Media Policy Paradigm Shifts: Towards a New Communications Policy Paradigm

By Jan van Cuilenburg, Denis McQuail - 2008

This article deals with communications and media policy paradigms. In the US and Western Europe three paradigmatic phases of communications and media policy may be distinguished: the paradigm of emerging communications industry policy (until the Second World War); the paradigm of public service media policy (1945-1980/90); and the current phase (from 1980/90 onwards) in which a new policy paradigm is searched for. In Phase I, communications and media policy primarily referred to the emerging technologies of telegraph, telephony and wireless. Communications policy in that era was mainly pursued for reasons of state interest and financial corporate benefits. After the Second World War, media policy was dominated by socio-political rather than economic or national strategic concerns. In this paradigmatic phase, lasting until 1980/90, the ideal of public service broadcasting was at its height, notably in Western Europe.

From 1980 onwards, however, technological, economic and social trends fundamentally changed the context of media policy. In many countries, governments opted for policies of breaking monopolies in media and communications and privatizing as much as possible. The old normative media policies have been challenged and policy-makers are searching for a new communications policy paradigm. In this new paradigm, there seems to be a shift in the balance of component political, social and economic values that shape the definition of the public interest that media and communications supposedly serve. The authors conclude by sketching the core principles of the new communications policy paradigm that currently seems to be emerging.

European Journal of Communication (2003) Vol 18(2): 181–207. PDF.

By Jan van Cuilenburg, Denis McQuail | 2008
Categories:  Communication Policy


Communication rights enable all people everywhere to express themselves individually and collectively by all means of communication. They are vital to full participation in society and are, therefore, universal human rights belonging to every man, woman, and child.


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