Dan Schiller

On New Media

In Deep Impact: The Web and the changing media economy, Dan Schiller relates his theory that the Web is being “redeveloped as a consumer medium,” which encourage and support forms of market-based cultural production that contribute no more to social needs or democracy than earlier commercial mediums.

  • Diversification of cross-media ownership and operations
  • The proliferation of media transactions over the past several years has resulted in a landscape in which the unit of measurement has become the media conglomerate. There have been two primary interests in the Web:

Conglomeratization has resulted in increased cross-promotion as a dominant marketing strategy. Using the Web to cross-promote brands has become a common component of this underlying strategy. As broadband infrastructure continues to increase, the Internet becomes more of a viable platform for distribution of media content.

In total, corporate dealmakers spent $4.6 billion in the first half of 1998, on 112 digital-media acquisitions. Like McChesney, Schiller acknolwedges that several new media firms (Amazon, Yahoo!) will probably become entrenched in the corporate media landscape. Also like McChesney, Schiller notes that new media start-ups face formidable barriers to success.

Changes in the global distribution of media

Schiller provides an account of the growing diffusion of ICTs in this section but doesn’t really draw in a political economy analysis of the implications behind this trend.

Shifting basis of media system ownership and control

Schiller describes how the non-Western of state ownership (or dominance) over the media has shifted during the 80s and 90s to a new neoliberal model. He stresses that the new order in communications “was contingent on a global policy of about-face by varied national elites.” World communications began moving towards commercial patronage and transnational corporate control.

Capitalizing Cultural Production

Schiller’s key point is that the development of supranational media enterprised “climaxes a centuries-long trend towards the capitalization of cultural production.” Although distributed content continues to be US-dominated, Schiller points out that Sony, News Corporation, and Seagram – all owners of ‘US’ media producers – are foreign owned. Schiller believes that the Web will continue the trend towards internationalized ownership of media production. He concludes that it is not ‘American’ culture that is being disseminated throughout, but an increasingly transnational capitalist apparatus of cultural production.

Transnationalized capitalist cultural production

Several genres – sports, news, music – function as ‘spearheads’ through which capital extends and deepens its hold on cultural production.

Evolution of Commercial Sponsorship

In this section, Schiller examines the growing influence of advertising on the Web and the Web’s increasing utilization as a tool for direct marketing and creation of relationships between producers and consumers. “Despite such thoroughly non-insurrectionary intentions, nevertheless, such new web-based intermediaries, in developing new direct marketing channels, threaten to usurp or destabilize existing marketing chains linking adver tisers, media and consumers. Established consumer products companies, like the media conglomerates, therefore have little choice but to try to co-opt or compete against these web-based rivals.”

Conclusion

Schiller believes that the decisive struggle to reclaim the Internet is two-fold:* Attempts to nurture the non-commercial, non-corporate sphere of internet activity may take heart from the fact that, even yet, such applications have not been thoroughly marginalized. “What has been lacking to date, however, is a more overarching, and less ad hoc, organization: an expansive housing, within which diverse groups may learn to establish a common purpose that is sufficient to make the internet, and the wider media economy with which it is entangled, a less exploitative and a more democratic, kind of space.”

The other site of struggle according to Schiller, involves the supranational regulatory agencies, which “to date, the direction and operational form of this emergent supranational space have been established largely by US-based corporations and state agencies.”