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Media, Information and Technoculture
Media, Information and Technoculture 2100F/G
Jonathan Burston

Lecture 1: What is a political economy An approach that traditional economics overlooks; it considers social factors of economics that must be considered. Keynesian economics is an example of political economy. Media influences what we deem important, this is because we live in the soundbite society. Sound bite society - nothing can inhabit the world unless it is said simply and quickly o Argues that television is suited to flickering simple sound bites, television simplifies and simplicity is the core principle of conservation o TV punishes complex ideas which are the core of liberalism o Television is a slave to conservative ideals and an obstacle of progressive ones o The 24 hour news cycle is when we adopted the sound bite society Media is vital to get the message out as a politician Not all news and entertainment is bad, it helps us to understand who we are Utopian impulses are embedded in entertainment programming The escapism of television is a way to imagine something better for ourselves Entertainment plays a fundamental role for us to understand who we are as individuals in society - also forms who we wish to become • Identity politics - the politics of daily life in which power is negotiated o Representations exert power as individuals and in our collective lives The political economy analysis thinks politics and economics at the same time • Adam Smith - political economist: economics is more like math then social science - We need to communicate and tend to our needs • Marx is understood as a sociologist The market model - deals with questions of money and the allocation of resources, it spends less time attending to the wider social conditions allocated The public sphere: money and resource allocation are vital, why are they allocated in this way Conventional economics portrays us as rational subjects - we always make economical choice from a highly informed perspective We are homo-economicus, we exist foremost as people who think sensibly about economic decisions • property owning, wealthy, educated, white men are the only beings counted as people • Competition can become pure - a state of perfect exists - homo-economicus • will have perfect information available • However sometimes we do not think rationally - life is hard, we take risks, make impulse purchases, etc. We cannot make perfectly disinterested choices Adam Smith called himself a political economist because he thought about the social aspects of society Critical political economists vary quite a lot from classical political economists who are more normal economists Media commodities are not just commodities - media commodities contain powerful messages which sometimes change the world The media is a dual purpose commodity - it satisfies consumer demand and makes more profits, it also works to define, allocate, change or maintain social reality Media markets are dual markets - we are dual product markets we ourselves are commodities being sold to advertisers we buy products and advertisers who subsidize products buy us the public good isn't necessarily always served by this dual purpose model Lecture 2: The Big Picture, Welfare Capitalism, Neoliberal Capitalism, Regulation and Degregulation Old models are broken and all information should be free – SOPA bill halted Pay for information so people can eat The middle man: some people make tons of money, but those who work for them are not fairly compensated What is political economy and why do we analyze it through media? Conventional economics: asociological assumptions Perfect competition: a market which has a large number of buyers and sellers engaged in the trading of a homogenous good with freedom of entry and exist for firms, no government intervention, no transport costs and a perfectly elsic cupply of factors of production. • Many economic theories do not advance beyond the assumption of perfect competition It does not pay to think of commodities as commodities rather than dual purpose commodities The Market Model • Unregulated process of exchange based on supply/demand • As long as competition exists businesses pursuing profits will meet peoples needs • Media consumers with free choice between competitors will select the best products • One dollar one vote The Public Sphere • Societies needs cannot be met entirely through market system • Consumer purchasing power is never evenly distributed, nor does everyone wish to purchase the same thing • One person one vote • Ownership and control of media outlets should be diversified • Public media should attend to matters of diversity in news and entertainment o CBC, PBS, TVO Problem: Dual product markets mean that public and private interests collide often. The civic role for mass media is to provide info for debate. However, there is an economic role – The audience is bait for broadcasters to make a profit, It is filler between the commercials Media has changed over the last 15 years and economics and politics have changed as a result Media Regulation - The rules put in place by governments to ensure that media content: • Expresses diversity • Is informational and not purely entertainment oriented • Reaches undersexed publics • Treats public issues fairly, accurately and objectively o Broadcasting act mandates bilingualism, fairness doctrine, rules limiting ownership and monopolies Most industries are regulated - Neo-liberal impulses away from regulation Media deregulation or re-regulation? • Deregulation: The media producers are able to produce programming unhindered and thereby enrich themselves and better serve the public • Reregulation: Changing