When online services emerged at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in the late 1990s, imaginings of the Internet collided with imaginings of Public Service Broadcasting. Often when we thought about Public Service Broadcasting we thought of organizations that were very separate from their outsides – that is to say with clearly defined boundaries. We thought that the parts of such an organization were connected according to a principle of unity (whether the national identity or the nation). By contrast, when we thought about the Internet we were more likely to think of a global network structure with multiple entry and exit points. Of course, each way of thinking will contain elements of the other. In particular instances, one set of forces (stability and unity, say) is dominant over the other (fluidity and multiplicity). To use Deleuzian terms, in what follows I am discussing the Public Service Broadcasting idea as a primarily arboreal (stable and unified) image of thought, and the Internet idea as primarily rhizomic (fluid and multiple) image of thought. These formulations offer a useful shorthand for understanding the dominant ideas that were circulating when online services emerged, and the ways in which the intersections between how we thought about Public Service Broadcasting and how we thought about the Internet were productive.
The first part of this paper gives a brief account of ABC Online. The second concentrates on the Public Service Broadcasting idea, and its implications for disciplinary and governmental strategies as these have been described by Michel Foucault (1994). The third part of the article offers a brief description of the Internet idea, and the fourth describes the collisions between both ideas at ABC Online. The article contrasts the differing idealisms of the two ideas and notes the importance of their intersection both for the emergence of ABC Online and for rethinking the ABC.
© 2008 Taylor & Francis