Continuum: The Australian Journal of Media & Culture
Vol. 4, No. 1, 1990
The Media of Publishing
Edited by Albert Moran

Emerging policies for Pay-TV: official conceptions of audience in transition

Tim Dwyer

At a time of increasing talk about the final shape of Pay TV policies and the new media they usher in, it is worth looking closely at the major policy documents relating to the introduction of Pay to Australia that have emerged from three discrete institutional sites. Each of these sites has its own distinctive institutional inflections which characterise their policy documents. And so it is apparent that the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal's (ABT) report in 1982 has a much broader social frame of reference than the Department of Transport and Communication's (DOTAC) more clearly industrial priorities. Similarly, the Saunderson parliamentary inquiry into 'broadcasting-related' services constituted by members of the House of Representatives articulates a thematic equivocation between social and industrial policy positions.

The principal focus here is on conceptions of audience across these documents and how they have shifted relative to social, economic and political agendas within discrete historical contexts.

It is important to bear in mind that these policy documents are not being analysed in terms of their conceptual integrity or internal coherence. Rather the point is to interpret the policy objectives as part of much broader social, economic and political discourses that prevail at specific moments in history. And it is useful to view various notions of 'audience' as vehicles which assist in unravelling broader discursive determinants. However, in terms of policy analysis the focus is also on the evaluation of the causes and consequences of these emerging public policies.

Behind this is the assumption that governments attempt to manage legitimation deficits through the construction of apposite histories. The logics that govern policy development are concerned to repair various (communications) system problems. This allows the histories of specific policies - or lack of them - to be managed as containable streams of events, with the issue at hand being framed by the questions asked and the solutions offered; in this way a teleological movement is crafted.

In practical terms this means that the three documents under consideration: the ABT's Cable and Subscription Television Services for Australia, 1982; DOTAC's Future Directions for Pay Television in Australia, 1989; and, the House of Representative's, To Pay or Not to Pay, 1989; all, in their own particular ways, frame the issue of the introduction of Pay into Australia.

The policy assumptions and frameworks relied on for understanding new communications media services such as Pay have major consequences for the conceptions of audience that surface in particular policies: in the past conceptions of audiences in media regulation have tended to be based on notions of social and cultural memberships wherein individuals and groups needed to be protected against the adverse 'effects' of 'mass' media. This, in the last decade or so, (with the rise of economic rationalist doctrines), has given way to conceptions of audiences based on their place within the sphere of production, assigned roles as consumers (who are also 'sovereign'), free to 'control' their own 'choice' of programming.

The fact is that the frameworks for conceiving of audiences that I have just described map the principal policy conceptions of audiences that have emerged in relation to Pay in Australia. It is a transition that has also been taking place in Europe as McQuail has observed:

The driving forces behind most of the fragmentary elements of 'media policy' in most European countries in the past were mainly political or cultural, concerned, overtly at least, with the 'spiritual' rather than the material aspects of communication. This order seems to have been reversed and actors in the policy arena are more openly concerned with practical questions of how to gain a stake in this sector, with divisions mainly according to the means to achieve economic advance - whether by public investment and promotion or on the back of market forces.'

This trend in communications media policy objectives away from cultural, social and overtly political ones and towards industrial (or economic) ones is a part of the restructuring of the global economy. And, in that context, governments and their policy instruments are looking increasingly to ways of adjusting regulatory regimes with an eye to securing favourable outcomes for the most influential policy players in a changing communications environment.

The ABT Report, 1982

This policy document is, arguably, the most well-crafted of its kind in the history of Australian media regulation. The depth of research and examination of the issues is indeed remarkable when viewed from 1990.

Governments and associated policy instruments are, generally speaking, cautious and conventional; but this document, by taking into account a range of social arguments departs from the norm. However, overall, it is pro-market in its recommendations. In part this can be explained as a fairly logical consequence of the historical development of the producer institution itself. The control in the title of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal's (ABT) predecessor, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board (ABCB) points to its basic operational strategy in the context of Australian broadcasting. Both the ABCB and its offspring, the ABT, were products of a government in step with (or perhaps led by) the prevailing practices in respect of media, by western liberal democracies; which is to say those governments concerned to keep on eye on the practices of their media outlets, curbing their excesses, and, at the end of the day, controlling their operations as required.

