Media and Society: Critical Perspectives

By Graeme Burton | Go to book overview

1 Introduction
In addition to the above it may be said that a political economy approach would be interested in
the production of cultural goods by institutions;
regulation by those institutions and by government;
media texts with reference to the relationship between representations and the conditions of production and consumption;
cultural consumption with relation to cultural and social inequalities.

In this first chapter I want to make connections between elements such as regulation and power, as they relate to the production of meaning, and as they illuminate the relationship between media and society. But we also need to look separately at the nature and operations of media institutions.

Texts and audiences are relatively accessible. Media businesses are not. Information about their policies and financial affairs is hard to come by for reasons of confidentiality. Access to the production needs of their businesses may be denied for the same reason, or because these organizations are suspicious of what academic researchers are going to do and say.

Differing views on the practices and products of media institutions throw up contradictions. For example, if a pluralistic approach proposes diversity of product, then at what point does diversity in fact become cultural fragmentation? May this not simply encourage social fracturing, and work against cultural coherence?

Ralph Negrine (1994) identifies contradictions between statements in support of a free market, and those which then ask for regulation of that market because of the consequences of its becoming ‘too free’. He quotes John Keane: ‘there is a structural contradiction between freedom of communication and unlimited freedom of the

Summary of Models of the Relationship between Media and Society

This mapping of broad critiques of the relationship between media and society represents general truths, but
needs particular qualifications.

For example, some political economists veer towards a dynamic model in accepting that there is a complex
relationship, in which economic power does not simply determine cultural change. Similarly, Feminist critiques
embrace a range of positions, both determinist and audience centred.

-6-

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