The political economy of media

Authored by: Jonathan Silberstein-Loeb

The Routledge Companion to British Media History

Print publication date:  September  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415537186
eBook ISBN: 9781315756202
Adobe ISBN: 9781317629474


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A principal concern of political economy is the relationship between the state and the market, but historians of the British news media have not adequately defined the parameters of the market or how it operated or overlapped with politics. There is a body of published historical work concerned with the political economy of the British media (e.g. Garnham, 1979; Curran and Seaton, 2009), but whichever approach to political economy one prefers, one must start with a clear understanding of the market and its structure and dynamics. Key to understanding any market is the nature and degree of competition. Thinking about competition is a helpful way in which to approach issues of political economy, but economic analysis need not determine the course of one’s inquiry. For example, one might consider the way in which competition affected the provision of news and in turn influenced how readers understood the media they consumed, as well as how media producers sought to attract them. Thinking about competition, and the regulation of it, is also an effective way in which to grapple with how people thought about the role of the media in the past. Historians are also well placed to ascertain the extent to which, and conditions in which, competition has helped or hindered the creation of the media (Lacy, 1990).

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