WK16 – Political Economy of the Mediaand Media RegulationDr. Carolina MatosDepartment of GovernmentUniversity of Essex
ReadingsRequired texts:• Blumler, J. G. (1995) The Crisis of Public Communications, London: Routledge, 97-111• Golding, Peter and Murdock, Graham (2005) (eds.) “Culture, Communication and Political Economy” in Mass media and society, London: Hodder Education, 70-92Additional: Curran, J. (2002) “Media and Democracy: the Third Way” inMedia and Power, London: Routledge, 217-248 Garnham, N. (1986) “Contributions to a Political Economy ofMass Communication” in Collins, R., Curran, J., Garnham, N.,Scannell, P. , Schlesinger, P. and Sparks, C. (eds.) Media Cultureand Society: A Critical Reader, London: Sage Publications, 9-33
Key points• The critical political economy tradition: key concerns• Critical political economy versus Cultural Studies• Democratic functions of the media and the critical political economy’s concerns• The private versus public dichotomy in communications• The relationship of the media with the state and with public service broadcasting (PSB)• PSB in Europe and in the UK: the case of the BBC• Media reform and the Leveson inquiry• Latin American broadcasting and European PSB• Seminar activities and conclusion• Readings for week 17
Critical political economy: some theorists in the field• Curran, J. (2002) “Media and Democracy: the Third Way” in Media and Power, London: Routledge, 217-248• Garnham, N. (1986) “Contributionsd to a Political Economy of Mass Communication” in Collins, R., Curran, J., Garnham, N., Scannell, P. , Schlesinger, P. and Sparks, C. (eds.) Media Culture and Society: A Critical Reader, London: Sage Publications, 9-33• Mosco, V. and Reddick, A. (1997) “Political Economy, Communications and Policy” in Mashoel, B. and Dwayne, W. (eds.) Democratizaing Communications: Comparative Perspectives in Information and Power, NJ: Hampton press, 10-32• Scanell, P. (1989) “Public Service Broadcasting and Modern Public Life” in Media, Culture and Society, vol. 11, 135-166
Political economy of the media Thussu (2000) sees the political economy approach as including many of the other theories of international communication, such as dependency and hegemony. The class with the means of material production controls the means of mental production, thus it controls both the production and distribution of the ideas of its age. Focus on corporate and state power (the market versus the state) Research within this perspective is very much focused on issues of ownership of the media (i.e. control that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation exercises globally). An important theme within “critical political economy is the transition from American post-war hegemony to a global order where world communication is dominated by transnational and multinational corporations”. (in Madikiza and Bornman, 2007,30)
The critical political economy tradition (in Golding and Murdock, 1991, 2000)• Focuses on the interplay between symbolic and economic dimensions of public communications• Criticises the rigid and flawed division between “administrative” and “critical” research• Nonetheless, there has been a more pronounced division between writers who focus more “on the construction and consumption of meaning” (i.e. Fiske, 1989), or on the economic organizations of media industries (i.e. Collins, Garnham and Locksley, 1988),• I.e. the former is seen as more aligned with the Cultural Studies tradition and the latter with the Political Economy• Political Economy is concerned with showing how the ways of “financing and organizing cultural production for the range of discourses and representations in the public domain” (70)
Critical political economy versus Cultural Studies (in Golding and Murdock, 1991, 2000)• Both are concerned with the exercise of power• Critical political economy draws people from Economics, Political Science and Sociology and Cultural Studies• Cultural Studies is concerned with the ways in which audience members interpret media, viewing them as active subjects• Criticisms of the Cultural Studies strand from the Political Economy perspective - “offers an analysis of how the cultural industries work that has little or nothing to say about how they actually operate as industries” and how their economic organization affects “the production and circulation of meaning.”• Does not examine the relation between consumption choice and their economic position in the wider economic formation.
