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Studying the political economy of media and information



Resumo Studying the political economy of communications is no longer a marginal approach in media/communication studies in North America and some parts of Europe. Increasingly, the study of political economy is crucial to understanding the growth and global expansion of media and information industries. Thus, more researchers have turned to this perspective as a necessary and logical way to study these developments. This article will discuss the foundations and some of the major works in the study of the political economy of media and communications (PE/C). The focus is mostly on North American and Britain, with some European references. The discussion is intended to present an overview of the development of this approach, as well as providing a few examples of research representing the perspective. A brief discussion of the approach’s relationship to media economics and cultural studies also will be included.
Comunicação e Sociedade, vol. 7, 2005, pp. 25-48.
Studying the political economy of media and information1
Janet Wasko*
Studying the political economy of communications is no longer a marginal approach
in media/communication studies in North America and some parts of Europe.
Increasingly, the study of political economy is crucial to understanding the growth and
global expansion of media and information industries. Thus, more researchers have
turned to this perspective as a necessary and logical way to study these developments.
This article will discuss the foundations and some of the major works in the study of the
political economy of media and communications (PE/C). The focus is mostly on North
American and Britain, with some European references. The discussion is intended to
present an overview of the development of this approach, as well as providing a few
examples of research representing the perspective. A brief discussion of the approach’s
relationship to media economics and cultural studies also will be included.
Key words: political economy, communications, information, cultural industries,
United States
The historical/theoretical foundations of political economy
To fully understand a political economic approach to studying media and communication,
it is necessary to trace the foundations of political economy itself. The general study of
political economy draws on 18th century Scottish enlightenment thinking and its critique
in the 19th century. For Adam Smith, David Ricardo and others, the study of economic
issues was called political economy and was grounded in social theory. Smith dened
1 Versão adaptada do capítulo ‘The Political Economy of Communication’ in The Sage Handbook of Media Studies, eds.
John D. H. Downing, Denis McQuail, Philip Schlesinger, and Ellen Wartella. Sage: 2004
* Professora de Economia Política da Comunicação na Universidade de Oregon (EUA) e Presidente da Secção de Economia
Política da International Association for Media and Communications Research (jwasko@oregon. uoregon. edu).
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political economy as the study of “wealth” (material goods) or the allocation of resources,
and was concerned with “... how mankind arranges to allocate scarce resources with a
view toward satisfying certain needs and not others.” (Smith, 1776) Further, political
economy focused on the production, distribution, exchange and consumption of wealth
and the consequences for the welfare of individuals and society. More specically, they
studied one arrangement for the allocation of resources – they studied capitalism as a
system of social production. Classical political economy evolved as capitalism evolved,
adding Karl Marx and Frederick Engels’ historical materialism and class analysis in the
19th century, emphasizing a radical critique of the evolving capitalist system through a
moral stance in opposition to the unjust characteristics of that system.
During the last half of the 19th century, however, there was a fundamental shift
in the study of economic issues, as the focus changed from macro to microanalysis.
Emphasis was placed on individual rather than societal concerns, and methods were
drawn from the social sciences rather than from moral philosophy. These basic changes
were represented in a shift in the name of the discipline – from political economy to
economics. The person often receiving credit for the name change, William Jevons,
suggested that economics was the study of “the mechanics of utility and self interest…
to satisfy our wants to the utmost with the least effort... to maximize pleasure is the
problem of economics.” (Jevons, 1970) As a more recent economist has explained: the
“neo-classical economists made a sharper distinction than their predecessors had done
between the explanation of What Is, in an economic system and the consideration of
What Ought To Be...” (R. D. Collison Black in Jevons, 1970)
Although neo-classical economics prevails today, political economy has continued
in different forms. Several conservative versions have emerged including a corporatist
approach and public choice theory (also known as the new or positive political
economy). These approaches generally argue that individual freedom can be expanded
by applying neo-classical principles to a wider range of issues than other economists.
Meanwhile, institutional political economy represents an approach that focuses
on technological and institutional factors that inuence markets. While some work in
communication studies draws on institutional analysis, a radical, critical or Marxian
political economy is likely to be the tradition that is represented when one refers to
“the political economy of communication.”
In The Political Economy of Communication, Vincent Mosco dened this version
of political economy as “the study of the social relations, particularly power relations,
that mutually constitute the production, distribution and consumption of resources.”
(Mosco, 1996: 25) He explains that political economy is about survival and control, or
how societies are organized to produce what is necessary to survive, and how order is
maintained to meet societal goals. Mosco further delineates four central characteristics
of critical political economy, which are helpful in understanding this approach:
1. Social change and history: Political economy continues the tradition of classic
theorists, uncovering the dynamics of capitalism its cyclical nature, the growth of
monopoly capital, the state apparatus, etc.
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Janet Wasko l Studying the political economy of media and information
2. Social totality: Political economy is a holistic approach, or, in concrete terms,
explores the relationship among commodities, institutions, social relations and hegem-
ony, and explores the determination among these elements, although some elements
are stressed more than others.
3. Moral philosophy: Critical political economy also follows the classical theorists’
emphasis on moral philosophy, including not only analysis of the economic system,
but discussion of the policy problems and moral issues which arise from it. For some
contemporary scholars, this is the distinguishing characteristic of political economy.
4. Praxis: Finally, political economists attempt to transcend the distinction between
research and policy, orienting their work towards actual social change and practice or
as Marx pointed out: “Philosophers have sought to understand the system, the point
is to change it.”
Mosco’s model is similar to the formulation developed by British political econo-
mists Graham Murdock and Peter Golding, who have distinguished critical political
economy from mainstream economics: it is holistic, historical, centrally concerned
with the balance between capitalist enterprise and public intervention, and “goes
beyond technical issues of efciency to engage with basic moral questions of justice,
equity and the public good.” (Golding and Murdock, 1991)
In summary, a primary concern of political economists is with the allocation of
resources (material concerns) within capitalist societies. Through studies of ownership
and control, political economists document and analyze relations of power, a class
system, and other structural inequalities. Critical political economists analyze contra-
dictions and suggest strategies for resistance and intervention. The approach includes
both economic and political analysis, with methods drawn from history, economics,
sociology and political science. These explanations set the stage or provide the ground-
work for applying political economy to the study of communication.
Theoretical discussions of political economy of communications
The academic study of communication has not always embraced economic analysis,
much less a political economic approach. During the 1940s and 1950s, US commu-
nication scholars focused primarily on individual effects and psychologically-oriented
research, with little concern for the economic context in which media are produced,
distributed and consumed. Although there are examples of studies representing a radi-
cal critique or an institutional analysis of media structures and practices, explicit refer-
ences to political economy were lacking.2
In the 1950s and early 1960s, former FCC economist and University of Illinois
professor, Dallas Smythe urged scholars to consider communication as an important
component of the economy and to understand it as an economic entity. In addition to
2 For instance, Danielian’s (1939) classic study of AT&T and several critical analyses of the US lm industry, such as Huettig
(1944), Klingender and Legg (1937).
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offering a course at the University of Illinois as early as 1948, Smythe presented one of
the rst explications of a political economy of communications in 1960, dening the
approach as the study of political policies and economic processes, their interrelations
and their mutual inuence on social institutions. (Smythe, 1960) He argued that the
central purpose of applying political economy to communication was to evaluate the
effects of communication agencies in terms of the policies by which they are organized
and operated, or in other words, to study the structure and policies of communica-
tion institutions in their societal settings. Smythe further delineated research questions
emanating from policies that related to production, allocation, capital, organization
and control, concluding that the studies that might evolve from these areas were
practically endless. While Smythe’s discussion at this point did not employ radical or
Marxist terminology, it was a major departure from the kind of research that domi-
nated the study of mass communications at that time.
Smythe and a few other US scholars, notably Herbert Schiller, and later, Thomas
Guback, continued to focus their research and teaching around the political economy
of communication during the 1960s, inuenced by institutional economics, but inspired
as well as by the general political and economic developments of the period. Dan
Schiller has pointed out that these scholars drew upon the work of economist, Robert
Brady, who critiqued developments in the political and economic climate of the 1930s
and 1940s from the vantage point of an emerging anti-fascist movement in the US.
