Many of you have likely already taken a course
on political economy. If you haven’t yet, political economy is a field of study that,
when applied to digital communication, helps us to understand: What the media market looks
like. Why it looks how it does. What are its effects on society. Who has the power. What
kind of an impact those with power can have. Studying political economy gives us a better
perspective on the impact that those with power have on the media and therefore also
on the people who access it. As an example, Sumner Redstone, who has a
controlling share in the media company Viacom, supported the reelection of President Bush.
It was reported that, at his directive, Viacom media outlets were to limit stories that were
damaging to Bush and reject particular political ads that were not in support of the Bush campaign.
We can’t definitively say that this is the thing that turned the tide for Bush and won
him that election, but it is a useful example – along with many, many others – that
power in the media can have actual results. This week, we’re especially concerned with
how power affects digital communication – what we can access, how we can access it, and where
companies are working to control or even restrict that access in ways that benefit them.