AQA Sociology - Media (2015 onwards)


What counts as media?

  • Debate over what counts as media
  • Some sociologists think it includes all mobile phone technology
  • Some think it is only included if used to communicate to mass audience
  • Huge changes in media since 1980s
  • Now a lot more specialist media outlets communicating to small, niche audiences
  • New Media allows interaction - now not just one way
  • Some sociologists include all technology used to communicate under umberella of 'Media' - Marshall McLuhan even included cars and clocks
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What is media for?

  • Media used to convey ideas/information to other people
  • 'The media' includes all the different forms of communication used to give information to the public - newspapers, TV, radio, cinema, websites etc.
  • Organisations who own these forms are also included
  • One of the main functions of media is to deliver news, can also be used to educate/inform and to entertain
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Content analysis

  • Measuring how often a word, phrase or theme is used in a piece of media
  • In social sciences content analysis is formal, quantitative - you can count the number of times something occurs and is best for written texts or transcripts
  • Can be used to analyse the relationsip between phrases
  • Main downside is that it takes a long time
  • Doesn't take context into account
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  • Studying the signs and codes of the media
  • A sign is anything  that can mean something else
  • Looking at the meanings of things
  • Advertisements particularyly open to semiotic analysis - using signs to associate their products with positive ideas
  • Semiotic analysis open to subjectivity and bias - researcher's values can influence their interpretations
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  • One example would be to monitor people's behaviour following watching a violent film
  • Short experiments don't tell you anything about the long-term media effects 
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Audience research means showing somethings to a sample audience then interviewing them/questionnaires - care must be taken to create good interview questions to get meaningful results and avoid bias
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  • Media  is owned by a few powerful companies and individuals
  • Printed and transmitted by media outlets - film studios, TV Channels, radio stations etc. 
  • Same companies often own different forms of media, which is called cross-media ownership

1) Media companies diversify - buying other companies that make different kinds of media and in other business sectors

2) Some media companies own media in several different countries

3) Over last 30 years media ownership has fallen into fewer and fewer hands

4) Most American media owned by 'Big Six' - Comcast, CBS, Disney, TimeWarner, News Corps and Viacom

  • Individuals who own these companies have huge power and influence in society - can control the information 
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Messages being removed

  • Some messages are removed from the media
  • The process of controlling the content is called censorship
  • Media messages that are considered harmful or offensive to society can be removed before they are published
  • Censorship can be done for moral, political or security reasons
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Marxists on media control

  • Tradtitional Marxistsmedia owners control what we see in the media
  • Media owners exploit their power position to manipulate to content of the media and capitalist media owners tell their editors what stories to covers and views to express
  • Neo-MarxistsMedia reflect the ideas of the ruling class
  • Theory is more complicated and says that control over the media is indirect 
  • World view of the elite class is broadcast and reinforced creating a 'cultural hegemony'
  • Some neo-Marxists - people in media are trained to present a certain view of the world
  • Don't say that alternative views are suppressed - they say that they're allowed
  • Marxist sociologists say that control of ideas doesn't just happen in news/factual programmes - family entertainment present a specific idea of British family life
  • The Frankfurt School (neo-Marxist) argue that advertising makes people feel like they need the products in capitalist economy - 'false needs'
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Pluralism on the media

  • Pluralism says media reflects the values and beliefs of society
  • 1) Argue that society is made up of lots of different and interacting parts, each with their own opinions
  • 2) Postmodernists say that consumption is hugely important in today's society - the cultural products and media that you buy and cosume form your identity
  • 3) Postmodernist pluralists say that because people can choose to consume any of these different opinions media outlets produce content that they think people want  to read and buy
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Pluralism - The audience chooses what media to con

1) Pluralists argue that no one group/person can push their views on society - always another voice providing an alternative view

2) They say this gives normal people consumer power over media outlets - if you don't like what you're exposed to then you can choose a different media source - causes other one to lose money

3) Owners of media organisation want to stay in business so mostly publish stories that won't offend extreme views aren't often published

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Pluralism - Journalists can choose what to write a

1) Journalists and editors decide what media content they want to publish - postmodernist pluralists say this limits the power owners and creates more media diversity 

2) Journalists often have to follow professional codes that make sure that they are reporting in an objective, unbiased and honest way - journalistic integrity, which makes it harder for owners to interfere

3) Neo-Pluralists admit it can be hard for journalists to be impartial and stick to these codes

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Pluralism - The State restricts the power of media

1) In UK there are lots of groups/organisations who regulate the media - make sure that media owners don't have too much power and that journalists are acting in a responsible way

2) Public Service Broadcasters are regulated - the BBC is publiclyy funded and media it produces has to represent as many views as possible by law

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Criticism of Postmodernist Pluralist view

1) Curran (2003) disagrees with pluralists - thinks that owners still interfere in production of media for different reasons. Argues thatUK media has been controlled y small number of individuals for long time - 1937 four men owned nearly 50% of all UK newspapers

