Is Diminishing BBC also Diminishing Britain? An Analysis of the Relationship between BBC and British Identity

Linda Kjær Poulsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


In this thesis, I analyse the relationship between the British Broad Casting Company (BBC) and British identity. Using a social constructivist framework I find that BBC is firmly embedded within British identity. To substantiate this argument I study the reactions to the proposed privatisation and budget cuts at BBC in 2015. In particular, I analyse (1) social interactions on the social media platform Twitter, (2) a letter to the British Prime Minister from prominent British individuals on the proposed budget cuts, (3) the #GreatBBC campaign prepared by Simon Curtis for the Great BBC Campaign, and (4) a consultation survey on the public opinion about BBC that was conducted by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport. As a point of departure I use Ting-Toomey's (1999) identity negotiation theory, identity negotiation perspective and social identity theory to understand how identities arise. My findings suggest that the identity consciousness shifts on Twitter and create a discourse which allows England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to find common grounds in their core British values. Through content which embrace British and national symbols, artefacts, history and culture, BBC is reflecting and defining a British identity which accommodates the four nations not just separately but also as a joint unit. Next, I apply Kozinets’ (2002) netnography approach and analyse the interaction in the Twitter communities’ #BackTheBBC and #BBCmemories. Here, I identify the insider, the devotee and the tourist community members as well as their individual and particular motivations for sharing content and contributing to the debate. My findings are consistent with Berger & Milkman (2012) and suggest that people are more likely to share content, if it affects their emotional state of mind through high arousal emotions. Hereafter, I apply Fairclough’s (2001) critical discourse analysis to analyse the linguistic means in a ‘Letter to David Cameron’ and Scolari’s (2008) semiotic perspective to analyse the #GreatBBC video campaign. Both emphasise that prominent public figures hold the same credibility as institutions and hence influenced the debate. Lastly, I compare my findings with the BBC Charter Review Public Consultation: Summary of Responses and determine that the British ultimately fear that BBC’s overall purpose: ‘entertain, inform and educate’ is threatened. Finally, I discuss whether BBC is likely to be diminished if a privatisation or cuts are part of the Royal Charter being proposed in December 2016, and whether this may diminish the United Kingdom also.

EducationsCand.ling.merc Erhvervssprog og International Erhvervskommunikation (Multikulturel Kommunikation i Organisationer), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages93
SupervisorsOle Helmersen