Media enterprises operating under various types of media systems globally all have incentives to perform well and compete with other media units and types for resources and a variety of rewards. The differences in how performance is determined and types of rewards provided vary among the systems, however.
Media systems result from a variety of factors, including political ideology and structures, the nature and structure of the economy, and history and culture, which produce the environment that influences the structure of media, their financing, and the constraints they face in nations. Although these factors differ in individual nations, there are sufficient commonalities in approaches across nations to categorize systems. Although there are no universally agreed upon classifications of media systems, Siebert, Peterson, and Schramm’s classic volume Four theories of the press (1956), Hachten and Hachten’s World news prism (1981), and the more contemporary Comparing media systems (2004) by Hallin and Mancini provide reasonable means for categorizing systems.
The classic 1956 classification of “four theories” asserts that media systems can be classified by the relationships between states and media, and that libertarian, authoritarian, Soviet communist, and social responsibility theories explain four different types of systems. During the past half century, however, critics have argued that the social responsibility approach exists in theory only, and no national media system is based upon it. In addition, the model was biased toward North America and western and eastern European systems, ignoring systems in the remainder of the world.
In the 1980s, Hachten addressed those criticisms and argued that authoritarian, communist, western, revolutionary, and developmental media systems could be identified globally. These conceptualizations have been relatively unchallenged except for efforts made by a number of scholars to parse the libertarian/western systems into sub-categories to explain different political, economic, and social contexts of media. Picard (1985) revealed differences in approaches in western Europe, with strong democratic socialist ideologies. More recently, Hallin and Mancini (2004) argued that three models – polarist/ pluralist, democratic corporatist, and liberal – explain differences among nations pursuing the western/libertarian influenced media systems. Although these approaches to western/libertarian systems provide more clarity in state–press relations, the nature of competition under them does not differ dramatically so these need not be considered independently here.
The Nature Of Competition
Competition involves rivalry among entities, whether they are organisms, animals, persons, or organizations. Competition is a fundamental principle of existence and central to understanding biology, ecology, economics, and business. Rivalry exists when resources necessary for development and survival must be divided, and this produces natural contention for those resources. The results of competition are not neutral: some competitors benefit from the outcome; some are harmed by the outcome; in certain cases all competitors may be harmed.
The natural sciences recognize that rivalry for water, food, territory, and mating rights are the bases of competition among and between species and their members. Vegetation and creatures that are strongest, fastest, resistant to threats, resilient, and adaptive receive the rewards of greater resource consumption, survival, and propagation. In this competitive environment, those species that are fittest survive whereas weaker competitors face diminishment, specialize, or disappear.
Organizations, including media, also experience similar rivalry and struggle to survive and develop. This occurs because the environment in which they operate contains a pool of resources needed and desirable for the organization. Because available resources are not unlimited, media compete among themselves and with other organizations and entities for the resources. Rivalry exists for financial resources, access to influence, ability to distribute widely, attention of users, and a variety of other factors. It is recognized that competition yields rewards to organizations and users of their goods or services in terms of efficiency, innovation, prices, and service. The nature of competition and its roles in gaining advantage for and survival of some media under different media systems cannot be ignored. Regardless of system, competition results among entities as each struggles to gain resources, claim territory, and achieve its goals. Competition is used to determine issues involving resource allocation, choice, quality, service, and price in organizations.
There are essentially three different degrees of competition on a continuum from constrained competition to directed competition to unfettered competition. It must be recognized that there is no such thing as completely constrained or completely unfettered competition involving media because policies, substitutes, and differentiation limit their full development. Instead, there are differing degrees to which the elements of these polarities present themselves.
Individual nations evidence different patterns of competition among organizations and the various media are often treated differently because they are seen as having different roles and effects. As a result, one cannot classify media systems directly on this continuum, although authoritarian, communist, and revolutionary media systems overall tend toward the constrained and directed competition side, the developmental system more toward the central directed competition area, and the western/libertarian has tendencies toward directed competition and unfettered competition.
Media are organizations that compete for limited resources and rewards. There are intrinsic and extrinsic rewards provided in the differing media systems and those rewards are related to the values held in the various systems. Intrinsic rewards involve nonmonetary, often psychological, rewards, such as knowing one has done a good job, that one has served society well, that one’s efforts matter, and that one is appreciated. Extrinsic rewards include such things as financial gain and influence, as well as extrinsic symbolic rewards such as awards and notoriety that recognize intrinsic rewards.
Competition takes place for basic resources needed to create and sustain media enterprises, whether they are commercial or not-for-profit entities. The fundamental resource is the capital necessary to acquire personnel, equipment, and facilities to begin operations, and then further resources in the form of regular revenue are necessary to sustain those operations. Capital can be provided by the state, the market, other organizations, or individuals, and sustaining funds can come from those sources in forms of allocations, grants, sales of the media product, or advertising sales. In many cases more than one source may be involved.
Once a media enterprise is established, it competes for the attention, time, and purchases of media users. Because the abilities of individuals to make temporal and monetary expenditures are limited, they can be conceived as scare resources for which media organizations compete. The performance of media enterprises in meeting the needs and expectations of these consumers/audiences creates the reward of having more readers, viewers, listeners, or users for one medium or one media unit than another. Size of audience is significant because it creates additional rewards. It provides financial rewards of greater income and, if the media organization operates in a commercial system, it provides financial rewards resulting from the ability to attract more advertising and advertising revenue.
