Dissertation Information for Amit Schejter
MPACT Status: Fully Complete
Title: Media policy as social regulatory policy: The role of broadcasting in shaping national culture in Israel
Abstract: This study demonstrates how media policy in Israel is used in order to maintain community values, moral practices and norms of interpersonal conduct, as well as to modify and replace them with new standards of behavior. Hence, it falls into the realm of "social regulatory" policy (Tatalovich & Daynes, 1988). This description of policy and its implementation exposes the underlying beliefs of policymakers and policy implementers. As has been the case in other countries (Etzioni-Halevi, 1987), powerful effects are attributed to media in Israel, and like in other countries (Shaugnesey & Fuente Cobo, 1990; Blumler, 1992) the media in Israel have been assigned the task of influencing social norms. The study reviews theories of "powerful effect" and theories of culture, when described in the context of power, since media-culture policies are an exertion of power using the power of media in order to influence the power structure in society. A review of the development of the policy precedes the description of its current status. The policy described resembles media policies in developing countries, although unlike most developing countries, Israel exhibits a strong democratic constitutional structure in which freedom of speech is the norm. This feature alone makes the case described so interesting, because the system in Israel has a double message: it is both democratic and paternalistic. The detailed description of the institutions is followed by a cultural analysis of public broadcasting content during the years 1991-1993. In this analysis the methodology of distribution and flow developed by Williams (1974) as well as Hall's (1973/1994) encoding/decoding analytical tools, are used to demonstrate how the policy is implemented. What emerges from the findings is that Israeli policy and its implementation are aimed at preserving a status quo based on Western cultural understandings and media products. While the cultural needs of the majority are defined in detail in legislation and observed in practice in broadcasting, the cultural needs of minorities are virtually ignored. Still, a strong sense of public service exists in all Israeli media, regardless of the target audience. Indeed, new policies and the introduction of commercial media institutions have not changed the original concept of mobilized media.
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