Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

Globalism's Awkward

In their introduction to Global Communications: Toward a Transcultural Political Economy, Paula Cahkravartty and Yuezhi Zhao do a fine job of highlighting the awkward friction inherent in globalism and neoliberal economic policies, and its significant impact on political economies around the world. Far from the "seamless," hyper-connected globe painted by the last couple decades' of rhetoric (and Thomas Friedman's global techno-utopia), they find a wide range of "shifting boundaries and trajectories" and new channels for citizenship and exclusion.

Foreign direct investment in print media in India

For me, it was difficult to read both the Garnham and Chakravartty pieces (which is not surprising, since I come from a purely engineering background, and this is definitely out of my comfort zone). However, while going through the readings, I was constantly reminded of the debate in India about the issue of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Indian companies, especially in the news media. After independence in 1947, the Indian government had prohibited any foreign investment in print media (a law was passed in 1955). But in 2002, the decision was reversed, and now, up to 26% ownership of print media in India can be foreign [1]. However, this came with a rider - foreign investment in news agencies is still barred[2]. This is the first step, in the context of Indian print media, towards what Garnham points[3] out as one of the characteristics of the phenomena of mass media turning into full-scale commodity production:

Increased international competition and the resulting take-over of domestic, national publishing companies, advertising agencies, private broadcasting stations etc. by multinational companies.

Critical Political Economy Now

Critical political economy is a tool with which we can critically examine the media. It takes a distinctly Marxist approach to the study of communications. Focuses include analyzing how various economic classes are affected, how people have different levels of access to communications technologies, how capitalism affects the media and cultural industries, and how corporate ownership affects what the media produces. Key question for critical political economy approach is whether the economics of production shape public discourse (i.e. the range of debates available) and change the meaning within a text.

Analysis of media and communications through the critical political economy lens reveals various critiques, such as:

Major corporations and competition can be questioned in context of monopolies and oligopolies (Examples: Warner Brothers, AOL , McClatchy Company, Bertelsman, 20th Century Fox)
[This reveals unequal power relations and a lack of freedom and consumer choice.]

Media Consolidation in the Political Economy of Industrialized Culture

Admittedly, I am getting a late start on this week’s blog post, primarily due to the fact that to understand Garnham’s “Political Economy of Mass Communication,” I needed some serious contextualization. My undergraduate business education provided very little background on political economy (at least, not from a purely Marxist standpoint), and certainly nothing on the idealists of the bourgeois cultural society.

But the extra time allowed me to comment on what Garnham (or Uricchio, or Chakravartty) might think about a few of the announcements made in the “media” industry this morning. Specifically, the “non-merger merger” (a term paraphrased from The New York Times’ Brian Stelter) of Yahoo! and ABC News is indicative of the media landscape roll-up that has been occurring over the past few decades.

Politics, Media, and the Soviet legacy in Kyrgyzstan

It was just over twenty years ago when Herman and Chomsky developed their propaganda model to analyze how information and communications systems are controlled in seemingly “free” political contexts – i.e. capitalist societies, in juxtaposition with the monopolistic Eastern Bloc. A true sign of the times, anticommunist ideology was even listed as a mechanism for manipulating media content in the West. Since then, the world has become far less polarized; however, many former Soviet nations have resisted full democratization, clinging to the political and economic practices of their fallen empire.

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