Media, Information and Technoculture 2100F/G Final: MIT 2100 Final Exam Notes

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Rebellions, Reforms, and Refusals 13:24
January 5, 2016
Class Notes
The Political Economy of Media
Relationship between power (politics), wealth (economics) and communication (media)
Deals with issues such as:
oWho owns and controls media
oStructure of corporate media
oRole of advertising
oChallenges to corporate media
oHow does this affect content of media?
CBS, Time Warner, Disney, Comcast, Viacom etc. (large networks) own everything
Huge corporations have a massive influence on our culture
Disney and Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Disney is a conglomerate – Walt Disney Company owns many other smaller companies
Ex. Disney owns ABC, Marvel, ESPN, Disney theme parks, Star Wars
Disney makes 40-60 billion dollars/year
Sources of revenue:
oMedia networks (44%)
oParks and resorts (31%)
oStudio entertainment (14%)
oConsumer products (9%)
oInteractive (2%)
Acquiring Star Wars helped Disney gain control of the cinema sector
Disney has a complex and intensely hierarchal division of labor
Big actors in Star Wars made $10-20 million to appear in the movie
Disney CEO makes approx. $40 million
Disney employs 166,000 employees
Average Disney cast worker makes $8.47/hour
oBarely above U.S. minimum wage
Large disparity between the salaries of those who control media and those who work for media
The CEO of a company generally makes 300x more than the average wage of their workers
Disney also has contracted workers in the third world (ex. Asia) producing toys, figurines
oExtremely poor working conditions
oLow pay
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” expands beyond simply film production – massive Star Wars
oMovie ticket sales (has generated 1.5 billion since the movie came out)
oVide games
oLicensed merchandise
oCoverage on Disney-owned TV programs (Good Morning America, Jimmy Kimmel, ESPN
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Disney has the power to make Star Wars (or really anything they wish) a massive, cultural event
within North American society because of the amount of control they have over our cultural
It is impossible to escape Disney because it infiltrates into ALL forms of media
Huge money making scheme
Expands far beyond film production (multiple billion dollars)
Where does this money go?
oPaying for the production of Star Wars films
oDisney shareholders
Wealthy individuals who purchase Disney shares (ex. Steve Jobs’ widow, George
Lucas – creator of Star Wars)
Large banking and investment companies
Product of American capitalism
Produces an unequal distribution of wealth in the USA
oThe 1%
The concept of a corporate blockbuster franchise is a widespread phenomenon in film and other
types of media
oHarry Potter
oStar Wars
oJames Bond
Raises questions about power, wealth, labor relations, cultural dominance, the degree to which
‘megahits’ control resources and attention and take away from other forms of entertainment
Star Wars is produced by Disney, a particular media system that is extremely hierarchal,
oMassive amount of control over culture and ideology
oShapes the way we think and consume media
However, the Star Wars movie franchise communicates freedom, encourages rebellion, struggle
against order
Clearly, there is a conflict between what Star Wars is about and the values that Disney stands for
January 5 reading notes
Bettig and Hall
“Introduction: Beat the Press”
The press: not just journalism, our entire mediated environment
“Beat”: a sensitizing concept, qualitative research strategy
oCliff Christians and James Carey
oCaptures meaning
oBreaking down reality into smaller segments
Reality has been defined by the mass media
Has become the dominant institution in society, molding experiences of everyday life
Large influence on shared perceptions, societal ideals
Appears natural and inevitable under global capitalism
Meet the Press
Media’s primary goal: profit
Must ‘beat’ the competition
“You saw it here first”
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News business arose out of Italian city-states, 15th century, rise of capitalism and the printing
Industrialization transformed news into a mass-produced commodity
Increased competition = sensationalism
Rise of book publishing industry
Rose out of 15th century Italian city-states, early capitalism
oReligious works, classic texts, government documents, educational materials
Great age of the European novel – 19th century, industrialization of books
1920s/1930s – breakdown of books into genres (western, detective, science fiction, romance)
1960s – modern publishing industry, integration of smaller firms into larger ones
Promotion of star authors
oPay small number of authors the most cash
oMakes the industry more concentrated
oPrevents smaller authors from succeeding
5 media forms dominated publishing in turn of 21st century
oAOL Time Warner, Bertelsmann, Viacom, Pearson, News Corporation
Oligopolistic core
Chains drive smaller, independent firms out of business
Also true in bookstores
Eisenstein – the book caused an educational revolution in early modern Europe
New ways of thinking
Out of the dark ages
Movie and recording industries came out of late 19th century
Capitalists tried to exploit new markets
Evolved out of live performance – arcades, nickelodeons, vaudeville
1930s/1940s – nearly every American went to movies once a week
Movies and music (like books) depended on star system, blockbusters, familiar genres, sequels,
Sale of DVDs/CDs became concentrated at the retail level (like books)
The Internet is driven by those who can afford promotion – dominant media firms
Radio broadcasting
Amateur hobby till 1920s
Transformed by capitalists into a source of profit
Copied the network model
1930s – radio broadcasting was networked controlled by two firms
Beating the competition = having the highest ratings
TV copied radio, built a privately owned and operated, commercially supported, networked
Media concentration
History of mass media is related to history of advertising
Newspaper, magazine, broadcasters – ad revenue is main source
Advertisers choose which demographic groups are desirable, can control this
oEliminates undesirable groups
Advertisers control media content
oWant customers to form emotional bonds with their products
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