Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mass Media: Politics, Political Economy & Law—A Select Bibliography


The topic of our next bibliography in the Directed Reading series is titled “Mass Media: Politics, Political Economy & Law.”* What follows below is a brief introduction.

“A media system set up to serve the needs of Wall St. and Madison Avenue cannot and does not serve the needs of the preponderance of the population.”

“[We should be concerned about] the concentration of media ownership, the hypercommercialization of culture, the decline of journalism, the globalization of the corporate media system and its relationship to the the neoliberal global economy, the corrupt nature of U.S. policy-making, the collapse of public service broadcasting, and the tragic evolution of the First Amendment into a tool for the protection of corporate privilege.”

“Those who think technology can produce a viable public democratic sphere by itself where policy failed to do so are deluding themselves.”
—Robert W. McChesney, Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times. New York: The New Press, 2000.

* * *

“In any large society, the mass media constitute probably the most crucial institutional structure of the public sphere. To be self-governing, people require the capacity to form public opinion and then to have that public opinion influcence and ultimately control public ‘will formation’—that is, government law and policies. For these purposes, a country requires various institutional structures. The media, like elections, constitute a crucial sluice between public opinion formation and state ‘will formation.’ The mass media, like elections, strive to mediate between the public and the government. For this reason, a country is democratic only to the extent that the media, as well as elections, are structurally egalitarian and politically salient.”

“[The ‘democratic distribution principle’ of communicative power] implies as wide as practical a dispersal of [such] power within public discourse.”

“[T]he central justification for the constitutional status of free speech is captured not by the marketplace metaphor but rather by a commitment to respect individual liberty.”

“Abstract economics predicts that the Internet’s dramatic reduction of distribution costs will generate two simultaneous, but curiously opposing consequences for media content. Which, if either, of these two effects will dominate may well depend on legal policy as well as on people’s preferences and technological development. First is a simple diversity or ‘abundance effect.’ Reduced costs of getting content into an audience member’s hands (or before her eyes) is likely to lead more people to create and offer potentially more diverse content to the public. That is, reduced distribution costs lower a significant barrier into the commercial content market. Equally important, reduced delivery costs can enable a democratic increase in opportunities for noncommercial and voluntary noncommodified content creators. [….]

Second is a more complicated logic of potential ‘concentration effect.’ Any decline in delivery and copy costs intensifies the economic incentive to use (more) resources in making a more widely appealing first copy. [….] The increased expenditures on first copies, as long as they do not necessitate a higher consumer price, tend to concentrate the audience on these ‘better’ products.”

“[B]logging and related Internet forms of communication are an increasingly important phenomenon. It would be a huge mistake to understate their potential contribution to the robustness of a democratic political sphere—to people’s capacity to participate either as speakers or recipients of diverse content. However, unsurprisingly the data suggest that extreme concentration apparently exists in the blog world. In any event, blogs’ present or potential valuable role in the communications order may not reduce the reasons to object to [economic] concentration in the traditional news and entertainment (or cultural) media. [….] [Blogs may ‘greatly enrich the communications order’] not by substituting for the crucial roles served by traditional media but rather by embodying greater participation in a public sphere. They also may have a positive impact on traditional media—sometimes scooping them, giving them new story lines that these traditional media find worth pursuing…and making these traditional media more accountable.”
—C. Edwin Baker, Media Concentration and Democracy: Why Ownership Matters. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

* * *

“[‘Media frames’] are principles of selection, emphasis and presentation composed of little tacit theories about what exists, what happens, and what matters.”
—Todd Gitlin, The Whole World is Watching: Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of the New Left. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2nd ed., 2003.

* * *

“[The U.S. media] permit—indeed encourage—spirited debate, criticism and dissent, as long as these remain faithfully within the system of presuppositions and principles that constitute an elite consensus, a system so powerful as to be internalized largely without awareness.”
—Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. New York: Pantheon Books, 1988.

* * *

Propaganda (definition): “The organized attempt through communication to affect belief or action or inculcate attitudes in large audiences in ways that circumvent or suppress an individual’s adequately informed, rational reflective judgment.” —Randal Marlin, Propaganda and the Ethics of Persuasion. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, 2002.

Addendum to bibliography:Davenport, Christian. Media Bias, Perspective, and State Repression: The Black Panther Party. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Dunsky, Marda. Pens and Swords: How the American Media Report the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.
*[I'm grateful to Steve Shiffrin for suggestions for this compilation.]

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