A good example is the far-reaching and high-profile first Review of UK Public Service Broadcasting (PSB), carried out in three phases from early 2004 through to mid-2005, in which Ofcom sought to assess the effectiveness of the UK's public service broadcasters (BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five, S4C and Teletext), taken together, in delivering the public service purposes set out in the 2003 Communications Act. No sooner had the results and recommendations of this review been digested than the second review began: Parliament had originally asked Ofcom to report on PSB every five years, but the pace of change in the media and telecommunications market prompted Ofcom to bring forward its follow-up review by approximately two years. Ofcom's heavily quantitative approach was signalled in the foreword to the Phase 1 report, where it stressed its consistent appeal to "comprehensive" and "hard" data. This approach was then carried through into Phase 2, which moved from historic to forward-looking analysis and from "propositions" to "proposals," and in which the statistical and mathematical grounding of the work was taken to a new level with, in particular, a highly complex econometric model for forecasting advertising demand, built primarily by expert advisors PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
It would be easy to overlook the significance of this reliance on "evidence- based" regulation and, in particular, on mathematical analysis. But this Ofcom proclivity attests, I would argue, to the indissoluble nature of the relationship between power and truth which, as Foucault repeatedly argued, underpins disciplinary power.63 Power presupposes truth, truth is power; and "truth" is predicated, in this instance, on quantitative evidence. Thus we have the example of the PwC model for forecasting advertising demand, which was central to the work undertaken within Phase 2 of the first PSB Review. It matters not, it seems, that most industry insiders-and especially those at the coalface of advertising sales-would agree that advertising demand is utterly unpredictable just one or even two years into the future, let alone ten (as in the PwC model). What matters is that Ofcom's proposals are backed by a model: a model framed by an expert advisory panel and, in its level of methodological sophistication, entirely unintelligible to (not to mention contestable by) almost everybody concerned with the review.
The content and assumptions of the model are less significant than the fact that there is a model that can be used for reference, support, justification-and even comfort. This, it strikes me, is precisely what Ted Porter so fittingly calls "trust in numbers." Power in a disciplinary guise is less about coercion than about persuasion and (arguably) evasion through "evidence-based" truth claims and "truth effects." Meanwhile, Ofcom's enthusiasm for appeal to "experts" and "expert knowledge" has been equally apparent since its earliest days, and remains central to its operating practices. "Experts" give its reviews and decisions an authenticity and objectivity that might otherwise be more keenly questioned. Thus, for instance, the original task of creating Ofcom out of five legacy regulators was handled by a consortium of management consultants led by Towers Perrin (supported by Ernst and Young and Differentis). The Ofcom Chairman David Currie specifically praised this work in a 2002 speech to London's somewhat chillingly named Worshipful Company of Management Consultants-essentially a consultancy trade association, aptly styled by Currie as "a body of expertise"-and he was keen to emphasize that Towers and its collaborators had been "well paid for it." Currie did not provide much insight into the degree of influence enjoyed by Ofcom's advisers both then and now; but Peter Kilgour, who led the Towers team, himself admitted in a recent interview that the distinction between advisors and clients can often blur, and that during the Ofcom set-up work consultants frequently experienced what he revealingly describes as "a loss of role between expert advisers and Godfather."
Expert advisers-typically management and economic consultants-have retained this Godfather-like role all though Ofcom's early years of operation. Barely a review, consultation or research exercise goes by that does not include external, expert input at some point in the process. To one extent this is inevitable-Ofcom is a surprisingly lean operation, with only in the region of 800 full-time employees, and inevitably it possesses in-house only a limited quantum of labor power and a certain breadth and depth of industry-specific knowledge and technical capability. Dig beneath the surface, however, and it becomes clear that experts fulfil a role that extends far beyond mere horsepower. Take, for instance, the Channel 4 Financial Review that Ofcom commissioned from LEK Consulting in the Autumn of 2006. Ofcom itself had already concluded the year before, from its own PSB Review, that "the transition to digital television would create a number of challenges for commercially funded public service broadcasters," and none more so than Channel 4.68 Why, then, did Ofcom ask LEK to do further analysis of the challenges to Channel 4 that the transition to digital would entail? My argument is that Ofcom clearly felt that its own findings would only be taken seriously once ratified by "independent" experts. And, indeed, they were: a whole series of apocalyptic headlines appeared in the media immediately after Ofcom released LEK's conclusions in April 2007. But why, one is minded to ask, was the original opinion of Ofcom itself not to be considered "expert" enough? And perhaps even more interestingly, there is also the question of why Ofcom placed such stock in LEK's "independence" when explaining the commissioning of the analysis. For what is Ofcom, relative to the broadcast industry it regulates, if not independent? "Ofcom," its homepage tells us, "is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries." The term "disciplinary," I suggest, is a particularly helpful way of conceptualizing Ofcom and its powers-not only because of that organization's dual investment in "expertise" and "evidence," and not only because the word "disciplinary" is so closely associated with the concept of governmentality and the battery of calculations, technologies and procedures that the latter, in turn, invokes.
For there are, perhaps more fundamentally, important parameters of timing and scale that clearly distinguish power in this guise from power operating according to other modalities. By promising to review markets "constantly" (and fulfilling that promise), Ofcom is not offering episodic and intense manifestations of its power in the way a "sovereign" (in Foucault's terms) might. It is spinning, rather, a modest but continuous web of supervision, which requires industry participants to be cautious, correct and vigilant.
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