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Disingenuous Intermediaries: The Gatekeeping Power of Distributors and Publishers

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCirculating Media
Subtitle of host publicationDistribution in the Digital Age
PublisherNew York University Press
Publication statusIn preparation - 2019

King's Authors


This chapter will explore the role that distributors/publishers play in media gatekeeping across five fields (film, television, publishing, music and games) and in doing so will examine existing as well as emergent forms of media filtering. These fields have been chosen because they are representative of the multiple ways in which the creative sector is being influenced by various incumbent and emerging media gatekeepers. In some instances existing gatekeeping practices have broken-down: as has been the case with the television schedule losing its significance in the face of (amongst other things) the potentials of the VoD platform’s library; the might of the AAA games publishers (EA Games, Ubisoft) being challenged by indie game distribution enabled by relatively new platforms (e.g. Steam and the Apple App Store); and the monopoly of multinational publishers being circumvented by academics setting up their own open access presses and journals.

Such changes have given rise to claims that prosumers and other entities now have unprecedented opportunities to curate and promote their own content. However, at the same time mediation seems to be ever more automated, networked, and algorithmic (e.g. through the personalised recommendations of Netflix, Apple or Amazon or the sharing of media content across social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook) and with that, the mechanisms behind selection choices and gatekeeping practices tend to be ever more lacking in transparency, opaque and hidden. For instance, while Netflix, Amazon,, and Apple present us with a façade of the ‘most popular’, ‘highly rated’ or ‘recommended’, the exact way that popularity is calculated, ratings are obtained, or taste clusters are established is hidden from audiences. As such, this chapter will provide an overview of the pivotal role that formal distribution and publishing companies play in mediating access to media content and experiences in an ever-evolving media landscape.

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