Political Economy Our society is strongly influenced by all sources of media. The media shows us what is going on in the world news, fashion and much more. The media is our connection to the world and what goes on all around us. The political economy approach looks at the influence that ownership control, advertising and audience spending has over the mass media and the mediated messages we receive on a daily basis. Political economy believes that everything about media products is created through structural features (ownership, advertising and audience spending). The industries and businesses that the media works for and out of are organized through the economic and political factors of our economy.
Political economy stresses that private ownership has a major influence on the content and structure of the media. There are three viewpoints on ownership control Kevin Williams discusses in Understanding Media Theory. First, Marxist political economy believes that there is a direct link between ownership and control. An owner determines who, what facts and what ideas the public actually sees. Second, Structuralists say it is impossible to have a direct relationship between ownership and control. Structuralists believe that an owner is not physically able to keep up with the operations of mediated messages made on a daily basis.
There are too many messages made for an owner to look over and ok before production. Instead Structuralists believe to have allocative control. Allocative control allows a group of individuals to define the overall goals of the media organization and the financial policy. Third, the pluralists and post-modernists completely reject the Marxist approach of political economy. They believe that the consumer determines the output of the media. As a consumer you are able to decide what you want to watch or read.
You are also able to interpret and take away the message you want to take from the mediated message you come in contact with (even if it is not what the media organization was trying to say). Advertising is another part of the political economy approach. Owners yet again are in charge of the messages portrayed through advertising. They send out a message in order to sell their product or service in order to make the most profit possible. To be able to make the most profit owners and advertisers must reach out their advertisements to the right people. They must satisfy the needs of the consumer with the most spending power.
A possible hole in the political economy approach is the lack of acknowledging the audience and what they want. All the political economy approach cares about is the economy and ways that they can make the economy better. They care only about the production of the media and the mediated message that is portrayed. The political economy can change this by taking into account the large array of people in our society. When making a product or mediated message you must realize that every individual in society has different opinions and ideas. They can either agree to read your media or go to an alternate source.
The media must always reflect all needs and wants of their audience in order to insure their audience will read and support their message. Also the political economy approach does not apply to all different types of media. Some media does not need to try to make the most profit possible. Williams uses the example of BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). The BBC is not financed by commercial activities but rather through license fee.
Therefore, they do not have to satisfy shareholders. The only thing they have to do is compete with other sources. I think that the political economy approach is right to a certain extent. Ownership does have a strong influence on the media in my opinion, but I also believe that the audience the media is trying to influence, inform and persuade has a strong influence. The owner sets the standards and the way the media are going to do portray their message, but the audience decides whether to read it or accept it.
An owner can not just approach a mediated message without insuring it is a positive thing for their business. A positive thing would be to increase the amount of profit we receive after our mediated message is sent out. After learning about the political economy approach I have come to realize the importance of the media and the understanding of its audience. In order for the media to maximize its profits and reach the right people we must have diversity in our messages and we must appeal to a large audience. The political economy approach makes a lot of good arguments but leaves a few things out we must also take into account such as our audience..