Essentially, the regulatory policies of the Australian Government, as with most nation states, were driven by spiritual (or moral) and political objectives. Given this history it should be little surprise that the 1982 report reflects that spirit of custodian of 'the public interest'. However, it does a great deal more: predictably, as an industry regulator its focus is also on industry players.

The report devotes a chapter to the 'social impact' of Pay (Cable, Radiated and Subscription) TV. In broad terms the chapter attempts to weigh up the 'net social worth' of Pay services from the point of view of their contribution to an enhanced quality of life. It concludes that the net social contribution would be there "by offering access to more relevant programming to participate in the diversity of our culture and to gain access to more useful information."

To arrive at this point the Tribunal considered a wide range of arguments in relation to the social impact of Pay. But it set out by situating the debate in the context of a discussion of an 'Australian lifestyle'. Our place in relation to the rest of the world was considered, as was our cultural heritage in terms of connections with European and Aboriginal civilisations.

The proposition is put forward that "the core characteristics of the Australian lifestyle vary along the dimensions of urbanism, egalitarianism and consumerism". 2 And, further reflecting on the Australian lifestyle the Tribunal noted the pervasiveness of city/bush myths in Australian culture "and the ethos of a home of your own on a quarter-acre block". The Tribunal then drew the conclusion that "Australians can be characterised as an urban, home-centred people whose values and attitudes are becoming progressively less different from those of the rest of the western world as a result of extended cultural contact, through economic and communications networks."

The Tribunal reviewed research material on population trends, work and leisure as structured through age and gender and the implications of this on patterns of media consumption.

In a section titled "Communications Services in Australian Lifestyle" the Tribunal went to the nub of the issue when it argued that "communications services offer a mediated form of ... interaction that is necessary because of the growing complexity in social organisation. Mass communications services supply a major fund of images and suggestions concerning self-presentation and general lifestyles".3 This kind of observation represents elements of a useful cultural industries way of conceiving relationships between media and their audiences. In other words, the report was describing the 'effects' of the cultural process: it recognised that the dissemination of symbolic goods and services serves broader social and cultural processes.

The Tribunal considered the ways that Australian audiences attend to the range of communications services: print, radio, data, telephone and TV. Their conclusions are anything but ground-breaking. Australian society, like many others of comparable economic development relies on a broad range of communications services. But, what is significant are the arguments; the aspects of 'social impact' that warrant debate. In the review the Tribunal considered a range of theoretical material on "the relation between the media and the audience". Nowadays this choice may look a bit limited, but the inclusion of any material of this kind in a major communications policy document - unusual in a contemporary context - was not so unusual for that time: the ABT has since its inception deployed social policy discourses. Within a discussion of the characteristics of TV, cable and RSTV, important aspects of programming and implications for audiences are taken into account. Children's and educational programming, 'unsuitable' material, representations of violence, sources of news, 'low quality material' - all are considered, usually in relation to specific submissions. They note:

many people want television news which is more reflective and less performed and television entertainment which presents fewer mainstream values and is of greater minority appeal. More programming will only lead to better programming if the content of media messages is qualitatively different, that is, if programming results from a more widely defined social agenda of disparate and heterogenous social values. 4

In a section titled "Australian Society with RSTV and/or Cable" the potential of changing social relations was examined in the light of a transformed social environment through new communications services in general and 'informatisation' in particular. In relation to new communications services the Tribunal reflect:

After all, human needs are a product of special social experiences which have evolved historically. 5

The report argues that a range of issues have significant implications for audiences: narrowcasting - seen as a means to address diverse audiences "catering to many different tastes and preoccupations"6; access - as a means to introduce innovation in programming for audiences; public television; localism; interaction; children's and educational programs; privacy; and, the fuelling of a gap between 'information rich' and 'information poor'.

