Confronting Market Failure: Past Lessons Toward Public Policy Interventions

  • Victor Pickard


This chapter provides an overview of both the hindrances facing a public interest agenda and the promises for policy reform. Before examining potential policy interventions for supporting public service media, the author briefly discusses three key conceptual areas that are implicit in today’s policy debates but rarely explicitly addressed: public goods, market failure, and policy failure. Understanding these political economic relationships is the first step toward challenging the corporate libertarian paradigm that constrains what otherwise could be a golden era for progressive media reform. Integrating these ideas into our political discourses, practices, and institutions might help transform our media system into that which our democracy requires.


  1. Ali, Chris. 2013. Where is here? An analysis of localism in media policy in three western democracies. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania.Google Scholar
  2. Baker, C. Edwin. 2001. Media, markets, and democracy. Cambridge: University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baker, C. Edwin. 2006. Media concentration and democracy: Why ownership matters. Cambridge: University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bator, Francis. 1958. The anatomy of market failure. Quarterly Journal of Economics 72(3): 351–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Benkler, Yochai. 2010. Next generation connectivity: A review of broadband internet transitions and policy from around the world. Cambridge, MA: Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.Google Scholar
  6. Benson, Rodney, and Matthew Powers. 2011. Public media and political independence: Lessons for the future of journalism from around the world. Washington, D.C.: Free Press.Google Scholar
  7. Brodkin, Jon. 2014. ISP lobby has already won limits on public broadband in 20 states. Ars Technica, February 12.Google Scholar
  8. Brown, Allan. 1996. Economics, public service broadcasting, and social values. Journal of Media Economics 9(1): 3–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cardin, Ben. 2009. A plan to save our free press. Washington Post, April 3.Google Scholar
  10. Cooper, Mark. 2011. The future of journalism: Addressing pervasive market failure with public policy. In Will the last reporter please turn out the lights? The collapse of journalism and what can be done to fix it, ed. Robert McChesney and Victor Pickard, 320–339. New York: New Press.Google Scholar
  11. Council on Foundations. 2013. The IRS and nonprofit media: Toward creating a more informed public. Available at
  12. Crawford, Susan P. 2013. Captive audience: The telecom industry and monopoly power in the new gilded age. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Downie, Leonard, and Michael Schudson. 2011. The reconstruction of American journalism. In Will the last reporter please turn out the lights? The collapse of journalism and what can be done to fix it, ed. Robert McChesney and Victor Pickard, 55–90. New York: New Press.Google Scholar
  14. Edmonds, Rick, Emily Guskin, Tom Rosenstiel, and Amy Mitchell. 2012. Newspapers: By the numbers. The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism: The State of the News Media 2012. Available at
  15. Edmonds, Rick, Emily Guskin, Amy Mitchell, and Mark Jurkowitz. 2013. Newspapers: Stabilizing, but still threatened. The State of the News Media 2013.
  16. Federal Communications Commission. 2010. Connecting America: The national broadband plan, 2010. Accessed October 11, 2013. Available at
  17. Federal Communications Commission. 2015. 2015 broadband progress report. Available at
  18. Free Press. 2015. Telecom lobbying. Available at
  19. Freedman, Des. 2008. The politics of media policy. Cambridge, MA: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  20. Freedman, Des. 2010. Media policy silences: The hidden face of communications decision making. International Journal of Press/Politics 15(3): 344–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Geoghegan, Tom. 2013. Why is broadband more expensive in the U.S.? BBC News Magazine, October 27.
  22. Hacker, Jacob, and Paul Pierson. 2010. Winner take all politics. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  23. Hamilton, James. 2006. All the news that’s fit to sell. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Hansell, Saul. 2009. The broadband gap: Why do they have more fiber? New York Times, March 12.Google Scholar
  25. Hussain, Hibah, and Danielle Kehl. 2013. Americans pay six times more for mobile internet data than the French. Slate, October 11.
  26. Hussain, Hibah, Danielle Kehl, Patrick Lucey, and Nick Russo. 2013. The cost of connectivity 2013: Data release, a comparison of high-speed internet prices in 24 cities around the world.
