Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications

School of Media and Communication

Media Industries Research Centre

In this section:


The mission of the Media Industries Research Centre is to act as an international, national and local forum for high-quality research into media and cultural production, in order to shape academic research and to act as a resource for user groups. Our research is empirical and interdisciplinary, informed by theoretical and historical understanding. It involves the study of media and cultural production, of media and cultural policy, and of the economic and social conditions informing these processes.

Although we use the term media industries, we are also very much concerned with the cultural and creative industries. A few words of explanation might be useful.

Cultural industries is a term that has generally been used to refer to those industries involved in the production and circulation of goods which have a primarily informational, expressive or aesthetic purpose. Some of the most notable of these industries are television, radio, film, music, newspaper magazine and book publishing, and the internet, all of which are media industries.

The term cultural industries includes media industries, then, but it also incorporates cultural institutions and forms involving public subsidy, such as theatre, opera, ballet, galleries, museums and crafts. Some analysts prefer an alternative term creative industries to refer to these industries. (For further discussion of these issues, see this book chapter.)

Projects & Activities

The Centre carries out its mission in the following ways:

  • Developing research programmes
  • Serving as a forum for debate by organising seminars, symposia and conferences
  • Disseminating research through events, publications and our website
  • Developing and participating in international and national research networks
  • Pursuing external research funding to support its growth
  • Enhancing the intellectual life of researchers, postgraduate students and users concerned with the relations between economics, culture and media

Forthcoming events

Call for Papers now open:  Advancing Media Production

The School of Media and Communication will host a one-day conference, Advancing Media Production Research,  as part of both the International Communications Association and the International Association for Media and Communication Research annual conferences. The conference will take place on Monday 24 June 2013, in-between these two larger events.  The call for papers has now been issued, with a deadline for abstracts of 28 January 2013. More details can be found on our news pages and on the conference website.

Visiting Research Fellow Dr Aphra Kerr to visit in June

The School of Media and Communication and the Media Industries Research Centre are hosting Dr Aphra Kerr, of the National University of Ireland, as Visiting Research Fellow, from 11 June until 19 June. Aphra would be pleased to meet up with colleagues while she is here and can be contacted on Aphra.Kerr@nuim.edu

Aphra will deliver a research seminar on Wednesday 13 June, from 4.15 to 5.30 in the Ground Floor Lecture Theatre in the School. For more information on her seminar, visit the events pages.

Transformations in/of Broadcasting

School of Media and Communication, University of Leeds, July 12-13th 2012

In association with The ECREA Media Industries and Cultural Production Temporary Working Group; The Media Industries Research Centre, University of Leeds; Centre for Digital Citizenship, University of Leeds.

For more information, visit the news and events pages of this research section.

Current research projects and activities

Head of School speaks at European Parliament hearing on cultural policy

David Hesmondhalgh gave evidence at a European Parliament hearing on the future of their Culture and MEDIA programmes on 26 April in Brussels. One of four invited experts, Hesmondhalgh was responding to the European Commission’s Creative Europe proposals, which propose an integrated programme of support for audio-visual and creative industries, along with the non-profit cultural sector. Planned to run from 2014 to 2020, the programme would involve a 1.8 billion euro budget.

In his presentation, Professor Hesmondhalgh argued that there were reasons for integrating the programmes in one framework. However, he also emphasised the importance of balancing market-driven approaches to the cultural industries with the need to ensure equitable access to cultural work for all audiences as well as the recognition of cultural and creative work of all kinds, including that which does not deliver a financial return.

Click on the following links for an outline of Hesmondhalgh’s talk and his powerpoint slides.

Hesmondhalgh European Parliament talk 26 April 2012

Hesmondhalgh European Parliament presentation 26 April 2012

You can find out more about the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education (CULT) here. Under ‘Multimedia Library’ you can watch a video of the hearing by clicking on ’26 April 2012′ and then choosing the language in which you would like to watch it.

