Thursday, December 28, 2006

Countries that need to fix their media systems

I've been doing some research for a term paper on comparing democracies. Using Coppedge and Reinicke's Polyarchy and Contestation data-set, I've identified those countries which would be perfect polyarchies were it not for their media systems, where government information is privileged. They are:
  • Albania
  • Botswana
  • Cape Verde
  • Croatia
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Guyana
  • Honduras
  • Israel and the occupied territories
  • Kiribati
  • Mauritius
  • Mexico
  • Namibia
  • Panama
  • Ukraine
These countries are doing something right. That's to say, they score a one on fair elections, freedom of political organisation, and freedom of expression. But they're falling behind in their media systems. As the coding schema for the Coppedge and Reinicke data-set puts it:
Alternative sources of information are widely available but government versions are presented in preferential fashion. This may be the result of partiality in and greater availability of government-controlled media; selective closure, punishment, harassment, or censorship of dissident reporters, publishers, or broadcasters; or mild self-censorship resulting from any of these.

(The countries in the data-set are scored using the US State Department's Human Rights Report).

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Invented story leads to real investigation

About two weeks ago, Enrico Deaglio alleged that the centre-right had attempted to steal the 2006 election by counting blank and invalid ballots as votes for the centre-right. Deaglio's argument didn't add up: the centre-right only had control over the projections at the Ministry of the Interior; the real votes were summed from the sub-totals of the several regional electoral commissions. Indeed, Deaglio was prosecuted for, in effect, a breach of the peace.

Yet as a consequence of Deaglio's arguments - which seem unconvincing and have been found to be so by the judicial system - the Italian Senate Committee for Elections has moved to recount the blank, wasted, and spoilt votes in seven regions.

It's not clear why these particular regions were chosen. They include regions won by the left and by the right, by narrow margins and by huge margins:
  • Campania - 0.5% gap in favour of the left
  • Calabria - 14.2% gap in favour of the left
  • Lazio - 1.1% gap in favour of the right
  • Lombardia - 14.3% gap in favour of the right
  • Puglia - 4% in favour of the right
  • Sicilia - 17.3% in favour of the right
  • Toscana - 22.6% gap in favour of the left
Would be interesting to get a breakdown of the number of blank and spoiled ballots by region, and see whether the number of contested ballots in Campania and Lazio could result in a re-allocation of seats. Unfortunately, the Interior Ministry doesn't seem to have this data.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Rehearsals for departures

One departure, one arrival, and one return from the brink:
  1. Michael Grade left the BBC. The decision was broken, as I understand it, in the Telegraph, and confirmed this morning. No news yet on salary, but it may top £2m. No news yet on how how he will be replaced. A former surgeon, acting Chair Chitra Bharucha looks unlikely to step up to the top seat. I suggest the BBC will go from someone outside of the media who is happy with a regulatory rule. A former financial regulator, for example, would be a wonderful touch in the run up to the licence fee settlement.
  2. Luis Férnandez was designated President of RTVE. In a boost for the broadcaster, Fernandez was nominated with the agreement of both the main parties. The remaining nominations to the council will be made on Monday. The rapid turnaround - one month of inter-regnum - augurs well for RTVE's future governability; though the demand of the United Left and nationalist parties to be represented on the 12 member party may still mean that nominees are closely identified with particular parties.
  3. Silvio Berlusconi collapsed at a campaign rally before recovering. Rai quickly apologised for a comedy sketch mocking Berlusconi. Having not seen the sketch, I can't comment on whether it was in bad taste or not. I suspect it was (it would be hard for it to be otherwise), but Rai has certainly done well to applaud fulsomely and quickly.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

News from Flanders

Variety has the most ridiculously over-blown style. Here it describes the sacking of VRT CEO Tony Mary after the Flemish government got pissed off with Mary's sale of a popular TV show to a pay-per-view competitor. Piet Van Roe replaces Mary.

Directors-General of European PSBs

Measures of central bank independence have sometimes used the rate of turnover of Central Bank Governors as an indicator of de facto independence (which, it turns out, is reasonably strongly correlated with de jure independence). How does it work for PSBs? The following table gives the average time in post of a number of PSB Directors-General.

Public broadcasterAverage tenure of DG
NRK [Norway]9 years 8 months
ABC [Australia]8 years 10 months
YLE [Finland]8 years 6 months
DR [Denmark]
7 years 2 months
BBC [UK]6 years 8 months
CBC [Canada]5 years 4 months
ORF [Austria]5 years 1 month
NHK [Japan]
4 years 6 months
Rai [Italy]
2 years 10 months
PTV [Poland]2 years 10 months
France Télévisions/ORTF
2 years 6 months
Czech TV1 year 11 months
MTV [Hungary]1 year
RTVE [Spain]11 months


List of Broadcasting Chiefs of Norwegian PSB NRK [from Wikipedia]
(According to his Wikipedia entry, Bernander is a freemason. A nice compliment to Sandro Curzi's remarks about freemasons in Rai, no?)
Average tenure of DG: 9 years 8 months.
Percentage of government changes followed within six months by change of Director-General (Cukierman political vulnerability index): 3/21 = 14.29% [Korvald, Bruntland (I), Syse governments possibly followed by changes, though the timing may be wrong with no more precise dates than these]

Directors-General and Managing Directors of ABC:
  1. Sir Charles Moses (1935–65)
  2. Sir Talbot Duckmanton (1965–82)
  3. Keith Jennings (1982-83)
  4. Geoffrey Whitehead (1983–86)
  5. David Hill (1986–94)
  6. Brian Johns (1994–99 )
  7. Jonathan Shier (??/03/2000–31/12/2001);
  8. Russell Balding (29/05/2002–20/03/2006); left before the end of his five-year contract
  9. Mark Scott (22/05/2006–present)
Average tenure of DGs, excluding most recent: 8 years 10 months (5 years 9 months if one counts only managing directors)
Cukierman political vulnerability index: 1/11 = 9.09% [Hawke government followed by appointment of Geoffrey Whitehead]

List of Directors-General of Finnish PSB YLE [from Wikipedia]:
Average tenure of DG, excluding most recent: 8 years 6 months.
Cukierman political vulnerability index: 3/35 = 8.57% (counting changes of Prime Minister; Kekkonen (I), Virolainen, Koivisto (II) governments followed by changes); 1/6 = 16.67% (counting changes of President; Ahtisaari presidency followed by appointment of Wessberg).