  27. John, Richard. 1995. Spreading the news: The American postal system from Franklin to Morse. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Lennett, Benjamin, Tom Glaisyer, and Sascha Meinrath. 2012. Public media, spectrum policy, and rethinking public interest obligations for the 21st century. Washington, D.C.: New America Foundation.Google Scholar
  29. Lloyd, Mark. 2007. Prologue to a farce: Communication and democracy in America. Champaign: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  30. McChesney, Robert. 2015. Be realistic, demand the impossible: Three radically democratic internet policies. In Future of internet policy, ed. Peter Decherney and Victor Pickard. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  31. McChesney, Robert, and John Nichols. 2010. The death and life of American journalism: The media revolution that will begin the world again. New York: Nation Books.Google Scholar
  32. McChesney, Robert, and John Nichols. 2011. The death and life of American journalism: The media revolution that will begin the world again. New York: Nation Books.Google Scholar
  33. Medema, Steven. 2007. The hesitant hand: Mill, Sidgwick, and the evolution of the theory of market failure. History of Political Economy 39(3): 331–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mettler, Suzanne. 2011. The submerged state: How invisible government policies undermine American democracy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Musgrave, Richard. 1959. The theory of public finance: A study in public economy. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  36. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. 2011. Average advertised download speeds by country, annual report. Available at
  37. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. 2012. Fixed and wireless broadband subscriptions per 100 Inhabitants, annual report. Available at
  38. Pickard, Victor. 2006. Assessing the radical democracy of indymedia: Discursive, technical and institutional constructions. Critical Studies in Media Communication 23(1): 19–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pickard, Victor. 2011. Can government support the press? Historicizing and internationalizing a policy approach to the journalism crisis. Communication Review 14(2): 73–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pickard, Victor. 2013. Social democracy or corporate libertarianism? Conflicting media policy narratives in the wake of market failure. Communication Theory 23(4): 336–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pickard, Victor. 2015. America’s battle for media democracy: The triumph of corporate libertarianism and the future of media reform. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Pickard, Victor. 2016. Toward a people’s internet: The fight for positive freedoms in an age of corporate libertarianism. Gothenburg: Nordicom.Google Scholar
  43. Pickard, Victor, and Alex Williams. 2014. Salvation or folly? The promises and perils of digital paywalls. Digital Journalism 2(2): 195–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pickard, Victor, Josh Stearns, and Craig Aaron. 2009. Saving the news: Toward a national journalism strategy. In Changing media: Public interest policies for the digital age, ed. Craig Aaron. Washington, D.C.: Free Press.Google Scholar
  45. Powers, Shawn. 2011. U.S. International broadcasting: An untapped resource for ethnic and domestic news organizations. In Will the last reporter please turn out the lights? The collapse of journalism and what can be done to fix it, ed. Robert McChesney and Victor Pickard, 128–150. New York: New Press.Google Scholar
  46. Samuelson, Paul. 1954. The pure theory of public expenditure. Review of Economics and Statistics 36: 387–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Starr, Paul. 2011. Goodbye to the age of newspapers (Hello to a New Era of Corruption). In Will the last reporter please turn out the lights? The collapse of journalism and what can be done to fix it, ed. Robert McChesney and Victor Pickard, 31. New York: New Press.Google Scholar
  48. Stearns, Josh. 2012. No News Is Bad News for Nonprofit Journalism. Yes Magazine, May 3.
  49. Stiglitz, Joseph. 1989. Markets, market failures, and development. American Economic Review 79(2): 197–203.Google Scholar
  50. Taylor, John. 2007. Economics, 5th ed, 15. New York: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  51. Trogen, Paul. 2005. Public goods. In Handbook of public sector economics, ed. Donijo Robbins, 169–207. New York: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  52. Vaidhyanathan, Siva. 2015. Big bird and big media: What sesame street on HBO means. Time, August 21.
  53. Wyatt, Edward. 2013. U.S. struggles to keep pace in delivering broadband service. New York Times, December 29.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Victor Pickard
    • 1
  1. 1.University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

Personalised recommendations