Mainstreaming media landscapes – the space where quantity defines quality

By Kate Botterill

‘Does the BBC want to be the fattest tiger in the jungle, or a national resource; anxious to help rather than desperate to imitate, blazing trails, chasing quality not quantity?’ Asks the BBC Radio 4 presenter, Libby Purves.

The recent debate around the closure of two BBC digital radio stations – 6Music and the Asian Network – has provoked media circles to define what ‘counts’ as quality programming for the BBC. The BBCs director of audio and music, Tim Davie, maintains that the suggested closure is a move to ‘do fewer things better’ by ‘looking at other ways to find it a bigger audience’. While others see smaller, ‘niche’ stations being swallowed up by their bigger counterparts, and are campaigning to save the stations to defend alternative platforms of creative expression.

In an article for Transactions, Brett Christophers (2007) argues that the process of mapping and quantifying media landscapes is bound to relations of power over knowledge production. Reflecting on the New Labour government’s attempts to define creative industries in the late 1990s, he argues that the predisposition to quantification, in particular the exercise in ‘mapping’ creative industries, has forged representations of what is valued as ‘creative’ that sits in a space deemed to be calculable and ordered.

Christophers suggests that “mapping these industries creates them – as a discrete sector to be endorsed, managed and exploited – in the sense that it gives them form, boundaries and equivalences, and endows them with quantities and performances that can be measured and regulated” (p.240). Thus, he argues, the state is ‘enframing’ the creative industries through policy mapping, measurement and quantification and producing a sense of certainty and uncritical acceptance of what is measured as an economically viable creative industry or project. Questions remain over whether this framing of creativity as an economic variable provides more opportunities for creative expression or simply stifles creative output through order.

Read Christophers, B. (2007) Enframing Creativity: Power, geographical knowledges and the media economy

Read comments from the BBCs Tim Davie

Read the thoughts of the campaigners on 6Music and Asian Network

Read Libby Purves comments on the future of the BBC

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