The reforms instituted by the Broadcasting Act 1990 led to a period of turbulence and upheaval within British broadcasting with results that were at best unintended and, at worst, seriously undermined the ideal of public service broadcasting. A Hayekian economic perspective would suggest that the reforms failed because they did not go far enough in the direction of full 'marketisation'. The paper develops an alternative perspective, based on an adaptation of systems theory within the context of law and economics. This approach offers a broader methodological foundation for the understanding of 'economic law' and a different normative perspective on the broadcasting reforms. It is suggested that the difficulty with these reforms was not their failure to go further in the direction of the market, but rather their lack of clarity in articulating a clear alternative to the market as the basis for the organisation of television production.