Nicholas Garnham in his article “Contribution to a Political Economy of Mass-Communication” describes the idea of needed revision of the role of modern communication systems and of the definition of productive forces within their role in capitalist political economy and cultural theory. After I read this article, I found how much does mass-communication contribute to the global political economy.
Nowadays, mass-media and communication are the subjects of economic analysis within political economy for a number of reasons. On the one hand, the media industry, which is highly developed and highly profitable sector for many economies of the world, is extremely interested in the study of the laws of functioning of the economy and the media, as a separate system, with its interconnection and relationship with society, with its numerous institutions. From the other hand, by being a special industry, which operates not only for profit, but also to meet special public needs, mass-media draws the attention of numerous forces of society. The study of mass-communication within political economy is objectively very important social and economic task, since it is capable to reveal the conditions of profitability of one of the most versatile branch of economy (which is media and communication) and analyze the sphere of close cooperation of “three pillars” on which the prosperity of media is stands today – corporate business (advertisers), state (regulator) and society (audience that “pays” with their time and money).
If we will ask ourselves the question of what a viewer pays for free TV, and a listener – for free radio, we will at first mention the electricity bills and indirect advertising expenses that are included in the prices of many media services. And only after that we will include to that “price” the free time that we can spend watching TV. This is what the economy considers to be one of the most important resources, which consumer pays for leisure goods and services. The whole history of the media confirms that media industry, as a separate branch of economy, starts to develop only at the point when the vast majority of society becomes literate and starts to have a free time during their working days. If we will look at the period of the start of industrialization, that falls on at the end of XIX and the beginning of XX century, – we will see that a huge number of workers were concentrated in big cities and had a fixed working hours, and, accordingly, a free time.
Finally, as the history of XX century shows, the media and the entire industry of free time will change the rhythm and dynamics of people’s lives, turning their houses into unique individual leisure centers. This fact will continue to determine the considerable interest to the media and mass-communication of both economists and researchers. And that is why mass-communication is developing at the junction of a number of disciplines of the discourse of political economy in fruitful cooperation of economists, sociologists, political scientists and media researches themselves.