Television and Radio Criticism

Political Economy- Gavhar's 2nd Reading Response

In Political Economy by Patrick Burkart, we explore the topic of political economy in the role of mass media. Patrick Burkart’s developed thesis statement is that, “critical political economy of media and communication is an enduring and ongoing critique of the capitalist practices of intellectual property creation, preservation, growth and projection. Political economy considers media systems as providing a strong evidentiary basis for the potentials for cultivation and exploitation of the consciousness of media viewers, readers and audiences,” (Burkart, pg. 131).
Before we are able to come to this conclusion, Burkart leads us through three different parts that all lead upto this conclusive thesis. In the first part of the chapter he talks about the historical background on how political economy was formed in the media. He explicitly talks about the Frankfurt School concept of human “un-reason” that, “exposes a dialectical or evolving historical process, expressed in social conflict”, the reason for bringing up this concept is because Burkart himself uses this concept in order to get his point across to his audience. He structures the chapter into three parts, the first is a historical analysis of political economy, the second is about how IP came about and the gains that those with power were able to obtain from enforcing IP policies, and lastly the formation of piracy, and pirate politics mainly in the EU.
For a more in depth analysis, in part one Burkart talks about the study of reverse history studies, where it can be better seen how, “exchange relationships yoked to profitability and a growth impulse, while being cloaked by law, religion, and the nuclear family,” (Burkart, pg. 126). Since certain institutions, and companies apply so much pressure for profitability, it heavily influences what media is created for. Uses of advertisements, marketing data services, and so forth, make it so that media is designed to fulfill certain purposes, which ignores certain factors so it can appeal for larger audiences. An example that Burkart brings up is the astrology column on the Los Angeles Times, that Adorno had written about how the column is used to help people relate to one another through astrology. It is a great example to bring up, as it does back up his point that media is designed for a specific goal in mind, and how leisure time is a valuable commodity when assessed through marketing analyses and advertising strategies, they all feed into profitability.
In the second part of this chapter, we learn about IP, which is intellectual property, it consists of copyright issues, royalties, penalties, distribution, etc. The key point to keep in mind for this part is the idea of power play in how IP is structured. Burkart talks about IP in relation to, “power in trade relationships- such as imbalanced trade relationship between national or regional importers and exporters of media and media industries as promoters of soft powers, and media industries as engines for economic development,” (Burkart, pg. 128). This information is crucial to bring up for Burkart, because following this he goes on to talk about how the United States promotes to brings a maximalist approach to IP abroad. What this does is help bring in more economic gain for the US, but many countries that do not have power like the US would rather struggles to enforce such heavy regulations on patents, trademarks, copyright, and trade secrets. Bringing up this concept of power in relation to trade relationships really does help prove his point, thus making it more concrete. In addition, Burkart brings up how the US and EU together generate the largest trade surplus in royalties and license fees in the world. This brings us back to point on how power politics plays a big role on the media, it’s production, distribution and profitability, institutions play a massive role.
The final portion of the chapter talks about pirate politics, which concerns with copyright infringement, in Sweden and Germany. However, Burkart does not really talks too much about as he does with the other two parts. He does go over on what are some frameworks that had been created in order to criminalize the act of pirating, but he goes on to talk about how pirating became a global movement as a way of resisting against the current political framework of media. Burkart does explain, for the most part, on how pirate politics came about, but follows up with how he conducted an analysis on pirate politics during his time in Europe by making his own research approaches, creating concepts based on interviews, and using teachers as key sources of information for his research. Although he does a great job in guiding us on how he had conducted his research on pirate politics, it is unclear as to what the overall goal of it is in the chapter.
The audience that this chapter/reading caters to, are those who are interested in how media politics, economic to be more specific, and how it influences mass media as a whole. The audience would most likely be informed, have some knowledge or background on the issue, as it does heavily affect our modern media, as we live it. It is a very informative piece for those who want to learn about how the mass media is structured and influenced by the capitalist economic system. One last point is that, it is a good piece that can be used as a framework for someone who may be interested in pirate politics, as the chapter was not really completed at the end, those who want to search more would have a great basis to start from.
An interesting concept that Burkart brings up, John Downing’s debates that, “addressed whether there is sufficient evidence for there being concentrated media ownership, whether there is a relationship between high concentration of media ownership and risks of democratic deficits, and whether high ownership concentration of media is linked to a reduction of media diversity and competitiveness,” (Burkart, pg. 125). It is very intriguing when we look at it from a mainstream media consumer standpoint, as a lot of new media that is consumed by the larger population often times are generic in their makeup, that is how it seems. It leaves you with questions and makes you look at mass media from a different view point.

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