From National Service to Global Player: Transforming the Organizational Logic of a Public Broadcaster

31 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2010

See all articles by André Spicer

André Spicer

City University London - Sir John Cass Business School

Graham Sewell

University of Melbourne


We present organizational logics as a meso-level construct that lies between institutional theory's field-level logics and the sense-making activities of individual agents in organizations. We argue that an institutional logic can be operationalized empirically using the concept of a discourse – that is, a coherent symbolic system articulating what constitutes legitimate, reasonable, and effective conduct in, around, and by organizations. An organization may, moreover, be simultaneously exposed to several institutional logics that make up its broader ideational environment. Taking these three observations together enables us to consider an organizational logic as a spatially and temporally localized configuration of diverse discourses. We go on to show how organizational logics were transformed in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation between 1953 and 1999 by examining the changing discourses that appeared in the Corporation's annual reports. We argue that these discourses were modified through three main forms of discursive agency: (1) undertaking acts of ironic accommodation between competing discourses; (2) building chains of equivalence between the potentially contradictory discourses; and (3) reconciling new and old discourses through pragmatic acts of ‘bricolage’. We found that, using these forms of discursive agency, a powerful coalition of actors was able to transform the dominant organizational logic of the ABC from one where the Corporation's initial mission was to serve national interests through public service to one that was ultimately focused on participating in a globalized media market. Finally, we note that discursive resources could be used as the basis for resistance by less powerful agents, although further research is necessary to determine exactly how more powerful and less powerful agents interact around the establishment of an organizational logic.

Suggested Citation

Spicer, André and Sewell, Graham, From National Service to Global Player: Transforming the Organizational Logic of a Public Broadcaster. Journal of Management Studies, Vol. 47, Issue 6, pp. 913-943, September 2010, Available at SSRN: or

André Spicer (Contact Author)

City University London - Sir John Cass Business School

106 Bunhill Row
London, EC1Y 8TZ
United Kingdom

Graham Sewell

University of Melbourne ( email )

185 Pelham Street
Carlton, Victoria 3053

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