List of Directors-General of Danmarks Radio [from DR website]
  • Hans Juul Sølvhøj 1961 - 1964
  • Erik Carlsen 1964 - 1967
  • Hans Juul Sølvhøj 1967 - 1976
  • Laurits Bindsløv 1976 - 1985
  • Hans Jørgen Jensen 1985 - 1994
  • Christian Nissen 1994 - 2004
  • Kenneth Plummer 2005 -
Average tenure of DG, excluding most recent: 7 years 2 months.
Cukierman political vulnerability index: 0.
United Kingdom

BBC Directors-General (post-war period only):

Average tenure of DGs, excluding most recent: 6 years 8 months.
Cukierman political vulnerability index: 0.
Presidents of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, post-war period only:
Average tenure of Presidents, excluding most recent: 5 years, 4 months.
Cukierman political vulnerability index: 3/13 = 23.07% (Diefenbaker, Trudeau (I) and Chrétien governments followed by changes).

List of Directors-General of Austrian PSB ORF [from Wikipedia]:
Average tenure of DG, excluding most recent: 5 years 1 month.
Cukierman political vulnerability index: 1/7 = 14.28% (Vranitzky government followed by appointment of Podgorski).

NHK Presidents [Kaicho], post-Occupation period only [from Wikipedia, Ellis Krauss' Broadcasting Politics in Japan]:
  1. 高野岩三郎 1946年4月26日~1949年4月5日; completed a three year term before introduction of the 1950 Broadcasting Act
  2. 古垣鐵郎 1949年5月30日~1956年6月13日; two three-year terms; prolonged slightly by passage of the 1950 Act
  3. 永田清 1956年6月13日~1957年11月3日; Kiyoshi died in office
  4. 野村秀雄 1958年1月14日~1960年10月17日; Nomura appointed late after LDP factional disagreement
  5. 阿部眞之助 1960年10月17日~1964年7月9日;
  6. 前田義徳 1964年7月17日~1973年7月16日; three-term President, Maeda resigned after patron Satō died
  7. 小野吉郎 1973年7月17日~1976年9月4日; resigned two months into a second three year term
  8. 坂本朝一 1976年9月21日~1982年7月2日; two quiet three-year terms
  9. 川原正人 1982年7月3日~1988年7月2日; two three year terms
  10. 池田芳蔵 1988年7月3日~1989年4月4日; Ikeda resigned on grounds off ill-health
  11. 島桂次 1989年4月12日~1991年7月16日; Shima resigned after annoying certain LDP factions
  12. 川口幹夫 1991年7月31日~1997年7月30日; two quiet three year terms
  13. 海老沢勝二 1997年7月31日~2005年1月25日; resigned after corruption scandals
  14. 橋本元一 2005年1月25日~現在

Average tenure of Presidents, excluding most recent: 4 years, 6 months.
Cukierman political vulnerability index: 1/29 = 3.44% (Ikeda government followed by appointment of Shinosuke Abe).
Average percentage of tenure completed: 87.78%

Directors-General of RAI:
Salvino Sernesi 1949 1953
Giovan Battista Vicentini 1954 1955
Rodolfo Arata (June) 1956 1960
Ettore Bernabei January 5, 1961 September 18, 1974
Michele Principe May 23, 1975 January 25, 1977
Giuseppe Glisenti January 26, 1977 June 17, 1977
Pierantonino Bertè July 12, 1977 June 18, 1980
Villy De Luca June 19, 1980 July 21, 1982
Biagio Agnes July 29, 1982 February 1, 1990
Gianni Pasquarelli February 5, 1990 July 23, 1993
Gianni Locatelli July 23, 1993 August 3, 1994
Gianni Billia August 3, 1994 December 31, 1994
Raffaele Minicucci January 16, 1995 February 29, 1996
Aldo Materia [1] March 6, 1996 July 15, 1996
Franco Iseppi July 15, 1996 February 8, 1998
Pier Luigi Celli February 9, 1998 February 17, 2000
Pier Luigi Celli [2] February 17, 2000 February 9, 2001
Claudio Cappon February 9, 2001 March 19, 2002
Agostino Saccà March 19, 2002 March 27, 2003
Flavio Cattaneo March 27, 2003 August 5, 2005
Alfredo Meocci August 5, 2005 June 20, 2006
Claudio Cappon June 22, 2006 present

Average tenure of Directors-General, excluding most recent: 2 years 10 months.
Cukierman political vulnerability index: 8/36 = 22.22% (Fanfani (I), Fanfani (III), Moro (II), Andreotti (II), Andreotti (III), Ciampi, Berlusconi (I), Prodi (I), Prodi (II) governments followed by changes).
Presidents of Telewizja Polska (PTV):

  1. Wiesław Walendziak (Jan 1994 - Apr 1996)
  2. Ryszard Miazek (Apr 1996 - June 1998)
  3. Robert Kwiatkowski (July 1998 - Jan 2004)
  4. Jan Dworak (Feb 2004 - May 2006)
  5. Bronislaw Wildstein (May 2006 - )
Average tenure of Presidents, excluding most recent: 2 years 10 months.
Cukierman political vulnerability index: 2/9 = 22.22% (Pawlak (II), Cimoszewicz governments followed by changes).
Presidents of France Télévisions (and before, joint presidents of France 2 and France 3, and Presidents of ORTF):
Average tenure of President/DG of major public channel/group, excluding most recent: 2 years 6 months.
Cukierman political vulnerability index: 5/16 = 31.25% (Messmer, Chirac (I), Mauroy, Bérégovoy, de Villepin governments followed by changes).
Czech Republic

Česká televize, Directors-General:
Ivo Mathé 1. January 1992 1. April 1998
Jakub Puchalský 1. April 1998 31.january 2000
Dušan Chmelíček 1. February 2000 21. December 2000
Jiří Hodač 22. December 2000 11. January 2001
Inter-rim period
11. January 2001 9. February 2001
Jiří Balvín 9 February 2001 27. November 2002
Petr Klimeš (inter-rim director)) 27. November 2002 18. July 2003
Jiří Janeček 19. July 2003 (current)

