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The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies, 7 Volume Set by Fabienne Darling-Wolf, Radhika Parameswaran, Erica Scharrer, Vicki Mayer, Sharon Mazzarella, Kelly Gates, John Nerone, Angharad N. Valdivia

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The Political Economy of Communication

An Idiosyncratic Presentation of an Emerging Subfield

Robert W. McChesney

ABSTRACT

The political economy of communication has three main components. First, it addresses in a critical manner how the media system interacts with and affects the overall disposition of power in society. Second, it examines how market structures, advertising support, labor relations, profit motivation, technologies, and government policies shape media industries, journalistic practices, occupational sociology, and the nature and content of the news and entertainment. The detailed examination of the policymaking process is the third core component. Political economic analysis suggests that media development has been inflected most strongly at critical junctures, moments when media technologies, political power, and economic structures simultaneously undergo stress and change. The present moment suggests the potential for political economic study of the media to have real impact.

What follows is an idiosyncratic presentation of the area of research called the “political economy of communication” or the “political economy of media.” I justify this approach because the subfield is small and has only a loosely recognized canon at this point. My aim is to contribute to the process of developing our understanding of this field of research, its history, the great influences upon its development, and its immense potential and importance going forward.

Political economy ...

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