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CMST 2K03 Political Economy: Media

Academic Year: Winter 2018

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Dale Shin


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 333

Phone: 905-525-9140 x

Office Hours: Mondays 10:30-11:30AM, TSH 333

Course Objectives:

Calendar description: 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 through Avenue to Learn, the McMaster library catalogue, or Google Scholar.

Method of Assessment:

Attendance (10%)

Attendance will be taken during most classes. Two unexplained absences in total throughout the term are allowed without penalty; each subsequent absence will result in a 1% penalty being deducted from the attendance component (10%) of a student’s overall grade in the course (e.g., five absences in total will result in a 3% penalty, leaving them with a possible 7% of the 10% allocated for attendance in the course). Absences due to illness, bereavement, etc., supported by documentation, will not count against the participation grade.

In-class test (30%) – Feb 27

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.

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 concept, idea, or theme at length. Further instructions will be provided in class.

Final exam (30%) – during the exam period, Apr 11-26

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 seven 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, in the event of an emergency or crisis, 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 5. Introduction to the course

No readings assigned for this week

Jan 9-12. What Is Political Economy?: Definitions and Foundations

  1. Vincent Mosco, “What Is Political Economy? Definitions and Characteristics” and “What Is Political Economy? Schools of Thought,” in The Political Economy of Communication, 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, Ca.: Sage Publications, 2009), 21-61

Jan 15-18. Towards a Political Economy of the Media: The Key Issues and Debates

  1. Douglas Gomery, “The Centrality of Media Economics,” Journal of Communication 43, no. 3 (September 1993): 190-198 
  2. Eileen R. Meehan, “Understanding How the Popular Becomes Popular: The Role of Political Economy in the Study of Popular Communication,” Popular Communication 5, no. 3 (2007): 161-170
  3. Dwayne Winseck, “Media and Internet Concentration in Canada Report, 1984-2015,” Canadian Media Concentration Research Project [blog], November 22, 2016, (excerpts, TBA)

Jan 22-25. The Canadian Context: Peculiarities and Particularities

  1. Marc Raboy, “Canada,” in Television: An International History, ed. Anthony Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 161-168
  2. 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
  3. 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

Jan 29-Feb 1. Media, Advertising, and the Audience-Commodity

  1. Dallas W. Smythe, “On the Audience Commodity and Its Work,” in Media and Cultural Studies: KeyWorks, eds. Meenakshi Gigi Durham and Douglas Kellner (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2006), 230-256
  2. Roque Faraone, “Economics, Ideology, and Advertising,” in The Handbook of Political Economy of Communications, eds. Janet Wasko, Graham Murdock, and Helena Sousa (Malden, Ma.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 187-205

Feb 5-8. Effects of Media Concentration: Entertainment (Film, TV, Music, and Video Games)

  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. Ronald V. Bettig and Jeanne L. Hall, “Media Concentration and Culture: The Movie and Music Industries,” in Big Media, Big Money: Cultural Texts and Political Economics (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), 59-68
  3. Matthew Garrahan, “The Rise and Rise of the Hollywood Film Franchise: A Look at the Economics of Hollywood Sequels,” Financial Times, December 12, 2014,

Feb 12-15. Effects of Media Concentration: Journalism and News (Print and Broadcast)

  1. Robert Hackett et al., “Is Canada’s Press Censored?” in The Missing News: Filters and Blind Spots in Canada’s Press (Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2000), 17-45
  2. Edward S. Herman, “The Propaganda Model: A Retrospective.” Journalism Studies 1, no. 1 (2000): 101-112

Feb 19-25. Midterm recess (no classes)

Feb 27. In-Class Test

No readings assigned for this class

Mar 2. 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 6-9. 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 13-16. Globalization, Cultural Flows, and American Media Imperialism

  1. Serra Tinnic, “Walking a Tightrope: The Global Cultural Economy of Canadian Television,” in How Canadians Communicate III, eds. Bart Beaty et al. (Edmonton: AU Press, 2009), 95-115
  2. Doris Baltruschat, “Reality TV Formats: The Case of Canadian Idol,” Canadian Journal of Communication 34 (2009): 41-59
  3. 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 16. Last day for canceling courses without failure by default

Mar 20-23. 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
  3. Bart Cammaerts, “The Hegemonic Copyright-Regime vs. the Sharing Copyright Users of Music?” Media, Culture & Society 33, no. 3 (2011): 491-502

Mar 27-30. 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 3-6. Plotting Future Trajectories

  1. Vincent Mosco, “Current Trends in the Political Economy of Communication,” Global Media Journal 1, no. 1 (2008): 45-63
  2. Eileen R. Meehan, “Gendering the Commodity Audience: Critical Media Research, Feminism, and Political Economy,” in Media and Cultural Studies: KeyWorks, eds. Meenakshi Gigi Durham and Douglas Kellner (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2006), 311-321