Too often debates about media concentration, the value of data, the platformization of the Internet, and potential policy options proceed from a fuzzy conceptual framework and with anecdotal evidence, making it nearly impossible to tell which of the contentious claims in the debate are more accurate. To redress this problem and answer our research questions, common definitions and a shared methodology that allows for “apples-to-apples” comparisons and consistency amongst our contributors are essential. To this end, our approach begins by defining the media and assembling a multisectoral body of data for the largest two dozen telecoms, audiovisual and publishing media, and core Internet sectors that collectively, for our purposes, comprise “the media”.

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Telecoms and Internet Infrastructure

Digital and Traditional Audiovisual and Publishing Media

Core Internet Applications and Sectors

  • Wireline Telecoms

  • Mobile Wireless

  • Internet Service Providers

  • Multichannel TV Distribution

  • International Submarine Cables

  • Data Centres/Cloud Hosting

  • Content Distribution Networks

  • Broadcast TV

  • Pay TV

  • Online Video Platforms

  • Film

  • Video Games

  • Radio

  • Music

  • Newspapers, Magazines & Books

  • App Distribution

  • Search Engines

  • Social Media

  • Internet Advertising

  • Mobile and Desktop Operating Systems

  • Mobile and Desktop Browsers

  • Data Brokers and Intermediaries

Our methodological approach adopts a three-step ‘scaffolding approach’: first, each research team will examine as many of the 24 media sectors identified above as possible, with revenue and market share data collected on a firm-by-firm and sector-by-sector basis. Second, the data from each sector will then be pooled together to depict conditions and trends within in each of the three “media types” (i.e. telecoms and Internet infrastructure, audiovisual and publishing media and core Internet applications and sectors). In the third step, the data from all 24 sectors is assembled into a comprehensive, birds’ eye view of the whole media system. At each step, revenue is the primary and initial unit of analysis because it can be used consistently across media and time, although audience ratings, subscriber share, share of time allocated to media, etc. will also be used whenever appropriate. In addition, three common economic tools—Concentration Ratios (CR), the Herfindhahl-Hirschman Index (HHI) and the Noam Index (NI)—will also be used to measure concentration levels and trends at each of the three levels of analysis just introduced, and as the basis for making historical and international comparisons (Doyle, 2013; Noam, 2016a; Winseck, 2019abc). This common methodological baseline delimits our “objects of analysis” and ensures that the entire partnership uses consistent methods. This, in turn, will enable us to make reliable comparisons of different media at the national, subnational, regional and international levels, while simultaneously providing each research team with the flexibility they need to deal with conditions as they understand and confront them. In addition, by covering a span of nearly fifty years, our research will help to reveal long-term historical trends, the continuously evolving mix of elements that make up the communications system, enduring path dependencies and novel disruptions occurring across the communications field. The approach also draws on some familiar assumptions drawn from media economics, critical political economy, and the cultural industries school. For one, it flexibly uses standard industrial classifications from industrial economics as a guide for defining and establishing bottom line revenue figures for each of the sectors depicted in Figure 1 above, while remaining fully aware that media sectors and firms need to be defined based on the activities and technology that characterize them rather than trying to forcefit them into these standard industrial categories (Doyle, 2013; Noam, 2016a; Parthasarathi, 2020). In addition, following the cultural industries school, our approach insists that different media—and different groups of media—have unique characteristics that distinguish them from one another. This demands that we pay close attention to the details of each sector and their evolution over time and across different national, regional and international contexts. It also emphasizes the fact that, for the last 150 years, the press, music, film, radio and television industries have all developed in close proximity to the vastly larger electronics, information and communication technology and banking sectors, but without ever being totally subsumed by them. The upshot of such observations is that our analysis will account for both the distinctive characteristics of different media, the changing conditions of media production and media use, as well as the ongoing mutations and power relations that permeate the technological, industrial, institutional, and financial contexts within which they are situated.

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Our team of experts

Christopher Mills
Christopher Mills
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Sidney Hamilton
Sidney Hamilton
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