Books | Review: The Political Economy of Media and Power

John Robertson reviews 'The Political Economy of Media and Power', edited by Jeffery Klaehn, an interdisciplinary collection addressing some of the most important issues at the intersections between mass media and the politics of power.

Books, New in Ceasefire - Posted on Saturday, December 10, 2011 20:06 - 2 Comments

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The Propaganda Model of mainstream media performance in the market-oriented democracies of Western Europe and, especially, of the United States, first outlined by professors Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky in 1988 (Manufacturing Consent), has become the benchmark ‘extreme’ position, characterising that performance as largely complicit with elite interests.

It represents the clearest and most empirically applicable theory from the critical political economy of the media providing the necessary alternative to the assumptions of liberal/humanist and ‘news values’ theories. The reviewer uses it in his own research and in his undergraduate and postgraduate teaching.

Undergraduates, in particular, are enthused by their ability to use it to explain the media coverage of recent events such as the Iraq and Afghan wars, the banking crisis and the exposure of ethics-free journalism in the Murdoch media empire. Across the UK Higher Education sector, in curricula, in textbooks and in academic journals, however, the Propaganda Model is somewhat neglected.

Consequently, this collection is most welcome in these interesting times as contribution to the literature. There are fourteen chapters in the collection covering a wide range of important contemporary topics. These are grouped in six sections on: ‘Culture and Politics’, ‘Media and Government Relations’, ‘Foreign Policy and Hegemony’, ‘Media and Academia’, ‘Popular Media and Culture’ and the ‘Political Economy of Media and Culture’.

The chapters bring together the writing of eighteen influential writers including Richard Keeble, Stuart Allen, James Winter, Robert Jensen and Justin Lewis. The editor, Klaehn, is already one of the most important commentators on and defenders of the value of the Propaganda Model.

One chapter, the Introduction by Miller and Dinan is unexpected and less than helpful in promoting the book’s overall purpose. Positioned early in the sequence of chapters, this seems to seek to undermine the contributions of all who follow.

A not-too balanced account of the Propaganda Model appearing this early in the book can only be expected to stem interest in reading further. It would have been better if the Introduction’s authors had been allocated a space later, with comparable status to the other authors, and with a more honest presentation of its critique.

At the other end of the spectrum, the debate between Klaehn and several of his other contributors is a model of good academic writing – open, status-free and respectful!

Overall, this is a very useful addition to reading lists for both undergraduates and postgraduates in media and communication studies, in politics and social sciences.

The Political Economy of Media and Power
Jeffery Klaehn (Editor)
361 pp
Peter Lang Publishers

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John W Robertson is Reader in Media Politics, University of the West of Scotland,  Ayr, Scotland.

2 Comments

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Michael Barker
Dec 11, 2011 14:19

This is a great book. I reviewed it last year here: http://www.swans.com/library/art16/barker67.html

Excello Zidana
May 15, 2012 23:44

I am a student in my country (Malawi) pursuing a bachelor of arts in journalism and I need a book which clearly explains political economy emphasizing on liberal, critical and regulation. Your notes are good!

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