The myth of participatory democracy

Many years ago I spent a painful four weeks working in the Anti Discrimination Unit in the national broadcaster. It was my first exposure to the myth of participatory democracy that sits at the base of the public media.

The notion that a public broadcaster must have a democratic spirit has always been the basis for what we believed/believe in public broadcasting. We were all going to play fair and be as open as possible to all new ideas and directions, in particular those that opened new doorways into creative areas of broadcasting. Sadly, these were well-chosen words, not well-chosen actions. My stint in the ADU was enough to show me that the individuals in there were not very interested in the notion of discrimination unless it applied to them and their political future both within and without of the organisation. there seemed to be more time spent in the devolution of power and control to the management of this department than there was in responding to the process of Anti Discrimination.

I could have been thought very naive at the time,but time and again after that experience I began to see the evidence of control and power being constantly devolved to the committees of the broadcaster and not to the producers of the content, Time and again committees were created to control the flow of information(or, at times to block the flow of information) away from the programme makers back to the management level by the following means:

1:Releasing information at the last-minute – a tried and true ploy that meant that programme makers could not examine the outcomes and refer back to management

2:releasing information in byte sizes – this is the mastering of flow of information by breaking it into small bite size chunks so that the programme makers would forget the major chain of information flow and be confused …

and 3: Not releasing information at all – the “oh I forgot” syndrome that was characteristic of many of my last years with the broadcaster, which lead not only to confusion but to a complete breakdown in information flow

All the above may sound trite but it is important  media organisations that notion that there is an illusion of participation in order that the workers can see their use value equating to their utility value.I am well aware that in many organisations information flow is quite relevant but I see the growth of depratmentalism as constricting information flow only to the internal system never to the major shareholders in  the participation.


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