A concurrent reward is that size is related to significance, so one reward of size is improved access to important or notable persons, state agencies, and other institutions and entities in society. This improved access can be developed into prestige and influence that allows the media organization to affect opinion and the behavior of institutions and individuals.
When more than one media unit or medium exist, these compete between and among themselves for financial resources, attention, and influence. This competition takes place as intermedia and intramedia competition. Intermedia competition involves rivalry among different types of media such as television and newspapers, whereas intramedia competition involves contention among units of the same medium, such as two radio stations. Both types of competition occur simultaneously.
Intermedia competition primarily involves competition for the attention and time of audiences, and sometimes for expenditures by consumers. In commercially funded media, competition for the sale of advertising involves each medium’s abilities to attract audiences, differing characteristics of the media involved, and their ability to deliver certain types of advertising messages. The competition among media is not equal, however, because of wide differences in availability and demand factors. The highest levels of competition for audiences and advertisers’ times and expenditures take place among units of the same medium (intramedia competition), particularly if they serve the same audiences in the same locations.
Related to issues of competition are issues of resource dependence, that is, reliance on certain resources of survival. This may include sources of finance or revenue, required supplies and services, informational resources, etc. When dependency on a particular resource is high, significant efforts are made in preserving access to the resource, and organizations will aggressively compete with rivals for preferential quantities. In doing so, they may displace consumption by rivals or seek to exclude them from the resource.
In media, another form of competition related to these influence issues involves competition among ideas. The concept of the “marketplace of ideas” is an imperfect metaphor describing discussion and debate of differing ideas and issues as a forum for public deliberation and determining which is most meritorious.
It is possible for entities to gain competitive advantages that make it easier for them to sustain themselves than their rivals. This occurs when factors in the environment treat them preferentially or when they have adapted and developed in such a way that they are able to command more resources than their competitors. These advantages include factors such as preferential treatment by providers of required financial resources and supplies, better media products, social recognition, and better distribution abilities.
Competition In Different Systems
Competition is present in all media systems; however, the types of competition and how they are manifest differ significantly. The rewards that rivals seek to acquire through successful competition also differ in the systems. Using the model of media systems suggested by Hachten, we can consider those differences.
In the authoritarian media system, rulers control the media by determining who may operate media, the structure of media competition, and content. Exclusive rights to operate media are controlled by the leader. The ruler may operate the media as part of the regime, permit individuals supportive of the government to do so, or permit other individuals to operate media as long as they do not challenge the regime. In authoritarian systems, competition for attention, time, and monetary expenditures of media users exists. If media are permitted to operate commercially and advertising funding is available, competition for that revenue may exist if more than one unit of the same media exist or multiple commercially funded media types are available. In authoritarian systems, there is no competition in ideas that threaten the ruling power. There are both extrinsic and intrinsic rewards in the authoritarian system, including beneficial relations with the ruler that bring preferential treatment such as access to the corridors of power, government financial support or actions that diminish the strength of or remove the threat of other competitors, and prestige.
In the communist system, competition exists for state or party financial resources to establish and operate media, as well as for the attention and time of media audiences and expenditures they make to purchase media products. Because there are often multiple media units and media types, there is competition among providers of content for prestige and influence. Access to information is not contested because media are seem as functionaries of government and the party; however, access to the most important leaders is limited primarily to the largest and most prestigious media so there is competition to grow and develop preferential status. Competition involving noncommunist ideas does not exist in the system, but competition among ideas within the range permitted does take place. Rewards in the communist media system include provision of greater financial resources by administrative authorities, wider distribution ability, prestige, notoriety, and better access to leaders. Intrinsic rewards related to service to society and the cause, and quality content, also exist.
In the western/libertarian system media enterprises are independent from government and operate as commercial private companies, not-for-profit firms, and public broadcasting entities. Media compete for capital and there is competition among providers for the attention, time, and financial expenditures of users. When advertising funding is sought, there is competition for that revenue. In this system, there is competition among ideas, although industry structures can sometimes constrain it. Rewards in the western/libertarian system include financial rewards for commercial media and additional funding for noncommercial media, prestige, and access to persons of power and notoriety, as well as intrinsic rewards related to public service and quality.
Media in a revolutionary system are politically related, serving the purposes of revolutionaries to mobilize inhabitants to support their causes. In this system, there is competition for money from the revolutionary organization as well as for the attention and time of media users. That rivalry is often constrained by limited number of media present overall and limited number of revolutionary media. There is little competition for access to persons of power because revolutionary media are typically the mouthpieces of leadership. There is, however, great competition to become influential to the public. Rewards are primarily intrinsic and related to the success of the revolutionary movement.
Competition in development media systems includes competition for capital and the attention and time of media users, which is usually constrained by a limited number of existing media because of lack of available resources. There is often little competition to gain access to developmental authorities because they utilize these media for their social purposes. There are financial rewards in this system as the economic conditions improve, and rewards related to prestige and access to government officials. Intrinsic rewards for quality work and public service are also present.
Competition thus exists in different media systems and is not merely a function of a market economy. Under all systems, financial resources must be allocated among competing requests for expenditures, and audiences must be attracted to expend their time and, often, money. Competition takes place among media for access to important persons and events and to gain prestige and influence. A more sophisticated view of the breadth and depth of competition needs to be embraced when considering rivalry within different media systems in order to understand the complexities of interactions in those systems.
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