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CMST 2K03 Political Economy: Media (C01)

Academic Year: Winter 2019

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Dale Shin


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 333

Phone: 905-525-9140 x

Office Hours: TBA, TSH 333

Course Objectives:

A comparative examination of changing patterns of ownership and control of the mass media in light of globalization, technological change, government policy, market restructuring and corporate consolidation.

This course seeks to introduce students to the political economy of media as a distinctive approach within communication, media, and cultural studies for studying contemporary media markets, systems, and industries. Surveying some of the different theories, schools, and debates that have dominated political economy in general and the political economy of media in particular, we will consider how media practices, policy, and governance at all levels — local, regional, national, global — are structured and bounded by powerful economic and political imperatives. Students will also consider alternatives and challenges to existing configurations of mass media, in public broadcasting, alternative and community media, digital-only news outlets, citizen journalism, social networking sites, amateur user-generated content, and peer-to-peer file-sharing practices and networks.

Upon completion of the course, students will

  • be able to identify various schools, theories, and approaches — at once classical and contemporary — within the study of the political economy of media and communication;
  • have brought to bear the perspective of a political economy of media to a consideration of the development of particular media markets, sectors, and industries, in Canada and elsewhere;
  • understand how unequal distributions of wealth and power, and differential access to social capital and resources, can shape the production of knowledge, information, and culture.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

All readings will be available on Avenue to Learn, through Google Books, or via the McMaster library catalogue. There are no texts that need to be purchased for this course.

Method of Assessment:

Attendance (10%)

Students will be graded for regular, punctual attendance in classes. Attendance will be taken during most classes. At the end of the term, the total number of classes attended by a student will be divided by the total number of classes held (e.g., twenty two classes attended out of twenty six classes held will result in a 85% for participation in the course). Absences due to illness, bereavement, etc., supported by documentation, will not count against the participation grade.

In-class test (30%) – Feb 28

Students will write an in-class test during the term. The test will be based on material (both readings and lectures) covered up to the date of the test.

Research paper (30%) – Apr 8, 11:59pm

Students will submit a paper (1500-2000 words), drawing upon course assigned materials and secondary sources to explore a particular site or field of the political economy of media, in relation to contemporary social and economic developments (e.g., the film industry in relation to streaming services, the video game industry and precarious work). A range of questions will be provided. Further instructions will be provided in class and posted on Avenue to Learn in the first two weeks of the course.

Final exam (30%) – during the exam period

Students will write an exam during the exam period. The exam will be based on material (both readings and lectures) covered up to the final week of classes.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Assignments must be submitted by the exact date and time specified. Late submissions will be penalized 3% for each day – including Saturdays and Sundays – that they are overdue. Submissions that are more than five days late will not be accepted and will instead receive a 0% grade. Students are responsible for retaining a back-up copy of their work; computer hardware or software malfunctions, network outages, data loss or corruption, and other common problems of a technical nature are not in and of themselves sufficient grounds for having the penalties for late submissions waived.

Requests for extensions by reason of extenuating circumstances will be considered by the instructor on a case-by-case basis, and only with the provision of supporting documentation (i.e., a completed McMaster Student Absence form). Extensions will only be offered in exceptional cases; students should not assume their provision.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Jan 7. Introduction to the course

No readings assigned for this class

Jan 10. What Is Political Economy?: Definitions and Foundations

  1. Vincent Mosco, “What Is Political Economy? Definitions and Characteristics,” in The Political Economy of Communication, 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, Ca.: Sage Publications, 2009), 21-36

Jan 14-17. Towards a Political Economy of the Media: The Key Issues and Debates

  1. Vincent Mosco, “What Is Political Economy? Schools of Thought,” in The Political Economy of Communication, 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, Ca.: Sage Publications, 2009), 37-64
  2. Douglas Gomery, “The Centrality of Media Economics,” Journal of Communication 43, no. 3 (September 1993): 190-198

Jan 21-24. Effects of Media Concentration: Entertainment (Film)

  1. Marco Cucco, "The Promise Is Great: The Blockbuster and the Hollywood Economy," Media, Culture & Society 31, no. 2 (2009): 215-230
  2. TBA

Jan 28-Jan 31. Effects of Media Concentration: Entertainment (Television)