What is critical political economy? (in Golding and Murdock, 1991, 2000)• Worried about inequality in society and how it is reflected and/or perpetuated by communication structuresDefinition: “…differs from mainstream economics in four respects: first, itis holistic; second, it is historical; third, it is concerned with thebalance between capitalist enterprise and public interventionand finally it goes beyond technical issues of efficiency toengage with basic moral questions of justice, equity and thepublic good.” (72).“…critical political economy is interested in the interplaybetween economic organization and political, social and culturallife……is concerned to trace the impact of economic dynamicson the range and diversity of public cultural expression and itsavailability to different social groups”. (73)
Critical Political Economy continued• What does it have to say regarding the media?• Critical political economy is worried with the ways “news is structured by the relations between press proprietors and editors or their sources, to the way TV viewing is affected by the organization of domestic life and power relations within the family.• Critical political economy is thus especially interested in “the ways communicative activity is structured by the unequal distribution of natural and symbolic resources.”• Chomksy’s propaganda model – Authors see this analysis as being partly right: “Governments and business elites do have privileged access to the news; advertisers do operate as a…licensing authority….: media moguls can determine the editorial line and cultural stance of the papers and broadcast stations they own.”
Critical political economy tradition continued• Four historical processes are critical to a critical political economy of culture: 1) the growth of the media; 2) extension of corporate reach; 3) commodification and 4) the changing role of state and government intervention. (74)• Arguments in political economy between the public and the private: 1) What constitutes the public good? 2) Notion that private enterprise would not provide what agood society required. 3) Links the constitution of a good society to the extension ofcitizenship rights. A more just “communications system would provide peoplewith access to information, advice and analysis that wouldenable them to know their rights……”
Political economy in practice• Political economy has been interested in determining the scope of public intervention in the media, mainly the relation between state regulation and communication industries.• Political economy is concerned with three main areas:• 1) the production of cultural goods and the limiting “impact of cultural production on the range of cultural consumption”;• 2) the examination of texts to show the “ways in which the representations present in media products are related to the material realities of their production and consumption”;• 3) the assessment of the political economy of cultural consumption in order to show the relation between material and cultural inequality.
Critical Political Economy: concerns withownership and constraints on media messages• Media concentration and the worries with abuse of power• Concerns with the diversity of the public sphere, and with editorial intervention and choice of media personnel• Increase of synergies between companies in a new era of media convergence• Although increasing commercialization, new technologies, deregulation policies and convergence have resulted in more media outlets and vehicles in the “marketplace of ideas”, the political economy tradition reminds us they might be more variants of the same messages and themes than a real democratization, diversity and expansion of ideas• Era of convergence – cultural production flows between and across media in an increasingly fluid way.
Core concern: the public sphere ideal and the media as civic forum• The news media as civic forum has in its ideal the Habermasian conception of the public sphere; the idea of the press as a civic forum for pluralist debate….has remained influential (Norris, 2000)• “Liberal theorists from Milton through Locke and Madison to John Stuart Mill have argued that a free and independent press within each nation can play a vital role in the process of democratization by contributing toward the right of freedom of expression, thought and conscience, strengthening the responsiveness of governments to all citizens, and providing a pluralist platform of political expression for a multiplicity of groups” (Sen, 1999).• Political economy tradition sees the public sphere ideal as worth retaining, seeing broadcasters as having an obligation to provide the widest possible range of information to the public and to represent the diverse groups in society fairly
‘Private’ versus ‘public’ dichotomy (in Matos, 2012)Private PublicRight/Conservative/Centre/Left – the Centre/Left/Liberal/some conservatives -consumer citizen‘Objective’ and informational journalism ‘Objective’/’public’/’serious’ journalismTalk shows/sit-coms/reality TV – Realism in films/documentaries/realityAmerican programming, some content TV – ‘arty’ and European programming,from other countries some US materialAdvertising/aesthetic of consumerism – ‘Quality’ aesthetic/Challenging materialself/intimacy/the private sphere (i.e. Sci- - collective/the public spherefi, horror)Dreamy/fantasy/’escapism’ texts – Historical material/in depth analyses –occasional ‘serious’ material some entertainment (i.e. Soaps, drama, sci-fi, horror).