Schiller concludes that
… the gestation of a political economic approach, in the United States at least, did not take
the form of a direct carryover of analytical priorities from the established eld of Marxian
political economy – elements of which were indeed incorporated at a later stage. Nor, to be
sure, was it a product of abstract academicism. Rather, the conceptual problematic that was
elaborated by early political economic communications study was generally rooted in what
Denning (1996) called ‘the cultural front’ of the 1930s and 1940s and, specically, in the
antifascist intellectual synthesis that was the period’s hallmark. (Schiller, 1999, p. 90)
It wasn’t until the 1970s that PE/C was explicitly dened again, but this time,
within a more explicitly Marxist framework. In 1974, Graham Murdock and Peter
Golding offered their formulation of the political economy of communication, stating
that “the mass media are rst and foremost industrial and commercial organizations
which produce and distribute commodities.” (1974: 205-206) Thus, PE/C is funda-
mentally interested in studying communication and media as commodities produced
by capitalist industries (Murdock and Golding, 1974). The article established a basic
model for PE/C by focusing on the consolidation, concentration (including integration
and diversication), and internationalization of media institutions, and represented
“a ground-breaking exercise... a conceptual map for a political economic analysis of
the media where none existed in British literature.” (Mosco, 1996: 102) A later piece
by Murdock and Golding placed political economy within the broader framework of
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Janet Wasko l Studying the political economy of media and information
critical and Marxian theory, with links to the Frankfurt School, as well as to other
critical theorists. (Murdock and Golding, 1979)
Nicholas Garnham further outlined the approach in 1979, also drawing connections
to the Frankfurt School and noting that the political economy of communication in-
volves analyzing “the modes of cultural production and consumption developed within
capitalist societies.” (Garnham, 1979: 123) He further explained that media must be
seen “rst as economic entities with both a direct economic role as creators of surplus
value through commodity production and exchange and an indirect role, through adver-
tising, in the creation of surplus value within other sectors of commodity production.”
(p. 132) An important point emphasized by Murdock, Golding and Garnham related to
the contradictions inherent in this process. More specically, as Garnham states, despite
capital’s control of the means of cultural production, “… it does not follow that these
cultural commodities will necessarily support… the dominant ideology.” (p. 136)3
Meanwhile, also in 1979, Armand Mattelart, a Belgian scholar working in France,
outlined a Marxist approach to the study of media and communication in “For a Class
Analysis of Communication.” Mattelart drew directly on Marx’s Capital in outlining
the mode of production of communication, including production instruments, working
methods and relations of production, adding special attention to issues relating to the
global extension of media and communication or what he and others have termed
cultural imperialism.
As PE/C has grown and developed over the years a number of debates have
emerged. One of the most interesting has been called “The Blindspot Debate,” which
was initiated by Dallas Smythe in 1977. In an article intended to spark such a debate,
Smythe pointed out that communication had been overlooked by Western Marxists,
who were mostly interested in issues relating to ideology. He further argued that the
main product of media was audiences which were sold by media to advertisers. In
other words, Smythe argued that media programming was a “free lunch” and of lit-
tle signicance. Furthermore, he maintained that audiences’ exposure to advertising
should be considered labour which added value to the audience commodity.
Smythe’s article prompted a series of replies, rst from Graham Murdock (1978),
who cautioned that the audience commodity was limited to advertising-dependent
media and that dismissing programme content was far too drastic. The debate raged
on, with Smythe responding (1979), as well as Bill Livant (1979), Sut Jhally (1990) and
Eileen Meehan (1993) entering into the fray. More recently, with the increasing spread
of privatized, advertiser-supported media, the audience commodity concept has been
accepted by many political economists, as well as other communication theorists.
3 Recently, James Curran has labeled the work done by Garnham and those at the University of Westminster and associated
with the journal, Media, Culture & Society, as the Westminster School or Tradition. Curran explains that the Westminster
School represents an approach to the media and a body of work analogous to the Birmingham School’s contribution to
cultural studies. Briey, the Westminster School has produced empirical and historical studies of different media, as well
as work on the evolution of the public sphere and public policy. Curran notes, however, that the tradition is not necessarily
identied with PE/C, which has a broader scope than the Westminster School. See Calabrese and Sparks, 2004.
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During the 1990s, a few political economists directed special attention to “rethink-
ing” political economy, especially in light of global political and economic restructuring
(see Meehan, Mosco, Wasko, 1994; Sussman, 1999). Mosco’s book-length overview
of PE/C is subtitled: “Rethinking and Renewal,” and presents a rethinking of political
economy in the broad terms of commodication, spatialization and structuration. In
addition, he examines political economy’s relation to cultural studies and policy stud-
ies. Mosco emphasizes that political economy is just one “entry point” to the study of
communications, which must be studied within a wider social totality.
It is also important to note that there are different approaches to PE/C. In his over-
view in 1996, Mosco points out that British/European political economists have gen-
erally attempted to “integrate communication research within various neo-Marxian
theoretical traditions.” On the other hand, North American political economy, draw-
ing on both Marxian and institutional approaches, “has been driven more explicitly
by a sense of injustice that the communication industry has become an integral part of
a wider corporate order which is both exploitative and undemocratic.” (p. 19). Mo-
sco also describes another variation that might be called Third World PE/C research,
which relies on dependency and world systems theory, as well as other neo-Marxist
traditions. This type of research has focused on challenging the modernization para-
digm and analyzing various aspects of globalization processes. (p. 20)
Recently, even more attention has been given to the distinctions between PE/C
approaches. Hesmondhalgh (2002) discusses the differences between a “Schiller-
McChesney tradition” and a “cultural industries approach.” He is referring here to
the criticism of US media systems, especially media concentration, as developed by
Herbert Schiller and continued in the 1990s by Robert McChesney and others (includ-
ing Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky). Hesmondhalgh argues that the tradition
represented by Schiller-McChesney has provided invaluable documentation and analy-
sis of the cultural industries. However, Hesmondhalgh feels that this version of PE/C
has some shortcomings: it still “underestimates” contradiction in the system, fails to
explain specic conditions of cultural industries, pays less attention to consumption
than production, and mostly ignores “symbol creators,” while focusing most often
on information-based media than entertainment-oriented media. Hesmondhalgh nds
solutions to these problems in a cultural industries approach – as outlined by Bernard
Miège (1989) but also draws on Raymond Williams (especially 1980), and thus is
more sympathetic to a cultural studies tradition.
Early on in his book, Hesmondhalgh identies the cultural industries approach as
“European” and the Schiller-McChesney approach as “a distinctive US tradition.”
(p. 8) While a case can be made that the characteristics which Hesmondhalgh ascribes
to the Schiller-McChesney tradition do indeed apply to some US scholars, the wide
range of PE/C work that has been done in North America has unfortunately been
overlooked in this formulation.
Ultimately, Mosco concludes that even though there are variations, all of these ex-
plications of PE/C at least attempt to decenter the media and emphasize capital, class,
contradiction, conict, and oppositional struggles. He further emphasizes that,
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Janet Wasko l Studying the political economy of media and information
‘… the political economy of communication covers a wide intellectual expanse including
diverse standpoints, emphases, and interests which belie charges of essentialism that, in the
extreme, dismiss the approach as economistic. The approach brings together an international
collection of scholars who share not so much a singular theoretical perspective or even sense
of community, but an approach to intellectual activity and a conception of the relationship
between the scholarly imagination and social intervention. Moreover, it suggests that political
economy faces numerous challenges that grow out of global social and cultural transforma-
tions as well as developments on its intellectual borders…’ (Mosco, 1996, pp. 20-21)
Exemplars of political economy of communications
To further understand PE/C, it is useful to consider specic examples of the issues that
political economists examine, as well as examples of research that has been inuenced
by this approach. A wide range of themes pertaining to communication and media
have been analyzed and thus it is nearly impossible to completely trace the rich his-
tory and wide range of communication scholarship that draws on a political economic
tradition. While there are any number of ways to organize this discussion, the presen-
tation that follows discusses some of the general themes that are fundamental to PE/C
and provides some examples of research that exemplify these themes.4 (See Mosco,
1996 for a more extensive and detailed overview.)
Historical studies
Most PE/C research incorporates historical analysis, for it is essential to document
change as well as continuity. However, many notable historical studies have traced
the development of specic media. The commercialization of the press has been docu-
mented in the US by Schiller (1981) and Eisenstein (1979), while in Britain, emphasis
on class relations and the press has characterized historical studies by Curran (1979)
and Sparks (1985). Ewen’s historical work (1976, 1988) presents the historical evolu-
tion of advertising and public relations, tracing the development of mass consumption
and mind management.
Historical studies of broadcasting in the US and Canada often have focused also on
commercialization, as well as the relationship between corporate power and the state,
for instance, Kellner (1990), Downing (1990), and McChesney (1993). Meanwhile,
Attali (1985) has presented an historical overview of the music industry, while Flichy
(1991) has discussed the history of media in Europe and North America.
The historical evolution of telecommunications also has received attention from
political economists, who again have traced the growth and change of corporate pow-
er and state relations. Beyond Danielian’s (1939) classic work on AT&T, more recent
research includes Duboffs (1984) historical analysis of the telegraph, and Becker’s
(1993) work on the telephone.
