The Political Economy of Mass Media
Scholars in the United States and Europe have examined the relationship between the mass media and democratic politics. Those emphasizing the importance of mass media for the construction and maintenance of democratic societies have suggested that media can serve democracy by helping to create an open public sphere. Learning the economic structure of mass media is central to an understanding of media organizations that may be profitable and prestigious, but fall short of the promise to enhance democracy. Public television provides a particularly useful setting to analyze the relationship between democracy and the public sphere. And for those interested in developing a system of television that contributes to a more democratic public sphere, public television provides the best hope. The chapter discusses the historical relationship between television in the United States and notions of the public interest and explores the differences between commercial television and public service television on a more theoretical level.