The media acts as a mirror to society and is a powerful tool that can invoke social change. However, if it is controlled by a few people, it can be used for selfish purposes as highlighted by the two documentaries, Outfoxed and Freedom of Expression. The purpose of this essay is to analyze the films using the paradigms of Marxism and Political Economy.
Analysis of the Documentaries
Outfoxed is a film that highlights the bias that Fox Network had towards the conservative party ideologies. The documentary illustrates how the station participated in consumer fraud by airing the propaganda of the Republican Party; this goes against the duty to give citizens a balanced perspective on issues. In order to illustrate the bias, Outfoxed analyses Fox News from various perspectives which can be analyzed using the paradigms of Marxism and political economy.
The makers of the film examined the rise of Murdoch in the media domain and the advantages and disadvantages of such a great influence. They conclude that individual ownership of a media empire such as Murdoch’s case is likely to bring more harm than good since it will curtail press freedom. In the Marxist paradigm, a society is divided according to class and political power whereby media is a tool that can be used to gain influence (McQuail). Outfoxed shows how Fox News was used by the political elite in the race to control White House which is the seat of power in the United States. Inversely, the Marxist thought on capitalism, that is, the resource-owners and the workers, may not apply to 21st century media since almost every nation on earth has a capitalist economy (Berry). Therefore, there exists no need to communicate the idea of capitalism to the public because everybody is familiar with it. Marxist theory on the media emphasis on the thought of a powerful ideological device thus it has a close attachment to the occurrences at the Fox News Network. In every corner of the world, there exists some kind of ideological battles that involve presidential candidates, political parties, religious and learning institutions and others who want their ideas to be adopted so that they can earn the power to survive (Mellado and Dalen). Fox News favored the ideas of the Republican Party at the expense of the democrats thus perfectly fits within the realms of this theory.
The political economy theory can also be used to analyze the documentary since it analyses the link between the three core components of 21st century media (Wasko). In particular, it shows the relation between the economic framework of the media, how it functions and the way that ideas are built. As such, it explains the whole basis of Murdoch’s media empire; he built a powerful and profitable media company due to his advocacy of the political ideas of then president George Bush. His company did this in a number of ways such as extensive coverage of pro-Bush ideas, creating malicious views on the opponents, dismissal of staff who didn’t corporate and other methods which were meant to repress the opposition.
Freedom of Expression is a documentary that wades into the constant battles in schools, courts, media houses, museums and even the internet regarding the control of intellectual resources that are meant for the entire society. The film is based on a publication that goes by the same name and attempts to regain the power taken by the overreaching owners of a copyright. Professor Kembrew McLeod of the University of Iowa put attention to the matter after he created a patent for the words “freedom of expression.” He argues that intellectual property law is being used to the extreme since the media industry is under the control of a few large corporations especially in the modern world. Therefore, the law on copyright has become more prohibitive which has hindered the right to express oneself. The happenings in the media can best be analyzed using the political economy which, as stated earlier, shows the relation between the economic framework of the media, how it functions and the way that ideas are built (Wasko). In particular, the economic component of the media has been receiving greater attention since the industry can generate significant profits (McAllistera). Therefore, the few stakeholders in the industry have increased their ownership and grip of intellectual content since it is one area that can generate high revenue for firms.
According to the neo-Marxism school of thought, society can be divided into two classes, that is the dominant and non-dominant (McQuail). The dominant class are the resource owners while the non dominant class form the laborers; as such, the dominant class are the few media owners are the ones thus are the ones who dictate the copyright law which is a valuable tool in the industry, In doing so, they restrict the rest of the society from truly expressing themselves since people will be afraid of violating the stipulated rules. Violation of copyright laws is punishable under the law therefore one would rather refrain from expressing themselves so that they avoid such harsh punishments.
Outfoxed and Freedom of Speech are films that illustrate the negative side of dominant media ownership by an individual. Through the use of various economic paradigms, one can analyze how such ownership came into existence and its subsequent effects. The media is a tool for the entire society thus should contain a balanced view on matters that affect us all.
Berry, David. Journalism, Ethics and Society. London: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd, 2012. Print.
McAllistera, Matthew P. “Critical Political Economy of the Media: An Introduction.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media (2015): 533-535. PDF.
McQuail, Denis. Journalism and Society. New York: SAGE Publications, 2013. Print.
Mellado, Claudia and Arjen Van Dalen. “Between Rhetoric and Practice:Explaining the gap between role conception and performance in journalism.” Journalism Studies (2014): 859-878. PDF.
Wasko, Janet. “The study of the political economy of the media in the twenty-first century.” International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics (2014): 259-271. PDF.