 million euro dedicated for the functioning of PSB and NNA.

The public television, radio and news agencies share a negative image in countries of SEE. They have been facing important political pressures and economic constraints. It was the case of public television in Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and the Republic of Moldova, but also the case of public radio broadcasting, and national news agencies in the region.

The paper will comment on the data related to PBS and NNA in SEE countries, in an effort to understand the organisation and the future of public service media. Drawing from the critical political economy of media’s theoretical contribution (Golding and Murdock, 1991 and 2016, Fuchs 2013), the paper will analyse the pressure of marketization, globalization and digitalization on public service media in SEE countries, and will discuss the possibility of state and society to provide an essential support (by taxation, and public subsidy) to these institutions.