Media, citizenship and Governmentality: Defining "the public" of public service broadcasting

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18 Citations (Scopus)


Historically, the concept of citizenship has been central to discussions of the role and performance of public service broadcasters. Within such discussion, however, this concept is often treated in two distinct ways simultaneously. On one hand, citizenship is understood as a theoretical ideal that, to a greater or lesser extent, is performatively embodied in existing broadcast institutions that enshrine and uphold individuals' rights as members of civil society. Simultaneously, conditions of civic membership are viewed as determined by the operations of "citizenforming" institutions both within and outside the state. Through an analysis of how these approaches are deployed in discussions of public service broadcasting, this article proposes that they are ultimately irreconcilable. It argues that, in order to provide a more historically sensitive and politically useful analysis of contemporary citizenship, it is necessary to disarticulate "actually existing" citizenship, and the institutional practices that shape it, from critical-normative definitions. Here, it is suggested that the Foucauldian analytic of "governmentality" provides the basis for such an alternative approach. An examination of recent disputes surrounding the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) coverage of the 2003 Iraq conflict both demonstrates how this approach enables an understanding of citizenship as historically contingent, and provides an analysis of a current contest over its material definition. Recent ministerial criticisms of ABC coverage, from this perspective, are read as a governmental attempt to shift the national broadcaster's performance as a "technology of citizenship", which may be positioned alongside broader efforts to engender transformations in the polity. © 2006 Taylor Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-242
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Semiotics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2006


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