Television Journalism, Market-orientation, and Media Democratization in Bangladesh

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Television Ownership
News Production
Broadcast Policy
Qualitative Research

This dissertation critically examines the emergence of a neoliberal market-oriented media system in Bangladesh and its impact on news production in both television channels and broadcast policymaking. The dissertation dissects the ownership structure and politics of licensing private television channels by successive governments between 1995 and 2017. It surveys the trends in the commercialization of television news to assess the symbolic and economic influence of advertising on journalism. It argues that the politically concentrated ownership of television and the practices of market-oriented television journalism in Bangladesh are symbiotically embedded with the political and social transformation of the nation-state, a postcolonial quest for nation-building, as well as an asymmetrical integration with the processes of neoliberal globalization. The analysis draws insights from critical and transcultural approaches to political economy of communication. Based on a mixture of multisite case studies, in-depth interviews, and documentary research methods, the study reveals multiple areas of journalistic struggles and democratic deficits in the television industry. It shows that with the rapid growth of private television channels and online media, state-administered television in Bangladesh is faced with a higher pressure of political instrumentalization and advertising dependency. The study demonstrates that although news production in private television channels appears to be less hierarchical, the ideology of market-orientation serves as an unwritten in-house self-censorship policy. It is evident that there is a mutual relationship between the ownership of television channels and ways in which news are produced and commodified within an urban-centric, exploitative and gendered division of labor. The study further reveals that the process of broadcast policymaking in Bangladesh, despite its inclusion of multiple stakeholders, is dominated by the same forces in a politico-commercial nexus which also owns and leads the private television industry. The study concludes that policy reform alone can achieve very little in the context of a postcolonial-turned- neoliberal nation-state like Bangladesh, as the problems are deeply rooted in political practices and social relations in which public participation in policymaking is either made structurally impossible or rendered invisible to the masses. To make the media system more democratic and inclusive, policy-reform must be aligned with a broader and more progressive socio-political movement for social change.

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Yuezhi Zhao
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.