The Reithian legacy and contemporary public service ethos

Authored by: Nicholas Siân

The Routledge Companion to British Media History

Print publication date:  September  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415537186
eBook ISBN: 9781315756202
Adobe ISBN: 9781317629474


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British broadcasting has been described as “possibly the greatest single system of diverse, quality communication the world has ever seen” (Tracey, 1998: viii). Its defining public service character is exemplified above all in the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the broadcasting philosophy of its first Director General, John Reith. Yet since the launch of the BBC itself, the idea of a public service ethos in broadcasting has raised profound questions about the purpose and function of the mass media; the nature of the audience and the limits of the market; and public value, private interest and the relationship between private and public culture in society.

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