User:Countrymike/The Political Economy of Information
The Political Economy of Information
This is a post-graduate course I am taking at the w:University of Auckland taught by Dr. Joe Atkinson. I am using this page as a kind of personal learning space to take notes and aggregate references.
Dornfeld, Barry. (2003) Social Capital, Civic Space and the Digital Revolution: Emerging Strategies for Public Broadcasting. pp.215-225 in Michael P. McCauley, Eric E. Petersen, B. Lee Artz and Dee Dee Halleck (eds) Public Broadcasting and the Public Interest. New York. Available: http://books.google.co.nz/books?hl=en&lr=&id=pRJDOSIli08C&oi=fnd&pg=PA215&ots=w6NMXOlbQ7&sig=BH9BhLHtq1OebXNy4XDv6VYx0TQ Google book version has pages missing. Will get from library.
Location: GENERAL LIBRARY Call Number: 384.540973 M47 Status: Available
Coase's Penguin, or, Linux and the Nature of the Firm by Yochai Benkler.
Baker, C. Edwin (2002) Media, Markets and Democracy.
Media, Markets, and Democracy (2002)
Media Concentration and Democracy (2007)
C. Edwin Baker
What are some examples of negative externalities in media production:
- Blockbuster movies with extensive marketing tie-ins. Used to promote fast-food consumption, create wasteful products for kids often manufactured overseas in cheap markets, create waste for land-fills and problems with disposal.
- Violent movies/tv - often argued to promote violence but this is debatable.
4 types of Democracy
elitist democracy considers that the complexity of contemporary politics requires the full-time dedication of elites or skilled experts rather than widespread popular involvement. In such a concept of democracy a free and independent press is necessary to expose or act as a deterrent to the corruption of these elites; but it is not necessarily required to promote intelligent political involvement or opportunities to reflect upon politics for the populace at large (Baker 2002: 130-133). Politics to the elite theorist of democracy is often the means towards establishing a commonality of interest among constituents, and it thereby devalues any consideration of conflicts of class, gender, or race. The most essential function of the press, besides its provision of the watchdog function, is to provide the elite the information necessary to resolve conflicts should they arise. Baker acknowledges though that this conception of democracy has minimal popular appeal and he spends few pages addressing it in any detail; mostly his interests lie in his descriptions of the next three types of democratic theory that he refers to as “participatory theories”.
Liberal pluralism, or interest-group democracy, recognizes that each person has his or her own interests and that people form groups which share their similar interests and with which they identify. The unique interests and values of individuals and groups will often conflict with those values held by other individuals and groups. Liberal pluralism is the recognition of the inevitability of diversity of opinions and of the vastly different values held by both individuals and groups in society but argues that a healthy democracy should provide the mechanisms “most likely to take into account and properly weigh all interests” (Baker 2002: 137). Such interests should have an effect on determining government policy as groups present their interests and lobby policy makers. Media in such an environment is expected to accommodate this marketplace of contested ideas and give voice to as many groups within the society as possible.
Republican democracy claims that the liberal pluralist approach ignores the idea that people, to varying degrees, may not be so narrowly self-interested, and may in fact be oriented towards a concern for others, and spend time working towards a conception of a “common good.” Republican democratic theory suggests that peoples political participation is often motivated by concerns for justice and a better society for everyone and that the liberal emphasis on narrow self-interest is indicative of the extent to which politics is currently corrupt (Baker 2002: 140). The significant feature of the republican theory for Baker is the central notion of the public realm -- the discursive stage on which the formulation and exchange of ideas around the “common good” takes place. Just what shape or form this “common good” may take over time is something that republican theory admits is open to debate and so it is in this need to negotiate the position of this “good” for any particular historical era that the entry of media and media policy come into play.
Complex democracy is a term coined by Baker to describe a theoretical foundation for democracy that is a mixture and balance of both liberal pluralist and republican conceptions. Baker's premise acknowledges that both altruistic and selfless impulses are present in peoples social life and that a democracy can and should include processes by which they can “clarify both their individual preferences and their conception of more general common goods” (Baker 2002: 143). For this to happen pluralist groups require their own “public spheres” and media in which they can develop their own identities and strategies. Groups can then bargain with each other over conceptions and definitions of common goods. Each of the participatory democratic theories has a particular vision of how the media, particularly the press should operate within it for the functioning of a more perfect democracy. For liberal pluralists ownership of media at the group level is crucial as only their own media can be relied on to develop media relevant to their own needs (Baker 2002: 148). For republican democracy the press should be both inclusive of all and promote reflective and balanced coverage of issues in order to stimulate public discourse. Complex democracy aims to promote both bargaining power for groups as well as media entities that can support larger societal consideration of “common goods.”
Definitions and Concepts
- Public Good
- Normative - Normative economics deals with questions of what sort of economic policies ought to be pursued, in order to achieve desired economic outcomes.
