Tracing broadcast diversity and its manifestations in the CRTC’s Let’s Talk TV proceedings

Date created: 
Alison Beale
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Diversity policy
Let’s Talk TV
Discursive institutionalism

Nurturing diversity is a key objective in Canadian public policy; however, “diversity” is polysemous, contested, flexible, and usually defined in an institutional context. The challenge of defining and ordering diversity objectives is particularly pronounced in broadcasting, wherein the CRTC is tasked with organizing a multitude of economic and social objectives put forward by a broad range of stakeholders. This dissertation unpacks the complex and contested notion of diversity, with a focus on the CRTC’s largest and most topically broad broadcast policy review of the decade: the 2013-2016 Let’s Talk TV (LTTV) proceedings. Chapters 3 and 4 historically trace and connect the dots between the development of the diversity principle in international and national policy debates. They investigate how “diversity” is understood as a Western value, how it has been used and contested in international (particularly UNESCO) policy, and how Canada has understood and instrumentalized it in pursuit of specific political and economic objectives. Chapter 5 draws from these insights to offer a nine-part analytical model delineating the ways diversity has been understood as a broadcasting policy objective. Chapters 6-8 employ this analytical model to assess the role of diversity objectives in the CRTC’s LTTV proceedings, with a focus on the way the federal regulator operated under Stephen Harper’s Conservative political regime. This dissertation finds that the absorption of “diversity” into Canada’s capitalist and nation-building projects risks purging it of its radical-democratic critique, leading to a politics of recognition that does not necessarily encompass claims for redistribution and hence provides limited latitude for promoting real social change. In broadcasting specifically, it demonstrates the politicized nature of the LTTV proceedings and the extent to which the CRTC under the Harper regime framed “diversity” objectives through the lens of consumer choice, often at the expense of social justice-oriented policy objectives. It concludes with a call for policymakers to realign Canadian broadcasting policy objectives to foreground the social good, and offers suggestions for future research providing practical ways to modify existing policy processes and deeply embedded values anchored in “consumerist” or “free-market” ideologies.

Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Document type: 
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes. Copyright remains with the author.