Political economy in Media studies
Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Transcripts - Political economy in Media studies
MECM10003, WEEK FOUR, LECTURE TWO
- Or, „how the economy is political.‟
- Or, „how does ownership of things have an effect on the
daily life of a society?‟
- Or, „how does the allocation of economic resources and
surplus capital influence the aggregate economic activity
of a society?‟
- For us: „how do channels of ownership affect the media?‟
A SHORT HISTORY OF
A COMPLEX CONCEPT
- Aristotle and home economics.
- Adam Smith and national wealth.
- Marx and the idea of exploitation.
THREE IMPORTANT THINGS
FOR POLITICAL ECONOMY
1. Economic ownership is centralized, and this
has political consequences.
2. Media content is less significant than media
ownership – economics is more important than
3. The working class always loses.
ASSUMPTIONS OF CRITICAL
‘POEC’ MEDIA THEORY
1. That the economy is not a neutral and separate sphere of
society, but interrelated with politics and culture.
2. That a scientific analysis of the economy shows that it is
exploitative of the working class.
3. That the political situation is unlikely to change unless
the economic situation also changes.
WHAT CRITICAL ‘POEC’
1. That news and entertainment media is largely centrally
2. That we have very little choice in our sources of
3. That every purchase we make reinforces this situation.
- News Corporation and Fairfax Holdings, and their
ownership of large amounts of Australian media networks.
- Elsewhere: Berlusconi‟s ownership of Italian media;
Roosevelt‟s control of US media leading to his US
presidency continuing for four terms.
- The centralization of film or television production, for
instance: Viacom, Disney.
- We can also think about the centralization of software and
social networking sites: Microsoft, facebook, and Apple
- Often, conspiracy theories operate along the lines of a
confused account of political economy.
AND MEDIA PT.1
Questions of ownership:
- Who owns the content we see and the
communication networks that we use?
- Who is profiting from the sale of media texts?
- Who is selling us as an audience?
AND MEDIA PT.2
- If you can‟t tell what the commodity is, it‟s
Michael Moore, (Bowling for Columbine, Sicko):
- “The rich man will sell you the rope to hang him
with.” (Interview in The Corporation, 2003)
‘MONSTERS INC.’ (2001)
A children‟s story about
the evils of capitalism,
and how it was replaced
About a newsreader who becomes the „prophet of the
HOW POEC CRITICIZES
- The public sphere is impossible because most media texts
come from people with vested economic interests – and
there is no neutral space for discussion.
- Media effects may be real, but the most significant effects
of oppression come from the economy.
- It is irrelevant whether a medium allows for a great degree
of interactivity or communication: you don‟t own it, so you
don‟t control it. Any control you have you have to pay for
- Control of content is not the same as control of
- Political economic theories generally ignore non-
economic forms of oppression, such as sexism or racism.
- Generally ignores the real differences between different
media forms in favour of a broad overview.
- Assumes that there is very little space for things to be
otherwise. How can you resist?
HOW IS IT USEFUL?
Maybe it is,
because it is concerned with attributes of a text that
are not apparent, and how these attributes have influence on
a society‟s social and cultural concerns.
Or maybe it isn’t,
because it ignores the ideological content of text in
favour of identifying a purely economic relationship between
a text and an audience.
“[T]he interrelationship of culture and the economic here is
not a one-way street but a continuous reciprocal interaction
and feedback loop.”
(Jameson, 1991: xiv-xv)