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Transcript of Media Industry
Political Economy Approach
Hodkinson describes between
refers to different sectors within the media industry: film, TV, music etc
refers to different aspects of the same sector: film studios and cinemas
Hodkinson points to the fact that the majority of media industries are
. This means that they are run by a small number of very large, privately run, corporations.
Expansion and Consolidation
Cited by Hodkinson, McChesney argues that .there has been an increased tendency toward an aggressive expansionism by a decreasing number of media corporations.
He describes this tendency in the following way:
To speak of 'the media' is an over-simplification of a complex and varied industry. Last week we saw that the term refers to diverse media platforms. This week we will consider the media as an industry
Who owns what and why.
Robert McChesney (1999)
Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication politics in dubious times
From technological determinism to economic determinism?
Last week we considered arguments that suggested the media themselves have the capacity to profoundly alter society and individuals
This week we have considered ways in which economic life might be understood to shape the content and form of the media
In future weeks we will return to these questions and, indeed, compromise positions that see an interaction between technology and economy
These approaches consider structural factors that shape the media we consume but what of audiences and agency?
In this lecture we confront an obvious but often forgotten dimension of the media - that the media content that we consume is , with few exceptions, produced for profit.
Oligarchy and plurality?
Types of takeover and merger
All media production occurs within a prevailing economic and political context
The media industry is not, however, self-determining. It will, itself, be shaped by the dominant form of economic and structural organisation.
Most political economy analyses of the media are written from a left wing perspective. For instance, Hodkinson cites Golding and Murdock's (1991) "Culture, Communications, and Political Economy"
Regulation and Deregulation
These analyses suggest that just as economic resources are unevenly distributed within capitalism so too is media power.
Thus all media relations and content is structured by the dominant economic conditions
Because it is concerned with 'the big picture' this is a macro theory
According to a political economy perspective this means that the content, the production, distribution and ownership of media production will be shaped by the organisational and economic drivers present within the media industry.
In this country, the BBC is an exception to this rule in that it is a public service broadcaster provided through the national government.
Unlike corporate entities, the BBC has a mission to enlighten and enrich its audiences.
Media corporations are primarily concerned with generating profit.
British broadcasting a brief history
1922 British Broadcasting Company (Radio) - Hardware manufacturers
1927 British Broadcasting Corporation (Royal Charter)
1929 First television broadcast from a BBC transmitter
1932 First television broadcast from Broadcasting House, London
1936 BBC launches world's first regular TV service ('BBC Television Service'
until 1960 when it was renamed 'BBC TV')
1955 Introduction of ITV
1964 BBC2 launched and BBC TV renamed BBC1
1967 First colour transmissions (BBC2)
1969 Colour introduced to BBC1 and ITV
British broadcasting a brief history
1982 Channel 4 and S4C launched
Late 1980s local cable channels launched
1989 Sky satellite service begins
1997 Channel 5
1998 Digital Cable (NTL, Telewest, Cable & Wireless)
2002 ITV regions dropped
2002 Launch of Freeview
2006 Sky Anytime/4 on Demand
2007 BBC iPlayer
Typified by increasing commercialisation and technological innovation
...a firm either gets larger through mergers or acquisitions or it gets swallowed by a more aggressive competitor
(McChesney 1999, 20 in Hodkinson 2011, 43)
Expansion within existing sector
Expansion across sector (horizontal integration)
Expansion up and down the production process (vertical integration)
Takeovers and mergers occur within the same sector. Hodkinson uses the example of local newspapers being taken over by hostile local rivals or expanding into other local markets (eg. Johnson Press' ownership of 300+ local titles in the UK and Ireland)
This usually represents an attempt to expand production into other sectors of the media industry. The expansion of 'old media' companies into new media provides a good example here. being active in multiple sectors also allows for the marketing of a single property across a variety of media (
Vertical integration typically characterises corporate acquisitions within the same sector but at different stages of the production process. Thus a corporation may hope to control all aspects of production and distribution: film studios and cinema; film companies and television companies; record labels and record shops (or radio stations)
With fewer, larger corporations controlling ever more aspects of media production a number of critics have voiced concern over the potential for free cultural expression
Hodkinson cites the following concerns:
- The power of 'the big five': The Walt Disney Company, Time Warner, 21st Century Fox and News Corporation, Viacom (
- The consequence for national cultures at a stage when media conglomerates have far greater communications power than nation states (
Malm and Wallis
- The conglomerates produce media products that are limited in scope and invention (
- The dominance of the corporations results in the promotion of a mutually reinforcing set of values that protect the interests of the corporations (
Herman and Chomsky, Bagdikian
Direct audience payment
Payments between media companies
Higher audiences mean:
Higher advertising revenue
Potential for direct payment
What implication might this have for the quality of media products produced under these circumstances?
It is not necessarily straightforward:
That the profit imperative has often resulted in a tendency to standardize, repeat to copy and place emphasis on immediate stimulation over depth and detail is hard to dispute [...] Yet commercial organizations also have been responsible for the development of a range of innovative forms of content, some of which are undeniably high in their level of detail, complexity or challenge to audiences.
" (Hodkinson 2011, 49) He mentions
The Sopranos, Sex and the City, The Wire, The Simpsons, House and Prison Break
But who's buying?
Nonetheless, given the importance of advertising revenue it has been suggested that it is only the cultural tastes of the most affluent or commercially viable sectors of the population who are targeted.
The range of companies seeking to advertise means that most population groups with disposable income are of interest, but it remains the case that many advertisers have a preference for 'quality' audiences, which means wealthy, high-spending consumers. This has been argued to create a content bias against marginalized groups such as the poor, the elderly and ethnic minorities (Herman and Chomsky, 1998).
(Hodkinson 2011, 50)
Whilst national territories are able to regulate media output through a variety of checks and controls it is more typical for national media markets to be increasingly deregulated
Media content may be controlled through a number of measures:
Strict central control (eg. China)
"'positive' regulation" ensuring quality programming (eg. UK) http://www.theguardian.com/media/media-blog/2014/sep/07/press-regulation-ipso-alan-moses
Quotas for homegrown content (eg. Canada - but Trans-Pacific Partnership, 2012)
Copyright control protecting commercial interests
Content control through censorship
Whilst deregulation has opened up the media marketplace and broadened and changed the kinds of content available to audiences, media convergence has had a noticeable impact on the capacity to regulate the media
Why do you think this might be case?
(Provide concrete examples)
Watch the following clip from
In what ways are television audiences considered in the film?
What factors can be seen to shape output?
What would you include in a remake of the film?
Industry ownership convergence
This latter point is well expressed in relation to the US by James Lull in
Media, Communication, Culture: A Global Approach
In the United States, non-mainstream political ideologies, parties, and candidates, as well as suggestions of consumer alternatives to the commercial frenzy stimulated and reinforced by advertising and other marketing techniques, are rarely seen on the popular media [...] When genuinely divergent views appear on mainstream media, the information is frequently shown in an unfavourable light or is modified and co-opted to surrender to the embrace of mainstream thought
(Lull 2000, 57)
Advertising and marketing is key here
(Although the BBC still has financial considerations: