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The Need and Potential for the Utilization of Political Economy of Communication in Russian Media Theory

Научные исследования: 

For citation: Makeenko M.I., Kugusheva A.A. (2019) Vozmozhnosti ispol'zovanija politicheskoj jekonomii kommunikacii v rossijskoj teorii media [The Need and Potential for the Utilization of Political Economy of Communication in Russian Media Theory]. Mediaskop 4. (in Russian). Available at:

DOI: 10.30547/mediascope.4.2019.1


© Mikhail I. Makeenko
PhD in Philology, Associate Professor at the Chair of Media Theory and Economics, Faculty of Journalism, Lomonosov Moscow State University (Moscow, Russia),

© Anna A. Kugusheva
PhD alumni at the Faculty of Journalism, Lomonosov Moscow State University, program editor, Children and youth television channel 'Karusel`' (Moscow, Russia),



Our preceding research of Russian academic discourse of media and communication revealed extremely limited adoption of approaches that in Western tradition used to be described as the critical political economy of mass communication. While Soviet scholars occasionally used political economy to describe the Western media realia, the Russian colleagues almost excluded those methodological principles after the start of economic and social transformations in the county about thirty years ago.

What are the forces affecting the formation of above mentioned trend in media studies? Is minimal interest of Russian scholars to political economical analytical tools a result of an absence of demand for critical research paradigm overall or the concrete terminology and conceptual apparatus that is utilized to analyze social and media phenomena in developed capitalist societies is not valid enough for Russian reality?

For this paper we turned to the case study based on the results of the research of display of owners' interests in news broadcasts of all-Russian television networks. The data collected during content analysis of more than 3000 news stories broadcasted on REN TV and Piaty Kanal networks controlled by Natsionalnaya Media Gruppa corporation revealed regular production and broadcasting of news stories about activities of persons and organizations affiliated with NMG Corp. biggest individual shareholder Yu. Kovalchuk. Important in this situation is the fact that those stories seem to lack even an intention of PR effect as newsbreaks were present only on the networks' stories or mentioned scarcely in other news media.

To interpret the causes and functionality of appearance of this kind of news messages on air of big TV channels we turned to the potential of the political economy instumentarium. On the first stage of the analysis it became evident that traditional Western approaches that employ class based social structure and market mechanisms has certain limits in Russian context. So we had to use original Russian theories like the ones that describe country's economic setup as a mixture of market institutions with more specific historically developed institutions of sdacha / razdacha (delivery / dispensation) and the ones that present national social structure as formed not only by classes, but mainly by the estates. This angle provided broader scope for adequate interpretations of the mechanisms behind the distribution of assets, power and social statuses that form the base for an ineffective use of such an expensive resource as the airwaves within what could be called an inner-estate media communication.

This case could be a reason to presume that in Russian context the political economy approach should be based not only on universal Marxist and Neomarxist terms and concepts, but also on the ones more correlated to national socio-economic realities of social stratification, power relations and property distribution and control. Usage of those concepts can lead to obvious expansion of the theoretical base for interpretations and understanding of Russian specifics of mass communication.

Keywords: political economy of media and communication, research paradigms, social stratification, social order, media theory.



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