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Policy Agendas for Participatory Media

The next session I’m attending at ECREA 2010 starts with Arne Hintz, whose focus is on policy agendas for participatory media – which here means a wide range of media forms from radio to online.

Community radio, for example, has traditionally been quite strongly regulated, along with the overall broadcast sector; there is a dual non-commercial/commercial media system, and in some countries also still a strong pirate radio tradition. Gradually, a three-tier broadcast system (community, public service, commercial) has emerged in many countries, and some pirate stations have been given licences.

Online media have traditionally been much more open and unregulated; there is no spectrum scarcity and no history of illegality, but more recently a growing trend of increasing regulation and enclosure through territorial legislation, as well as increasing data gathering on online activities by some state agencies. Data retention laws make it possible to compile comprehensive digital dossiers about citizens; content filtering is being discussed in various countries; intellectual property rights are more strongly enforced; some content is packaged for exclusive access through apps; and we are moving from policies of liberation to policies of control.

Different policy agendas apply to these different fields, then, for various historical and political reasons. Community radio policies are critiqued from as neoliberal and market-driven, online policies as driven by security state agendas; where official recognition, legalisation, and licencing of community radio may be seen as positive, a hands-off approach to online media is usually preferred. Such issues have also been highlighted by various grassroots campaigns (for example against European data retention directives).

Repertoires of action include such grassroots actions from the outside, as well as engagement with policy makers by insider and industry groups. Common challenges include gatekeeping hurdles; common agendas address access to infrastructure; and common strategies aim to construct new and alternative media, to create an information society from below, and to take a ‘beyondist’ approach.