Media Policy and Communication Essay 1500 words

Critically discuss Sylvia Harvey’s claim that media policy making represents an intervention in the battle between market freedom and communicative rights.

It is now universally accepted that developments in the technological and communicative industries has radically transformed the world in which we live.  Emerging in conjunction with free market economic globalisation, quicker and more effective communication methods have come to personify the latter progressions of modernity (Crane et al, 2002). Nonetheless, continuing academic endeavour is dedicated to assessing the impact technological and communicative developments have had (and continue to have) on economic, social and political processes.  Above all, it is now abundantly clear that developments in communicative technology have radically altered the foundations of social formations.  Intrinsic to this impact is the essential nature of communication in the modern world.  Ultimately, in order to participate in the functions and processes of the twenty first century, access to communication technology has become essential.  However, in addition the development of such technology has further enhanced the position of free market capitalism.  Thus, purchasing goods and services is now heavily reliant on new communicative technologies (Crane et al, 2002).

The basic tenets of free market thinking have therefore been translated directly into the communication industries.  As such, dominant forms of communication invariably come to prevail over other less dominant forms.  Indeed, in globalisation debates it is not uncommon to hear concerted suggestions that American cultural hegemony has occurred on the global stage due to the market success of the American media and communication industries (Rantanen, 2005).  As such, there has been a constituent impact upon national or regional media outlets and their ability to effectively compete in the new globally based market.  Thus, there is inevitably a conflict between free market development on the one hand, and the communicative rights of individual governments and citizens to protect their own cultural characteristics on the other.  Sylvia Harvey (2002; p. 217) has argued that media policy, “how it is made and how makes it”, acts as an essential link in the relationship between these two competing conceptions of cultural formation through communication.  The purpose of this work is therefore to critically assess Harvey’s conception.  In doing so, it will be shown that Harvey has outlined a most effective structural basis on which to conceptualise modern developments in communication technology.  Moreover, she has touched upon a vitally important issue of consideration in the wider globalisation debate surrounding culture and the possible methods which can be employed to counter the negative impacts of globalisation.

The essential foundation of Harvey’s (2002; p. 217) thesis is that media policy is the primary method through which various organisations and groups seek to “manage the social and economic impact” of technological changes.  Harvey (2002 & 2006) outlines how in historical development, the control of communication methods was consistently used by governments, dictators and religious forces in order to direct the dissemination process on which cultural formation takes place.  However, the ability of communication technology to directly impact upon cultural formation has been dramatically increased as a result of “the industrialisation of culture” (Harvey, 2002; p. 218).  As such, modern communication and technological developments have centred on the buying of culture.  Whether it is satellite television or books and CD’s, the new technological age has allowed for culture to be a product of sale and purchase.  An inevitable consequence of this is that traditional forms of cultural formation have come under sustained attack.  As such, Harvey (2002; p. 218) suggests that there is an intrinsic tension between the free market sale of cultural commodities and the right to express cultural identity on the basis of the free “exchange of ideas”.

As such, it is possible to see how through the use of historical reference and through examination of modern developments, Harvey has outlined a compelling thesis which accounts for the developments in globalised communications and the impact it has on the formation of culture and identity.  The logical response to the dilemma posed is to question what methods and techniques could be employed to ensure that balance between these two competing forces is achieved.  Above all, the essential issue lies in the ability of wholly national structures to maintain a significant measure of balance between market freedom and communicative rights.  As such, Harvey (2003) details the degree to which national media policy can directly ensure that cultural and indigenous tendencies are allowed to assume a place of importance in the overall communication industry. Moreover, in many cases this requires a deliberately proactive approach (Harvey, 2006). As such, it is possible to give credence to Harvey’s conception that media policy acts as the essential arbiter between market freedom and communicative rights.  Given that media policy can impact directly upon the communicative industries in the national setting, then it is quite logical to suggest that such policy agenda could ensure effective balance between the two variables outlined.

The assumptions outlined above in relation to Harvey’s thesis have achieved validity from a number of external quarters.  As suggested earlier, claims that Americanisation of global culture has been a consistent feature of globalisation is something which has generated significant academic debate (Imre & Verstraete, 2009).  Moreover, leading figures in the globalisation debate such as David Held (2007) have outlined in detail the degree to which developments in communication technologies have allowed for the emergence of a global village in which it may be possible to witness a global culture developing.  Commentators such as Held (2007) rarely lament over such progressions and therefore there are significant differences between his outlook and that of Harvey.  However, such discussion highlights the degree to which Harvey (2003 & 2006) has outlined a most pertinent issue of debate in the wider study of globalisation, even if the concluding assumptions differ from leading proponents of cosmopolitanism.