- Rational Ignorance - Ignorance about an issue is said to be "rational" when the cost of educating oneself about the issue sufficiently to make an informed decision can outweigh any potential benefit one could reasonably expect to gain from that decision, and so it would be irrational to waste time doing so.
Under what conditions might public service broadcasting survive and prosper in the face of neo-liberal policy-making and multi-media convergence? Under what conditions is it more likely to wither and die?
- James Curran - on the BBC
Definitions of Public Service Broadcasting
There is no standard definition of what public broadcasting is exactly, although a number of official bodies have attempted to pick out the key characteristics. Public service broadcasters generally transmit programming that aims to improve society by informing viewers. In contrast, the aim of commercial outlets is to provide popular shows that attract an audience—therefore leading to higher prices when advertising is sold. For this reason, the ideals of public broadcasting are often hard to reconcile with commercial goals.
The Broadcasting Research Unit lists the following as major goals or characteristics of a public broadcaster:
- Geographic universality — The stations' broadcasts are available nationwide, with no exception. This criterion is failed by Five in the UK, which a substantial minority of the population cannot receive. Generally, the "nationwide" criterion is satisfied by either having member stations across the country (as is the case with PBS in the United States) or, as is the case with most other public broadcasters around the world, the broadcaster owning sufficient transmitters to broadcast nationwide.
- Catering for all interests and tastes — as exemplified by the BBC's range of minority channels (BBC Two, BBC Radio 3, etc.).
- Catering for minorities — much as above, but with racial and linguistic minorities. (for example S4C in Wales, BBC Asian Network, Radio-Canada, Australia's SBS).
- Concern for national identity and community — this essentially means that the stations should in the most part commission programmes from within the country, which may be more expensive than importing shows from abroad.
- Detachment from vested interests and government — in other words, programming should be impartial, and the stations should not be subject to control by advertisers or government. Even when a station is removed from corporate and government interests, critics argue that it may nonetheless have a bias towards the values of certain groups (e.g., the middle class, leftist politics, etc.).
- One broadcasting system to be directly funded by the corpus of users — For example, the licence fee in the case of the BBC, or member stations asking for donations in the case of the US's PBS/NPR.
- Competition in good programming rather than numbers — quality is the prime concern with a true public service broadcaster. Of course, in practice, ratings wars are rarely concerned with quality, although that may depend on how you define the word "quality".
- Guidelines to liberate programme makers and not restrict them — in the UK, guidelines, and not laws, govern what a programme maker can and cannot do, although these guidelines can be backed up by hefty penalties.
Some of these definition points may not be acceptable everywhere. For example in the United States public broadcasting may see part of its mission to bring in foreign shows, e.g. shows from the CBC/Radio-Canada or the BBC, since such shows are not commonly aired by American commercial broadcasters.
An alternative model for implementing public service media exists, known as Citizen Media. As it relates to broadcasting, this generally means a radio or television outlet which has some sort of public access, that is, most or much of the programming is created by members of the public which receives the programming. This can be in the form of community radio, campus radio, and public access television, although the latter is not a form of over-the-air broadcasting, as it is only available on cable television systems.
Public Service Broadcasting (PSB)is broadcasting made, financed and controlled by the public, for the public. It is neither commercial nor state-owned, free from political interference and pressure from commercial forces. Through PSB, citizens are informed, educated and also entertained. When guaranteed with pluralism, programming diversity, editorial independence, appropriate funding, accountability and transparency, public service broadcasting can serve as a cornerstone of democracy.
Public service broadcasting, whether run by public organisations or privately-owned companies, differs from broadcasting for purely commercial or political reasons because of its specific remit, which is essentially to operate independently of those holding economic and political power. It provides the whole of society with information, culture, education and entertainment; it enhances social, political and cultural citizenship and promotes social cohesion. To that end, it is typically universal in terms of content and access; it guarantees editorial independence and impartiality; it provides a benchmark of quality; it offers a variety of programmes and services catering for the needs of all groups in society and it is publicly accountable. These principles apply, whatever changes may have to be introduced to meet the requirements of the twenty-first century.
Council of Europe, http://assembly.coe.int/Documents/AdoptedText/ta04/EREC1641.htm
The 1986 Peacock Commisssion investigating funding of the BBC concluded that there was no 'simple dictionary definition' of public service broadcasting.
“The key aspects of public service broadcasting are typically considered to be the provision of universal coverage, application of broadcasting standards, promotion of national identity, democratic support and supplementary (i.e. non-commercial) programming.”
Tony Ryall, NZ Minister of State Owned Enterprises. 1990
“The government has reasserted the importance of public service broadcasting as part of the push to develop New Zealand’s national identity,” Broadcasting Minister Steve Maharey.