Media and democracy: core political functions of the media• Blumler and Gurevitch (in Jack McLeod, Gerald M. Kosicki and Douglas McLeod, 126) argued for 8 normative standards for media systems in democratic societies, including agenda-setting, providing platforms for advocacy and holding officials to account (in Norris, 2000, 33)• 1) surveillance of contemporary events…that will impinge upon the welfare of citizens;• 2) identification of key sociopolitical issues including their origins and possibilities for resolution;• 3) provision of platforms for advocacy by spoke-persons for causes.;• 4) transmission of diverse contents across various dimensions and factions of political discourse….• 5) scrutiny of government officials, their institutions and other agencies of power….;• 6) incentives and information to allow citizens to become active informed participants..;
Curran’s democratic model for a complex media system (in Matos, 2008)• Curran (1991, 2000: 142-149) has envisioned an alternative model for a complex media system - third way between liberalism and Marxism• An ideal democratic media system is one in which various sectors, the state, the market, civic and alternative sectors, are represented (Matos, 2008)• It has at its core the public service TV, with private enterprise, the social, civic and the professional sectors surrounding it (1991,2000; 140-148).• Civic sector is composed of political parties, social movements and interest groups; the professional sector is controlled by professional communicators;• The private is more responsive to popular pleasures and can act out the watchdog function whilst the social market represents minority media interests.• Youtube video: Outfoxed Rupert Murdoch (1-9) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFDwdRXCg3I)
The case of the BBC• PSB under pressure since the 1980’s amid the expansion of the commercialization of TV and rise of new technologies (cable, satellite and digital). According to Collins (1999; 160), the number of commercial channels in Europe was 58 in 1992, jumping to 250 in the late 1990’s• BBC in the UK - Arguments around the licence fee and wider state control of broadcasting were grounded on assumptions of “spectrum scarcity”…;• Arguments that question BBC’s necessity –• “….media abundance (Keane, 1995); the burden of the license fee tax on citizens; the claims that the BBC discourages innovation, and that in its efforts to retain the attention of fragmented audiences, it is “dumbing down” and becoming more indistinguishable from commercial broadcasters…” (Matos, 2008)• BBC ideal – has been undermined as the Corporation has responded to a fall in the value of the license fee by expanding its commercial activities in an effort to raise money (i.e. subscription channels for special interest groups). BBC’s independence has always been fragile.
PSB ethos revisited: Scannell and Keane on the role of the BBC in public life (in Matos, 2008)• Criticising the academics (i.e. Curran, Garnham, Scannell) and the understanding of public service broadcasting as a space where the Habermasian notion of the public sphere can be articulated, Keane (1995) has deemed the public sphere obsolete in the 21st century.• According to Keane, the development in the 21st century of a “multiplicity of networked spaces of communication” which are not tied to the nation-state contributes to reinforce the view that the public sphere is outdated (different public spheres as opposed to a unified one)• UK versus US - Differences - PSB emphases news and public affairs, features and documentaries; commercial broadcasting entertainment (Munghan and Gunther; 2000, 10)
The crisis of civic communications: what is it?• Blumler and Gurevitch (1995) identified the crisis of public communications as being grounded in….:• 1) a decline in the quality of political journalism, driven by what is described as the process of commercialization, tabloidization, Americanization and “dumbing down”, in short, the ascendancy of “infotainment” over serious reportage…..• Brian McNair (2000) attempts to offer a sophisticated and “realistic” understanding of the role that the media and political journalism play in our society, rejecting the tendency to lament the decline of “serious journalism” and condemn entertainment formats
PSB models (in Hallin and Mancini, 2004)• Four basic models for the governance of PSB (Humphreys, 1996: 155-8):• 1) The government model – where public broadcasting is controlled directly by the government or by the political majority. Classic case of this is the French broadcaster under De Gaulle• 2) The professional model – is exemplified by the BBC and the tradition of independence. Model is also characteristic of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Irish public broadcasting and some Scandinavian countries and PSB in US• 3) The parliamentary or proportional representation model – is divided among the political parties by proportional representation. The classic example is Radio Televisione Italian (RAI) in the 1980s.• 4) The civic or corporatist model – is similar to the parliamentary model in the sense that control of PSB is distributed among various social and political groups
Historical and theoretical perspectives on PSB• Two slightly divisive models of broadcasting have been constructed in the UK and US. The former has been labelled the public service one, and which is currently more a dual system (Curran, 2002), and the latter is the commercial system, which has also predominated in most Latin American countries.• As Munghan and Gunther (2000, 10)note, PSB tends to put more emphasis on news and public affairs, features and documentaries, whereas commercial broadcasting more on entertainment.• - The “death” of public service broadcasting in the UK has been proclaimed since the 80’s, in the context of the Thatcher government and the revival of the neo-right neo-liberal market politics, and amid the growing expansion of multi-channels and the commercialisation of broadcasting in Europe
Future role for PSB in old and new democracies In the UK, PSB has emerged as vehicle for strengthening debate. Talk became more spontaneous and less constrained (Scannell, 1995) As a vehicle for cultural and educational emancipation; boost of political diversity as well as both regional and national integration Functioning as a counterweight to the market – the necessity of multiple public spheres and media to attend to both citizen and consumer demands Is a truly independent public media possible?
