Electronic Working Paper 17

The Politics of Media and Cultural Policy

Philip Schlesinger, Professor in Cultural Policy and Academic Director of the Centre for Cultural Policy Research at the University of Glasgow


This paper considers the role of academics in current debates on media and cultural policy in the UK. Although theories of the intellectuals differ widely as to what such a role might be, they point to a more general issue: the struggle for social recognition by contending forms of expertise. The policy field is one arena in which such contention occurs. Although the digital revolution is beginning to erode distinct policy regimes, broadcasting policy debate still conserves some long-standing features. Dominated by a few protagonists occupying positions of institutional power and critical, academic influence is at best marginal. For its part, cultural policy is being increasingly displaced by creative economy policy. This has been a New Labour project, initiated and from time to time sustained by a policy generation rooted in think tanks, consultancy and advising, with its academic critics largely unheard. Despite its shaky foundations, creativity policy has achieved a hegemonic position in British debate and is influential internationally. Nearer home, it has been uncritically adopted in Scotland - an illuminating case of policy dependency. The paper concludes with some reflections on policymakers' resistance to academic arguments.

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