Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times


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  • Rich media, poor democracy : communication politics in dubious times?

This makes McChesney's rigourous and carefully argued scholarship an especially welcome contribution to the literature. This book is of a piece with his earlier Corporate Media and the Threat to Democracy ; The Global Media , which he co-authored with Edward Herman ; and the co-edited collection Capitalism and the Information Age The wealthier and more powerful the corporate media giants have become, the poorer the prospects for participatory democracy" p.

While the book deals primarily with the relationship between the media and the state of American democracy, McChesney's argument has much wider application as media corporations globalize and "neoliberal democracy" spreads. His argument is particularly pertinent to Canada, where companies like CanWest Global, Quebecor, and Rogers Communications are restructuring the Canadian mediascape and where public debate is too often reduced to issues such as whether Izzy Asper will be a more benevolent monopolist than Conrad Black.

McChesney's depiction of the media system as increasingly concentrated, conglomerated, and vertically integrated, driven by profit and supported by advertising, is not particularly new. What is refreshing about the book is the analysis he brings to the topic, an analysis characterized by his willingness, first, to engage with a number of the powerful myths which sustain the corporate media-structure and, second, to broaden considerably the debate around media ownership.

Instead, this subject is nowhere to be found" pp. McChesney advocates open and broad public discussion of media ownership, discussion which must be informed by a sense of media history and shorn of economic dogma. The book is divided into two parts of three chapters each. Part I, simply titled "Politics," offers an overview of the U. Here McChesney seeks to debunk two media myths. First, he rejects the popular notion that applying market principles to communication assures that people get what they want: "As much as demand creates supply, supply creates demand. Media conglomerates are risk-averse and continually return to what has been commercially successful in the past" pp.

Second, he devotes an entire chapter to the idea that new communication technologies, and specifically the Internet, will set us free. The fact that U. This, of course, limits the revolutionary potential of the Internet because "it is a revolution that does not appear to include changing the identity and nature of those in power" p. Part II, entitled "History," criticizes the way neoliberal commentators invoke history to provide "ideological cover" for corporate media interests pp.

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Advanced search Search history. Browse titles authors subjects uniform titles series callnumbers dewey numbers starting from optional. See what's been added to the collection in the current 1 2 3 4 5 6 weeks months years. Your reader barcode: Your last name:. Cite this Email this Add to favourites Print this page. You must be logged in to Tag Records. The term deregulation implies something good: that people will be less regulated and enjoy more liberty.

Rich Media, Poor Democracy : Communication Politics in Dubious Times (New) [Paperback]

Who could oppose that? Radio broadcasting is the classic case of a deregulated industry. But just how deregulated is it? Try testing this definition of deregulation by broadcasting on one of the 1, channels for which Clear Channel has a government-enforced monopoly license. If you persist, you will do many years in a federal penitentiary. That is very serious regulation. In fact, all deregulation means in radio is that firms can possess many more government-granted and government-enforced monopoly licenses than before.

As the radio example indicates, we have a very long way to go to bring widespread and informed public participation to media-policy debates. The immediate barrier is the standard problem facing democratic forces in the United States: The corporate media political lobby is extraordinarily powerful and is used to having its way on both sides of the aisle in Congress.

Rich Media Poor Democracy Communication Politics in Dubious Times

Moreover, corporate media power is protected from public review by a series of very powerful myths. Four of these myths in particular need to be debunked if there is going to be any hope of successfully infusing the public into media-policy debates.

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The first myth is that the existing profit-driven U. The Founders, this myth holds, crafted the First Amendment to prevent any government interference with the free market. In fact, this could hardly be more inaccurate. Freedom of the press was seen more as a social right belonging to the entire population than as a commercial right belonging to wealthy investors.

The establishment of the U. Post Office provides a dramatic case in point. In the first generations of the republic, newspapers accounted for between 70 percent and 95 percent of post-office traffic, and newspapers depended upon the post office for the distribution of much of their circulation. A key question facing Congress was what to charge newspapers to be mailed.

Journalism, Democracy, … and Class Struggle

No one at the time was arguing that newspapers should pay full freight, that the market should rule; the range of debate was between those who argued for a large public subsidy and those who argued that all postage for newspapers should be free, to encourage the production and distribution of a wide range of ideas.

The former position won, and it contributed to a massive flowering of print media in the United States throughout the early 19th century. What is most striking about this period, as Paul Starr argues in his new book, The Creation of the Media , is that there wasn't rhetoric about free markets in the media, nor about the sacrosanct rights of commercial interests. That came later. The second myth is that professional practices in journalism will protect the public from the ravages of concentrated private commercial control over the news media -- and that therefore we need not worry about the media system or the policies that put it into place.

The notion of professional journalism dates to the early 20th century, by which time the explicit partisanship of American newspapers had come to resemble something akin to the one-party press rule of an authoritarian society. The solution to this problem was to be professional autonomy for journalism. Trained professional journalists who were politically neutral would cover the news, and the political views of the owners and advertisers would be irrelevant except on the editorial page.

There were no schools of journalism in ; by many of the major schools had been established, often at the behest of major publishers. Professional journalism was far from perfect, but it looked awfully good compared with what it replaced. And at its high-water mark, the s and '70s, it was a barrier of sorts to commercial media ownership.

But the autonomy of journalists was never written into law, and the problem today is that as media companies have grown larger and larger, the pressure to generate profit from the news has increased.

Communication Politics in Dubious Times

That has meant slashing editorial budgets, sloughing off on expensive investigative and international coverage, and allowing for commercial values to play a larger role in determining inexpensive and trivial news topics. In short, the autonomy and integrity of U. This is why journalists rank among the leading proponents of media reform. They know firsthand how the media system is overwhelming their best intentions, their professional autonomy.

And unless the system changes, there is not hope for a viable journalism. The third myth is probably the most prevalent, and it applies primarily to the entertainment media, though with the commercialization of journalism, it is being applied increasingly there, too. This is the notion that as bad as the media system may seem to be, it gives the people what they want.

If we are dissatisfied with media content, don't blame the media firms; blame the morons who demand it. This is such a powerful myth because it contains an element of truth.

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After all, what movie studio or TV network intentionally produces programming that people do not want to watch? The problem with it, as I detail in The Problem of the Media , is that it reduces a complex relationship of audience and producers to a simplistic one-way flow. In oligopolistic media markets, there is producer sovereignty, not consumer sovereignty, so media firms give you what you want, but only within the range that generates maximum profits for them.

Supply creates demand as much as demand creates supply.

Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times
Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times
Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times
Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times
Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times
Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times

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