2) Miliband (1973) thought that owners, who favour capitalism, have ultimate control. Argued that issues that show capitalism in bad light are rarely mentioned in the media - things like the existence of inequality and poverty

  • Cultural Pessimist Andrew Keen (2007) argued that democratic nature of internet can harm the quality of media content - examples like Wikipedia (crowd-priduced) may be more democratic but they're full of incorrect and poorly written information, free and easy to access so overtake/replace traditional, professional media
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Practical Constraints

  • Medi ainfluenced by practical constraints - time, space, money etc.
  • News is presented as most factual/objective form of media but they run to very tight deadlines/constraints that influence the content
  • Time Constraints - the most easily available stories make it onto TV, Editors/Journalists use the same contacts repeatedly for convenience limiting viewpoints influencing
  • Techincal Constraints - some places are easier to get cameras/reporters and these are usually where the top stories tend to come from, importance of event will partly depend on how easy it is to report
  • Budget - Stories/reports come from places they already have reporters/established contacts because they're cheaper to produce. Many newspapers can afford many of their own reporters so buy stories from news agencies - these news agencies then have huge influence on the content of the news
  • Competition - Affects the selection of the news based around popularity. Editrs more likely to choose stories they think will make their newspaper the most popular that day - News stories can be sensationalised, celebrity gossip often popular
  • Celebrities will sometimes do press releases that are sent straight to newsrooms for convenience, saving time and money and making it more likely to be reported.
  • Stories have to grow/shrink to fit designated space 
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Values and Practices of Journalists

  • Journalists learn to follow certain rules/ideas based on what they think the general public want to hear about
  • Gatlung and Ruge (1965) referred to these as 'news values' - Different types of values:
  • Bureaucratic news values - news should be current, brief, simple. Big news rather than small news
  • Cultural news values - News should be unexpected, focussing on important people, relevant to the audience. Bad news rather than good news
  • Agenda-setting: Journalists and editors control the news agenda - News only becomes news when journalists and editors select it to be so, they also choose what angle to report it from, which has a direct effect on how the audience will perceive the story. Agenda-setting might not be conscious but comes from the learnt practices of journalism and is usually based on what catches the audience's attention
  • Gate-keeping: Gans(1979) editor decides which stories are features/how much space they get. Dutton (1986) says editors filter the news by choosing what stories to print
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Selection and presentation of News

  • Can be biased
  • The Glasgow University Meida Group (GUMG) - Studied television news
    • 1970s/80s focussing on workplace strikes
    • The selection of news biased in favour of dominant class values
    • Voice-overs biased in favour of dominant class values
    • Management given more access to the media than strike leaders
    • Filming/editing biased in favour of police
  • Demonstrates a bias in the news and the values/assumptions of people who produce/construct the news
  • Their work highly respected because they studied a lot of newspapers in a lot of detail 
  • It's from the 1970/80s so care should be taken when applying it to modern media
  • When people think the news is unbiased they're more likely to believe it
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Society's influence on the news

  • News is socially constructed
  • All media sociologists agree this but disagree over whose values are behind the social construction - dominant or minority class?
  • From pluralist persepective practical constraints more significant in influencing the content that ideological bias. Values of journalists are the common values in society
  • From Marxist perspective ideological influences are more important and practical constraints can be separated from ideology. Jounalistic values are part of dominant rulinclass ideology
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New Media impact on selection and presentation of

  • People don't sit down and spend a whole coffee break reading an online newspaper - tend to click on what look like most intriguing/juicy headlines
  • Editors tend to select interesting, scandalous or wacky stories and present them with a headline that makes them appear even more interesting, scandalous or wacky
  • Audiences can 'have their say' on news stories via online commenting, text or email
  • Interactivity seems popular with news editors and may select stories that will stir up a big response, inviting audience response when presenting them
  • There are hundreds of news websites - can compare or contrast how they present the same story - some stories are exactly the same on lots of websites because they used the same press release or news agency feed
  • Widespread use of smartphones with cameras and internet access, along with social media means that anyone can film and publicise something that they select as newsworthy, sometimes referred to as citizen journalism
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Citizen journalism

  • Bowman and Willis described citizen journalism as the public actively taking part in reporting the news, often it's the audience who tell the first part of the story and initial images and reports spread quickly on social media
  • Rise of websites like Twitter make citizen journalism easier, hashtags draw together all the content into one subject
  • One news story is formed out of photos and comments from everyone and includes content from people directly involved in developing events
  • As a result citizen journalism is at the centre of events as they are happening. Can also be unreliable as individuals can present rumours s fact or misinterpret events
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Professional assumptions about audiences

  • Yvonee Jewkes argues that news content in influcned by the way that news professionals construct stories - journalists use news values to decide how much public appeal a story will have
  • Journalists make assumptions about what theire audience wants to read/watch/hear
    • Will frame stories so that they will appeal to them - adopting a certain tone, using strong images and focusing on one aspect of the story
  • Journalists judge whether a story is in the public interest.
    • Politicians and businessmen often influence this process and Jewkes points out that what is often 'public interest' is usually what is best for the government.
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Advertisers and government influence the media

