Thoughts from Robert W. McChesney

My Media Studies - Thoughts from Robert W. McChesney, Television & New Media, Volume 10, Number 1, January 2009, Sage Publications:

«In my new book Communication Revolution (New Press, 2007), I argue that our media and communication systems are in a critical juncture, that the policy decisions and institutional structure put in place in the next few years will likely establish a system that will last for decades, if not generations. I base this argument on an assessment of the history of media, technology, and media policy making, especially in the United States but applicable with conditions elsewhere. Historic moments like these are rare, maybe happening two or three times per century, if that.

«Critical junctures occur when at least two of three developments occur: (a) a revolutionary communication technology that upends the existing media regime; (b) a crisis in legitimacy for media content, especially journalism; and (c) an overall crisis in legitimacy for the social order in which all dominant institutions are subject to heightened criticism and subject to unusually strong and sweeping reform efforts. We certainly have the first two with the digital revolution and the disintegration of journalism. Whether we have a broad period of social upheaval is unclear, but in view of the dramatic increase in social inequality, such a period leading to significant social change is long overdue.


«We need to genuinely understand media markets — not the irrelevant Milton Friedman nonsense about heroic entrepreneurs in competitive markets with perfect information but the real world of corporations, advertising, government subsidies, corruption, financial speculation, and oligopoly. We need to understand the real world of a political system with woeful public participation and an economy that sucks on the teat of militarism and empire while generating a massive increase in inequality over the past three decades as the infrastructure crumbles. We have to have the courage to go where the truth lies even if it antagonizes powerful people and institutions.

«And most important, we have to think boldly and proactively about what a sane, humane, and democratic media system would look like. We have to come up with proposals, debate them, give and take criticism. We need to study and research alternative models. We need to work across national lines and regard this as a global problem. If we do not take up this challenge, new systems will be built without our input, and probably without much informed public input either. It will be a lost opportunity for our field and for our nation. Not a prospect any of us should wish to consider.»

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