In P2P TV - How Independent News Video Producers Will Bypass The Mainstream TV Networks Robin Good brings forth an interesting and almost self evident argument about the potential effect of P2P TV to empower the masses by bypassing the mainstream TV networks.
To further support this position, here are some thoughts build upon Gitlin's (1980), Schiller's (1996), Streeter's (1996) and Fiske's (1996) arguments, emphasizing open communication (i.e. many-to-many) is the liberating technology from the central grip in the way this have been setup so far.
Evident from Gitlin’s and Schiller’s arguments is their emphasis on the necessity of free and open communication among the masses if there is to be any deliverance from the ‘claws’ of the media. On the contrary, it is the one-way communication (radio, TV, cable) utilized by the elites to achieve the subordination and dissemination of the hegemonic ideology. Fiske’s technologised surveillance of the physical goes hand-in-hand with surveillance of the discourse (what issues are raised on TV, radio, etc.) “because unequal access to those technologies ensures their use in promoting similar power-block interests" (Fiske 1996, p. 218). The important point brought forth here, directly or indirectly, is the identification of the closed, unidirectional (with masses on the receiving end) and restricted access of communication technology.
These aspects are identified as necessary characteristics for the maintenance and reproduction of the hegemonic ideology, enabling the elites to set the form, format and content of the public discourse (broadcasting, TV, radio, press, etc.), and as importantly decide who can participate. Therefore, it can be argued that this manifestation of communication technologies, entangled in the web of one-way communication and used by the elites for power control and dissemination of material in support of the hegemonic ideology, has shaped the traditional scholarly and public discourse, as well as their practical use, to view communication technology as intrinsically embedded with features, characteristics and functionalities, for reinforcing and aiding the hegemonic ideology.
This biased view, that communication technologies are inherently suited to help media control, is troublesome and factually wrong. For example, the scholarly and public discourse on early cable technology shows that cable access was intended for use unlike it is being used today (for dissemination popular consumer culture through its various formats with the aims of making profit). Streeter (1997) argues that cable "had the potential to rehumanize a dehumanized society, to eliminate the existing bureaucratic restrictions of government regulation common to the industrial world, and to empower the currently powerless public" (Streeter 1997, p.228). He further notes that the cable system had the potential to enable two-way communication and interactivity, but apparently failed to do so due to the social (un)response on the part of the audience: "Cable television was something that could have an important impact upon society, and it thus called for a response on the part of society; it was something to which society could respond and act upon, but that was itself outside society” (Streeter 1997, p. 225). And then adds that cable should not be viewed as an “autonomous entity that had simply appeared on the scene as the result of scientific and technical research" (Streeter 1997, p. 225). Here we see a distinction between the current social status of cable as profit making machinery and its potentials to have become socially responsible technology that would have empowered the audience with two-way open communication.
Fiske, J. (1996). Media matters: Race and Gender in U.S. Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
Gitlin, T. (1980). Chapter 10, “ Media Routines and Political Crises.” In Gitlin, The Whole World is Watching (pp. 249-269). Berkeley: University of California Press.
Schiller, H.I. (1996). Information Inequality: The Deepening Social Crisis in America. New York - London: Routledge
Streeter, T. (1996). Selling The Air: A Critique of the Policy of Commercial Broadcasting in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago press