Media and cultural policy as public policy: the case of the British Labour government

Hesmondhalgh, David (2005). Media and cultural policy as public policy: the case of the British Labour government. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 11(1) pp. 95–109.




The British Labour government's media and cultural policies since 1997 are analysed as aspects of public policy. This allows assessment of the media and cultural policies of a supposedly centre-left government in a conjuncture marked by neo-liberalism, globalisation and the continuing growth of the cultural industries. An outline of guiding assumptions about public policy is provided, including the importance of the balance between social forces and structured inequality, but also the assumption that public policy operates with a certain amount of autonomy. Labour's project is discussed as a particular hybrid of neo-liberalism, conservatism and social democracy, distinctive from the New Right neo-liberalism of the 1980s. An important element of this political hybrid is Labour's profound ambivalence about the public domain. Developments in media and cultural policy are then analysed in these terms, in particular the performance of the new communications regulator Ofcom (Office of Communications) and its use of the concept of “citizen-consumer”. Reference is made to Labour's strategic alliances with key social institutions, including key cultural-industry businesses. A final section examines how we might understand centre-left public policy in the era of neo-liberalism, and a variety of positions are offered about Labour's record in government and the constraints it has faced. While such fundamental political dilemmas are not resolved here, conclusions are drawn regarding the lessons of Labour's policies for the analysis of media and cultural policy, and of public policy.

Viewing alternatives


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions
No digital document available to download for this item

Item Actions