Nonetheless, Harvey’s suggestion that media policy acts as an essential element in the confrontation between market freedom and communicative rights is borne out by a number of policy moves in various countries.  Naturally, setting the national media policy agenda is not a specific right of governments or media bosses.  Indeed, in recent years the inclusion of citizens in media policy has significantly increased, which in many ways reflects the degree to which cultural needs of increasing prevalence in policy formation (Harvey, 2003).  However, the actions of governments does provide credence and exemplification of the kind of role media policy can play in ensuring that effective balance is achieved between the competing forces of market freedom and communicative rights.  For example, Indian media policy has in recent years been preoccupied with ensuring that cultural tendencies specific to India herself are not lost or impeded as communication developments increasingly impact upon Indian society (Rantanen, 2005).  As such, offsetting the worst social consequences of ever increasing consumerism has been an issue of concern for media policy makers in India for some time.   Thus, in many respects the Broadcasting Bill passed by Indian authorities in 1997 represented a wish to ensure that national media continued to engender social and cultural tendencies specific to the historical foundations of India (Harvey, 2003).  Now the degree to which such methods have been successful is open to question.  However, such actions on the part of policy makers in India provides clear credence to Harvey’s suggestion that media policy has an essential role to play in ensuring that cultural development is enhanced through the propagation of communicative rights.

India therefore provides a succinct example of a developing economy where is the excesses of cultural globalisation are being acutely felt.  However, effectively ensuring balance between market freedom and communicative rights has been an issue of concern in developed countries like Britain. In 2000 the British government published a white paper entitled A New Future for Communications.  This was followed in 2003 with the passing of the Communications Act which enshrined many of the proposals of the original white paper (Feintuck & Varney, 2006).  Moreover, the act provides clear verification for the assertions outlined by Harvey (2003 & 2006).  Namely that media policy has a vital role to play in ensuring that culturally distinct media and communication outlets continue to enjoy a position in the communication and media industry in conjunction with global media firms (Harvey, 2006).  A clear example of how the British government has attempted to ensure the preservation of culturally distinct media outlets is found in a provision of the 2003 act aimed at legally recognising Community Radio (Feintuck & Varney, 2006).  Moreover, subsequent efforts have developed on such legal foundations by dramatically increasing the number of Community Radio Stations (Feintuck & Varney, 2006).  Indeed, Harvey (2008) herself was consulted as a leading academic on the issue of cultural globalisation and has played a significant role in ensuring that Ofcom carries out its functions in terms of engendering greater culturally distinct media formations.

In conclusion, the various discussions which took place above have clearly outlined the primary thesis of Sylvia Harvey in relation to cultural globalisation and the media.  Above all, what is clear is that Harvey’s conception of the role played by media policy in ensuring balance between market freedom and communicative rights has been greeted with acknowledgment and support in media and government circles.  Moreover, the basic assumptions of Harvey’s thesis are fully in accordance with prevailing academic sentiment on the issue of cultural globalisation and the role of the media.  As such, it is certainly credible to suggest that the basic assumptions outlined by Harvey represent an effective contribution to the globalisation debate.  Moreover, the suggestions offered provide for effective policy moves to be undertaken.  Indeed, the actions of the British government in this policy area clearly indicate the level of support Harvey’s assertions have achieved.






Crane, D; Kawashima, N & Kawasaki, K (2002) Global Culture: media, arts, policy and globalisation, London: Routledge.

Feintuck, M & Varney, M (2006) Media Regulation, Public Interest and the Law, London: Edinburgh University Press.

Imre, A & Verstraete, G (2009) ‘Media Globalisation and Post Socialist Identities’, European Journal of Cultural Studies, 12 (2) pp. 131-135.

Harvey, S (2002) ‘Making Media Policy’ in Briggs, A & Cobley, P (eds), The Media: an introduction, London: Pearson, pp. 217-230.

Harvey, S (2006) Trading Culture: global traffic and local cultures in film and television, New York: John Libby.

Harvey, S (2003) ‘Doing It My Way- Broadcasting Regulation in Capitalist Cultures: the case for fairness and impartiality’ in Lewis, J & Miller, T (eds), Critical Cultural Policy Studies: a reader, London: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 100- 113.

Harvey, S (2008) ‘Communicating Democracy: a response to Ofcom’s discussion paper Citizens, Communications and Convergence’ Ofcom, [online] (cited, 20/01/10), available at;

Held, D & McGrew, A.G (2007) Globalisation Theory: approaches and controversies, London: Polity.

Rantanen, T (2005) The Media and Globalisation, California: Sage.