Helen Jay profile

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Helen Jay

University of Westminster (2023)


Dr Alessandro D'Arma


To what extent is the ‘public service’ intervention in UK broadcasting applicable to contemporary policy on digital platforms?


There has been considerable analysis in recent years of the consequences of ‘digital dominance’ and the need for greater regulation of digital platforms. However, both the academic literature and the wider policy debate has tended to have a narrow focus on minimising ‘harms’ rather than addressing the wider structural incentives of the digital platforms or whether alternative, non-commercial models should be developed. This is in contrast to UK media policy, where public service broadcasting has been a dominant theme since the creation of the BBC in 1922, and which has sought to deliver positive ‘freedoms’ such as democratic and cultural outcomes through a mix of public models, funding and regulation. The aim of my research is to evaluate the parallels between these two approaches, using historical analysis to understand how the rationale for interventions in broadcasting and digital policy compare and the political, technological and social dynamics that have influenced policymaking in these areas in the UK. I will also conduct interviews with policymakers and experts in public purpose technology to identify common themes for what a ‘public service’ intervention for digital platforms could look like, and why as a set of ideas they are not entering the mainstream policy debate. My theoretical framework will be rooted in the political economy of communications (PE/C), which is focused on examining the power structures underpinning media and communications systems. My research is intended to provide a UK-centred, historically informed and policy-oriented analysis on the extent to which the ‘public service’ intervention in UK broadcasting policy could be applied to digital platforms.