Media, Journalism, and the Public Sphere in Private Family Ownership. On the Critique of the Political Economy of Capitalist Media Enterprises

  • Manfred Knoche University of Salzburg
Keywords: private family ownership of the media, private ownership of the means of production, public sphere, journalism, Critique of the Political Economy of the Media


In the context of a Critique of the Political Economy of the Media, this article exemplifies the fundamental effects of the globally dominant capitalist private ownership of media companies on media development, journalism, and the public sphere. Selected works by Marx and Engels as well as works from developments of the approaches of the “New Reading of Marx” and “Western Marxism” form the theoretical-methodological basis. Characteristic of capitalism is a mutually conditioning relationship between the socio-economic base and the political-legal superstructure, which makes the ”abolition” of private property and the associated relations of domination and power almost impossible. Therefore, possibilities of a de-capitalisation and de-commodification of journalism and the public sphere based on non-capitalist forms of ownership will be discussed. A special chance of realisation is seen for academic publications without capitalist publishing houses that is feasible because knowledge production takes place at public universities. Finally, a change of strategy is suggested that takes us out of the bourgeois-liberal trap of criticism and hope towards the development of media and social theories as well as humans’ active participation in the organisation of an independent content-based media praxis, which can be conducive to a transformation towards a socialist societal formation.

This article was translated from German to English by Christian Fuchs. The German version was published under a CC-BY licence:
Manfred Knoche. 2023. Medien, Journalismus und Öffentlichkeit im Familien-Privateigentum. Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie kapitalistischer Medienunternehmen. In Eigentum, Medien, Öffentlichkeit: Verhandlungen des Netzwerks Kritische Kommunikationswissenschaft, hrsg. von Selma Güney, Lina Hille, Juliane Pfeiffer, Laura Porak & Hendrik Theine, 55-75. Frankfurt am Main: Westend.

Author Biography

Manfred Knoche, University of Salzburg

Manfred Knoche is Professor Emeritus of Media Economics at the University of Salzburg in Austria. He studied journalism, sociology, political science and economics at the University of Mainz and the Free University of Berlin. He obtained his PhD (1978) and defended his habilitation (1981) at the Free University of Berlin. He was research assistant in the years 1974-1979 and Assistant Professor of Communications Politics in Berlin in the years 1979-1983. From 1983 until 1994, he was Professor of Media and Communication Studies at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium, where he was also the Director of the Centre for Mass Communications Research. From 1994 until 2009 he held the Chair Professorship of Journalism and Communication Studies with Special Focus on Media Economics at the University of Salzburg’s Department of Communication Studies in Austria. He chaired the German Communication Association’s (DGPuK) Media Economics-section. He is author of many publications on the Critique of the Political Economy of the Media. His work has especially focused on the critique of the political economy of media concentration and the media industry’s structural transformations.,
Twitter: @Medoek