On this last point Murdock and Golding have pursued the nexus of information poverty and political inequality arising from the political allocation of economic resources.7 From their more recent work it is possible to observe a movement from more orthodox political economy concerns towards cultural studies aspects of communications services. Interestingly, their views coincide with those submitters to the Tribunal who argued that new services may exacerbate existing social inequality. There is a convergence of opinion that a full range of information is necessary in order for people to operate effectively in society. Furthermore, the ABT report speculated that there may be a correlation between the 'information poor' and marginalised, illiterate groups. And, possibly related to this cycle of deprivation, the report canvassed a range of arguments on the notion of 'social isolation'. The thrust of these being that new services may amplify the deprivation of many housebound and 'privatised' (in the sense of being removed from a 'public sphere') people, extending processes of domestication. On the other hand, the report speculates cable may actually become a "social facilitator in the formation of a sense of community". 8

The 1982 report explored another social argument which is critical to any debate in respect of the relationship between media and audiences, particularly those relating to new communications services: that is, when audiences are assessed as either viable market segments or, as sections of society with particular communications needs. The argument is advanced that the IMG study commissioned for the inquiry was framed in a fashion that generated a particular kind of outcome. A market research methodology was relied on in order to gauge the level of 'demand' for Pay. The report opposes this kind of methodology to more qualitative varieties that attempt to assess the 'need' audiences may or may not have for particular services. Morrison has made a similar point in a critique of studies that were conducted on behalf of the Peacock Inquiry in the UK in respect of audience attitudes to structural adjustment to their broadcasting environment. In essence his position was that market research will elicit 'market' information whereas social research, as a broader, multi-faceted, contextual inquiry, will produce information in those terms. To relate this to the ABT's report: studies of audience need equate with social research; studies of audience demand equate with market research. And it follows that conceptions of audience will vary accordingly. 9

The 1982 Report was never implemented. Although it recommended that Pay be introduced as soon as was practicable, because it was overtaken by federal political events, it was consigned to the 'too hard basket'. As well, while much of the debate included in the five volume report was socially innovative in relation to audiences, there is a noticeable contrast between the canvassing of arguments and the recommendations that were ultimately put forward: this is evident in relation to specific recommendations on the question of ownership. And it should be borne in mind that this comes back to critical economic concepts such as concentration. By not intervening to regulate ownership the general tendency in communications industries is towards both vertical and horizontal integration in and between related industries. This means that, in practical terms for cultural production, the range, quality and direction of available material declines as market forces exclude all but the most profitable. It also means that as part of this process groups who lack the economic resources are excluded from the market: largely community and minority groups. Now while the ABT may have stated in its objectives that its intention was:

to ensure that ownership of the system and control of the provision of program services is spread as widely as practicable throughout the Australian community by extending and broadening the opportunity for participation in the Australian broadcasting system. 10

the reality of the other recommendations tends to negate this objective. With the exclusion of Telecom from the carriage establishment of CTV in particular, only larger corporations would be in a position to capitalise the set-up costs. Public, educational and community groups may well be disadvantaged within this scheme. Indeed audiences would be disadvantaged in terms of the programming choice, as the tendency to use only the most profitable content took effect.

And yet other recommendations if implemented would work against the stated objectives of diversity in ownership and programming, further undermining the more advanced aspects of their arguments for audiences: for example, by placing no aggregate limit on the prescribed interests that a person (or company) can hold in CTV (ie. unrestrained cross-ownership); by leaving the ABT with a discretionary authority in respect of concentration; and by recommending that there be no specific regulation for networking.

In the ABT's 1982 report the notion of increasing the overall quality of life was paramount - in rhetoric at least: however, there was a gap between it and the practical recommendations. Diversity in programming and the ability to offer specialist programs "could contribute positively to the welfare of particular interested audiences", the report argued. The full flight of the ABT's rhetoric is reached in the brimming optimism of:

If the process were opened to allow access by less powerful minority interests, the media may foster a truly pluralistic society. A truly pluralistic society is reflected in a variety of genuinely alternative versions of social reality, not just a plethora of more choices which reinforce existing stereotypes. 11

The ABT report is very much the product of the institution in its historical context, and can be viewed as the outcome of two main discourses. On the one hand, and in step with its role as a broadcasting regulator for audiences, extensive social arguments were deployed; and, on the other, as protector of established commercial interests, economic arguments (and recommendations) around viability and markets assume centre stage.

