Topic 1 - Media


Traditional and new media

  • 'Traditional media' refers to mass media that communicate uniform messages in one-way, non-interactive procss to very large mass audiences, e.g. traditional radio and TV broadcasting, and print newspapers
  • 'New media' refers to interactivve digital technology and media products, and social media, which enable people to create, share and exchange information and develop social networks.
  • The distinction between traditional and new media is becoming blurred as mass media companies are increasingly using new media, including social media. 
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Formal controls on the media

  • The law - e.g. libel laws, laws agianst inciting religious or racial hatred
  • Ofco,m - the official media regulator 
  • The BBC Trust, together with Ofcom, regulated the BBC, and seeks to ensure the BBC remains independent of any pressure and influence from any source
  • The Independent Press Standards Organisations monitors standards of journalism in newspapers and magazines - e.g. issues such as accuracy and invasion of privacy
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How governments influence and control media output

  • By official government press comferences and briefings of journalists
  • Leaks and off-the-record briefings to journalists 
  • The use of government spin doctors,who try to manipulate the media and news stories 
  • Refusal to issue boradcasting licences to those whom it deems are unfit and unsuitable.
  • The use of filtering and surveillance software to block access to some internet sites
  • Electronic surveillance of emails, monitoring of websites and intercepts of mobile calls
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Ownership of the media

Features of media ownership

Bagdikian highlighted that a handful of global media comapnies and moguls - what he called 'Lords of the Global Village' - dominated the world' mass media. The features of media ownership include:

  • Concentration of ownership of all kinds of media in the hands of a few very large companies
  • Vertical integration - ownership of all aspects of a single median e.g. a film production company that also owns the cinema chains showing the films
  • Horizontal integration - media owners have interests in a range of media 
  • Diversification - media comapnies have interests in a wide variety of products besides the media, e.g. Virgin media, trains, airlines, bank, etc.
  • Global congolomeration - owners have global media empires 
  • Synergy - media companies package and sell their products in different forms to mutually promote sales and maximise profits e.g. a film may also involve a book, a music CD or download, a computer game, toys etc.
  • Technological covergence - several media technologies are combines ina  single device e.g. a smartphone used to make calls, text, watch films, surf the web, play games, listen to music, read books, take photos, etc.
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Ideology, control of the media, and media content

The manipulative or instrumentalist approach to media content 

This is a traditional Marxist approach, adopted by writers like Milliband. This suggests that:

  • Media owneers directly influence media content, and manipulate it to protect their interests and spread the dominant ideology. For Marxists, the media promote incomplete and distorted 'preferred readins' of news stories which the ruling class would like audiences to believe
  • Editors, managers and journalists have little choice other than to operate within the boundaries set down by the owners as they depend on them for their jobs 
  • Media audiences are fed on a dumbed-down mass diet of undemanding, trivial and uncritical content, which stops them focusing on and challenging serious issues
  • The Leveson Inquiry in 2012 uncovered a range of linkes between media owners and governments, with media support given to politcal parties in return for government policies favourable to the interests of media owners. 
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Ideology, control of the media, and media content

Evaluation of the manipulative/instrumentalist approach

  • Assmes medua audiences are passive and easily manipulated
  • Pluralists argue there is a wide range of opinion in the media. The media's owners are primarily concerned with making profits. This means attracting large audiences to gain advertisers, and the only means of doing this is to provide waht the audiences - not the owners - want.
  • The state regulates media ownership so no one person or company has too much influence.
  • Pluralists and neophiliacs suggest the rise of interative digital media and of citizen journalism has undermined the ability of media owners to control media content. 
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Ideology, control of the media, and media content

The dominant ideology or hegemonic approach to media content 

This is a neo-Marxist approach, associated with the work of the Glasgow Media Group (GMG). This suggests that:

  • Mass media spread a dominant ideology legitimising the power of the ruling class
  • The media present the values and beliefs of the dominant ideology as reasonable and nomral, and form a consensus around them. This ensures what Gramsci called the 'hegemony' or dominance society of ruling-class ideology, so ruling -class ideas become part of everyday common sense. Ideas or behaviour outisde the established consensus are presented not to be taken seriously 
  • Media managers and journalists have some professional independence fro owners, but still generally choose to support the dominant ideology. This is because they are predominantly white, middle class and male, and this act in keeping with the dominant ideology.
  • The GMG suggests that the media act in two related ways to protect the dominant ideology:Media managers and journalists also need to attract audiences and advertisers if they are to produce profits for the owners. This means that sometimes journalists develop critical, anti-estalishment views to attract audiences. This also helps to maintain the illusion that routine media content generally objective and unbiased.  
    • By gatekeeping - deliverately and routinely excluding reports on some issues
    • By agenda-setting - encouraging audiences to think about some events/issues rather that others
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Ideology, control of the media, and media content

Evaluation of the dominant ideology or hegemonic approach

  • Underrates the power and influence of the owners - owners do appoint and dismiss editors who step too far out of line, and journalists' careers are dependent on gaining approval of their stories from editors
  • Agenda-setting and gatekeeping suggest a direct manipulation of audiencs more in keeping with the manipulative or instrumentalist approach
  • Pluralists suggests the rise of the new globalised interactive digital media and citizen journalism has undermined the traditional influence of media owners and journalists, and put more control into the hands of media users. 
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Ideology, control of the media, and media content

The pluralist approach to media content

  • Media content ins driven by the fight for profits through high circulation and audience figures. The only control over media content is consumer choice
  • There is a wide diversity of competing media, catering for a huge range of audience interests and ideas. 
  • Competition for audiences prevents any one owner or company from dominating the media, and media regulators, like Ofcom, also act to prevent this happening
  • The media are generally free of any government or direct owner control. Journalists have some professional honesty and independence, and have to work to satisfy and maintain their audiences.
  • Audiences are not passive; they can choose whatever interpretation suits them, and can accept, reject, reinterpret or ignore media content in accordance with their own tastes and beliefs. 
  • The new globalised digital media, including social media, enable all sorts of views to be represented through citizen journalism. Media owners and their journalists no longer have a monopoly on media content
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  • In questions on media ownership and control of media content, evaluate one approach, e.g. Marxist manipulative approach, using and contrasting the other approaches, e.g. neo-Marxist and pluralist 
  • To show you can apply the theories (and gain marks for application), always try to give examples drawn from recent media reports 
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Topic 1

The relationship between ownership and control of the media 

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