Cultural Policy Under New Labour

A team of researchers from the School of Media and Communication has won a grant from the Arts and Humanities and Research Council to analyse how cultural policy changed in the New Labour years, from 1997 to 2010. Was this a golden age for the cultural sector, or did it see the onset of marketisation? The team of Professor David Hesmondhalgh, Dr David Lee and new Professor Kate Oakley are joined by new Research Fellow Dr Melissa Nisbett, formerly of King’s College London, and the project runs for two years.

International Research Project on Regional TV and Radio

Anna Zoellner and Stephen Lax are taking part in a comparative research project on the conditions for regional/local television and radio in the UK, US and Germany and their responses to the economic, cultural and technological challenges they face in a digital media landscape. The project is a collaboration with the University of Leipzig (Germany) and the Ohio University in Athens (USA), due to start in July and funded by the Sächsische Landes- und Mediananstalt in Germany.

Hesmondhalgh leads new ECREA Working Group

The European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA) has established a new ‘Temporary Working Group’ in Media Industries and Cultural Production. The Group is chaired by David Hesmondhalgh, and brings together researchers from all across Europe.

ESRC Grant for the ‘Exploration of Copyright Discourses’

Bethany Klein, David Lee, Giles Moss and Lee Edwards have been awarded an ESRC grant for the project ‘Communicating Copyright: An Exploration of Copyright Discourses in the Digital Age’. The project begins in June and aims to shed light on the complexities of the copyright debate in the digital age by exploring why and how users, policymakers, internet service providers and producers construct, distribute and maintain ideological justifications around copyright.

Activities and projects

China’s Quest for “Soft Power” – A Public Lecture by Yuezhi Zhao

Friday, 28 October, University of Leeds
Presented by the Media Industries Research Centre at the School of Media and Communication, University of Leeds, in association with the ECREA Media Industries and Cultural Production Temporary Working Group.*

This talk located the Chinese state’s “soft power” quest within historical and geopolitical contexts and critically examined its profoundly contradictory underpinning political economy and cultural politics. From establishing Confucius Institutes all over the world to mounting an advertising blitz in New York’s Time Square, the Chinese state’s multifaceted endeavour to strengthen its “soft power” has been highly visible and the subject of much recent journalistic and scholarly attention. While this campaign’s political and moral imperatives appear self-evident, its structural impediments seem to be insurmountable. Furthermore, there are irreconcilable tensions between a drive to pursue an essentially elitist, technocratic, and culturalist approach to global communication and a capacity to articulate and communicate an alternative global political and social vision that appeals to the vast majority of the world population in a deeply divided and crisis-laden global order.

Yuezhi Zhao is Professor and Canada Research Chair in the Political Economy of Global Communication at the School of Communication, Simon Fraser University. She is also Changjiang Lecture Professor at the Communication University of China, Beijiing. Dr. Zhao’s books include Communication and Society: Political Economic and Cultural Analysis (in Chinese, Beijing: Communication University of China Press, 2011), Communication in China: Political Economy, Power, and Conflict (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008), and Global Communications: Toward a Transcultural Political Economy (co-edited, Rowman & Littlefield, 2008).

Race and the Cultural Industries

Organised by the Media Industries Research Centre (MIRC), University of Leeds, in conjunction with the MeCCSA Race Network

Wednesday 14th Sept 2011, School of Media and Communication, University of Leeds,

This conference explored issues of race in contemporary cultural industries (film, television, music, theatre, publishing, radio etc.). Following Greg Dyke’s famous comment that the BBC is ‘hideously white’ there has been an increasing recognition of how non-whites are marginalised in the media – both on and off-screen. Indeed, in recent years there have been numerous initiatives launched across the cultural sector that have made efforts to increase and encourage participation from ‘BME’ groups. While some important inroads have been made in terms of improving access to the cultural industries, there remain a number of tensions regarding soial and cultural barriers to entry as well as critical issues to do with the representation of Blacks and Asians in the media. This conference explored these dynamics.