The Department of Transport and Communications(DOTAC) Report, January, 1989

It is argued that the role of this report is one of facilitating the debate and airing various issues and possible options. Whilst clearly the report is part of wider discourses, at the same time it should be recognised that its arguments as the responsible government department carry a great deal of weight. The rhetoric has been radically transformed in the 1989 DOTAC report. No longer are the arguments relating diversity in ownership and programming to audience needs on the agenda. Instead, these have been superseded with notions of 'consumer' choice where:

pay television enables the viewer to spend more time watching what he or she wishes to watch rather than what happens to be available on broadcast television. The benefits derive from the closer relationship between the service provider and the viewer which can lead to a better expression of consumer preferences. 12

This notion of payment-for-use was already solidly entrenched by the ABT's 1982 report, (it is Pay after all) but, in contrast to the DOTAC report, it was simply one structuring principle among many. It has now emerged to become, arguably, the most important concept for conceiving the new communications media's relationship with audiences in policy discourses.

Murdock and Golding have argued that the reworking of the concept of citizenship in complex democratic societies is fundamentally connected with the emerging nature of communications media. Using political sociological and political philosophical arguments they demonstrate the contradictions of the new ideologies of 'consumer sovereignty' and their utilisation by contemporary governments. What is more they very clearly show how the "tension between the actual operations of capitalist markets and the promise of full and equal citizenship" have paralleled the rise of industrial and post-industrial capitalist societies. They describe the relationship between new communications services and the policies that give rise to them in these terms:

The new market-oriented communications and information system that is currently gaining ground within liberal democracies is being sold to the general public on the promise that it will enlarge people's choices and increase their control over their lives, that it will be both liberating and empowering. This emerging order is the product of two major processes: technological innovation and convergence, and 'privatisation'. The first is creating a range of new kinds of communication and information services and restructuring established media industries; the second is providing the essential social and ideological context in which these changes are being developed and promoted. 13

But in contrast to the ABT's argument that diversity in communications services will lead to a corresponding improvement in peoples' quality of life; and, DOTAC's argument that Pay will enable people to spend more time watching what they want to watch, for Murdock and Golding the reality of the emerging order is characterised by a transition from identities constructed as 'citizens', through a range of communications media services that facilitate effective functioning in a democracy, to identities constructed on the basis of notions of 'consumer', where individuals (not groups or communities) define their place in society in terms of what they consume. And, of equal import, "for many people...choices in the marketplace are purely nominal, since they lack the economic means to translate their needs and desires into purchases". 14

It is argued in the report that in this new communications order consumers are empowered as a consequence of their direct relationship with providers. The distinction is drawn between existing commercial broadcasters who "are in the business of selling audiences to advertisers, while Pay providers sell programs to viewers". This, it is asserted, leads to "a more direct expression of consumer preferences". But the gap between this and the reality of socially and economically differentiated access is not canvassed. By the same token the report raises the notion of Pay services "responding to consumer demand"; again, this kind of argument evacuates any broader debate concerning political decisions and their consequent economic, social and cultural repercussions.

Now it is also departmentally in vogue to discuss audiences in terms of niche markets; where increased markets are equated with increased diversity; and, in relation to advertising, which may be impacted upon if audience aggregates are diverted from existing services. In both cases the benefit to audiences per se is not the focus. Rather, with the first example, the policy focus is on the market and not the audience. This is legitimated as part of the shift away from what has hitherto been one of central structuring principles of communication policy in Australia - the service area.

With pay television there is no need to relate pay television service areas to the service areas used for commercial television. Service areas should reflect the most cost effective way of reaching the market, and this may be national market areas. 15

What is plain from this sort of argument is that a concern with the actual programming fare that may be differentiated as a result of geographical location, has now been displaced by notions of viability where the geographical location is largely a function of its commercial definition. It should be noted that it is precisely this kind of shift in policy discourses that is of concern to telecommunications community interest groups. And, in the example of advertising, audiences figure in the arguments by virtue of the financial consequences for corporations of a diversion of audiences away from existing commercial broadcasters towards new media services.

In relation to specifically programming issues, other arguments are discussed in the DOTAC report which sit more comfortably with 'orthodox' policy objectives: the notion of 'siphoning', where the general public's 'rights' are ostensibly the focus; and, arguments around the possible 'harmful effects' of the availability of pornographic programming in a Pay environment; and the old chestnut of broadcasting policy - the Australian content debate coming from an essentially industrial rather than cultural perspective.