4 The work of researchers who do not refer directly to the PE tradition also is included in this discussion.
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Historical work on the lm industry also has been the focus of political econo-
mists, who have countered the typical emphasis by lm scholars on texts and genres
by focusing on the commercial and industrial aspects of lm. Examples of work that
includes an historical emphasis include Guback’s (1969) research on the international
lm industry, Wasko’s (1982) study of nancial institutions and the lm industry
and Pendakur’s (1990) work on the historical dominance of the US lm industry in
The Media/Communications Business
A good deal of PE/C research has focused on the evolution of mass communications
as commodities that are produced and distributed by prot-seeking organizations in
capitalist industries. The trends that Murdock and Golding identied in 1974 have
expanded and intensied, not only within traditional media industries, but across
industrial divisions and into new converged businesses, as well. In addition, more
and more public media organizations have been privatized, with a market model now
dominating much of the media landscape.
It is clear that the general process of marketization has moved rapidly over the
last few decades. (see Philo and Miller, 2000) Communication and information have
become key components of this marketization process, but have also developed as
signicant industries, as well. In many countries, public media institutions have been
privatized, along with other public institutions, opening additional markets for grow-
ing transnational media and entertainment conglomerates. In addition, new communi-
cation and information systems, such as the Internet, are developing as commercialized
space, contrary to promises of public access and control. This commercialization proc-
ess (including the growth of advertising and public relations) has been accompanied by
an ever-expanding consumer culture, thus prompting the term “cultural capitalism” as
a descriptor for the current period. (See Murdock and Wasko, forthcoming)
Analysis of media as commodity and industry has involved various concepts and
levels of analysis. First, we will discuss examples of these various tendencies, exempli-
ed by the US market and Time Warner (formerly, AOL Time Warner), followed by
research examples of the different levels of analysis. (Internationalization or a global
level of analysis will be discussed in a separate section below.)
Commodication/Commercialization. Increasingly, media and communication
resources have become commodities products and services that are sold by prot-
seeking companies to buyers or consumers. An example that seems obvious is the
development of various forms of “pay” television since the 1980s (see Mosco, 1989).
In addition, more and more of the media/communication landscape is lled with com-
mercial messages. Numerous examples come to mind, but perhaps the evolution of
product placement in Hollywood feature lms is one of the most blatant (see Wasko,
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Janet Wasko l Studying the political economy of media and information
Diversication. As media companies have expanded, new lines of business have
been added in a process of diversication. While most of the media industries in the US
began with a relatively large number of different companies, these industries today are
dominated by huge media/entertainment conglomerates, such Time Warner, that are
involved in a wide range of diversied activities. For instance, Time Warner includes
the following:
publishing (Time Inc., Little Brown & Co., DC Comics)
lm (Warner Bros., New Line Cinema, Castle Rock Entertainment, Warner International
television production and distribution (Warner Television, WB Network, Turner Broad-
home video (Warner Home Video)
music (Warner Music Group, including Atlantic, Elektra, Rhino, Warner Bros., Columbia
House Co.)
cable networks (HBO, Cinemax, CNN, Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies, etc.)
cable systems (Time Warner Cable, Time Warner Telecom)
computer services (America Online, CompuServe, Netscape, etc.)
professional sports (Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Hawks)
Horizontal integration. As media corporations have grown larger and more prof-
itable, they often have added companies that are in the same line of business, thus
integrating horizontally. Time Warner, for instance, has added to its already sizable
list of magazines that were owned by Time Inc. and currently publishes over 140
Vertical integration. Not only have companies such as Time Warner expanded their
range of businesses, but with new distribution technologies and deregulated markets,
media companies have integrated vertically by adding companies in the same supply
chain or at different stages of production. For instance, at Time Warner, Warner Bros.
and New Line Cinema produce and distribute motion pictures that are shown on the
company’s cable networks (HBO, Cinemax), television network (Warner Television
network). As clearly stated on Time Warner’s website at the end of 2002:
Warner Bros. has evolved into a fully integrated global entertainment company, standing
at the forefront of feature lms, television, home video, animation, product and brand
licensing, interactive media and international theaters.
New Line’s programming refreshes AOL Time Warner’s libraries and provides valuable
programming for its cable networks, in particular TNT, TBS and HBO.
Synergy. There is also the potential for the various businesses owned by these
large diversied conglomerates to work together to more effectively market products,
thus producing a synergy that maximizes prots. For instance, Warner lms can be
promoted via AOL as well as other company-owned media outlets, as well as serving
as the basis for other media products (TV programs, books, etc.). Another example
cited on Time Warner’s website:
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Time Inc. has taken advantage of extensive cross-promotion with America Online.
Promotions of Time Inc. magazines on the AOL services generated 1. 5 million subscriptions
in 2001 – about 100,000 a month. AOL discs poly-bagged with Time Inc. magazines and
distributed at retail outlets led to some 800,000 AOL registrations.
It might be noted, however, that Time Warner has been criticized for not taking
full advantage of such strategies. In fact, some discussions in the popular and nancial
press during 2002 focused on whether or not time Warner (as well as a few other me-
dia conglomerates) had actually become too large to function efciently at all. Indeed,
some observers have even suggested that some mergers create corporations that are
too large and unwieldy, thus arguing for more streamlined companies that can concen-
trate their efforts. However, other arguments have been made that synergies take time
to develop and ultimately are advantageous for media and information companies
such as Time Warner.
Market Concentration. Of course, one of the major issues is the level of competi-
tion in various media markets. While a competitive marketplace is the avowed goal of
capitalism, there is an inevitable tendency for markets to become concentrated, due to
any number of factors (see Murdock and Golding, 1974). By documenting the actual
level of competition (or lack of competition), PE/C challenges the myth of the competi-
tive marketplace under late capitalism.
Indeed, Time Warner holds a dominant share of the market in a number of differ-
ent media industries. The company controlled over 18% of US cable systems in 2001
(which, together with AT&T Comcast, represented 55% of the industry), while most
of these cable systems represent a monopoly in their local cable service markets. In ad-
dition, with 31.5 million subscribers, AOL and its afliated Internet service providers
(ISPs), represents 21.1% of the online business in the US, a considerable advantage
over the next largest competitor (MSN) at 5.2%.
Essentially, most of the media industries or sectors in the US are dominated by oli-
gopolies. For instance, in 2001, Warner Bros. Pictures was the top lm distributor in
the US, receiving $1.24 billion at the domestic box ofce. However, an oligopoly that
includes Warner, Disney, Universal, Paramount, and Fox (all owned by giant media
conglomerates) regularly receives between 80-90% of the total theatrical lm box of-
ce, not only in the US, but many other countries around the world.
General Media Analysis. These trends have been investigated by political econo-
mists of communications at various levels of analysis, including national media sys-
tems, specic media industries and corporations. In addition, an international level of
analysis has been an important component of political economy research and will be
discussed in the next section.
Considering these developments across media/communication industries, it is not
difcult to conclude that Time Warner, together with a handful of other conglomer-
ates, dominate the US media landscape. Ben Bagdikian’s on-going countdown of the
top media corporations is instructive here.
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Janet Wasko l Studying the political economy of media and information
In 1983, fty corporations dominated most of every mass medium and the biggest
media merger in history was a $340 million deal... . [I]n 1987, the fty companies had
shrunk to twenty-nine... . [I]n 1990, the twenty-nine had shrunk to twenty three... .
[I]n 1997, the biggest rms numbered ten and involved the $19 billion Disney-ABC
deal, at the time the biggest media merger ever... . [In 2000] AOL Time Warner’s $350
billion merged corporation [was] more than 1,000 times larger [than the biggest deal
of 1983]. (Bagdikian, 2000: xx – xxi)
Political economists are especially interested in the consequences of such media
concentration. For instance, much attention has been focused on the inuence of
concentration on the availability and quality of news, as well as the tabloidization of
news. In addition, researchers have documented the “blockbuster complex” and the
homogenization of the content in cultural industries. More generally, political econo-
mists have analyzed these trends in relation to capitalism and power, conrming a class
system, inherent structural inequalities, as well as representing serious challenges to
As noted previously, media concentration obviously has been a major focus of
political economists in media studies for many years. However, the issue has become
so blatant and intense over the last few decades that it is not only a theme for political
economists, but has attracted the attention of other media researchers and activists, as
well as some policy makers and journalists. Media economists also have paid special
attention to this issue, however, the type of analysis and the conclusions drawn are
often quite different, as discussed below.