Broadcasting in the UK and regulation* The state’s participation in the ownership or regulation of the broadcast media in liberal European democracies has been based upon the need to guarantee standards of ‘neutrality’, minimising political bias....• Set up under the 2003 Communications bill, the UK’s broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, has been an example of reference in media regulation in Europe;• British newspapers operate on a system of self-regulation (i.e. Press Complaints Commission is an independent self- regulatory body)
Broadcasting in the UK and regulation continued According to Forgan and Tambini (2000, 03, in Santos e Silveira, 2007, 73), PSB regulation in the UK improved through time;• Dunleavy (1987) has argued how public service broadcasting in the UK has managed to act as a counter-weight to the press, neutralising or balancing the biases of the partisan British tabloids ;• Regulation in the UK has also been supported by various regulation bodies who have established different codes of conduct.
Media reform, regulation and the Leveson inquiry• The Leveson inquiry has come up with many suggestions for the newspaper press in the UK, the main one being the creation of a new regulatory body to replace the Press Complaints Commission• The new agency will be independent of editors, government and business and would be able to impose fines of up to £ 1 m• A recognition body, such as Ofcom, would be given responsibility to oversee this and it would not include any serving editors• Remedies would include the publication of corrections and apologies. Arbitration service would offer a low-cost alternative to legal settlement• The UK press will also seek to prove that it can produce a model of regulation that attends to the Leveson requirements
Public communication infrastructure in Latin America: a history of neglect State intervention in South America has had the aim of reinforcing governmental powers rather than promoting democratic communications (Waisbord, 2000; Matos, 2008). Broadcasting has been built on a combination of political control and limited regulation. Educational and state channels are mainly owned by sectors of the Church and politicians. National broadcasting policies have also been traditionally aligned with political interests and state control. Debates on the necessity of broadcasting and media reform and regulation culminated in the first realization of a conference on the theme in 2009 (i.e. Confecom debates)
Conclusions and questions for thought• Critical political economy shares similar set of concerns, but the Political Economy tradition is concerned with material resources, the means of production and the relationship between inequality and communication structures• The expansion of media commercialization throughout Europe and the world since the 1980s has been paralleled by a perceived “crisis” in the public service broadcasting tradition and in public communications• The BBC’s role and its future has been questioned, with debates on the necessity of a license fee when the Corporation is becoming more like the commercial channels• Is the private and public dichotomy in communications becoming increasingly blurred ?• Where might media reform come from? – Journalists, according to Golding and Murdock.
Seminar questions and activities• 1) Discuss the critical political economy tradition. What are its main concerns and its three core tasks? How does it differ from the Cultural Studies tradition?• 2) How would a critical political economy tradition investigate the media messages put out by a media giant company, such as News Corporation? What would it be worried in addressing?• 3) What is meant by “crisis” in public communications? Discuss by making reference to the tradition of European public service broadcasting and to the specific case of the BBC.• 4) Compare public service broadcasting systems (PSB) and regulation policy debates in specific regions of your choice (i.e. Latin America and Europe).
Readings week 17Required texts:• Fairclough, N. (2005) “Political Discourse in the Media: an Anaylitical Framework” in A. Bell and P. Garrett (eds.) (2005) Approaches to Media Discourse, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 142- 163• George, A. (2009) “Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches to Content Analysis” in Krippendorff, Klaus and Angela Bock, Mary (eds.) The Content Analysis Reader, London: Sage, 144-156• Van Dijk (2008) “Structures of Discourse and Structures of Power” and “Critical Discourse Analysis” in Discourse and Power, London: Palgrave MacmillanAdditional:• Glynos, J., Howarth, D., Norval, A., and Speed, E. (2009) ‘Discourse Analysis: Varieties and Methods’, ESRC National Centre for Research Methods• Riffe, D. et al (2005) “Defining Content Analysis as a Social Science Tool” in Analysing Media Messages, 23- 39