To take the case of 'siphoning': the report canvasses the relative merits and demerits of protecting the access of audiences to particular formats on the one hand, and, of protecting existing industry players producing local programming on the other. It is perhaps one of the few issues in the DOTAC report where there is genuine equivocation between audience 'rights' and industry 'rights'.

What it is important to realise is that while the Government's(DOTAC) claimed central policy objective for Pay is the notion of 'diversity':

The principle objective of pay television is to increase diversity of choice in television services in response to viewer demand. 16

Arguably it is an objective that ultimately serves one principal beneficiary: industrial interests. As was discussed earlier the arguments using 'choice', 'consumer power/sovereignty' are in many respects misleading for they take into account neither inegalitarian social structures nor the differentiated economic and cultural formations they give rise to. Because of the ambiguity of the DOTAC report (similarly to the ABT's report) on the critical issue of regulation for ownership and the consequences of this for cultural production, debate over the notion of diversity is necessarily limited. In Murdock's words:

In a cultural system built around 'synergy', more does not mean different; it means the same basic commodity appearing in different markets and in a variety of packages. 17

The second and third highest policy priorities in the DOTAC report relate overtly to industrial objectives. That is, (in the second) to provide infrastructural economies to industrial interests in manufacturing, installation, (and in the third) service and program production. The report also should be seen as fitting in with the general international trend towards 'demand-led' communications policies. Clearly, for example, these objectives are in line with the Thatcher Government's document Broadcasting in the Nineties: Competition, Choice and Quality, 18 where the priority is to radically expand the number of media outlets available. It is in this light that the Australian government's review of micro-economic reform in general and telecommunications carriers in particular should be considered. The report states quite frankly:

The introduction of pay television would create a demand for capacity to deliver video and associated value added services. The demand would be pre-dominantly for high bandwidth video services together with the audio, text, and data requirements for the services. 19

In terms of explicit social arguments that the report engages in, there is only one short section which, in effect, defers to limited summary of the ABT's 1982 arguments. The department also underscores the notion that an increased range in services would lead to an enhanced quality of life. And, whilst they note "implications may be both positive and negative, and cover a whole range of community concerns" including, distance education, minority programming, public access TV, enhanced access to information, the passive nature of TV viewing, social isolation, privacy and the "possible creation of information rich and poor in our society", in fact, these matters are not discussed.

Because economic arguments have largely displaced social arguments, consideration of basic socio-cultural transformations and the implications of these for audiences, have been pushed to the margins. Silverstone has recently argued that the consequences of differential involvement with media means potential transformations in a number of ways. For example, for individual and family identities arising from new patterns and forms of media consumption; and, through restructured private and public connections with a variety of networks and institutions. 20

To recap: I have argued the focus of the DOTAC report has been primarily economic, not social or cultural. This means that industrial competition, technological change for its own sake, payment for use, and above all, the sanctity of 'the market' have all been pushed to the top of the policy agenda.

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Transport, Communications and Infrastructure, Committee Report, Nov, 1989

Chaired by Labor party MP John Saunderson, the report To Pay or Not to Pay is, with the benefit of earlier debate, a fairly comprehensive inquiry that, as the terms of reference delineate, was to:

Examine the possibilities for the development of, and the appropriate means of regulating, new broadcasting-related services, including in particular Pay television, having regard to the 1989 Report on Future Directions for Pay Television in Australia by the Department of Transport and Communications. 21

Of fundamental importance in assessing this report is the nature of the Standing Committee itself, as an instrument for public policy making. This Committee, as the ABT and DOTAC also reveal, has markings which should be interpreted as institutional inflections and which have consequences for policy construction. Where the ABT report can be interpreted as, among other things, the outcome of competing discourses (of sectional interests who want public access, children's programming, Australian content and so on) the Committee report, as well as this inflection, can be seen as a parliamentary inquiry: the ruling Labor party has created a policy committee structure which serves to provide an alternative source of continuous policy advice to the Hawke Administration in general, and to the Cabinet in particular. The committees cover the central portfolios of: primary industry; resources and environment; community services; industry, economy and education; foreign affairs; legal and administration; and transport and communications. In Loosley's view this "Labor initiative challenges the power of (the) mandarins" thus warding off both bureaucratic inertia and ill-founded policy by bureaucratic imperative. 22

