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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Policy provisions for public access to television : democratic and educational implications in Canada and the United States Arafeh, Sousan


This thesis examines broadcast policies and policy documents in Canada and the United States to determine whether and to what degree they make provision for the public's access to television. Government policies and policy documents are examined at the federal and local level, and a case study of two cable systems, one in Vancouver, B.C. the other in Seattle, Washington, supplies empirical data to corroborate how policy provisions for public access to television are interpreted and implemented. A neo-Gramscian concept of ideological hegemony broadly frames this study of the impact of public policy, specifically broadcast policy, on social structure and behaviour. Because a very small portion of the general population have access to television production and programming, they dominate the television discourse. Research that documents television’s pervasive stereotypic and derogatory treatment of women and “racial"/ethnic "minorities" as well as its perceived effect of contributing to the social and economic subordination of these populations in North American society is used as a basis for this study. This thesis argues that broadening the body of people who have access to the television production and programming process might encourage more accurate, positive and/or relevant television images and relations with positive social consequences. On one level, this is a matter of having broadcast policies which ensure such broadened access. Canada and the United States each have policy provisions for the general public's access to television which are based on notions of civic democratic participation in society. Analysis and comparison of these policies results in the conclusion that although both countries provide access to the public through policy, many of these provisions limit access in four areas: access to production, access to distribution, access to input, and access to viewing. Because television access policies limit the public's access increasingly, the broadening of the access base is impeded along with the challenge to the current structure, message and function of television. On this account, traditional agendas and images continue to dominate the airwaves and their educational power. Further study should be undertaken on: 1) the effects of television, 2) the public's use of community television/public access television, 3) the effects of community channels on viewers and whether they are different than the effects of broadcast television and 4) the effects of broadcast policy on the structure and function of television.

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