Examples of PE/C research in this area are abundant. Murdock (1990) has con-
tinued to provide keen analysis of these general trends especially in Britain, while
US researchers have included (among many others) Herman and Chomsky (1988),
Barnouw and Gitlin (1998), McChesney (1999), and Miller (1996).
Industry Studies. Political economists also have examined specic media and com-
munications industries, describing industry structure and policies and looking more
deeply into the trends described above, especially commercialization, commodication
and integration within these industries. Even though some of these industries are merg-
ing and converging, the analysis of industrial sectors is still often quite relevant.5
Meanwhile, other researchers within a political economic tradition have done
research on the cultural industries, with Bernard Miège’s (1999) work setting the
foundations for work by other researchers, such as Sinclair (1999) and Hesmondhalgh
Telecommunication and information technologies have received extensive analysis
in PE studies, as issues such as technological determinism and state support of techno-
logical development have been examined. Special attention has been directed at the un-
5 The television industry was dissected early on by Bunce (1976) and Collins, Garnham and Locksley (1988) and later by
Meehan (1984), Downing (1990) and Streeter (1996). Specic studies have analyzed the lm industry, including Guback
(1969), Garnham, (1990), Pendakur (1990), Aksoy and Robins (1992) and Wasko (1994). Meanwhile, advertising has been
examined by Janus (1984), Sinclair (1987), Jhally (1990) and Mattelart (1991) and public relations by Ewen (1998).
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equal distribution of such resources, with analysis of issues such as access and equity,
including discussions of “the information poor” or “the digital divide.” Representa-
tive studies include H. I. Schiller (1981), Mosco (1989), D. Schiller (1986), Wilson
(1988), Mosco and Wasko (1988), Hills (1991), Gandy (1993), Mansell (1993), and
McChesney, Wood and Foster (1998).
Corporate studies. The examples thus far examine patterns of ownership within
and across media sectors. Meanwhile, other work in PE/C has focused more specical-
ly on issues relating to ownership and control of specic media organizations. Closer,
more in-depth analysis of media and communication organizations is necessary to as-
sess the precise mechanisms of corporate ownership and control, but also to examine
trends of commodication, integration and diversication. This analysis often consid-
ers these developments in light of issues such as cultural creativity, diversity, equity,
access and democratic ideals.
The Walt Disney Company, for instance, provides a good example for such analy-
sis (Wasko 2001). Although the company has been known for producing children’s
or family-oriented entertainment thus, gaining a somewhat sacred or pure image
it is important to analyze the company’s business orientation and strategies. The
Walt Disney Company was incorporated by Walt and Roy Disney in 1923, rst as the
Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, then as the Walt Disney Studio. Based in Los Angeles,
California, the company produced short animated lms that were distributed by other
lm companies and appeared before feature-length lms in movie theaters around the
Never one of the major studios, the company grew gradually, always with -
nancial difculties, and established itself as an independent production company in
Hollywood. The Disney brothers built a reputation for quality animation, utilizing
cutting-edge technological developments such as sound and color, and producing
feature-length animated lms. The popularity of Disney’s products, which included
merchandise based on their animated characters was instantaneous and unmistakable,
not only in the United States but in other countries.
Setting the foundations for the diversication that emerged in the ensuing decades,
during the 1950s Disney expanded to include television production and live-action
feature lms. In 1953 the company opened Disneyland, the rst of many theme parks.
During this period, the company also started distributing its own lms. By the mid-
1970s, however, the company appeared to be stagnating until a management and own-
ership shufe rejuvenated its established businesses and developed new investments.
At the end of the twentieth century, the Walt Disney Company was the second larg-
est media conglomerate in the world (behind AOL Time Warner), with a wide array of
domestic and international investments. The company’s revenues for 2000 were over
$25 billion. Disney owned the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) television net-
work, broadcast TV stations, and radio stations and networks, and maintained partial
ownership of several cable networks, including 80 percent of ESPN and 38 percent
of A&E and Lifetime. Walt Disney Studios produced lms under the Touchstone,
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Janet Wasko l Studying the political economy of media and information
Hollywood Pictures, and Miramax labels. In addition, the company was also involved
in home video, recorded music, theatrical productions, and consumer products, which
were sold at over 600 Disney Stores around the world.
Disney’s theme parks and resorts division encompassed six major theme parks in
the United States, including Disneyland in Anaheim, California, and the Walt Disney
World Resort in Florida (EPCOT, The Animal Kingdom, Disney-MGM Studios).
Other theme park sites were Tokyo Disney, Disneyland Paris, and, by 2003, Hong
Kong Disneyland. The company also owned extensive hotel and resort properties,
a variety of regional entertainment centers, a cruise line, sports investments, and a
planned community in Florida called Celebration. The Walt Disney Internet Group
included sites such as ABC. Com, Disney Online, and
The Disney Company represents an example of the diversied, entertainment
conglomerates that dominate the media industry, at least in the US. The company’s
motivations are clearly stated in the following statements:
“Disney’s overriding objective is to create shareholder value by continuing to be the
world’s premier entertainment company from a creative, strategic and nancial standpoint.”
– Relations
“Success tends to make you forget what made you successful... We have no obligation to
make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. To make money is our only objective.”
– Michael Eisner, 1981 staff memo, cited in Wasko, 2001
A political economic analysis of the Disney Company would investigate the ben-
eciaries of these policies (shareholders and managers), as well as the mechanisms of
control within the corporation which inuence the production and distribution of its
products and services. A complete study would look carefully at large stockholders,
their relation to managers, as well as the composition of the board of directors. In ad-
dition, ties to other companies, nancial institutions, etc. would be explored.
At this level of analysis, political economists are able to examine the consequences
as well as the contradictions of capitalist ownership of media resources, not just as they
relate to media concentration. Unfortunately, there are not as many academic studies
that focus on specic corporations as one might expect. Examples would include Banks
(1996), Wasko (2001), and various studies by masters and doctoral students that are
unpublished. It might be noted that books written by non-academics are often useful in
supplying relevant information for this type of analysis (for instance, Grover, 1996).
Political economy has concentrated especially on analyzing issues relating to interna-
tional communication, even before the recent emphasis on globalization. This area
includes not only the expansion of media corporations internationally, but also the
various political and economic issues related to a global communication system.
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Of course, corporations such as Time Warner and Disney have extensive global
investments and activities. However, a particularly interesting example of the interna-
tional expansion of media companies is Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. The corpora-
tion originated in Australia, where Murdoch owned several newspaper chains and
numerous magazines. But over the next decades, the company expanded to include
important media outlets on every continent except Africa, with particular strengths
in satellite broadcasting systems. The company has holdings in lm, television, home
video, cable networks, magazines, newspapers, book publishing and sports. The cor-
poration’s web site boasts: “Producing and distributing the most compelling news,
information and entertainment to the farthest reaches of the globe.” Murdoch’s global
strategies have been varied, but primarily taking advantage of protable opportunities,
whatever and wherever they may exist, as well as focusing on popular, lowest-common
denominator media content.6
While these issues have been emphasized recently by Herman and McChesney
(1997) and others, analysis of transnationalization of communication and media has
been a theme for PE/C at least since the 1960s. For instance, Schiller’s extensive work
(beginning with Schiller, 1969) was important in critiquing the US communication sys-
tem, its government and military ties, and its international extension.
Other PE/C work specically embracing global issues includes Guback’s studies of
the international lm industry, as well as his and others’ work on international ows of
media. Indeed, the discussion of a New World Information Order drew heavily on po-
litical economic analysis and became an important focus of research during the 1970s
and 80s (for overviews, see Nordenstreng and Schiller, 1993, and Roach, 1993).
Meanwhile, in Latin American and Europe, numerous studies made important
contributions to the discussion of international media development and cultural im-
perialism (see especially Dorfman and Mattelart, 1975). An overview of work done in
Latin America is presented in Atwood and McAnany (1986), while Sussman and Lent
(1991) gathered research focusing on the Pacic and Southeast Asia. In addition, as
PE/C research expands, new and interesting approaches are emerging in various parts
of the world. A few examples would include the work of Zhao (1998) and Morris-
Suzuki (1998).
Media/state relations
Even though studies of ownership patterns and the dynamics of corporate control are
essential, political economic analysis is much more than merely identifying and then
condemning those who control media and communication resources. To understand
the media’s role in society, it is essential to understand relationships between media
power and state power, as well as the media’s relationships with other economic sec-
6 Murdoch’s tabloids regularly feature heaps of sex and violence. An example of one of the more famous headlines from
one of his tabloids, the New York Post: “Headless Body Found in Topless Bar.”
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Janet Wasko l Studying the political economy of media and information
tors. Interrelationships between media and communication industries and sites of
power in society are necessary for the complete analysis of communications, and helps
to dispel some common myths about our economic and political system, especially
the notions of pluralism, free enterprise, competition, etc. Thus, an important theme
in political economic research has been tracking the relationships between political
power and media power, and especially those relationships that involve the state.