The Committee report, like its two forerunners, recommends that Pay be introduced because of net social benefits:

On balance, therefore, the Committee concludes that the advantages of having pay television in Australia outweigh the disadvantages so that there is net social value in introducing pay TV. Thus pay TV if properly managed provides net social benefits by:

- increasing diversity not only through market driven programming but also by local and community programming and;

- promoting the plurality of views in Australian society through diversity of ownership and non-commercial programming. 23

The report negotiates two main competing forces: on the one hand there are the same doctrinaire economic rationalist players (both within and without of the Government) and, on the other, those interests who have pressed for a Pay structure which takes account of both local and community programming. To their credit the Committee took a wider historical perspective of the development of the Australian communications media system and asked "how can Pay best be moulded to fit and complement the existing environment"? And to that extent it departs from the two earlier reports by swimming against the current (ideologies of privatisation) and advocating partly non-commercial objectives. In Saunderson's introductory speech to Parliament, on the net social benefits described above he said:

although Pay TV is a commercial product and will live or die by its commercialism, this a once in a lifetime opportunity to achieve non-commercial objectives. These twin goals dominate the committee model. 24

The Committee, then, were at pains to distinguish their position in the policy making process from earlier reports and, in particular, to distance themselves from the DOTAC report, which they saw as "a Government document produced entirely for executive decision making". And they also note some privilege over the departmental site of policy construction:

The advantages of the parliamentary inquiry over the executive one is the process of public inquiry which presents better opportunities for testing accuracy, relevance and indeed the personal preferences of those who advance particular points of view. 25

Their report contains several distinctive arguments which have implications for audiences and which set it apart from earlier reports. Firstly, its treatment of the notion of diversity: it states frankly that "the diversity argument will be answered in the marketplace" and that "for pay TV to survive is has to differentiate its product in order to offer value for money." But they also saw other sides to the diversity argument that have been silent in the other reports. In particular that local and community programming should give rise to "a significant increase in diversity". 26 It is fair to take from these arguments that the Committee had both a more detailed (or less partial) understanding of market forces in terms of diversity, as well as a deeper view of what constitutes diversity in programming for audiences. They also note that diversity of ownership can have consequences for audiences "which can promote the presentation of different points of view of social reality". They further argue:

This diversity of ownership, when combined with the opportunities cable offers for local and community programming, is a significant social benefit of pay TV. 27

The principal reason advanced for the moratorium on the introduction of Pay from 1986 to September, 1990, is that in order of protect the investments of commercial TV and allow the 'equalisation' (aggregation) [where markets have been combined in regional areas in order to deliver three commercial services to an area, thus being 'equalised' with metropolitan audiences] to 'settle', the Government would put Pay on the backburner. The asserted beneficiaries, the Government claimed at the time, would be the residents of regional Australia. However, it is plain now that the policy has, in practice, had the reverse effect. Rationalisation of the commercial TV networks led to increased centralisation and a reduction in locally originated programming. Regional audiences are, arguably, the losers. It would be easy for sceptics to see the Committee's report as a similar exercise in short term political posturing and bet-hedging. But it should be quickly added that this House of Representatives document emanating from its 'non-executive' parliamentary policy context, is an entirely different public policy instrument.

Also in terms of conceptions of audience, there is a sense that in putting forward fairly rigorous regulatory recommendations in respect of the question of ownership, such as: pay TV licensees are limited to eight licenses throughout Australia; no licensee is permitted to hold more that four licenses in one state; a limit of one per capital city; and, the reach of a single licensee is limited to 20% of the national audience - the report evades other complex audience-significant matters such as the implications of an oligopolistic market of program suppliers/packagers and the attendant possibility of an homogeneous, or otherwise centrally controlled programming repertoire.