Average tenure of Directors-General, excluding most recent: 1 year 11 months.
Cukierman political vulnerability index: 2/7 = 28.57% (Tosovsky', Spidla governments followed by changes).
Magyar Televizio, Presidents [from EUMAP]
  1. István Nemeskürty (January–April 1990),
  2. Albert Szalacsi Tóth (April–August 1990),
  3. Elemér Hankiss (August 1990–January 1993),
  4. Gábor Nahlik (January 1993–July 1994),
  5. Tibor Szilárd (July 1994),
  6. Ádám Horváth (July 1994–December 1995),
  7. Ferenc Székely (January–September 1996),
  8. István Peták (October 1996–January 1998),
  9. Lóránt Horvát (January 1998–May 1999),
  10. Zsolt Szabó László (May 1999–July 2001),
  11. Károly Mendreczky (July 2001–July 2002),
  12. Imre Ragáts (July 2002–December 2003),
  13. György Pinke (January 2004–February 2004),
  14. Zoltán Rudi (March 2004–
Average tenure of Presidents, excluding most recent: 1 year
Cukierman political vulnerability index: 4/6 = 66.67% (Antall, Boross, Horn, Medgyessy governments followed by changes).
Directors-General of RTVE:
  • Fernando Castedo (Jan '81 to Oct '81)
  • Carlos Robles (Oct '81 to July '82)
  • Eugenio Nasarre (Jul '82 to Dec '82)
  • Jose-Maria Calvino (Dec '82 to Oct '86);
  • Pilar Miro (Oct '86 to Jan '89);
  • Luis Solana (Jan '89 to Feb '90);
  • Jordi Garcia (Feb '90 to May '96)
  • Mónica Ridruejo (May '96 to Feb '97)
  • Fernando López-Amor (Feb '97 to Nov '98)
  • Pío Cabanillas (Nov '98 to May '00);
  • Javier González (May '00 to July '02)
  • José Antonio Sánchez Domínguez (July '02 to April '04);
  • Carmen Caffarel (April 2004 onwards)
Average tenure of DG, excluding most recent: 11 months.
Cukierman political vulnerability index: 4 / 5 = 80% (all government changes since Suárez followed by changes, except change in 1993 between majority and minority PSOE governments).

Five ways to get the right answer from your independent review of coverage

The BBC announced today a review of its coverage of business. The review - which follows previous reviews of coverage of the European Union and the Middle East - will be conducted by a panel of six of the 'great and the good', and forms part of the new Trust's ongoing Impartiality Project.
These reviews are an invaluable source of data, and, assuming their investigative reach is great enough, may contribute to a more sophisticated understanding amongst BBC content producers of the nature of impartiality across a number of fields.
However, I suspect that the use of these reviews is as much symbolic as actual. In other words: the review process is structured so that clear-cut findings of partiality will be avoided and positive-sum findings of insufficient understanding emphasised. Influenced greatly from a presentation by John Downey and Dominic Wring at a recent conference, here are five ways in which you, the humble public service broadcaster, can structure your inquiry.
  1. Issues that the BBC is already confident about, or which have already been the subject of some previous enquiry, are chosen. In the case of the BBC's review of its coverage of Israel-Palestine, the Governors' review followed a much harsher review conducted by BBC Management (the Balen report). The Governors therefore already had an idea that BBC Management was trying to improve its coverage, and was therefore not concerned that a potential blind-spot might be unearthed. The review of EU coverage had already been fore-shadowed by numerous content analyses by a strange Eurosceptic outfit called Global Britain, which generally arrived at rather tendentious conclusions, but signalled the issue quite clearly.
  2. Panels are 'representative'. In other words, where the issue is x, pick one or two representatives who will be portrayed as pro-x, one or two representatives who will be portrayed as anti-x, and the remaining representatives from unconnected areas of public life who will be perceived as having no axe to grind in any contest between pro-s and anti-s. The Europe review included two Europhiles (Stephen Wall and Lucy Armstrong), and two Euro-sceptics (Rodney Leach, Nigel Smith). The business report includes two notionally pro-business members (Alan Budd; Chris Bones) and two notional skeptics (Barbara Stocking; John Naughton).
  3. Quantitative research is commissioned. All reviews so far have carried out content analysis: one by John Morrison (former BBC Television news editor) on the EU; one by Loughborough University on Israel-Palestine; and one now by Leeds University.
  4. ... and then deprecated. The Loughborough report found that the BBC tended to give more screen-time over to Israeli representatives than Palestinian representatives; due, argue the authors, to the weaker development of Palestinian civil society and its correspondingly lower capacity to provide vox-pops. This finding of a 'direction' of partiality was smoothed over in the report.
  5. 'Greater understanding' emerges as a common solution. Both EU and Israel-Palestine reports found fault, not with the direction of partiality, but the problems for impartiality of insufficiently deep coverage. In other words, a verdict that any side can interpret as favouring its position, since, ultimately, the historical record, as interpreted by the dogmatic reader, tends to favour the dogmatic reader.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Political balance = balance of politicians?

The centre-right is annoyed with Rai thanks to two programmes: Fabio Fazio's hosting of Finance Minister Padoa-Schioppa on Che Tempo Che Fa, and Lucia Annunziata's hosting of Enrico Deaglio on Ballaro. Padoa-Schioppa took time to explain the left's budget; Deaglio, a journalist, argued that the centre-right was ready to stuff the ballot boxes in last April's general election. In both cases, the centre-right makes the same complaints: these programmes were not balanced because they lacked a reply from the centre-right. But to read this report on Annunziata's questioning of Deaglio, his appearance on Ballaro became an own-goal after Annunziata calmly reminded him that the ballots were still there and could be checked for any manipulation of the kind alleged by Deaglio.
What's the thinking here?
  1. Any screen presence for a particular party can only benefit that party without adequate reply or examination
  2. (Either) no Italian journalist is sufficiently independent to give that adequate reply or examination,
  3. (Or) Annunziata and Fazio are not sufficiently independent to give that adequate reply or examination
  4. Replies or critical examination must be within the same programme.
  5. Therefore, any screen presence for one party must always contain screen presence for the opposing party
In other words, political balance is equivalent to a balance of politicians.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Distribution of screen-time on Today

I'm just back from the PSA Media and Politics Group conference in Sunderland, where I presented a paper on the screen time given over to Italian politicians. Whilst there, I found out that Guy Starkey has compiled similar data [Powerpoint] on the screen-time given over to different parties on the BBC's Today programme during electoral periods. The trend revealed over the period 1997 - 2005 [not shown in the Powerpoint] was for the party in government to receive a greater share of interview time. There was, however, no indication whether this increase in time was associated with increased ferocity of interviewing technique, although the Powerpoint linked to suggests, if anything, the reverse for 1997, with Blair subject to particularly strong attacks.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Meet Ze Monsta

Senate President Franco Marini today defined the new electoral law ¨a monster¨. The law, passed in December of 2005 and already dubbed a ´piece of rubbish´ by its author was criticised for delivering different results in the Camera and in the Senate and for using closed party lists. ¨Citizens are no longer the referees¨, said Marini.

Leaving aside the issue of closed party lists, on which I´m agnostic, it would seem reasonable that either (a) Italy´s system of almost perfect bicameralism without navette or (b) the electoral law be changed, lest Italy be condemned to suffer recurrent constitutional crises or continual government defeats in the Senate. Given that the last attempt to reform bicameralism failed rather badly, it makes sense to change the electoral law.