While it is often assumed that corporations simply seek relief from government
intrusion, it is crucial to understand how the state supports the economy and corpora-
tions in various ways. To cite only one example, the US motion picture industry relies
on the US government for clearing barriers to foreign markets, as well as in tracking
and punishing copyright offenders, both in the US and elsewhere. This relationship
involves the lm industry’s lobbying arm, the Motion Picture Association of America
(MPAA), which regularly attempts to inuence government policies affecting the in-
dustry and its members. (For more detail, see Guback, 1979, and Pendakur, 1990.)
Schiller and Smythe’s work paved the way for a range of issues and themes that fo-
cus on media/state relations. Smythe’s (1957) early work on the electromagnetic spec-
trum pointed to the state’s role in allocating communication resources and protecting
corporate interests, while Schiller’s Mass Communication and American Empire
(1969/92) provided an important analysis of the US government’s use of communica-
tion resources, especially for military purposes.
Meanwhile, other aspects of state policy have also been explored, particularly
pertaining to support of the corporate interests in areas such as regulation, intellec-
tual property, etc. Bettig’s (1997) work on intellectual property is an especially good
example. Meanwhile, regulation and policy have been the focus of work by many of
the previously mentioned researchers, as well as Hills (1986), Streeter (1996), and
Calabrese and Burgelman (1999).
Despite the claims that political economy focuses only on the omnipotence of large
corporations and a system that is impenetrable, political economists address issues
relating to resistance and opposition in a wide range of research.
In 1983, Mattelart and Siegelaub’s second volume on communication and class strug-
gle presented many early examples of these issues. Around the same time, studies of
labor and the working class were gathered by Mosco and Wasko (1983), and later by
Sussman and Lent (1998). Meanwhile, Douglas (1986) looked at trade unions in the
media industry, while Nielsen (1996) studied labor in the lm industry, and Winseck
(1993) analyzed telecommunications unions in Canada.
Meanwhile, Miller, et al. (2002) have attempted to reframe the discussion of global
Hollywood in terms of a new international division of cultural labor (NICL). The
authors outline Hollywood’s global dominance in political economic terms, analyz-
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Comunicação e Sociedade l Vol. 7 l 2005
ing the strategies that the US lm industry has used to “Americanize” the production,
distribution and exhibition of lm. However, they frame their discussion in terms of
the implications of this dominance for lm workers as well as consumers, arguing that
we need to “confront the NICL and imagine alternative, more salutary conditions and
possibilities for our own cultural labour and for our brothers and sisters in the culture
works everywhere” (p. 216).
Political economists also have discussed media developments specically in rela-
tion to the public sphere, public citizenship, and democracy. While acknowledging the
powerful role that capital plays in media developments, researchers have argued that
these issues have direct bearing on citizenship and public participation. These themes
have characterized some of the work by Garnham, Murdock, McChesney, as well as
many others.
Political economy’s relationship to other approaches
It also is instructive to consider PE/C’s relationship to other approaches that focus on
the study of communications and media. It has previously been noted that the applica-
tion of political economy to communication or media most always indicates a critical
approach, compared to what has been called an administrative or mainstream ap-
proach in communication research. Meehan (1999) has recently referred to the latter
research paradigm as “celebratory” – and concludes,
If we begin with a shared valuation that “although some problems may exist, capitalism
is fundamentally good,” our research thereby takes a celebratory stance toward media
products, audiences, and institutions. If our shared valuation suggests that “despite some
progress, capitalism is fundamentally awed,” a critical stance is an integral part of our
research. Attempts at dialogue across these mutually exclusive valuations seem bound to
fail. (p. 150)
Several areas of mainstream research focus on issues similar to PE/C. Mosco has
looked closely at policy studies that direct attention to important political inuences
on media and communications developments that are sometimes neglected by political
economists. However, as Mosco observes, such analysis draws strongly on pluralist
models, usually overemphasizes the state’s role (particularly in legal and regulatory
policies) and tends to ignore relations of power and the fundamental dynamics of
Here, we will focus on PE/C’s relationship with another mainstream or celebra-
tory approach, media economics, and the important relationship between PE/C and
cultural studies.
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Janet Wasko l Studying the political economy of media and information
Political economy and media economics
More deliberate attention to economics has been evident in the eld of communica-
tion and media studies during the last decade or so, with scholars identifying media
economics as a distinct focus of research activity. Examples include text books by
Picard (1989), Albarran (1996), and Alexander, et al. (1993), as well as The Journal
of Media Economics, which was introduced in 1988. The goal of the journal, as stated
in its Contributor Information section, is “... to broaden understanding and discussion
of the impact of economic and nancial activities on media operations and managerial
decisions.” Generally, these media economics texts and the journal echo the concerns
of mainsteam (neo-classical) economics and seldom present serious critique of the
capitalist media system. As the journal’s rst editor explains:
Media economics is concerned with how media operators meet the informational and
entertainment wants and needs of audiences, advertisers and society with available re-
sources. It deals with the factors inuencing production of media goods and services and the
allocation of those products for consumption. (Picard 1989:7)
For the most part, the emphasis of media economics is on microeconomic issues
rather than macroanalysis, and focuses primarily on producers and consumers in me-
dia markets. Typically, the concern is how media industries and companies can suc-
ceed, prosper, or move forward. In other words, they represent a celebratory position
vis-a-vis capitalism. While competition may be assessed, little emphasis is placed on
issues relating to ownership of media resources or the implications of concentrated
ownership and control. For instance, despite the title, Who Owns the Media?, the vol-
umes prepared by Compaine (1982 and 2000) represent a form of celebratory media
economics and avoid discussion of the actual owners of media corporations or their
overall connections to a capitalist system.7 These approaches avoid the kind of moral
grounding adopted by political economists, as most studies emphasize description (or
“what is”) rather than critique (or “what ought to be”). A common approach is the
industrial organization model, as described by Gomery:
The industrial organization model of structure, conduct, and performance provides
a powerful and useful analytical framework for economic analysis. Using it, the analyst
seeks to dene the size and scope of the structure of an industry and then goes on to ex-
amine its economic behavior. Both of these steps require analyzing the status and opera-
tions of the industry, not as the analyst wishes it were. Evaluation of its performance is the
nal step, a careful weighing of ‘what is’ versus ‘what ought to be. ’ (Gomery, 1989: 58)
“What ought to be,” however, is a competitive, democratically responsive and
multi-cultural media system. Even though this claim is rarely made overtly, the media
economics tradition effectively reinforces and celebrates the status quo media system.
7 For example, some of the differences between political economy and media economics, can be found in the debate
on media ownership between McChesney and Compaine (and others) that appears on opendemocracy. net. http://
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Comunicação e Sociedade l Vol. 7 l 2005
Along these lines, however, a few communication scholars also have contributed
valuable organizational studies, which call attention to economic characteristics of
media and communication industries, as well as emphasizing policy and regulatory de-
velopments, however not necessarily from a political economic perspective (see Turow,
1984 or Tunstall, 1991).
Political economy and cultural studies
It is especially important to look more closely at the relationship between PE/C and
cultural studies, as these two approaches are often identied (rightly or wrongly) as
the primary and sometimes competing ways of critically examining media. Though
PE/C and cultural studies focus on different areas of inquiry or objects of study, both
approaches would seem to be needed for a complete critical analysis of culture and
Although cultural studies has expanded to the point where any denition is bound
to be too limiting, a useful formulation is offered by O’Sullivan, et al. (1994): “Cul-
tural studies has focused on the relations between social relations and meanings – or
more exactly on the way social divisions are made meaningful.” (p. 71) It would seem,
therefore, that PE/C and cultural studies would share a common critical analysis, at
least, even though the focus of study is directed at different elements of the media
However, PE/C is often considered by cultural studies scholars to be too nar-
row, deterministic, and economistic, despite the broad denitions and wide range
of research outlined above. Many have charged that PE/C is primarily focused on
the economic or the production side of the communication process, neglecting texts,
discourse, audiences, and consumption. In addition, a simplistic notion of ideology is
ascribed to political economists, with little room allowed for resistance or subversion
by audience members.
Over the years, political economists have defended and expanded their theoretical
positions in light of some of these critiques, clarifying extreme and inaccurate accusa-
tions, but also responding to reasonable criticism (compare Murdock and Golding,
1974, and Golding and Murdock, 1996).
