Media Crisis, What Media Crisis
I’ve just returned back from a wonderful two weeks in Portugal. We spent the first week at the International Association of Media and Communication Researchers, one of the best organizations, in my view, in the field dedicated to the study of all forms of communication and media. The IAMCR also has a great reach globally, with scholars from all over the world congregating once a year to consider the state of the art of research, whether or not your interests lay in media political economy and history, like mine, public opinion, diasporic communcation, global media and many other areas.
As usual, it was a great time and I enjoyed meeting up with many of my old friends. I’ll write some more on the conference and some of the substantive themes that I came across while there. One of the most important things that I took away, though, is that the political economy of communication is alive and well, with almost all of its panels drawing large audiences.
The political economy approach to communication and media studies has sometimes drawn justified criticism for being simply code for a narrow-minded and obtuse marxist view of the world, but that is far too simple to capture the varieties of what is going on in the field now. Moreover, I would also argue, as did many at the IAMCR conference, that our times are particularly well-suited to those who address the current crisis that continues to wreak havoc on the world’s economy, and people’s lives. In that vein, studying the dynamics of the media industries and the broader economic, political, technological and cultural forces shaping and remaking the media is also a hallmark of media political economies.
Indeed, we can can learn a lot from this vantage point about the current state of the media and the oft-repeated claim that the ‘traditional media’ are ‘in crisis’, destined to go the way of the dodo bird, as people switch loyalty, time and connections to Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and so forth, in this age of ‘mass self-expression’. There is a great deal of compelling evidence and examples that, at least superficially, illustrate the case that the ‘traditional media industries’ are in decline.
The case has been made all the more appealing in recent years by rise of the Internet and the substantial decline in advertising revenue for network tv and newspapers, the fragmentation of audiences, and the continuing long-term declines in newspaper readership across North America and most of the ‘west’ — although, against this, we must also point out that the massive explosion of newspaper titles and readership in places like India and China offer countervailing lessons, to say nothing of the growth of television worldwide. I wrote a short piece that was published today in The Mark, a recent addition to the expanding range of quality online news, analysis and commentary publications, that challenges the ‘media in crisis’ theme in relation to the media in Canada. You can see my piece here:What Media Crisis article in The Mark
A full-scale, scholarly version of that piece can be found in the paper that I delivered at the IAMCR Conference in Portugal in July, 2010.
A PowerPt snapshot of the main charts, figures, data, and key arguments I rely on can be found here: Financialization and the ‘Crisis of the Media’ (IAMCR Pres).
I have begun to amass a fairly large data set on the media industries and am willing to share with those similarly inclined.