ECONOMICS AND THE MEDIA
Posted on June 21st, 2016

By Dr.Tilak S. Fernando Courtesy  Ceylon Today

The modern mass media undoubtedly blend with three things: economics, money and profit. For a start, any media organization needs to inject a huge amount of money as an investment to establish from its infrastructure up to the operation level, plus the wages and salaries to permanent staff and other sundry expenses paid to freelance journalists and columnists. In a business sense, therefore, it is natural for the investors to expect a reasonable profit out of their marketing produce for the risk they take.

In a contemporary businesses world media play a significant role. Media productions and operations are significantly influenced or determined by their financial strength. In such a backdrop from the time of Adam Smith in the 18th century to Karl Marx in the 19th century, people have come to accept that a number of basic economic concepts and principles are necessary.

Capitalism

The contemporary media function solely on a capitalist economy, as such, the basic principle of any economy depends on the difference of cost between two elements where media naturally concentrate on maximizing profits for the owner of media establishments. So the profits are generated in a number of means, either by selling directly or indirectly to consumers and selling access to their audience through advertisers.

In a consumer-based society anywhere in the world entrepreneurs are encircled by the media in every instance, while they (businesses) tend to utilize different types of media that involve disbursement for the production of media products.

In every case, someone has to pay for the production and distribution of the media products. Such expenses are finally met by customers of the media directly by various means such as buying books, CDs, tapes and compact discs of recorded programmes, thereby the cost of such physical entities are paid by the audience fully and directly.

 Subsidized

Consumers pay the media in a multitude of ways, at times subsidized by various other means in order that the consumer shares the cost with others. Newspapers and magazines are typical examples to demonstrate the above-mentioned theory. For instance, the cost of producing a newspaper or magazine costs only a negligible amount.

The newspapers at news stand cost a little less than what it costs the publisher to purchase newsprint that goes to print the paper. The rest is collected from advertising where two thirds of a typical newspaper publisher’s revenue comes from selling space to advertise with the hope of attracting the attention of the reader through such advertisements. Recorded music and tele-dramas are recent examples of media replacement. Magnetic tapes, eight track audiocassettes, compact discs and MP3 players have superseded 33, 45, and 78 RPM- speed records that had been the vogue once upon a time.

Advertising

When it comes to advertising, some internationally renowned magazines have been dominating for decades, which have proved to be a valuable means of advertising. Radio could advertise a latest car for example, but it is unable to display it. Instead TV, which is akin to the newspaper and radio for publicity, has managed to convey the message to the audience, as much as to exhibit the product in motion to a larger audience.

With the advent of TV, the circulation figures of popular magazines have dwindled, for the mere reason of their advertisers moving towards the television having found TV to be cheaper and an efficient media. TV not only affected the magazines, but it had a drastic impact on motion pictures and radio equally.

Interpretation

It is natural for people to interpret what they see and hear and evaluate their findings according to their personal choice, which vary from being excited, bored or debated. Though interpretation and evaluation are not identical, they are correlated in everyday practice. In its simplest form a transmission can maximize a communication in such a way that the receiver gets the exact meaning of the message sender intends to be.

Ideology

Every society aims to maintain its continuing existence by reproducing its social relationship structure. Ideology is not only a matter of ‘meaning becoming representation’ but it is also about the question of power and inequality.

Although the concept of ideology originated with the French philosophers in the 18th century, it was the German philosopher and political economist, Karl Marx, who developed the concept in the 19th Century.

Marx wanted to understand “how minorities were able to maintain power and why the vast majority of which seemed to be against their own interests. Why did subordinated populations accept their subordination and even act in ways that continue that status?”

Definite Relations

In the social production, which men carry on, they enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will. These relations of production correspond to a definite stage of development of their material powers of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation on which legal and political superstructures arise and to which definite forms of social consciousness correspond.

The mode of production of material life determines the general character of the social, political, and spiritual process of life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being determines their consciousness”. ((Marx –1975- P.425).

Marx was concerned with simple questions as to how societies maintain and reproduce structures of social difference and power? Why do some people see themselves as superior and thus justify their privileged position in society? More importantly, why do people who are subordinated accept their subordination?

In some societies, hierarchy is maintained through the use of force. Even 100 years ago, factory owners often used to force to subdue workers and to compel them to accept their exploitation. Even today power is often used against illegal immigrants in the West and in many Third World countries. However, most modern democracies eschew the use of force in favour of ideology. If those in power can succeed in constructing a dominant vision that justifies social inequalities, and they can win agreement to this vision, then their position of power is reasonably secure and force becomes necessary.

In the contemporary world, the media are involved in the production of ideology all the time. After all, they are perhaps the most important producers of meaning and the codes in modern society.

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