Moral Economies of Creative Labour – Two-day conference

Organised by the Media Industries Research Centre (MIRC), University of Leeds, in conjunction with  Leeds Sociology/Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change, The Open University

Thursday 7th-Friday 8th July 2011, School of Media and Communication, University of Leeds

At this conference, which addressed the moral and ethical dimensions of cultural labour, over 80 international scholars took part, including keynote lectures from some of the most significant scholars in this field: Russell Keat, author of Cultural Goods and the Limits of the Market; Susan Christopherson, author of numerous publications on creative economies including (with Jennifer Clark) Remaking Regional Economies; and Andrew Sayer, a leading proponent of moral economic approaches and author of many books including the recent Why Things Matter to People: Social Science, Values and Ethical Life. Audio recordings of these keynote speeches can now be found on the conference website, as can the talks by the plenary panellists, David Hesmondhalgh, Philip Schlesinger and Melissa Gregg. You can access these on the Conference Audio page of the conference website. Further information about the conference, including abstracts of all presentations, can be found on the conference website.

Placing the Aesthetic in Popular Culture: Quality, Value, and Beauty in Communication and Scholarship

ICA Pre-Conference
Co-sponsored by the Popular Communication, Philosophy of Communication, and Visual Communication Divisions

26th May 2011 9.00-17.00, Emerson College, Boston
This one-day preconference approached the place of aesthetics in popular communication studies. Treating it as a problematic, not as a given, the preconference created room for vigorous debate about the actual and potential place of aesthetics in our scholarship. The point was not to find yet more ways to romance the text, but to interrogate aesthetics and to advance popular communicative approaches to its observation and analysis. We asked where one finds discussions of aesthetics and what they represent, and considered possible ways that aesthetics might find its way into our scholarship in the future.

Music, Politics and Agency – One day conference

Centre for Cultural Studies Research, University of East London; Faculty of Social Sciences, Open University; Media Industries Research Centre, University of Leeds

May 20th 2011, University of East London

This conference addressed the wider significance of music as a cultural, political and social form. It addressed questions such as: Can music change anything, or does its potency lie merely in its exemplary status as an organised human activity? What are the effects of power relations on music and to what extent is music itself a site at which power relations can be reinforced, challenged or subverted? What are the economic, affective, corporeal or ideological mechanisms through which these processes occur? Has the age of recorded music as a potent social force now passed, a relic of the twentieth century; or with the music industry in crisis, is music culture in fact the first post-capitalist sector of the cultural economy, only now emerging from the long shadow of the culture industry? What historical or contemporary examples can we draw on to address some or all of these questions?


The Media Industries Research Centre is based in the School of Media and Communication, which is one of the five Schools (or Departments) of the Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications at the University of Leeds. It incorporates research conducted by members of the Institute, but also research in other schools/departments at the University. If you’re interested in the work of the Centre, or are thinking of studying for a PhD in our areas of research interest, please contact the Director, Professor David Hesmondhalgh.

The Centre is supported by a Steering Group and an International Advisory Board.

Steering Group

International Advisory Board:


Nancy Thumim Publishes New Book on Self-Representation and Digital Cultures

Dr Nancy Thumim’s new book based on her research into audiences across a range of media contexts has just been published by Palgrave Macmillan.

In Self-Representation and Digital Cultures, Nancy Thumim takes a close look at ordinary people ‘telling their own story’, exploring self-representations in contemporary digital culture in settings as diverse as reality TV, online storytelling, and oral histories displayed in museums. She addresses the institutional contexts of production, technology and form of the texts, and the point of view of those who represent themselves. This highly original research examines how contradictory and widely different politics inform and shape examples of ‘speaking for oneself’. Thumim argues that analysis and theorization of the activity of self-representation is vital for media, communication and cultural studies at a time when examples of this genre both surround us and appear, at first glance, to all be alike.

Skills and Creativity in TV IndustryAre Under Threat, Suggests David Lee

In a new article published in the Creative Industries Journal, David Lee focuses on television workers’ attitudes towards craft and creative practice within the field of factual television production in the British independent television production sector (ITPS). Based on longitudinal qualitative research, he argues that a radical shift has occurred in the professional values that television producers’ associate with their creative work, by focusing on ethical and professional norms within factual television production. By considering the historical and contemporary discourse of ‘craft’ within this area of creative work, the article interrogates the nature of the changes that have taken place.