On the other hand, some political economists have found cultural studies to be
lacking consistent and strong analysis of the institutional or structural context of cul-
tural consumption, focusing too narrowly on issues relating to media texts, identity
and audience reception. Especially problematic are studies that argue that the audi-
ence’s alternative interpretations of media texts represent a kind of subversive resist-
ance to and undermining of dominant ideological denitions and thus are politically
liberating (for instance, Fiske, 1988).
Over the years, numerous discussions and evaluations of this relationship have been
offered by one side or the other in individual papers, articles and books. However, the
most focused debates have taken place in professional journals, for example in the
comunicação e sociedade 7.indd 02-08-2005, 17:3642
Janet Wasko l Studying the political economy of media and information
“Colloquy” in Critical Studies in Mass Communication in 1995. Here, Garnham and
Grossberg squared off, in what Meehan (1999) has called a “ritualized debate” based
on stereotypes and unproductive posturing. In other words, the “debate” was not
based on a constructive and well-mannered engagement, but degenerated into spite-
ful and negative (sometimes false) characterizations of extreme positions within both
For many, however, there is still a need for an intellectual alliance (beginning with
true dialogue, as Meehan argues) between political economy and cultural studies. Such
an integration of approaches is necessary, not only to fully examine the complexities of
mediated communication, but also to challenge other celebratory approaches in com-
munication research. As Murdock argues (in the debate cited above), we need to
… work towards the construction of a more complete account of the central dynamics of
contemporary culture and to mobilize those insights to defend the symbolic resources re-
quired to extend the rights and duties of citizenship in the service of revitalizing democracy.
(Murdock, 1995: 94)
The future
Even while the “debates” between PE/C and cultural studies have raged on, a good
deal of interesting work has integrated these approaches and may represent the most
dynamic direction for future development. Many researchers who have identied pri-
marily with PE/C have also integrated other approaches and disciplines with interest-
ing and important results. More work has been done recently integrating feminism and
political economy, represented especially in Meehan and Riordan (2002), as well as in
work by Martin (1991), Balka (2000), Meehan and Byars (1995).
On another front, Gandy (1998) offers an important look at race and ethnicity in the
evolving systems of information media. As an indication of the integrated nature of
such research, the book’s description is exemplary: “It explores the concept of race
through three streams of analysis: media systems and institutions, communication
frames and symbolic representations; and social constructions. Borrowing insights
from behavioral science, political economy, and the more interpretative strands of
contemporary cultural studies, the book enters directly into the contemporary debate
about structure and agency, and ends by proposing an agenda for the development of
critical theory in the area of race and ethnicity.”
In another recent collection (Hagen and Wasko, 1998), various researchers address
the commonalities and tensions between political economy and audience or reception
analysis. While many of the authors in the volume see that the approaches share some
theoretical perspectives, others point to issues relating to methodological and ideologi-
cal differences.
In another interesting development, several political economists represented in the
previously mentioned volume present interesting analysis that integrates other disci-
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Comunicação e Sociedade l Vol. 7 l 2005
plines. For instance, Murdock (1998) draws on anthropology to look more carefully
at the historical roots of consumption. Elsewhere, Pendakur (1993) has integrated
ethnography with political economy, delving more deeply into the impact of media
technology in rural villages in India. And Mosco’s (1999) recent work on New York
draws heavily on geography to map the evolution of commercial space in the city.
These researchers have maintained the theoretical foundations of political economy,
while expanding their analysis to embrace other relevant disciplines.
Increasingly there are also studies that attempt to use political economy with other
approaches to examine a particular media phenomenon holistically. An excellent exam-
ple is Gripsrud’s (1995) study of Dynasty, which traces the program’s production con-
text, discusses its textual elements, as well as examining its distribution and reception.
In my own work on the Walt Disney Company, an attempt has been made to examine
the history and political economy of the company, as well as explore various textual
readings and the reception of and resistance to Disney products. (Wasko, 2001)
It is important to note that these integrated approaches still (at least attempt to)
maintain the essence of political economy, or in other words, research that examines
the relationships of power that are involved in the production, distribution and con-
sumption of media and communication resources within a wider social context. PE/C
still privileges issues relating to class power, not to the exclusion of other relationships,
however, and emphasizes the complex and contradictory nature of such relationships.
Most importantly, PE/C challenges media and communication development that un-
dermines the development of equitable and democratic societies.
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... Mossberger et al (2008, p.10) observed that "digital citizenship requires educational competencies as well as technology access and skills; and problems such as poverty, illiteracy, and unequal educational opportunities prevent more people from full participation online and in society more generally." According to Wasko (2005), topics such as technological determinism and state support of technological development regarding ICTs have been analyzed by political economists since long ago. Particularly, attention "has been directed at the unequal distribution of such resources, with analysis of issues such as access and equity, ...
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Recently, business firms have come to see climate action as an opportunity rather than a threat. Global coalitions of multinational corporations have emerged in order to advance commitments to cope with climate change. These business coalitions challenge previous scholarship that has criticized Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for being greenwash, raising important research questions. Do we have any indicatives that multinational corporations have become more committed to cope with climate change? The goal of this doctoral dissertation is to present a mapping of climate impacts and commitments of four Big Tech firms (Alphabet Inc.,, Apple Inc., Meta Platforms) in order to understand their historical and current emissions profiles, carbon footprints, climate-smart technologies and innovations, as well as their low-carbon vested interests. Although Big Tech firms do not contribute much to climate change (i.e., their direct and indirect emissions are far below those from heavy-polluting firms), they have nonetheless engaged in climate initiatives, aiming to tackle global warming, thus contributing to a low-carbon techno economy. I employ a multiple case study method through which these firms were analyzed individually and comparatively. Data collection was performed in two stages. Firstly, I conducted seven months of field research in Silicon Valley, California, participant observation in online workshops of Citizens Climate Lobby, visited these firms’ headquarters, and performed semi-structured interviews with local data scientists, software engineers, and energy and sustainability analysists. Secondly, I collected primary documents from these firms (Diversity & Inclusion Reports and Sustainability Reports) covering the period from 2016 to 2020. Data analysis involved a content analysis technique. My findings revealed that these firms’ sustainability executives’ personal traits and histories have much to do with their climate strategies. All of them have worked for the U.S. government or have degrees in politics, thus are able to help these firms avoid financial and reputational losses as regards climate change. All these firms, except for Amazon, have been reducing their emissions in recent years. Additionally, these firms (particularly Alphabet) have been developing climate smart technologies, repositioning some of their businesses in order to profit from climate change. Their climate action occurs mainly because of three vested interests: to attract climate-aware employees; because of business opportunities related to climate products, services, and climate-smart technologies; and to influence society as regards the beneficent role of the corporation.
... Če naj ta misel ohrani zgodovinsko pomembno vlogo pri kritiki družbenih odnosov v nadalje, se bo na spreminjanje družbe prilagajala in odzivala tudi sama. Kritični pristop k politični ekonomiji, ki na primer izhaja iz marksizma ali neomarksizma, in predvsem (širše) kritična teorija družbe spadata med temeljne pristope neafirmativnega raziskovanja komuniciranja in medijev (glej Wasko, 2005;Mosco, 2009;Fuchs, 2011a;. Hanno Hardt (1992: 27) je kot eden ključnih avtorjev kritične komunikologije na primer poudarjal, da »marksizem nudi koherentno teorijo družbenih sprememb, ki bazira v zgodovini, in je zavezan premisleku o totaliteti kulturnih, političnih ter ekonomskih izkušenj.« ...
