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Peter Humphreys and Seamus Simpson

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Peter Humphreys and Seamus Simpson

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Peter Humphreys and Seamus Simpson

Chapter 1 provides an introduction to the volume. It sets out the main features of the journey towards media convergence as they have unfolded historically. It explores a range of attempts in the academic literature to characterise media convergence and to understand its governance. The chapter argues that, despite assumptions about the inexorability and inevitability of media convergence as a series of technological and service-based developments, made over a number of decades, the process of media convergence has instead highlighted its fractious, fragmented and protracted character. This is most clearly evidenced in issues related to the governance of converging media environments, where key decisions about the allocation of media resources of various kinds are made. A focus on the nature and processes of media convergence governance allows an explanation to be provided for the problematic and incomplete character of media convergence.

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Peter Humphreys and Seamus Simpson

Chapter 2 explores policy efforts to create high speed broadband network environments, or so-called next generation networks (NGN). A key theme of the chapter concerns the role of public sector involvement in network refurbishment and upgrading. The chapter shows how, since the financial crash and global economic recession of 2008, states have exercised what might be termed developmental governance activity through major investments in electronic communications network upgrade. The underlying assumption here is that investment in NGNs can provide economic growth and renewal through providing the infrastructural context necessary for the content creation and service delivery synonymous with positive visions of media convergence. The chapter argues that the range and extent of such public intervention, should, however, be contextualised. The scale of the task at hand has meant that the neo-liberal model which has characterised electronic communications infrastructural development since the late 1980s still predominates.

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Peter Humphreys and Seamus Simpson

Chapter 3 of the volume explores the changing governance of airwave spectrum in a context of media convergence. Spectrum has historically been viewed as an invaluable, scarce communications resource governed with strong public interest principles in mind. The digitalisation of the airwaves provided capacity saving benefits, as well as an enabling infrastructure for content-rich media services, classic of media convergence environments, to be sent and received wirelessly. However, ironically, this so-called digital dividend has whetted the appetite of commercial players from the mobile broadband sector to secure increased spectrum to intensify their service provision at the expense of incumbent terrestrial TV broadcast players. The chapter illustrates how what is effectively a turf war over spectrum exemplifies much of the tensions between media with a public service functions and sensibilities and those which are out and out commercial in nature.

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Peter Humphreys and Seamus Simpson

Chapter 4 of the volume explores the controversial issue of Internet Neutrality in a media convergence context. In one respect, Net Neutrality is about the conditions according to which users are afforded access to infrastructures of information and communication. However, the Net Neutrality debate is also about how users are treated in their use of the infrastructure. The chapter thus shows how the Net Neutrality topic connects issues of infrastructure with service delivery and user experience. It undertakes a critical exploration of the incompletely understood idea of neutrality and contends that careful consideration and development of the idea of intervention can allow expansive and progressive understandings of the capacities for – but also the necessary limitations of – non-neutral intervention in the converging communications environments of the Internet to be developed.

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Peter Humphreys and Seamus Simpson

Chapter 5 explores the challenge presented to copyright by digital convergence and the Internet. It discusses the debate between those arguing for a less restrictive approach in the digital era and those pointing to the need to tackle not just rampant piracy but also legal ‘free-riding’ on a scale that threatens to undermine the business models of the creative industries. The chapter suggests that policy makers in Europe appear to have been more energetic than those in the US about seeking to make technology companies more responsible for what their users upload. However, so far on both sides of the Atlantic the interests of the new technology giants and policy makers’ concern for ‘the free market’ appear to have generally prevailed over cultural and culture-industry interests. A key obstacle to strengthening protection for copyright has been widespread popular concerns about protecting privacy and internet access as a human right.

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Peter Humphreys and Seamus Simpson

Chapter 6 analyses media concentration, arguing that it remains a major policy issue in the Internet environment. After arguing the importance of ensuring a multiplicity of voices in the media for underpinning democracy, the chapter explains why the media are particularly prone to economic pressures towards concentration. It then explores trends in media concentration and its regulation in the US and in Europe, showing how the common trend has been the progressive de-regulation of sector-specific structural rules designed to limit media concentration, the ideological force for which has been a neo-liberal policy turn from the 1980s on and the principle argument against them being their alleged inappropriateness in the converging new media environment. The chapter examines the viewpoint that the Internet has a pluralising impact, showing that concentration persists and therefore still needs addressing through policy and regulation. The chapter concludes by suggesting some policy pointers.

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Peter Humphreys and Seamus Simpson

Chapter 7 examines the challenge to traditional media organisations presented by their changing technological and market environment. Its main argument is the need to rethink subsidy policy for journalism and public service content in the Internet era, former technology-specific approaches being rendered increasingly anomalous by digital convergence of the media and the Internet. Examining the UK policy debate, the chapter explores how support might be provided in a technology-neutral manner to public or private providers of ‘public service journalism’. It argues that established public service broadcasters (PSBs) like the BBC should be granted the means to adapt into public service media (PSM) operators. It also argues the case for a new institution specifically tasked and funded to support public service content in the digital, online environment. The chapter suggests how this could be funded through various kinds of industry levy, so as not to damage established PSB/PSM institutions.

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Peter Humphreys and Seamus Simpson

Chapter 8 provides conclusions to the volume’s analysis of the governance of media convergence. Overall, the convergence in media that we witness and experience at the time of writing is a product of different traditions, practices and cultures. A central argument of the chapter is that convergence, due to its incomplete nature, presents considerable opportunities, despite the problems elucidated throughout the volume. The chapter argues that media governance and policy can set the context for a more inclusive and progressive process of convergence to unfold. A series of potential media policy solutions to the current impediments to convergence are presented in the chapter. These cover the core areas of coverage of the volume’s preceding chapters. The chapter puts forward an agenda for future work that can lead to a richer understanding of the significance and capacity of digital convergence.