¨Making sense¨, however, is not always the same as ¨being conducive to partisan advantage¨. Rifondazione Comunista criticised Marini´s rush to reform, and called for a mixed member system along German lines. Antonio Di Pietro (on his blog) criticised Marini´s remarks by claiming that the Unione wished to substitute the current law with an even worse one (perhaps Di Pietro refers to this proposal by Valdo Spini; there is no other current proposal in writing), with excessively high thresholds. Of course, I am sure that these commentators are motivated by preferences over which electoral institutions are best, and that considerations of seat-share play no part in their evaluation.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Mediaset fails to buy ProSiebenSat

Mediaset has been excluded from the short-list of companies competing to buy German TV group ProSiebenSat. Reuters, citing an anonymous source, claims that the exclusion was made on political grounds.

It is not uncommon to argue that Berlusconi's business success is built on political connections rather than business acumen. The contrast between Berlusconi's failure to make headway in the French television market, where he lacks such connections, and his dominance in Italy, is often cited as evidence. Yet it seems clear that such a politicised business strategy carries risks, and seems likely that such a strategy has now become a drag on the group. Mediaset share prices dribbled away their value in anticipation of a centre-left victory in April this year; further expansion abroad is now out of the question, and new markets (TV-over-IP) are less suited to political rent-extraction. The only chance for media entrepeneurs now is to lock customers in through, in Andy Kessler's terms, better pipes; content that forms a unit capable of locking in viewers/browsers. And, although Berlusconi was quick to spot the potential of American soaps like Dallas (Rai had the option on the second season and dropped it; Berlusconi picked it up and made it the centrepiece of one of his channels), original content is not Mediaset's strong suit.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Music for today´s bar fiasco shift

boards of canadageogaddi09 The Smallest Weird Number
cantago mago02 - Mushroom
airthe virgin suicides09 - Afternoon Sister
clinicinternal wrangler03 - Internal Wrangler
boards of canadageogaddi14 Alpha And Omega
the knifesharp cut12 Got 2 Let U
the arcade firefuneral02 Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
boards of canadamusic has the right to children07 Turquoise Hexagon Sun
stereototalmusique automatique10 La Pequeña Melodia
clinicinternal wrangler02 - The Return Of Evil Bill
curtis mayfieldgive it up14 - Give It Up
clinicinternal wrangler09 - Distortions
boards of canadageogaddi08 Julie And Candy
clinicinternal wrangler01 - Voodoo Wop
boards of canadageogaddi15 I Saw Drones
clinicinternal wrangler14 - Goodnight Georgie
boards of canadamusic has the right to children16 Open The Light
herbie hancock04 - Vein Melter
airthe virgin suicides13 - Suicide Underground
the knifesharp cut17 The Bridge
clinicinternal wrangler04 - DJ Shangri-La
the arcade firefuneral08 Haiti
cantago mago07 - Bring Me Coffee Or Tea
the knifesharp cut10 Is It Medicine
stereototalmusique automatique11 Le Diable
boards of canadamusic has the right to children03 The Colour of the Fire
stereototalmusique automatique06 Kleptomane
curtis mayfieldgive it up03 - Mighty Mighty (Spade And Whitey)
the knifesharp cut03 Pass This On
boards of canadamusic has the right to children01 Wildlife Analysis
clinicinternal wrangler10 - Hippy Death Suite
boards of canadageogaddi19 Dawn Chorus
curtis mayfieldgive it up02 - Move On Up
boards of canadageogaddi17 A Is To B As B Is To C
clinicinternal wrangler11 - 2nd Foot Stomp
boards of canadamusic has the right to children15 Smokes Quantity
boards of canadageogaddi06 Sunshine Recorder
boards of canadamusic has the right to children10 Rougbiv
airthe virgin suicides01 - Playground Love
stereototalmusique automatique15 Hep Onalti'da
stereototalmusique automatique14 Ypsilon
boards of canadamusic has the right to children17 One Very Important Thought
curtis mayfieldgive it up09 - We The People Who Are Darker Than Blue
boards of canadamusic has the right to children04 Telephasic Workshop
boards of canadageogaddi23 Magic Window
the arcade firefuneral06 Crown Of Love
the knifesharp cut13 Behind The Bushes
stereototalmusique automatique12 Nationale 7
stereototalmusique automatique08 Für Immer 16
clinicinternal wrangler13 - .
boards of canadamusic has the right to children11 Rue the Whirl
curtis mayfieldgive it up07 - Billy Jack
the knifesharp cut04 One For Your
the arcade firefuneral09 Rebellion (Lies)
boards of canadageogaddi13 Opening The Mouth
airthe virgin suicides08 - Highschool Lover
boards of canadamusic has the right to children12 Aquarius
the knifesharp cut14 Hanging Out
curtis mayfieldgive it up11 - Back To The World
boards of canadamusic has the right to children09 Bocuma
the knifesharp cut07 She's Having A Baby
airthe virgin suicides10 - Ghost Song
airthe virgin suicides03 - Bathroom Girl
stereototalmusique automatique01 Musique Automatique
herbie hancock02 - Watermelon Man
boards of canadageogaddi10 1969
curtis mayfieldgive it up04 - We Got To Have Peace
curtis mayfieldgive it up06 - If I Were Only A Child Again
curtis mayfieldgive it up13 - People Get Ready
clinicinternal wrangler08 - Earth Angel
curtis mayfieldgive it up05 - Never Say You Can't Survive
the arcade firefuneral07 Wake Up
the knifesharp cut11 You Make Me Like Charity
airthe virgin suicides07 - Dirty Trip
boards of canadamusic has the right to children08 Kaini Industries
airthe virgin suicides06 - The Word 'Hurricane'
boards of canadamusic has the right to children13 Olson
stereototalmusique automatique03 Ma Radio
curtis mayfieldgive it up08 - Superfly
the arcade firefuneral10 In The Backseat
airthe virgin suicides11 - Empty House
stereototalmusique automatique13 Exakt Neutral
stereototalmusique automatique07 Adieu Adieu
the knifesharp cut08 You Take My Breath Away
boards of canadageogaddi12 The Beach At Redpoint
herbie hancock03 - Sly
boards of canadageogaddi05 Dandelion
cantago mago03 - Oh Yeah
boards of canadageogaddi01 Ready Lets Go
boards of canadamusic has the right to children05 Triangles & Rhombuses
stereototalmusique automatique05 Les Chansons D'a
boards of canadageogaddi20 Diving Station
boards of canadageogaddi02 Music Is Math
the knifesharp cut06 Listen Now
boards of canadageogaddi16 The Devil Is In The Details
stereototalmusique automatique02 L'Amour À 3
airthe virgin suicides02 - Clouds Up
the arcade firefuneral01 Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
curtis mayfieldgive it up10 - Underground
herbie hancock01 - Chameleon
the arcade firefuneral03 Une Annee Sans Lumiere
stereototalmusique automatique04 Wir Tanzen Im 4-Eck
boards of canadageogaddi07 In The Annexe
the knifesharp cut05 The Cop
the arcade firefuneral05 Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)
the arcade firefuneral04 Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
boards of canadamusic has the right to children14 Pete Standing Alone
boards of canadageogaddi18 Over The Horizon Radar
curtis mayfieldgive it up01 - Wild And Free
boards of canadageogaddi22 Corsair
the knifesharp cut15 This Is Now
the knifesharp cut02 Girls' Night Out
airthe virgin suicides04 - Cemetary Party
cantago mago01 - Paperhouse
curtis mayfieldgive it up12 - Keep On Keeping On
boards of canadageogaddi04 Gyroscope
the knifesharp cut16 Handy-Man
boards of canadageogaddi11 Energy Warning
airthe virgin suicides12 - Dead Bodies
clinicinternal wrangler05 - The Second Line
the knifesharp cut01 Heartbeats
clinicinternal wrangler06 - C.Q.
boards of canadamusic has the right to children06 Sixtyten
clinicinternal wrangler12 - 24
clinicinternal wrangler07 - T.K.
boards of canadageogaddi03 Beware The Friendly Stranger
boards of canadamusic has the right to children02 An Eagle in your Mind
stereototalmusique automatique09 Je Suis Une Poupée
the knifesharp cut09 Rock Classics
airthe virgin suicides05 - Dark Messages
boards of canadageogaddi21 You Could Feel The Sky

