Livingstone, Sonia, Lunt, Peter and Miller, Laura
Citizens and consumers: discursive debates during and after the Communications Act 2003.
Media, Culture and Society, 29
The regulation of media and communications in the UK has recently been subject to reform resulting in the creation of the Office of Communications (Ofcom). This statutory body, established by an Act of Parliament, is a new, sector-wide regulator, protecting the interests of what has been termed the ‘citizen-consumer’. This article charts the discursive shifts that occurred during the passage of the Communications Act through Parliament and in the initial stages of its implementation to understand how and why the term ‘citizen-consumer’ came to lie at the heart of the new regulator’s mission. By critically analysing the various alignments of ‘citizen’ and ‘consumer’ interests within the debates, the underlying struggles over the formulation of power, responsibility and duties for the new regulator and for other stakeholders – industry, government and public – are identified. The article concludes that the legacy of these debates is that regulatory provisions designed to further the ‘citizen interest’ contain significant and unresolved dilemmas.
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