rather then removing rules governing commerce To what extent is it reasonable to think of deregulation as reregulation in big media capitol? Economic Liberal – Neoliberal: A theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedom and skills within an institutional framework • It values market exchange as an ethnic itself capable of acting as a guide to all human action and substituting for previous held ethical beliefs • It holds that the market is the ultimate arbiter of social value • It seeks to bring all human action into the domain of the market Key Goals: • Reduce and control inflation – keep people unemployed • Restore discipline to labour markets • Eliminate entitlements – force families to fend for themselves • Restore the economic and social dominance of private wealth and business • Weaken or eliminate public broadcasting • Less government intervention in the market • More opportunity to flourish • Not concerned about the social value of society Key Tools: • Privatize and deregulate industry • Scale back social security programs • Deregulate labor markets (de-legitimize unions) • Use free trade agreements to expand markets and constrain government intervention • Change regulatory and discursive climates to discredit public broadcasting and the public interest • No public interest autonomous from private interest Outcomes: • Growing and now dangerous levels of income inequality • Cataclysmic global warming • Catastrophe debt – especially in the US as governments borrow more money and investors pay less a collapsing middle class • Neo-Keynasianism – to protect against the negative externalities we need media and public broadcasting to help us see a way out of our circumstances Political liberals are disadvantages by the technological form of TV and new media Commercial interests now get television financed The technological structure is a mode of communication The mediums commercial basis is entertainment TV confers political advantage on the right and burdens the left Easier to argue for the status quo Neoliberal ideals of limited government spending and a free market Recessitation of Keynesianism, increased regulation to promote change – This cannot be done quickly No strong history of public broadcasting in the US The Canadian public broadcasting legacy has been weakened over the years TV makes it hard for Liberals to speak complex ideas – commercial television is now simplified in the soundbite society and they cannot explain their ideals fully Bleeding Heart Liberal – Political Liberalism • Keynesianism - Economic theory. John Key, wanted government to intervene in markets when they were not functioning well on their own • Unemployment insurance • Old age pension • OHIP • Public broadcasting • Access to means of success • Toward economic equality • Toward equality of outcomes • Provincial government subsidizing • Intervene in free markets when they don’t function well on their own because some markets need to be accessible for everyone • No large numbers of poor, unemployed people to row economy • Social capitalism and social market economy Lecture 3: The New Media Giants - Corporate Strategies and Their Social Implications Initial Public Offering – Firs time a company issues their stock publicly on the market Why do companies do this? • Fund bigger visions Market Valuation – after the IPO what is the companies worth/what you could sell it for It is risky to invest in long term for a public company – They should use quarterly investments Private companies want to gather in more money so they go public – Open up the possibility to general consumer public Public companies publicly funded – Crown companies Quarterlies are vital to those who own stock in a company Broadcasters care about advertisers, not their audience. The audience is a commodity to be sold to the broadcasters • This is the same situation with Facebook, they sell your information to advertisers for consumption purposes New technology companies are in conflict with the veterans Twitter is going to censor tweets in some countries, individual states deem it illegal but the tweets will not be visible outside the state, can close accounts – a Revolution such as the one in Egypt will become impossible Twitter makes a profit from user-metrics: they want to make more so they are expanding into China who promote the limits on tweeting How social is this new social media? Is it necessarily just going to make us all freer, healthier, happier? Old media companies are working hard for our user metrics. ACTA – Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement • International trade agreement intended to protect intellectual product across borders. By passes other laws countries have signed on. European Union expects to sign shortly. Canada has signed • Adverse effects on fundamental civil and digital rights, including freedom of expression and communication privacy • Motions Pictures Association of America MPAA hugely supports this “Bring in a censoring firewall to block piracy and you can use it to shut off sites that embarrass your government, like Wikileaks” Inside democracies there are provisions – Fair dealing provision (CAN) Fair use provision (US) • People can use copyrighted material for educational or satirical purposes – it is possible to be over run by supernational agreement The original purpose of copyright was to guarantee that creators were recognized for their labors and continue to innovate - People would profit and benefit big companies end up creating copyrights that would be held by individual creators – they push for more time so they can make more money • Lucas Films • How does Star Wars uncut occurs – Satire. It sells merch for Lucas even if it is crowd sourced • Does