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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg fronting the media at an US Senate enquiry

Media Power in An Age of Digital Platforms

Policy implications of new digital communications gatekeepers
Explore the conceptual, methodological and policy implications for the study of media power and media concentration of digital platforms as key communications gatekeepers for the production and distribution of media content.

The advent and massive expansion of the Internet and planetary scale digital platforms has breathed urgent new life into the enduring, simple, yet profound, question that animates this project: have the media industries, individually and collectively, become more or less concentrated over time? There are many studies on trends in media concentration within media industries and markets, but the new challenge presented is how to understand market power that derives from data-driven business models that operate across multiple media industries and markets.

The PhD student would be addressing the question of media concentration, and associated questions around media and communications power, from an original perspective that recognises the multidimensional nature of digital platform power, and their operations in multi-sided markets. The project will focus in particular upon three issues:

  1. Conceptual: in what ways do we need to rethink traditional frameworks of media power derived from the political economy of communication and media sociology, in light of the rise of digital platforms and their ‘gatekeeper’ role as distributors of digital media content?;

  2. Methodological: drawing upon the literature on power to understand how media power can be better analysed and tracked, how should our approaches to identifying media power be reconceptualised in an age of digital platforms?;

  3. Empirical: developing the methodological framework arising from the GMICP study – including responsibility for collating the Australian data across 30 industry sectors – the candidate will track trends over time in Australia, as part of a team developing comparable data across 40 countries.

The successful applicant will have the opportunity to work with a leading global team of researchers. The Global Media and internet Concentration (GMIC) Project involves over 50 researchers from 40 countries, who are examining the question of whether media concentration is increasing in their countries, and how digital platforms are changing the parameters of what we understand to be media concentration.

The supervisory team will be:

  • Professor Terry Flew (Media & Communications/Digital Cultures),
  • Associate Professor Tim Dwyer (Media & Communications),
  • Associate Professor Yane Svetiev (Faculty of Law), and
  • Associate Professor Scott Fitzgerald from Curtin Business School will also be engaged as an external supervisor.

The aims of the study are threefold. They are:

  1.  To consider how the rise of digital platforms presents new questions about what it means to talk about media power.

  2. To understand the distinct methodological challenges arising as such platforms become “new gatekeepers” of digital media content.

  3. To develop policy relevant advice on the implications for media and communications policy goals, informed by international comparative and longitudinal analysis.

The successful PhD student will benefit from:

  • Engagement with leading scholars from around the world working on a common project;
  • Development of comprehensive datasets that will inform public policy;
  • Collaboration with leading scholars in Australia and overseas on publications throughout their thesis drawing upon empirical findings;
  • Contact with an global network of graduate students from leading institutions around the world.

Applicants are invited to submit a proposal for PhD research that aligns directly to this project.

Prospective candidates may qualify for direct entry into the PhD program if their research proposal (see above) is accepted and they satisfy at least one of the criteria listed below.

  • Bachelor's degree with first- or second-class honours in an appropriate area of study that includes a research thesis based on primary data not literature review
  • Master's degree by research in an appropriate area of study that includes a research thesis that draws on primary data
  • Master's degree by coursework, with a research thesis or dissertation of 12,000–15,000 words that draws on primary data not literature review, with a grade-point average of at least 80 per cent in the degree.
  • Demonstrated appropriate professional experience and alternative qualifications in the field of study.

For more information regarding applying for a PhD refer to the course details for Doctor of Philosophy (Arts and Social Sciences).

Please also refer to guidelines for preparing a research proposal.

A number of scholarships are available to support your studies:

These scholarships will provide a stipend allowance of $35,629 per annum for up to 3.5 years. Successful international students will also receive a tuition fee scholarship for up to 3.5 years.

For other scholarship opportunities refer to Faculty Research Scholarships (Domestic) or Faculty Research Scholarships (International).

For further details about the PhD project, contact Professor Terry Flew at terry.flew@sydney.edu.au.

Professor Terry Flew

Professor of Digital Communication and Culture, Department of Media and Communications