A Democratic Party for Italy?

As their American brethren celebrate considerable success in the mid-term elections, Italy's 'Democrats' - who so far only exist in theory - are having considerable difficulty forming a single party of the centre-left. Repubblica has run two articles in the past two days on the prospects of the Partito Democratico. They outline the positions of the key actors, which can be summarised as follows:
  • The Margherita is anxious about being absorbed. In the past two weeks, there have been a number of stories about false membership cards being registered by local Margherita bosses. The tactic - which was used by the old Democrazia Cristiana to boost the voting power of different factions at party congresses - was seen as an attempt to make the Margherita appear deserving of greater weight in any single centre-left party.
  • These concerns have abated over the past few days. Franco Rutelli was quoted in Tuesday's Repubblica as saying that the Partito Democratico cannot be a "mere federation, but something new". Given the fear above, support for a unitary party represents an important shift.
  • The Democratici di Sinistra are still worried. Much of this concerns symbolism. Two issues are relevant. First, the Catholic background of many Margherita supporters and elites could cause schism over moral and ethical issues: bio-ethics is particularly important. If we believe the post-materialists, these issues have become, and will continue to be, extremely salient. Second, the entry of the Margherita may mean a reduced commitment to 'socialism'. In particular, the Margherita may not be able to accept a new party's membership in the Party of European Socialists.
  • The left electorate wants the Partito Democratico. One Eurisko poll of July this year showed two-thirds of left voters are favourable to a Partito Democratico. Yet this is down ten percent from two years ago.
  • However, elites are still uncertain. In part, party elites may be more attentive to genuine cleavages which separate the DS and the Margherita. In part, they may be concerned about maximising power.
  • Convergence is being pursued by a heavily intellectual approach. There are three elements which are being pursued at the same time: a 'manifesto of values'; a periodical; and a 'party school'. All three are jam-packed with writers and academics. Whether these three routes will have the same utility as the program of the Unione used for the 2006 elections - a heavily criticised document that nonetheless served to bind a fractious coalition - will depend on whether these individuals can craft attractive looking compromises.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Academic jobs in the UK, Canada

I was at a departmental retreat this weekend, and talk turned to careers. We realised that it might be a good idea to pool information about the academic job market in our own countries, especially in those still-rare cases where vacancy notices are posted on the internet and genuinely competitive.

So, for anyone who's interested in jobs in social and political sciences, here are the two big resources for the UK:
  1. Times Higher Education Supplement Jobs: example keyword search on 'politics' finds 31 results largely from the UK. Email alert possible.
  2. section 'Politics and Government' has 42 entries. Email alert and RSS feed possible.
  1. Jobs page of the Canadian Political Science association
  1. Societa` Italiana di Scienza Politica (but this may give a flavour of the market).

Business as usual

Whilst the BBC struggles to clarify its position on news-readers wearing the veil, Rai nominates a number of office-holders. In short, business as usual. For completeness' sake, here are the nominees:

  • Luigi Meloni (Unione, allegedly) - vice-director, HR;
  • Alessandro Zucca (CdL, allegedly) - vice-director, HR;
  • Valerio Fiorespino - vice-director, TV Resources;
  • Giancarlo d'Arma - vice-director, Acquisitions
I continue to wonder where journalists get alleged party affiliations of Rai employees. It seems to be a sort of common knowledge open to those in a certain field. Certainly, I doubt any of these individuals are card-carrying members of any party; affiliations seem to imputed based on friendships and career progression. For example - Valerio Fiorespino's career did well under the left (until 2001 he was director of Human Resources); it did poorly under the right. Therefore, runs the logic, he must be of the left. A very slender basis for such a judgement.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Worst. Minister. Ever

One can tell something about Italian journalism by the way in which Italian newspapers and television news bulletins treat editorials from the Financial Times and the Economist, two papers with deserved reputations for straight-talking. Yet when these editorials reach Italy, they quickly become sensationalized. And so, when the Financial Times published on its website a ranking of Eurozone finance ministers, putting Tomasso Padoa Schioppa at the bottom of the list, it quickly made the headlines and led to a ridiculous poll on TgLa7 ("Padoa-Schioppa is the worst member of the government: yes or no?").

Like many of these rankings, the devil is in the details - more specifically, in who is polled. In the case of the FT's three-star ranking of finance ministers, it seems to have been a quick series of phone calls around the office ("Each finance minister has also been ranked out of three by FT correspondents according to their political effectiveness"). The dangers of group-think are considerable. In sum, a pleasant game, but the FT's considered judgement - "has upset business and resorted to budget tricks but will probably succeed in cutting the deficit" - doesn't tell us much we didn't know before.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Accusations of bias against Tg1

"Anche questa sera e' andata in onda una edizione del Tg1 sfacciatamente faziosa". Lo afferma Giorgio Lainati, capogruppo di Forza Italia in commissione vigilanza Rai. [Repubblica]

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Music for tomorrow's Bar Fiasco shift

I thought I'd post the music I wanted to put on at my shift in bar fiasco tomorrow night...