regulation help or not Big companies choose to pervert copyright they way they do – not because they are evil, this is just the way capitalism is Cultural commodities tend to be semi-public goods Public good – commodity or service that is available to everyone, They cannot be withheld from others. One person’s conception of a public good does not tarnish another’s view • Water, The Sun, healthcare in Canada, high school, highway, street light, 401 Semi-public goods are not scarce • CD, webpage, play list o Someone has to buy the CD, but that doesn’t infringe on how someone else uses it Bad news for media corporations – copyright exists because they need to create an artificial scarcity of cultural commodities to make money Integration – Buy other companies to reduce risk Vertical Integration – A big business control every aspect of production and distribution • Disney, Lucas Films Distribute through exhibitors – theatres Movie theatres are a third link in a chain that made watching and profiting possible. They can control and ensure product isn’t being pirated • Necessary: Cultural commodities need to be controlled Entertainment and media capitalism is risky as fads change • For every hit there are 10 misses – The hits must compensate for all the misses Economies of Scale – you are able to produce things more efficiently then small companies through synergy Synergy – make the most profit because of how horizontally and vertically integrated you are – more then 1 company could do Horizonal Integration • Corporations that own many different types of media products Ex: Viacom b/c they own cable, film, radio and internet • Diverse holdings can better promote products (eg: Star Trek promoted through different media owned all by Viacom) Ex: Hollywood Blockbusters: movie accompanied by CD, music video, published book, internet sites, t-shirts ect … (Twilight Sega) • Digital age allowed media to converge (eg personal computers) and thus businesses converge (newspaper companies become internet companies) Liberal: To give free status to or to liberate One of the reasons it is possible for economic and politic liberal to differ so much is their means of helping others, as well as their desired outcomes are different • Economic Liberals: Achieving freedom from government to live freer and wealthier lives, mass wealth and freedom is possible if the government does not intervene in the market • Political Liberals: Desire the freedom to achieve success with the help of the government. The government can help us succeed when markets fail The rational consumer – thought to be inherently self interested. People are innately selfish, this is what allows us to make rational choices and this is the first principle that people use as an argument for why socialism will not work Lecture 4: How Does Business Strategy Shape Media Content? People are free to use copyright material for satire, education and critical review Allows for journalism/articles Our media scape is conditioned by the American media scape USA dominates the business No Canadian textbook for our course – no Canadian perspective available, the market is too small for publishers – market power can affect the texts that get produced Crouteau and Hoynes: The constriction of the media scape has allowed for making profits and minimizing risk. As media conglomerates decrease risk do they maximize social risks? Do they risk the health of our society? • C+H don’t think so, they note that the new media giants use their size to pursue strategies not available to their smaller competitors. This causes the market to lose diversity. • Entertainment keeps these businesses flourishing. They behave under corporate logic – if you don’t make a profit your business will fail, so they push out smaller competition • Competition is essential to healthy markets and these companies reduce risk by lowering it • The characteristics of monopoly behavior become evident – concentrated ownership is bad for the public sphere Monopolies: A firm that is the only supplier of a given good in a market • Ex: (Microsoft) inordinate market power • Antitrust law attempts to punish monopolies from illegally exerting their unprecedented power - Ex: 1940’s breakup of the motion picture monopoly. Movie industry was dominated vertically by 5 major companies. The U.S Justice Department said that this ownership gave the 5 majors inordinate control over the industry. They could inflate prices artificially because there was no competition, and they forced out smaller players who could not compete. 0 ▪ Cable companies are monopolies; they can raise rates without fear of consumers going elsewhere. (Ex: TCI raising its rates and blaming limited government regulation) Oligopoly • Group of firms with inordinate power, not good for democracy • Threaten basic market dynamics • Limit and prevent competition • CDN policies favour concentration in fewer hands • EX: cell phone companies, little choice (Bell or Rogers?) • Oligopoly and monopolies: limit competition, eliminate smaller companies, higher prices, limit consumer choice Media corporations get larger and larger to protect themselves from innovation They are often also known as media conglomerates: Grouping of many diverse companies under one corporate umbrella (General Electric). • AOL bought out Time Warner; $166 billion dollar deal was the biggest merger ever. • Time Warner, Disney, NewsCorp, Viacom and Bertelsmann own most of the newspapers, magazines, books, motion pictures studios, radio and television stations in the US • General Electric – all their businesses vary very greatly Big 6: 1.GE: Comcast, NBC, Universal 2.NEWSCORP: Fox, Wall Street Journal, NYPost 3.DISNEY: Abc, ES
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