  1. Eileen R. Meehan, “Star Trek, Synergy, and the Transindustrialization of Tribbles,” in Why TV Is Not Our Fault: Television Programming, Viewers, and Who’s Really in Control (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005), 89-116
  2. TBA

Feb 4-7. Effects of Media Concentration: Journalism and News (Print and Broadcast)

  1. Edward S. Herman, “The Propaganda Model: A Retrospective.” Journalism Studies 1, no. 1 (2000): 101-112
  2. Dwayne Winseck, “Media and Internet Concentration in Canada Report, 1984-2015,” Canadian Media Concentration Research Project [blog], November 22, 2016, (excerpts, TBA)

Feb 11-14. The Canadian Context: Peculiarities and Particularities

  1. Leslie Regan Shade and Michael Lithgow, “Ownership, Public Participation, and Democracy in the Canadian Mediascape,” in Mediascapes: New Patterns in Canadian Communication, ed. Leslie Regan Shade (Toronto: Nelson Education, 2014), 174-203
  2. Tanner Mirrlees, “A Political Economy of TV Broadcasting in Canada and the United States,” in The Television Reader, eds. Tanner Mirrlees and Joseph Kispal-Kovacs (Don Mills, Ont.: Oxford University Press Canada, 2013), 18-32

Feb 18-24. Midterm recess (no classes)

Feb 25. TBA

Feb 28. In-Class Test

No readings assigned for this class

Mar 4-7. Alternative Models: Citizen Journalism, Social Networks, and Digital News Outlets

  1. “The Shattered Mirror: News, Democracy, and Trust in the Digital Age,” Public Policy Forum, January 2017,
  2. Emily Bell, “Facebook Is Eating the World,” Columbia Journalism Review, March 7, 2016,
  3. “Buzz Kill: Digital News Outlets Are in for a Reckoning,” The Economist, December 2, 2017:

Mar 11-14. Alternative Models: Public Broadcasting and Community Media

  1. Robert McChesney, “Graham Spry and the Future of Public Broadcasting,” Canadian Journal of Communication 24, no. 1 (January 1999), doi: 10.22230/cjc.1999v24n1a1081
  2. Marc Raboy and David Taras, “The Trial by Fire of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: Lessons for Public Broadcasting,” in Cultural Dilemmas in Public Service Broadcasting, eds. Gregory Farrel Lowe and Per Jauert (Göteborg: Nordicom, 2005), 251-266
  3. Jesse Brown and Chris Powell, “Why Newspapers Don’t Have to Die,” Canadaland [audio podcast], December 3, 2017,

Mar 18-21. Globalization, Cultural Flows, and American "Media Imperialism"(?)

  1. Doris Baltruschat, “Reality TV Formats: The Case of Canadian Idol,” Canadian Journal of Communication 34 (2009): 41-59
  2. Tanner Mirrlees, “Designing Global Entertainment Media: Blockbuster Films, TV Formats, and Glocalized Lifestyle Brands,” in Global Entertainment Media: Between Cultural Imperialism and Cultural Globalization (New York: Routledge, 2013), 179-207

Mar 15. Last day for canceling courses without failure by default

Mar 25-28. New Media Just Like the Old Media?: The Political Economy of the Internet

  1. Christian Fuchs, “The Contemporary World Wide Web: Social Medium or New Space of Accumulation?” in The Political Economies of Media, eds. Dwayne Winseck and Dal Yong Jin (New York: Bloomsbury, 2012), 201-220
  2. Jin Kim, “The Institutionalization of YouTube: From User-Generated Content to Professionally Generated Content,” Media, Culture & Society 34, no. 1 (2012): 53-67

Apr 1-4. The God of Numbers: Media and Algorithmic Culture

  1. Robert Prey, “Nothing Personal: Algorithmic Individuation on Music Streaming Platforms,” Media, Culture & Society, November 30, 2017, doi:10.1177/0163443717745147
  2. Blake Hallinan and Ted Striphas, “Recommended for You: The Netflix Prize and the Production of Algorithmic Culture,” New Media & Society 18, no. 1 (2014): 117-137

Apr 8. In lieu of a conclusion

Other Course Information:

Lectures will normally incorporate various kinds of multimedia and visual aids, including slideware presentation software (e.g., PowerPoint). As a rule, these presentations will be made available (as .ppt files) to students for download immediately before the corresponding class.