Media Policy Activism
Media policy analysis is a field occupied by multiple actors including civil servants and regulators, industry lobbyists and technological experts, civil society organisations and of course academics. It is designed to be a sober exercise in which facts are sought and consensus reached for the mutual advantage of all stakeholders. However, it is often a technocratic, evidence-based and legalistic process in which the vested interests that often structure the final outcomes are hidden and opaque. Media policy activism seeks to make this process more transparent and to campaign openly for structural changes to media systems that will enhance democracy and redistribute media resources towards those who are currently underserved. This chapter first defines the scope of media policy activism and considers the role of academics within this process. It argues that academics have a unique opportunity in which to embed their scholarly research inside movements for media democracy. It reflects on two UK case studies in which the author has been involved: the Inquiry into the Future of Public Service Television and the research and advocacy work of the Media Reform Coalition. It discusses some of the risks and possibilities of media policy activism—including questions of research agendas, methods, underlying principles and whether academics ought to immerse themselves in social movements—and relates these issues to contemporary policy debates. Drawing on Edward Said’s concept of ‘affiliation’, it suggests that not only academic labour but also activist commitment is required if we are successfully to confront the current crisis of trust and instability inside media landscapes.
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