State and nation
One further complication should be noted, and this is by no means restricted to the UK within the European space. The UK is a state of nations that has latterly given the component nations additional political institutions. In the case of Scotland, political devolution has institutionalized tensions between centre and periphery over broadcasting policy. The Scottish National Party government set up the Scottish Broadcasting Commission in 2007 to address Scotland’s economic, cultural and democratic needs from broadcasting. A key recommendation was to set up a new Scottish digital network, funded by London, with the licence fee a likely source. Demands for increased investment in production and more control over public service provision in Scotland have reached a new level of articulation. As the Greater Manchester region is built up in the field of media production, the UK’s competitive regionalism is increasing sharply. And Scotland is not just a region: it is nation with its own political institutions and collective identity. The present system’s capacity to sustain the so-called creative economy throughout the UK, and its ability to provide an adequate form of cultural representation at the level of the state, have come under more intense questioning.
This is a political issue and also a regulatory one, as well as once of broadcasting practice. In the forthcoming UK general election, in the first half of 2010, there is political capital to be gained by the Nationalist government in Edinburgh if London fails to respond to widely supported demands. This comes at a time when the Scottish Parliament will decide on whether or not to enable a referendum on Scottish independence. The next Scottish parliamentary elections will be in May 2011 and it is inconceivable that the question of control over broadcasting will not be part of the campaign.
There is a broader point to be made. Within the wider European context, the question of nations within member states and how these might articulate with a transnational public sphere is being posed afresh. To put it differently: there are centripetal as well as centrifugal forces at work.
I began this intervention with reflections on the European level and have ended up talking about the nation. In what remains such an unresolved European space, should we be surprised?
© Philip Schlesinger