The wider significance of these changes is also considered, through an engagement with theoretical concerns about the place of craft within late modernity, and with debates about the changes that have taken place within the political economy of independent television production. The article’s findings have contextual significance within contemporary debates about creative work. Despite the celebratory policy rhetoric of the ‘creative industries’, the transformed production environment within contemporary British television has had a detrimental effect on skills retention and development, as well as on the potential for creativity within the industry.

The full article can be accessed here.

EU Branding Campaigns Can Dilute the Union’s Diversity, Argues Giorgia Aiello

In the first of two new articles published this month, Dr Aiello argues that the EU’s focus on generating unity and cohesion may in fact dilute the naturally diverse identity of the Union. In ‘All Tögethé® now: the recontextualization of branding and the stylization of diversity in EU public communication‘,  Dr Aiello analyses the EU’s Birthday Logo Competition and related EU communication policy for the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. She concludes that the tensions and challenges that characterized the EU as a site of recontextualization may have led to the communication of a much more stylized, rather than complex and nuanced, version of European identity. The article is now available online via iFirst, for Social Semiotics, and will be in print in October.

In the second article, which appears in the open access journal on space and place, ‘Lo Squaderno’, Dr Aiello discusses her visual research on urban regeneration in Bologna. In ‘Confined to the Edges: Reflections on Visual Research in Bologna‘, she uses the example of Bologna to explore the key visual-material resources deployed by cities to acquire cachet – or symbolic capital (Bourdieu, 1991) – in contexts of global capitalism. She suggests that the urban built environment is used as visual-material currency, regularly exchanged through the linguistic and visual means of public communication and other mediatized representations, and investigates the role of one location in particular, La Manifattura delle Arte, as a medium of global, and globalist, communication.

New Article by Anamik Saha examines Production of Racial Stereotypes on TV

Dr Anamik Saha, Lecturer in Communications Studies and member of the MIRC, has a new article published this month in Media, Culture and Society.

The article, entitled ”Beards, scarves, halal meat, terrorists, forced marriage’: Television industries and the production of ‘race”, considers the persistence of stereotypical representations of ‘race’ that appear in television in the West. According to a particular policy discourse, improving the onscreen representation of non-white groups is a matter of increasing the number of black and Asian folk working in the broadcasting industries – particularly at the senior management level. However, Dr Saha argues that the constant production of hegemonic images of ‘race’ cannot be tackled via recruitment measures alone. Central to the process are the increasingly commercialized cultures of production in television, constituted by the industry’s shift towards deregulation and neo-liberal market models. This steers the work of Asian filmmakers and executives themselves into producing problematic, reductive representations of ‘race’. Media, Culture & Society.

For the full reference to the article, visit Dr Saha’s profile page.

Ethics and Agency will be the Focus for Presenters at Major Internet Research Conference

Dr Helen Kennedy and doctoral student, Bingqing Xia, have had papers accepted for the forthcoming annual conference of the Association of Internet Researchers (AOIR). The conference, which takes place from 18 – 21 October at Media City in Salford, focuses on the theme of technologies, understood in the broadest sense as crafts, techniques, and systems. Speakers will examine the place of the Internet in the contemporary world, considering its impact in a context where life is entangled with technologies of all kinds as never before.

Dr Kennedy’s paper is titled ‘The emerging technologies of sentiment analysis and the making-meaningful of social media content’, reflecting on recent research she has conducted on the nature of sentiment in online contexts. Dr Kennedy will also host a panel on ‘Other Ethics’, in which six academics will discuss internet research ethics beyond the traditional concerns of privacy, confidentiality, anonymity, informed consent and permissions, that have comprised the ethics agenda for internet research thus far.