But perhaps the single over-riding principle in the report which influences conceptions of audiences stems from a view that when the correct market and delivery structure is in place, that will tend to govern the relationship with audiences. Specifically, the report argues this structuring principle will guide programming from both administrative and audience points of view. Behind this are the same deregulatory notions of 'consumer sovereignty' - where the viewer has the control to determine their cultural consumption in a 'direct relationship' - that the DOTAC report relies so heavily on. The sum of these arguments is that many of the social considerations that could otherwise have been on the agenda, have been neatly side-stepped. Where programming standards are recommended, they defer to the ABT's existing regime of regulation. And, in a move that resonates with those contemporary discourses which construct audiences as consumers, the Committee recommends that licensees, as a condition of their license, be required to put a 'consumer complaints' mechanism in place which would then also be monitored by the ABT.

It is worth noting that the Committee report, paralleling the DOTAC report, is driven by primarily industrial imperatives on the question of Australian content regulations. In other words, cultural arguments take a back-seat in the report's reasoning. But the Committee keeps its options open by recommending no local content rules, and that this be reviewed after five years of operation. The arguments that do arise for Australian content turn on industry-economic considerations, not the implications for audiences.

In this consideration of the major official policy documents shaping Pay I have attempted to show how various arguments have consequences for the audiences that must ultimately be a critical component for any policy strategy, whether intentionally or otherwise. Additionally, the policy assumptions and frameworks that are relied on for advancing certain arguments for new communications media services inevitably influence not only how audiences are conceived, but also how they are to be regulated.

Echoing international developments, these three policy documents display features that evidence a transition from social and cultural modes of audience regulation, to more narrowly focused modes that prioritise a relationship based on notions of the audience as consumers, who can 'choose' their preferred categories of programming. This transition in policy objectives is part of a much bigger picture of restructuring in the global economy in which both governments and industry are actively participating. Clearly the transition has a double consequence: different conceptions of audiences in policies have real consequences for the communications services that are available to people; and also, from a wider perspective, changes in the pattern and structuring of media industries means that the overall range and direction of cultural production will also change.


1. Denis McQuail, New Media Politics (London. Sage, 1986) p.10.

2. Australian Broadcasting Tribunal (ABT), Cable and Subscription Television Services for Australia. (AGPS: Canberra, 1982.) para. 2.2.

3. Ibid, para. 2.4.

4. Ibid, para. 2.22.

5. Ibid, para. 2.23.

6. Ibid, para. 2.27.

7. For example, Graham Murdock and Peter Golding "Information Poverty and Political Inequality: Citizenship in the Age of Privatised Communications," Journal of Communication, v. 39, n. 3 (Summer 1989).

8. ABT, Op Cit., para., 2.35.

9. See David Morrison, Invisible Citizens: British Public Opinion and the Future of Broadcasting (London: Broadcasting Research Unit. John Libbey and Co. Ltd. 1986).

10. ABT, Op Cit., p. 22 (R.4.2).

11. Ibid, para. 2.39.

12. Department of Transport and Communications (DOTAC), Future Directions for Pay Television in Australia (Canberra: AGPS, 1989), p.137.

13. Ibid, p. 180.

14. Ibid, p. 193.

15. Ibid, p. xxv, Executive Summary.

16. Ibid, p. 11.

17. Graham Murdock "Redrawing the Map of the Communications Industries: Concentration and Ownership in the Era of Privatisation" in Ferguson, M.(ed) Public Communication: The New Imperatives. Future Directions for Media Research (London: Sage, 1990), p. 8.

18. See United Kingdom, Home Office, Broadcasting in the Nineties: Competition, Choice and Quality (London: HMSO, 1988).

19. DOTAC., Op. Cit., p. 52.

20. Roger Silverstone, "Television and Everyday Life: Towards an Anthropology of the Television Audience" in Public Communication.

21. See House of Representatives Standing Committee on Transport, Communications and Infrastructure, To Pay or not to Pay? Pay Television and Other New Broadcasting-Related Services (Canberra: AGPS, 1989).

22. Stephen Loosley, "Labor Initiative Challenges Power of the Mandarins," The Australian, November (1988).

23. House of Representatives, Op. Cit. p. 19.

24. John Saunderson, To Pay or Not to Pay, Speech by Committee chairperson on presentation of the Report to Parliament (1989).

25. House of Representatives, Op. Cit. p. 3.

26. Ibid, p. 17.

27. Ibid.

New: 18 March, 1996 | Now: 15 March, 2015