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Avtor izpostavlja, da prihaja v obstoječem družbenem kontekstu do množenja protislovij, ki pogosto ostajajo nerazrešena, saj so sestavni del kapitalističnih družb. Protislovja se prenašajo in širijo tudi na raven komuniciranja in v komunikacijsko sfero, ki je v središču avtorjeve analize. Prav številna protislovja so razlog, da so nove informacijske in komunikacijske tehnologije lahko opredeljene kot orodja emancipacije, kar izpostavljajo evforične analize njihovih potencialov, in sočasno kot orodja nadzora in izkoriščanja. Avtor izpostavlja, da je družbene spremembe in komunikacijske tehnologije, ki jih ni mogoče misliti izven širših družbenih odnosov, zaradi tega potrebno preučevati zgodovinsko, v kontekstu obstoječih asimetrij moči in neenakosti ter z upoštevanjem ključnih vzrokov za njihov nastanek in specifičen zgodovinski razvoj. Izhodišča monografije so v politični ekonomiji komuniciranja, ki je temeljni kritični pristop v komunikološkem raziskovanju. Avtor podaja kritiko poblagovljenja, ki se v tem pristopu opredeljuje ko ključen proces v kapitalističnih družbah. Ob tem izpostavlja, da prav politična ekonomija komuniciranja nudi edinstven in (posebej za slovenski raziskovalni prostor) izviren pogled na (množično) komuniciranje. Le ta raziskovalna tradicija namreč s svojim teoretskim vpogledom, izgrajenim pojmovnim aparatom in obstoječimi razlagami omogoča celovito obravnavo strukturnih zgodovinskih premikov in temeljnih družbenih odnosov s posebnim fokusom na komuniciranju, medijih in informacijah. Analize se gibljejo med temeljnimi teoretskimi vpogledi, ki izhajajo iz kritičnih družboslovnih pristopov, ter aktualnejšimi tematikami. V knjigi je med drugim podan globok zgodovinski vpogled v procese poblagovljenja komuniciranja in v ekspanzijo kapitala nasploh, obravnavana so protislovja in omejitve na področju medijev, tehnologij ter komuniciranja, ki izhajajo iz kapitalistične blagovne proizvodnje, izpostavljena je protislovnost novih informacijskih in komunikacijskih tehnologij, ki vključuje tudi razprave o družbi nadzora in nadzorstvenem kapitalizmu, izpostavljeni pa so tudi razlogi, zakaj mediji v kapitalizmu prispevajo k ohranjanju obstoječe družbene ureditve. --------------------------------------- Contradictions of Communication: Towards a Critique of Commodification in Political Economy of Communication (Faculty of Social Sciences Ljubljana Press, 2014). In the current historical epoch contradictions, which often remain unsolved, have multiplied. We can attribute this to the fact that contradictions are a constitutive part of capitalist societies. The author emphasizes that in the current historical epoch contradictions also broaden and expand into communication and the communicative sphere, which lay at the centre of his analysis. Author points out that social changes and communication technologies, which cannot be analysed outside of the wider social relations, need to be analysed in a historical manner, in the context of the existing asymmetries of power, inequalities and by considering key reasons for their emergence and specific historical development. The starting point of the monograph is in the political economy of communication, which is the key critical approach in media and communication studies. Author provides a critique of the process of commodification, which is defined (in the approach of political economy of communication) as one of the key processes in the capitalist societies, which is inherent to it. It is pointed out that political economy of communication offers a unique and (especially for Slovenian academia) original way of analysing (mass) media. Only this research tradition offers – with its theoretical insights, conceptual apparatus and existing explanations – a way of holistically analysing structural, historical changes and the most fundamental social relations, with special focus on communication, media, and information. Analyses in the book move between fundamental theoretical insights that build on critical approaches to social sciences, and currently topical issues. A deep historical insight is offered in the processes of commodification of communication and in the expansion of capital as such. Contradictions and limits in the field of media, technologies and communication are thoroughly analysed, while different aspects of new information and communication technologies are analysed as well, because they make possible both new forms of social surveillance (and so-called surveillance capitalism) and emancipatory forms of political activism. Reasons, why media can contribute to the stabilisation of the existing order, are analysed as well.
... As globally, the information industry is controlled by very few and cross-media ownership is prevalent. (Murdock, Wasko, & Sousa, 2011;McChesney, 2002;Wasko, 2005;Vizcarrondo, 2013). Concentrated media ownership produces distorted and selective information giving birth to biases and public opinion that favor a particular segment, group, or political party. ...
... In the English-speaking world, demarcing CPEMC from other variants of political economy of the media is rather weak (Wasko, 2005;Garnham, 2011). Although CPEMC rests on a few shoulders or heads, a kind of discursive hegemony of approaches following Marx to define the field of the political economy of communication (Mosco, 2009;McChesney, 2008;Golding & Murdock, 2005) can be observed. ...
The chapter introduces the most important lines of tradition and debates within the Critical Political Economy of Media and Communication; it also introduces the conceptually rich but nowadays precarious German tradition to the English-speaking reader. Starting from a systematic determination of media and commu- nication in the contradictory and crisis-ridden process of capital accumulation, four connected perspectives on media and communication (as commodities, as ideological powers, in relation to media reception, and as alternative media) are discussed. The explanatory power and relevance of the approach is demonstrated not least under the conditions of an emerging digital media capitalism and in response to important criticisms.
... La escuela norteamericana, liderada por Dallas Smythe y Herbert Schiller, a quienes les siguen académicos como Vincent Mosco, Robert McChesney o Janet Wasko, ha prestado especial atención a los fenómenos de la concentración mediática y la homogeneización cultural. Destacan sus trabajos sobre la redimensión de los mercados culturales trasnacionales (Schiller, 1976;Smythe, 1977Smythe, & 1981Wasko, 1994Wasko, & 2001 y al acceso a los medios como reflejo de la democracia participativa (Mosco & Wasko, 1988). Por su parte, la tradición europea ha centrado su interés en la problemática del servicio público de radiodifusión (Garnham, 1990;Murdock, 1994;Richeri, 1983), de acuerdo con la lógica estructural de los sistemas mediáticos del viejo continente y su devenir histórico. ...
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En tiempos dominados por la sobreabundancia de medios y estímulos, en los que es difícil distinguir la información de la desinformación y en el que los hechos exigen un análisis cada vez más complejo, la reflexión sobre el rol de los medios públicos se vuelve más necesaria que nunca. ¿Son realmente necesarios los medios públicos en este nuevo entorno digital y multiplataforma?¿Qué valor o valores aportan a nuestra sociedad y cómo medir su impacto?¿Cómo pueden captar la atención de los ciudadanos sin vulnerar su privacidad, cuando los datos mueven los sistemas de personalización y recomendación? Estas son algunas de las preguntas que buscan respuesta en este libro que, editado por Manuel Goyanes y Marcela Campos Rueda, reúne el trabajo de prestigiosas investigadoras e investigadores del campo de la comunicación en el sur de Europa y América Latina. A través de una mirada crítica y, en ocasiones, provocativa, este volumen reflexiona sobre las oportunidades y desafíos que navegan los medios públicos, contribuyendo a clarificar sus funciones normativas, relevancia y necesidad.
... However, it is crucial to appreciate other factors within the critical political economy of communication, such as social change and history, social totality, moral philosophy, and praxis (Mosco 1996). Political economists' primary concern is largely around resource allocation by analysing, inter alia, issues of ownership and control, relations of power, and structural inequalities (see Radebe 2017); critical political economists, on the other hand, mainly focus on contradictions and strategies to resist the system (Wasko 2005), hence the emergence of the media decommodification debate. ...
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South Africa’s deep-seated social inequality problem has been exposed and exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The economic pain and joblessness are disproportionately felt by the poor living in townships and informal settlements. This study investigates online news media’s coverage of the plight of poor people living in townships and informal settlements during the pandemic. Although numerous scholars have argued that the commercial media is biased and mutes the voices of the subalterns, this study shows an increase in the voices of ordinary citizens on the online media in question. During the pandemic, coverage of the poor and their issues increased and was framed from a human interest perspective. Despite this positive trend and the massive upsurge in online media during the pandemic lockdown, many online platforms are still linked to traditional media. In the final analysis, the commercial media’s problem of ownership, control, and concentration has migrated to online platforms. Because it is located in capitalist structures of power, commercialised media reproduces the views of the dominant powers and remains unable to unpack the underlying failures of capitalism. This article therefore makes a case for considering an alternative, decommodified media that will serve the majority as a public good.
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Abstract: The commodity-form played an important, if often overlooked, role in the studies of capitalism. Processes of transforming literally anything into a privatized form of (fictitious) commodity produced for market exchange are of fundamental importance for the rise and reproduction of capitalism. At the same time, the commodity, as the “cell-form of capitalism”, has played a crucial role throughout Marx’s oeuvre. This chapter aims to contribute to a large body of academic work dealing with commodification and commodity-form by directing focus on the field of communication in the widest sense of this word. Commodity-form and commodification are analysed from a theoretical, conceptual and historical point of view. Main consequences for society and social relations that emanate from the global universalisation of the commodity-form are emphasized. In the conceptual and theoretic part this chapter analyses how the commodity-form was analysed by Marx throughout his oeuvre, how this corresponds to the wider constitution of capitalist society, and how critical authors analysed these processes. It is claimed there is now an enduring global commodification of everything, including culture, creativity, information, and diverging types of communication; these social categories are becoming fundamental in what could also be called capitalist informational societies. Historical dialectical approach is used in the historical part of the chapter to make sense of this on-going contradictory social transformation, which manifests itself simultaneously as continuity of capitalist social relations and discontinuity of the means of production (because of the strengthened influence of information in the present historical epoch). Commodification of communication and information is analysed in deeply historical manner by looking at how these resources have been subjugated to capitalist market relations since the capitalist economic system first emerged several centuries ago. It is claimed, however, that especially political incentives and interventions led to the increasing social, economic and political significance of the information and communication systems and resources we have been witnessing in the last few decades. A seeping commodification as a historically novel type of commodification, which trickles throughout society, is conceptualized in the final part of the chapter. This is done by referring to the long historical transformations and to two strands of thought that offer several converging points between them: a) to critical communication studies, more specifically to political economy of communication (through a reappraisal of the “blind spot debate” initiated by Dallas W. Smythe and his audience commodity thesis); and b) to some neo-Marxist approaches, especially to the findings of the authors basing their research in the autonomist (post-operaist) movement (that defined the present transformations through concepts such as communicative, bio-linguistic capitalism, and social factory). The concept of a seeping commodification indicates we are witnessing a qualitative transformation in the commodification processes that is, in part, owed to an overwhelming capitalist enclosure of the wider communicative field, which accompanied its increased economic importance. Keywords: Commodity-form, Commodification, Abstraction, Political economy of communication, Critique of political economy, Social factory, Audience commodity, The Internet, Communication capitalism, Capitalism, Critical communication studies, Information Society, Enclosures, Intellectual Property Rights, Critical Media and Communications History. This is a book chapter published in the volume entitled "Marx in the Age of Digital Capitalism", edited by Christian Fuchs and Vincent Mosco.