Somebody Dance (Sven & Friends edit)

The Killers vs David Bowie
Emotional RescueThe Rolling StonesForty licks (Disc 2)1980
Life o' The PartyPrinceMusicology
Hey LadiesThe Beastie BoysThe Sounds Of Science (Disc 2)1999
Concrete SchoolyardJurassic 5Jurassic 5 - J51998
The Don of DonsThe NeptunesThe Neptunes Present...Clones
It Blows my MindThe NeptunesThe Neptunes Present...Clones
Evil (Rollercoaster Project remix)InterpolDreamboat Records December 20052005
Satellite Anthem IcarusBoards Of CanadaThe Campfire Headphase2005
I KnowThe Beta BandThe Three E.P.'s1997
Essex DogsBlurBlur1997
Tears From The Compound EyeBoards Of CanadaThe Campfire Headphase2005
Set the Controls for the Heart of the SunPink FloydEchoes: The Best of Pink Floyd (Disc 1)1968
Us & ThemEasy Star All-StarsDub Side of the Moon2004
Sun is ShiningBob Marley and the WailersOne Love - The Best Of...
4th Time AroundBob DylanBlonde On Blonde1966
Music Is My RadarBlurThe Best Of (Disc 1)2000
Boys Keep SwingingDavid BowieLodger1979
Fistful Of LoveAntony & The JohnsonsI Am A Bird Now2005
The GunLou ReedThe Very Best Of1999
I'm Just A Killer For Your LoveBlurBlur1997
Mutual SlumpDJ ShadowEndtroducing.....1996
6/8 WarLeftfieldRythm and Stealth
Push UpstairsUnderworldEverything Everything: Live [IMPORT] [LIVE]2000
CherubsArab StrapElephant Shoe1999
Can't Get You Out Of My HeadThe Flaming LipsKylie Minogue Cover - Live BBC2002
Mr. Ambulance DriverThe Flaming LipsAt War With The Mystics2006
U.K. Girls (physical)GoldfrappFelt Mountain2001
ComeLemon JellyLemonjelly.ky2000
Stay LooseBelle & SebastianDear Catastrophe Waitress2003
I'm A CuckooBelle & SebastianDear Catastrophe Waitress2003
Sheriff Of Hong KongCaptain Beefheart & The Magic BandDoc At The Radar Station
Love Floats TwoThe BatsSilverbeet1993
The HustlerBeachwood SparksOnce We Were Trees2001
Netty's GirlThe Beastie BoysThe Sounds Of Science (Disc 2)1999
Redemption SongBob Marley and the WailersOne Love - The Best Of...
Accross 11th street (Jackie Brown)Bobby WomackSound Track
The Crooked Road And The BriarCalexicoRough Trade Shops: Country 12003
Modern ParlanceCandidateNuada2002
A=ACha Cha CohenOut Of Our Heads On Skelp2003
Lost In The SupermarketThe ClashLondon Calling
Pass It OnCoralMagic and Medicine2003
StayDavid BowieBowie At Beeb: Best Of BBC Radio 68-72 (Disc 3)2000
D.J.David BowieLodger1979
TimeEasy Star All-StarsDub Side of the Moon2004
Strugglin' Horse In HollywoodElla GuruRough Trade Shops: Country 12003
She's Got A ProblemFountains Of WayneFountains Of Wayne1996
Monkey Gone To HeavenFrank BlackFrank Black Francis (Disc 2: Treated Disc)2004
Darts Of PleasureFranz FerdinandFranz Ferdinand2004
Stray Dog And The Chocolate ShakeGrandaddySumday2003
In Remote Part / Scottish FictionIdlewildScottish fiction2003
No FunIggy PopNude & Rude
Static On The RadioJim WhiteDrill A Hole In That Substrate And Tell Me What You See2004
Caroline, YesKaiser ChiefsEmployment2005
TrannyKings of LeonYouth and Young Manhood
Backstreet GirlLambchopIs a woman2002
This CorrosionLambchopIs a woman2002
Give Me Your Love (Love Song)LambchopWhat Another Man Spills1998
Is A WomanLambchopIs A Woman2002
Phat PlanetLeftfieldRythm and Stealth
Dance Me To The End Of LoveLeonard CohenVarious Positions1985
A Nanny In ManhattanLilysBetter Can't Make Your Life Better
MezzanineMassive AttackMezzanine1998
John McLaughlinMiles DavisBitches Brew (Remaster) (Disc 2)1969
Dial: RevengeMogwaiRock Action2001
Ratts Of The CapitalMogwaiHappy Songs For Happy People2003
LoserThe NeptunesThe Neptunes Present...Clones
Execution DayThe New PornographersMass Romantic2002
Guns of BrixtonNouvelle VagueNouvelle Vague2004
Track 02OutkastThe Love Below
Track 11OutkastThe Love Below
...and Carrot RopePavementTerror Twilight1999
Bad Cover VersionPulpWe Love Life2001
Losing My TouchThe Rolling StonesForty licks (Disc 2)2002
The SkinsScissor SistersScissor Sisters2004
Turn A SquareThe ShinsChutes Too Narrow2003
Skip TracerSonic YouthWashing Machine1995
BecuzSonic YouthWashing Machine1995
Night VisionSuper Furry AnimalsGuerrilla1999
Big In JapanTom WaitsMule Variations1999
Some Kinda LoveThe Velvet UndergroundThe Velvet Underground1969
I Cut MyselfWannabe TexansRough Trade Shops: Country 12003
Seven Nation ArmyThe White StripesElephant2003

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Leaked BBC minutes on impartiality

This is London takes up this story about the BBC's 'impartiality summit'. The paper's spin is that the summit was an admission that the BBC is 'biased'. In particular, "the BBC is dominated by trendy, Left-leaning liberals who are biased against Christianity and in favour of multiculturalism".

