Helping the Market. The Theory of Market Failure as a Paradigm for Communication Policy Analysis
Since the 1980s, the increased emphasis on economic and industrial objectives in communication policies has often been seen as a threat to the realization of democratic principles. Some have linked this economic turn to ‘neoliberalism’, ‘marketization’, and ‘commercialization’, while others have simply stated that the concept of a ‘free market’ has increasingly gained respectability as a policy ideal. The aspect that is missing, however, is an analytical presentation of the key economic theories, ideals and arguments that are used in defining contemporary media and communications policies. So, the aim of this research is to provide insights into these increasingly significant discourses in communication politics. This research project concentrates on analyzing one particularly influential and illuminating economic paradigm for communication policy analysis, the theory of market failure (TMF). The paper approaches TMF mainly by using the method of conceptual analysis, and focuses on presenting, analyzing, and criticizing some of the key concepts of the theory: ‘market’, ‘government intervention’, ‘competition’, ‘efficiency’, ‘externalities’, ‘public goods’, and ‘natural monopoly’. Particular emphasis is also placed on examining the relations between TMF and certain wider strains of political and economic thinking (for example, the ‘liberal’ political ontology studied by Tuija Pulkkinen, and the ‘individualist’ ontology criticized by institutional economist Geoffrey Hodgson). The following research questions give an idea of the main stages of this research project thus far: 1/ What, according to different authors and sources, are the most important concepts of the TMF, and what definitions have been formulated for these concepts? 2/ What underlying assumptions do these definitions conceal, and should these implicit assumptions be questioned? Finally, 3/ what consequences have the use of TMF had and might have for media and communications policies? Up to this point, the research has mainly focused on the questions about ‘hidden assumptions’ of concepts, and is consequently largely confined to analytical criticism of the conceptual framework in question. The research has thus far relied on previous literature, policy documents and journalistic articles as principal sources and material, but in the future interviews may also be conducted.