Thussu describes the political economy approach of theorizing international communication as “the underlying structures of economic and political power relations”. The political economy approach focuses on the question of power – who has it, how it is exercised, and how it shapes communication within a nation and the various groups that compose the nation. Karl Marx, proponent of communism, saw international communication as an attempt by the ruling elite to manage and control all facets of communication. The political economy approach was applicable when nation-states controlled international relations and those nation-states did not allow much communication or rights to be exercised by the people. Due to the changing style of communication and invention of new technologies that government and ruling elite can not control, IC researchers need to develop alternate questions regarding theorizing international communication.
New media technologies – Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, and Youtube have aided in the development of horizontal communication between people of nation-states, whereas communication between these nation-states used to only be exercised vertically from the rulers to the people, or between the leaders of various nations. Ultimate power still rests with the government, but much of that power has now been given to the people. An example of this is terrorist organizations who operate trans-nationally and not within a specific territory. Terrorists make videos that can be seen on the internet, and these videos are not under the control of the government of the nation in which these videos are being watched. The Pakistani government does not control the communication of terrorist groups within its borders. A second example is the Iranian revolution. The government controlled all legal forms of communication within the country, but information about election fraud and people’s outrage were spread through new media sources that the government could not control.
One alternative approach to the political economy theory of international communication is the cultural studies also discussed by Thussu. In this theory, communication and media create values and meanings that can be spread across cultures. Facebook is one of these tools that can be utilized with this approach. Facebook has created its own place in the media spotlight – as news anchors, talk show hosts, and media outlets use it to post questions, gain feedback, and spread their message across national boundaries. This type of communication can not be controlled through the typical political economy approach, as government officials do not exercise control of the message anymore. The impact of Facebook and similar technologies on international communication need to be further evaluated. Similar theories should be the focus of IC researchers, as technology and the role of communication in the nation-state continue evolving.