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Political Economy Theory Essay

The political economy in mass media theory argues that “the structure of the industry influences content.” _(Andrejevic M, 2007)._ This theory will be demonstrated by analysing an article entitled _'”Sky’s the limit” for MySpace’_, published on _News.com.au_ on August 10th 2007. The presumption of the theory is that media content is influenced by a combination of the media owners (individuals or corporations), advertisers, competitors/other media, government regulations and viewers or readers. In the case of media ownership, “Private individuals decide what information should be provided to the public based on what earns them the most money.” _(Andrejevic M, 2007)_

The _News.com.au_ article on _MySpace_ appears in the National News section and describes the firm grasp and incredible influence the social networking site, established in 2003, has on the internet and throughout the business world. The article is saturated with references to the innovations and stunning success of _MySpace_. For example the opening sentence reads “Social networking website _MySpace_ has more than 115 million members around the world and already plays a key role in launching music careers, political campaigns and the way people communicate in general.” _(Gadd M, 2007)_ At this point a discerning reader should recall that _News Corp_ bought _MySpace_ from its co founders Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe in July 2005. _(Malick O, 2006)_

The propaganda model developed by Edwards S Herman and Noam Chomsky asserts that information presented to the general public via mainstream media outlets will be biased in relation to the interests of the multinational organisations or media conglomerates that own them. _(Herman & Chomsky, 1988)_ By publishing an article promoting the dominant discourse that _MySpace_ is a popular, thriving production with unlimited potential, _News Limited_ are encouraging awareness of the website, which in turn provides it with traffic and publicity. Since _News Corp_ owns _MySpace_ and is a holding company for _News Limited_, this is a chief example of the propaganda model and reinforces the political economy theory that media content is affected by media owners.

The positive language used in the article demonstrates the power of linguistic controls in promoting a discourse. The writers of the article use phrases such as “it’s just the tip of the ice berg” _(Gadd M, 2007)_ to imply there is a wealth of possibilities for _MySpace_ to accomplish. The website is described as “a platform for individuals to express themselves and socialise.” _(Gadd M, 2007)_ This quote is relevant to today’s society as ideas of non-conformity, individuality and creativity are attractive to today’s youth.

Of all the quotes available from the interviews with the co founders, there is a deliberate choice on behalf of _News.com.au_ to feature words such as ’emerging’, ‘prominent’, ‘innovate’, and ‘evolve’ that connote ideas of positive change and progression. This gives the impression that _MySpace_ is at the forefront of the online social networking phenomenon with millions of individuals flocking to be involved. These terms are deliberately chosen by _News Limited_ to appeal to advertisers who wish for their products to be seen and purchased by the “trend-setters” in society, and this will consequently benefit its parent, _News Corp_.

The article also suggests the potential power MySpace has for advertisers in the future. “Mr DeWolfe said mobile advertising would be a lucrative fund source and video would take a more prominent place in the way people communicated and shared their art.” _(Gadd M, 2007)_ It should be noted that _News Corp.,_ along with other media conglomerates, is ultimately a commercial organisation. By using _News Limited_’s article to draw attention to the incredible infiltration ratio of _MySpace_ (four million unique accounts in Australia, and 50% of all internet users in America) _News Corp_ is securing advertisers’ interest in _MySpace_. The statement by Walt Disney Corporation CEO, Michael Eisner, is particularly powerful in demonstrating the reality of what drives media conglomerates: “We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. To make money is our only objective.” _(Andrejevic M, 2007)_

Newspapers, TV networks and magazines rely on advertisers to finance their business, so to encourage advertisers to buy space in their publication they commodify and promote their audiences. According to Dallas Smythe “audiences are bought by advertisers on the basis on income, age, sex, ethnic and class specifications.” _(Stevenson N, 2002:10-11)_ Rupert Murdoch outlined his plans for the future of _MySpace_ in a 2006 interview at the Citigroup Entertainment, Media and Telecommunications Conference.

He revealed that an instant messenger client with voice capabilities, increased worldwide penetration, and free video downloads were in the works. (The free video downloads have been successfully incorporated into the website since the interview.) Following this, Mr Murdoch said “We’ve got the biggest mass of unsold inventory. We have the third most page views of the Internet in America,” and explained that _News Corp_ had met with advertising networks to “judge whether they can sell it better than we can.” _(Burns E, 2006)_

In conclusion, the political economy theory, which highlights the a link between “ownership and ‚Ķ content of media production” _(Stevenson N, 2002: 41)_, can be applied to the _News.com.au_ article about _MySpace_ to reveal how much ownership, among other things, can affect the information the public receives from mass media outlets. As demonstrated in the way that _News Limited_ portrayed _MySpace_ in a positive light for the economic benefit of its parent firm _News Corp,_ it is important for audiences to be aware of the political economy theory, and to detect not only bias but the possible reasons behind such bias in media texts they consume.


Andrejevic M (2007) _The Mass Media: A Political Economic Approach._ Lecture slides for JOUR2211 Week 2. Available from https://my.uq.edu.au/blackboard_frame.html Accessed on 12/08/07

Burns E (2006) _Murdoch discusses future of MySpace.com._ Available from Accessed on 10/08/07

Gadd M (2007) _’Sky’s the limit’ for MySpace._ Available from Accessed on 10/08/07

Herman E S and Chomsky, Noam. (1988) _Manufacturing Consent: the Political Economy of the Mass Media_. New York: Pantheon Books

Malick O (2006) _Why Murdoch Really Bought MySpace._ Available Accessed on 11/02/03

McQuail D (2002) _McQuails Reader in Mass Communication Theory._ Sage publications.

Stevenson N (2002) Understanding Media Cultures: Social Theory and Mass Communication. Sage publications. pp10-11

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