If the minutes of the meeting are accurate, and if the quotes reported are correct, and if they are given in their correct context (and some of them are not - Andrew Marr's quote about the BBC being a liberal institution is meant in a philosophical or epistemological sense, not a political one), then what are we to make of it?
  1. the fact that the BBC is dominated by left-wing people should not surprise: journalists across the world are more likely to support left-wing parties than right-wing parties, and journalists in the UK One 1996 study by Tony Delano found that 55% of UK journalists were Labour voters, and only 6% Conservative voters;
  2. ... but this is irrelevant because journalists' values don't matter that much. People who've spent time studying the production of the media have emphasised how journalists' output is often conditioned more by the organisation they work in than their own personal beliefs. Change the organisation, and you start to learn the ropes there; eventually, what you write changes;
  3. If an excessively politically-correct mindset is now pervasive in management and the structures they create, this is more worrying. In particular, the write-up of the article suggests that the beast has a life of its own. Why in God's name should Mark Byford, Head of News, have to secretly agree to help Justin Webb shore up the BBC's coverage of America instead of calling a meeting to discuss the issue?
  4. This 'problem' concerns cultural issues more than (party-)political ones. The BBC has had decades of negotiating between positions on the left and right of politics. It has become adept at assuaging the fears of both sides. These points, although not fixed, have established reference points (Labour and the Conservatives). Cultural issues are much more difficult. Cultural viewpoints rarely have authoritative spokespeople who enjoy the kind of substantial rapport with their base to mute criticism. Additionally, cultural issues are much more heterogeneous, and difficult to satisfy all at once. If the BBC lets its news-readers wear 'whatever they want', is it being pro-Muslim (by allowing news presenters to wear veils), pro-Christian (by allowing news presenters to wear crucifixes), or merely liberal (by allowing them to wear whatever they like)?
  5. This bias, however, is not 'sinister'. Those people who comment on Biased BBC often write in what Richard Hofstadter called the 'paranoid style' - they assume that, behind every manifestation of bias or impartiality, there is a conspiracy which created the impartiality, which desires to further some aim. This seems unlikely at the BBC - and the very fact of calling an impartiality summit should help critics to recognise this. (Which is, of course, why the BBC is doing it).

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Marco Follini leaves the UDC

Marco Follini, former secretary of the UDC, has decided to leave the party, founding his own group, l'Italia del mezzo.

This was not unexpected - Follini had left his post as party secretary a while ago, and had carped about his party's policy and Berlusconi's leadership of the centre-right. What is surprising, at least to me, is the willingness of Italian politicians to found new parties which have negligible electoral prospects.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

RTÉ responds to government's proposed media reform

In response to the previously announced government consultation exercise, RTÉ has responded to the government's draft broadcasting bill with a fair amount of red ink. Politically relevant concerns are the following:
  1. In order to fall under companies legislation, RTÉ is to be constituted as a single-shareholder company with one shareholder, a cabinet minister. RTÉ argues that this would mark the change from public broadcasting to state broadcasting, in that RTÉ has not, since the passage of the 1960 Broadcasting Act, been part of the state apparatus.
  2. the general scope for intervention - whether by ministers or by the new Broadcasting Authority Ireland (BAI)
  3. The chief executive of the BAI should be appointed by the minister after public consultation.
  4. a new right-of-reply is far more generous than existing rights guaranteed by the Broadcasting Act 1990;
  5. the provision for RTÉ's independence is couched with the qualification, "subject to the qualifications of the act", which, on RTÉ's reading, mean that RTÉ is not independent in many areas of its management;
  6. The requirement that the director ensure "gathering and presentation [of news] which is accurate and impartial according to the recognised standards of objective journalism" - a phrase which I hadn't noticed before - is impossible vague.

Trust and politicians' ability to leave things be

As a sideline, I've been reading about trust in governing institutions. Does the political independence of broadcasters depend on whether politicians trust the broadcasters to report truthfully or accurately? If so, might existing low levels of trust prevent an improvement in the relationship?

Working through one wonderful article on LBJ's psychology, I came across the term 'sinister attribution error': "the tendency for individuals to overattribute hostile intentions and malevolent motives to others' actions". It struck me as a perfect description of Italian politicians' attitude towards television coverage, as essentially motivated by the grinding of partisan axes.

Unfortunately, the literature on trust suggests that phenomena like sinister attribution error are difficult to eradicate. As Diego Gambetta has written, low trust "prevents people from engaging in the appropriate kind of social experiment" necessary to invalidate false beliefs about the objects of distrust. So, LBJ was unable to check whether Bobby Kennedy though himself a threat to LBJ (he didn't) precisely because he thought Bobby Kennedy was a threat to LBJ.

Monday, October 16, 2006

New Director-General for Sveriges Television

Eva Hamilton, SVT's Head of Fiction, was last Friday appointed Director General of the Swedish public broadcaster. With experience in SVT's News department, she comes to SVT after having worked for Aftonbladet ("independent social democrat") and Svenska Dagbladet ("independent, conservative") [Source for these judgements: BBC Media monitoring].

Past appointments in RTVE

Now that RTVE Director-General Carmen Caffarel is calling on politicians to name high-quality independent members of RTVE's future Board, I thought it might be useful to see whether, in the past, Directors-General have frequently been tossed out by over-mighty boards. I finally found this list of previous Directors-General. Let's have a look:
  1. Fernando Castedo (Jan '81 to Oct '81)
  2. Carlos Robles (Oct '81 to July '82)
  3. Eugenio Nasarre (Jul '82 to Dec '82)
  4. Jose-Maria Calvino (Dec '82 to Oct '86); appointed after PSOE victory of Dec '82;
  5. Pilar Miro (Oct '86 to Jan '89); appointed four months after election of June '86;
  6. Luis Solana (Jan '89 to Feb '90);
  7. Jordi Garcia (Feb '90 to May '96); survived election of 1993; appointed four months after election of (late) October 1989;
  8. Mónica Ridruejo (May '96 to Feb '97); appointed two months after PP victory of 1996;
  9. Fernando López-Amor (Feb '97 to Nov '98)
  10. Pío Cabanillas (Nov '98 to May '00);
  11. Javier González (May '00 to July '02); appointed two months after PP victory of 2000;
  12. José Antonio Sánchez Domínguez (July '02 to April '04);
  13. Carmen Caffarel (Apr '04 till present); appointed one month after PSoE victory in 2004 elections;

Thirteen directors-general in fifteen years. An almost perfect "political vulnerability score' - Alex Cukierman's index for the likelihood that an office will change hands within six months of a change in government (the exception may be Jordi Garcia, who survived the transition from a majority PSOE government to a minority government). A hard tradition to break?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

New Italian media law announced

The Prodi government has agreed changes to Italy's framework media law, reducing generous antri-trust limits set by the previous Berlusconi government.

Public broadcaster Rai and private corporation Mediaset - owned by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi - enjoy a de facto duopoly over Italian television. Each has three of seven national terrestrial channels, and their advertising affiliates control over 90% of all television advertising. The law requires each organisation to move one channel to digital terrestrial television (where no organisation may own more than 20% of the market), and sets a limit of 45% on advertising sales. Mediaset's advertising arm, Publitalia, currently enjoys a 62% share (source: RepubblicaRadio).

