The marriage between state and media is an excerpt from my research-based strategic policy paper.

Governments intervene in all forms of economic activity, making the claim of ‘free markets’ just an ideal (Hesmondhalgh). In the cultural industry, they do so in three main ways.

The marriage between state and media

–          through legislation: e.g. competition laws, copyright, privacy, etc.

–          through regulation: e.g. to promote fair competition by preventing cross-ownership; public interest concerns; pluralism and diversity in the public sphere

–          by providing subsidies – e.g. in the case of research that led to the Internet Lawrence Lessig: The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Wired World)

–          ownership (structural) and content regulation have always been issues of critical importance to the state

State interest in regulating

All industries are subject to state legislation and regulation in one form or another. However, two sectors have been of particular importance to the state. The world over i.e. telecommunications and broadcasting. Until the 1980s, both sectors were subjected to direct state ownership. Control throughout the world except in the USA. But even in the USA, both sectors were under strict government regulation.

Some enact cultural policies to protect national interest as : 

–          Mexico and Brazil. Whose protectionist policies over the years have led to strong local media industries. To fend off Hollywood dominance. Similarly, Pakistan is exercising a marketable political right to restrict the Bollywood effect in media.

–         Islāmic governments attempt to use politics and religion. In varying ways to halt global media flows. Iran banning satellite dishes in 1994 citing the popular American tv series Baywatch as one of the reasons. Iran along with Saudi Arabia and Turkey have a history of arresting voices. While Pakistan has evolved considerably on the journalistic freedom index comparable to these countries. At the same time exercises authority often. On contrary banning YouTube and movies frequently in cinema. On issues where other Islamic countries are more liberal and tolerant.

–          Attempts in Germany to curb internet traffic in Nazi material by targeting ISPs.

Why Broadcasting?  

Pubic or Private Interest?

Right from the beginning, it became clear that broadcasting is a powerful tool – commercially (promoting goods and services), politically (influencing people’s voting habits) and culturally (shaping people’s identities and advancing the nation-building project). For these reasons, governments seek direct control of broadcasting institutions throughout the world.

In broadcasting, the technological revolution – new cable, satellite and digital technologies – suggested to proponents of markets that spectrum scarcity arguments were no longer valid. Proponents of commercialism argue that there is no more justification for state regulation, Important changes in cultural industry policy took place within this period which had ramifications for the globalization of culture and the industries themselves.

Driving force of change

Hesmondhalgh and other writers agree that changes are consciously brought about to support the interests of the giant multinational companies. As a result, the local industry in Europe is suffering in its potential to grow and largely replaced by multinational programming based primarily out of Hollywood due to the similarity of language.

States are still carrying out the critical function of lawmaking. The variety of media policies that it makes are expressions of sovereignty. The state is still responsible for licensing broadcasters, and imposing limitations on ownership & operations as we have seen and where necessary protecting culture and local industry.


While it is arguable that privatization of media throughout the world, coupled with cable and satellite technologies, has reduced the state’s capacity to exercise communicative sovereignty, it would be rather far-fetched to assume that the state is no longer relevant.

In spite and despite the fundamental of this marriage like any other is based on trust or in other words the right to exercise freedom of speech. Be it the state or the commercial enterprise.I prefer to leave that to your own imagination and say let’s keep dreaming, observing, inspiring and transforming.

Special visit to Newseum Washington DC on 4th of July 2017

about me (click) Asim Qureshi is a former CEO at 2 of the largest media organizations of Pakistan the Jang Group and ARY.

References :

  1. Changes in other industrialized countries, influenced by changes in the USA (Western Europe, Canada, Australia, etc). Peter Humphreys (1996); Collins and Murroni (1996); David Levy (1999) among others.
  2. Changes in transitional and mixed societies ( Curran and park, 2000,Schlesinger, 2001; Morley and Robins, 1995; Collins, 2002)
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Maria Umer
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