Hawkins, Gay
February 2013
Media International Australia (8/1/07-current);Feb2013, Issue 146, p82
Academic Journal
Is there anything left to say about public value and public service broadcasting (PSB) without lapsing into boosterism, special pleading, or wildly unsubstantiated claims about the role of PSB in making citizens and democracy? This article develops an alternative approach, one that considers publicness not as a pre-given or static value, but as something that has to be continually enacted or performed. Using recent debates in political theory, it examines the processes and ontological effects of what Latour calls 'making things public'. It makes two assumptions. The first is that there is no such thing as 'the public' out there waiting to be addressed; rather, publics have to be called into being The second is that there are a multiplicity of ways in which publicness can be assembled, and the challenge for PSB is to establish why its strategies are better. The example used is the ABC's current affairs discussion show Q&A, which is investigated to see how it generates an ontology of publicness. In what ways is the notion of public address and assembly mobilised? How does the experience of a public as a form of what Warner calls 'stranger sociability' extend from the live audience to the household viewer? In what ways are the notions of public reason and rational discussion enacted and disrupted? And how does this enactment of publicness generate a sometimes poetic, anarchic or ribald shadow reality tweeted in from anonymous participants competing for public attention? Finally, how does it both reproduce and reinvent existing institutional regimes of value within the ABC?


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