By attacking the commercial interests of Mediaset, the government opens up a political debate with Silvio Berlusconi's party Forza Italia and his centre-right coalition, the House of Liberties. Berlusconi has attacked the law as "banditry".

The design of the law approved yesterday forecasts the transfer of one Rai and one Mediaset channel within 'fifteen months' of the law's passage. Passage through Parliament, however, may be difficult for the government, which enjoys an extremely narrow majority in the Senate. Whilst the government is unlikely to face significant problems within its own ranks, it may be vulnerable to procedural obstacles placed by the opposition.

Obstacles to implementation:
This is not the first time that Rai and Mediaset have been ordered to move channels to digital. A previous reform, which also set limits on publicity, was over-turned by a 1995 referendum. Berlusconi has already called for a referendum should Parliament fail to block the bill.

Should the law pass, and should two analogue channels become vacant in spring 2008, it is unclear who would wish to take up two national channels with only four years before digital switch-over and the shut-down of the analogue network. The most immediate and significant impact of the law would be to damage commercial prospects for Mediaset and Rai. Mediaset shares have dropped 1.5% this morning; their performance over the past three months has been dismal.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

CSA creates a new category

Earlier this year, the CSA found it had a problem when considering UDF deputies who were dissenting from the government line. Did they count in the government's share of screen-time according to the 'rule of three thirds'? The 'sages' have now resolved the difficulty, with the creation of a new category - neither government, nor opposition. This new category will not, it seems, be relevant for the rule of three thirds.

RSS feed about the BBC

I've only just noticed that the BBC Press Office has an RSS feed for news about the BBC itself. It contains links to notices on appointments and other useful things.

The current items are rather confusing, because many of the 'appointments' are either (a) posts which have been re-named as part of Mark Thompson's re-shuffle; or (b) posts which replace existing posts. The proliferation of titles - Controller, Heads, Directors - makes the appointments difficult to understand without an organigram.

Of the nine appointments, only one - Peter Salmon, Chief Creative Officer (BBC Vision) - is an external hire. He comes from Channel 4 after several years at the BBC. Five had had experience working with ITV or Channel 4. Three - mostly in MC&A - have come from outside the media (Coca-Cola, Bass Brewers). None are BBC 'lifers', but all have some experience at the BBC - from four to around twenty years', to be more precise. Those involved with content - as opposed to marketing or HR - seem to have been around the BBC for longer.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Are public service broadcasters important? Will they be so in the future?

Five years ago, a number of contributors to OpenDemocracy - largely drawn from the UK - discussed the merits of public service broadcasting (PSB), compared explicitly against the market and implicitly against some ideal broadcasting service which delivers just the right amount of merit goods. The key questions were normative - ought PSB exist, and ought it to be funded in the way it currently is funded - but relied on empirical judgements about the extent to which PSBs fulfilled the normative goals set out for them: variously, providing diverse and meritorious programming which is capable of contributing to pluralistic democratic debate within the broader public sphere.

The most pungent contribution came from David Elstein, who argued that the market was capable of fulfilling these normative functions. The two strands of his argument were (1) that during the period of moderate competition in the UK media market in the second half of the twentieth century, private suppliers - ITV - made programming of high quality, including high quality news and current affairs, and (2) that, in any event, the end of spectrum scarcity means that diversity and pluralism will be secured even better in the future by new private entrants. Consequently, the normative justification for public service broadcasting - or at least, publicly funded broadcasting - is no longer operative, and public funding for the BBC should dry up.

I do not share Elstein's optimism about the capacity of private suppliers to supply large amounts of merit programming; but I think that even if his argument were correct, the policy prescriptions he seeks would not be forthcoming. Politicians - perhaps because they are avid consumers of one of the most obvious types of merit programming, news and current affairs - have not been willing to tolerate gradual elimination of PSBs. Even in those countries where the public service broadcasters have most manifestly failed their remit, in Italy and Spain, governments have been willing to refinance these broadcasters, at some considerable cost to their Treasuries, at times of difficulty (1993 and 2006 respectively).

It might be thought instead that funding for PSB is contingent on continued high audience share and high audience reach, with PSBs who fall below a certain percentage share condemned to ghettoisation and reduced funding streams. If this is the case, the technological developments noted by Elstein may represent a problem for PSBs. If each additional entrant into the television market reduces PSB share and/or reach by a certain amount (even if the marginal amount is constantly decreasing), will the PSB still retain sufficient share or reach to command a claim to public finances? Or, if new means of communication reduce the relevance of television as part of overall media consumption, will PSBs claim a large enough share of this broader media market to lobby sucessfully for continued public funding?

If, as I believe, the continued rude health of PSB depends more on these more prosaic and measurable features of the media market than on notions of quality and the provision of merit goods, what are the current facts regarding PSB audience share?

First, when people want news and information, they turn to television. From the Eurobarometer surveys, we know that 70% of people in the EU15 watch television news every day. That's more than the 41% of people who read a newspaper every day. When people actively look for information on politics in the EU, for example, television is cited as the most commonly used source by 65% - 73% of respondents; newspapers and radio still edge out the internet, and the gap remains several percentage points.

We also know that, when they turn to television, people still turn to public service broadcasters. The European Audiovisual Observatory publishes data on the audience share of television channels across Europe. Of the 19 PSBs in Old Europe (broadcasters in the EU15, plus Norway and Switzerland, plus linguistic PSBs in Belgium and Switzerland), nine have increased audience share over the period 1995 - 2004; ten have decreased audience share. This is no artefact of the competitiveness of the media market in these countries - increased audience share was found in Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, and Norway, which all have high take-up rates of digital terrestrial and satellite television.

Moreover, PSBs are not losing audience share dramatically. Only four PSBs - Radio e televisao de Portugal (RTP), RTÉ, Sveriges Television and Osterreichische Rundfunk - have lost more than one percentage point audience share a year, and only RTP has slipped below the symbolically important 25% figure.

Finally, some PSBs have built up major web portals. The BBC News website is the eighth most visited in the world, and the only one in the top ten to provide content (the other is Microsoft). Italian PSB Rai has been less successful: it lags behind other domestic telecoms groups (Telecom Italia; Wind; Kataweb; RCS) but stills beats its commercial competitor Mediaset. Consequently, should internet media consumption be rivalrous with traditional television and or radio consumption - and evidence on news consumption in the United States suggests that it is not - then PSBs can be well placed to meet the threat.

In conclusion - for those considering it, it's still worth writing a thesis on public service broadcasting, and still worth reading one. PSBs retain significant audience share and are not losing it fast enough for obituaries to be taken out of deep freeze.