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Özet: Meta-biçimi. çoğu zaman göz ardı edilse de. kapitalizm üzerine çalışmalarda önemli bir rol oynadı. Hemen her şeyin eksiksiz bir biçimde dolaşım sürecinde mübadele edilen özelleşmiş (hayali) bir meta biçimine dönüştürme süreçleri, kapitalizmin doğuşu ve devamı açısından temel önemdedir. "Kapitalizmin hücre-biçimi" olarak meta, aynı zamanda Marx'ın tüm çalışmalarında, başından sonuna kadar can alıcı bir rol oynamıştır. Bu çalışmanın asıl amacı. meta-biçimin Marx'ın çalışmalarında (gerek genel argümanının bir parçası olarak, gerekse de tarihsel değişimler bağlamında) nasıl geliştirildiğini ve eleştirel kuramın bazı temel çalışmalarında nasıl rol oynadığını göstermektir. Bundan başka, çalışmanın diğer bir amacı, metaya eleştirel iletişim çalışmalarında nasıl yaklaşıldığını ve bunun iletişimin ekonomi politiği içinde nasıl çözümlendiğini ortaya koymaktır. Bu, özellikle. Dallas W. Smythe tarafından başlatılan "kör nokta tartışması'Yıın ve bu tartışma içinde gündeme gelen izleyici-ınetası tezinin yeniden ele alınması yoluyla yapılmaktadır. Dolaylı da olsa bugüne kadar devam eden bu uzun-soluklu tartışma, gerek Marksizm'i temel alan eleştirel iletişim çalışmaları açısından gerekse de toplumun farklı alanlarında devam etmekte olan metalaştırma sürecinin ve bunun çağdaş topluma sürekli nüfuz edişinin ciddi bir çözümlemesiyle bağlantılı düşünce ve pratikler açısından son derece değerli bir kaynaktır. Son bölümde, elde edilen bulgular bazı son dönem neo-Marksist yaklaşımlarla, özellikle de otonomisi (post-operaist) hareketten gelen yazarların bulgularıyla ilişkilendirilmektedir. Bu düşünsel akım içindeki kavrayışlar. Snıythe'nin yaklaşımıyla olan yakınsamanın olanaklarını sunmakla birlikte, devam etmekte olan metalaştırma süreçlerinin anlaşılmasını da sağlayabilir. Anahtar kavramlar: meta-biçimi, metalaştırma. soyutlama, iletişimin ekonomi politiği, ekonomi politiğin eleştirisi, toplumsal fabrika, izleyici metası, internet, iletişimsel kapitalizm, kapitalizm, eleştirel iletişim çalışmaları. Full source: Prodnik, Jernej (2014): Sürüp Giden Metalaştırma Süreçleri Üzerine Bir Not: İzleyici Metasından Toplumsal Fabrikaya. Mosco, Vincent, Christian Fuchs ve Funda Başaran (Türkçe Yayinin Derleyeni). Marx Geri Döndü: Günümüz Eleştirel İletişim Çalışmaları Açısından Marksist Kuram ve Araştırmanın Önemi. 1. baski. Ankara: Notabene, 301-366.
A survey of the changes in the advertising industry in the last twenty years including coverage of the emergence of international conglomerates and the diversification of the agencies into public relations and media buying. © 1991 Armand Mattelart and Michael Chanan. All rights reserved.
Launching into a complete analysis of copyright law in our capitalistic and hegemonistic political system, Ronald Bettig uncovers the power of the wealthy few to expand their fortunes through the ownership and manipulation of intellectual property. Beginning with a critical interpretation of copyright history in the United States, Bettig goes on to explore such crucial issues as the videocassette recorder and the control of copyrights, the invention of cable television and the first challenge to the filmed entertainment copyright system, the politics and economics of intellectual property as seen from both the neoclassical economists and the radical political economists points of view, and methods of resisting existing laws. Launching into a complete analysis of copyright law in our capitalistic and hegemonistic political system, Ronald Bettig uncovers the power of the wealthy few to expand their fortunes through the ownership and manipulation of intellectual property. Beginning with a critical interpretation of copyright history in the United States, Bettig goes on to explore such crucial issues as the videocassette recorder and the control of copyrights, the invention of cable television and the first challenge to the filmed entertainment copyright system, the politics and economics of intellectual property as seen from both the neoclassical economists and the radical political economists points of view, and methods of resisting existing laws.Beautifully written and well argued, this book provides a long, clear look at how capitalism and capitalists seize and control culture through the ownership of copyrights, thus perpetuating their own ideologies and economic superiority.
In this book, Jack Banks examines the historical development of music video as a commodity and analyzes the existing structures within which music video is produced, distributed, and exhibited on its premier music channel, MTV. In August 1981, Music Televisionnow popularly known as MTVwas launched. Within a matter of years it revitalized a struggling record industry; made the careers of leading pop stars like Madonna, Boy George, Cyndi Lauper, and Duran Duran; infiltrated traditional network television and the movie industry; revolutionized the advertising industry; and stimulated purchases in several markets, most notably fashion apparel. The reach of MTV has proven long and profitable. In this book, Jack Banks examines the historical development of music video as a commodity and analyzes the existing structures within which music video is produced, distributed, and exhibited on its premier music channel, MTV. Who controls MTV? What part do record companies play in the financing and production of music video? How do the power brokers in the business affect the ideological content of music video? Given the tight sphere of influence within the music industry, what are the future trends for music video and for artistic freedom of expression? Banks tackles these questions in an intelligent, lively, and sophisticated investigation into one of the most influential media enterprises of our society.
ELLENBALKA Simon Fraser University ebalka@Sfu. ca 1. INTRODUCTION In developing the call for papers for the 7th International Federation of Information Processors (IFIP) Women, Work and Computerization Conference, we sought to cast our net widely. We wanted to encourage presenters to think broadly about women, work and computerization. Towards this end, the programme committee developed a call for papers that, in its final form, requested paper submissions around four related themes. These are (1) Setting the Course: Taking Stock of Where We Are and Where We're Going; (2) Charting Undiscovered Terrain: Creating Models, Tools and Theories; (3) Navigating the Unknown: Sex, Time, Space and Place, and (4) Taking the Helm: Education and Pedagogy. Our overall conference theme, 'Charting a Course to the Future' was inspired in part by Vancouver's geography, which is both coastal and mountainous. As such, navigation plays an important part in the lives of many as we seek to enjoy our environs. In addition, as the first Women, Work and Computerization conference of the new millennium, we hoped to encourage the broad community of scholars that has made past Women, Work and Computerization conferences a success to actively engage in imagining--and working towards-- a better future for women in relation to computers. The contributions to this volume are both a reflection of the hard work undertaken by many to improve the situation of women in relation to computerization, and a testament to how much work is yet to be done.
After the publication of Dallas Smythe paper about the blindspots about Western Marxism in the Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory (vol. 2, n.º 3, autumn 1977), Graham Murdock answers in this text to these ideas. He shares with Smythe his perspective of putting again economy in the center of Marxist cultural analysis, but he exposes a series of critical ideas. Murdock reflects about considering the North-American situation as paradigmatic, and focuses on showing the differences between the situation in North-America and Europe. These differences are expressed in the interests and objectives of Marxists theories developed in Europe. Murdock accuses Smythe of underestimating the importance and centrality of the state in contemporary capitalism, of underplaying the independent role of mass media content in reproducing dominant ideologies and of presenting the operations of mass communications system in society as relatively smooth and unproblematic.