Ms Xia’s paper is entitled ‘The agency of workers in Chinese internet industries’. She will draw on the covert participant observation of Chinese internet employees that she conducted as part of her doctoral research, in order to reflect on the labour conditions and the possibilities for agency in internet employment contexts.

Lee Edwards co-authors article in Culture and Organization

An article by Clea Bourne (Cardiff University) and Lee Edwards (School of Media and Communication), ‘Producing trust, knowledge and expertise in financial markets: The global hedge fund industry ‘represents’ itself’ has just been published in Culture and Organization. You can access the article here.

MIRC PhD student publishes new book chapter on entrepreneurship and the creative industries

One of our first-year PhD scholarship students, Christiaan De Beukelaer, has just seen his first book chapter published. ‘The cosmopolitan homo economicus and the global cultural economy’ appears in Giep Hagoort, Aukje Thomassen, Rene Kooyman (Eds) (2012): Pioneering Minds Worldwide: On the Entrepreneurial Principles of the Cultural and Creative industries (pp. 19-24), Eburon Academic Press, Delft. ISBN: 978-90-5972-619-2. You can find out more about the book here.

Giorgia Aiello publishes article in ‘Visual Communication’

Giorgia Aiello’s article ‘The ‘other’ Europeans: the semiotic imperative of style in Euro Visions by Magnum Photos’ has just been published in the journal Visual Communication. You can read her article here.

David Lee publishes article in ‘Television and New Media’

David Lee’s article “The Ethics of Insecurity: Risk, Individualization and Value in British Independent Television Production” has been published in the journal Television and New Media. You can read his article here.

David Lee publishes article in ‘Cultural Policy’

David Lee’s article on ‘public value’ has been published by the International Journal of Cultural Policy. You can read his article here.

MIRC at ICA 2011

A number of members of the Media Industries Research Centre attended the International Communications Association conference, which took place in Boston, in late May. David Hesmondhalgh gave three papers and participated in a panel to commemorate the great media policy analyst C. Edwin Baker, who died suddenly in 2010. He also co-organised a pre-conference on Aesthetics and Popular Culture on 24 May with Professors Denise Bielby, Paul Frosh and Jonathan Gray (see MIRC Projects & Activities for more details).

MIRC members Anamik Saha and Chris Paterson also gave papers. Chris Paterson presented research on journalists’ safety and hosting a panel on news agency history. Anamik Saha gave a paper on television and the ‘production of race’ and chaired a panel on cultures of production in the television industry.

Publications by Chris Paterson

Chris Paterson has completed (with David Domingo) the second volume of Making Online News: The Ethnography of New Media Production consisting of new research from the site of online news production across a variety of genres and from four continents. This, and Paterson’s book Television News Agencies, The World from London, the first major study of television news agencies, were released in May 2011 to coincide with the annual conference of the International Communications Association.

David Lee publishes article in Media, Culture and Society

David Lee’s article Networks, cultural capital and creative labour in the British independent television industry was published in in Media, Culture and Society, Volume 33, Issue 4, May 2011, pp. 563 – 580.

‘Creative Labour’ Now Available in Paperback

The paperback edition of a book on work in the media industries has just been released. ‘Creative Labour’, written by David Hesmondhalgh and Sarah Baker, and published by Routledge as part of the CRESC Culture, Economy and Society series, was the result of a three-year research project funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, based at MIRC. Details of the book can be found here.

Keynote Address by David Hesmondhalgh

David Hesmondhalgh gave an invited keynote address at the conference of the Benelux branch of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. Hesmondhalgh’s paper, entitled ‘Towards a politics of music’, took place on 15 April at In-Holland University, Haarlem, in the Netherlands.

Transformation Fund for ‘Innovations in Broadcasting’

MIRC members are part of a successful bid by the Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications for University of Leeds ‘Transformation Funds’. The successful bid will lead to the creation of a Culture, Society and Innovation hub, consisting of four themes, including ‘Innovations in Broadcasting’, led by Professor David Hesmondhalgh. A University Research Fellow will be appointed to work on the Innovations in Broadcasting area, and the project lasts five years.

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