  • Herman and Chomsky argue tht media outlets are always profit-seeking - rely on government/big corporations for big stories
  • Government and big corporations can then influence media outlets by threatening to damage their profits
  • Some advertisers did not want to be placed next to images of Iraq War, so images of this were supressed so that media outlets could continue advertising and making money
  • Media often leaves out criticism of UK Government actions - ie. blaming events in Iraq on those in power there
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Should News content be regulated by the government

  • Media professionals have their own organisation called Press Complaints Commission (PCC) to monitor standards and deal with audience complaints
    • means that content is self-regulated
  • Social media bloggers aren't regulated so they have more freedom
    • Still have to obey the law - Contempt of court laws are designed to stop them from publishing anything that migh damage a court case, Libel laws are to stop them from publishing lies
  • 2011 - widely reported that journalists writing for (now disbanded) News of the World had been hacking into mobile phones of people connectedto major news stories
    • Triggered the Levson Inquiry (2011-12) - looked at whether the press should be allowed to carry on self-regulating through bodies like the PCC or regulated by the government instead
    • Leveson Inquiry recommended that the PCC should be replaced by a body with legal backing to make press self-regulation more effective. Did not recommend government regulation of the press.
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Government regulation of news content

  • Debate over freedom of the press is important - some believe it is the duty of the press to hold powerful people to account and allowing government to regulate would limit its ability to do this
  • On other hand sociologist Paul Hodkinson argued in 2012 that the idea that press represent the people against those in power is false - Leweson inquiry revealed that press have somethimes worked with the government and police in a way that is not in the public's best interest
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New media characteristics

  • Recent decades - digitalisation of media has contributed to changes in the way we access/experience media
  • New media has different characteristics to older, printed forms of media
    • New media are accessible - growth of new methids of digital communication, especially the internet, means that digital media can be shared quickly, easily and often, for free
    • Convergence - you can use one device to access lots of different new media conten
    • User control has increased - more power in the hands of the audience. Streaming and catch-up services now give viewers control over the programmes they watch and when they watch them
    • More interactivity - audience directly engaged with the media, eg. you can contact a live radio show using Twitter, email or Facebook, red button vote on TV shows
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Is new media revolutionary?

  • Sociologists disagree - 
  • Some argue that cultures, economies and individual personalities are transformed by the new media, eg. attitudes to privacy has been completely changed - now common to share personal details on the internet putting people at risk of losing control over who has access to their identity
  • Cornford and Robins (1999) disagreed with this idea saying they were evolutionary because they evolved from technology that had already existed
    • Argued that interactivity isn't exclusive to new media, letter columns in newspapers have allowed people to share their views for years
    • Believe that only characeristic of new media that is entirely new is speed of communication
  • Some have studied the evolutionary impact of new media on existing media:
    • Boyle & Haynes (2004) - media coverage of sports after development of mobile phones & 3G internet, Phone manufacturers claiming there would be dramatic, revolutionary changes in football broadcasting/marketing
      • found that integration of mobile technology & football media was actually evolutionary, by replacing traditional options like TV Broadcasting
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New media - age, location & consumer power

  • Young people are biggest users of new media - 2015 survey found that about 5900 UK citezens had never used the internet, only 31 were aged 16-24
  • older people's use of newe media is increasing, anther 2015 surey found that percentage of over 65s who reported using a smartphone to access the internet doubled between 2012 and 2015

People who can't access New Media are part of a digital underclass

  • Things like getting a passport/registering to vote are now mainly carried out on the internet
  • Lack of acccesscan be a major barrierto accessing these kinds of services
  • People who are in poverty are often excluded from new media - can't afford to pay for broadband or new media devices, they form a digital underclass because they can't fully take part in society because they lack access to digital services
  • Some people in rural communitiesalso have limited access, wires capable fo transmitting modern broadband might not be installed in remote areas
  • Many rural areas have poor coverage fro 3G and 4G internet connections
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New Media - Cultural Pessimists

  • New media is mainly controlled by powerful miltinational corporations like Microsoft. Increasing globalisation means they have far-reaching influence over consumers
  • New media controlled by the state, which reduces everyone's privacy, for example the whistleblower, Edward Snowden, revealed that American state security were secretly hacking thousands of people's emails
  • The consumer benefits kof new media come at a social cost - some online retailers have been criticised for avoiding taxes and exploiting their workiers so that they can offere their services without losing profits
  • Freedom of information on the internet means that offensive views can spread, misogynistic, racist and terrorist material can be easily shared online
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New media - Neophiliacs

  • The development of technology leas to increased consumer choice - the growth of online shopping means you can shop around for the best deal
  • Companies use glabal websites like Facebook to advertise their products from mulitple countries
  • You can also share more information which makes society more democratic because it exposes people to lots of views
  • Inventions like satellite TV means that viewers can access TV conten from many countries, some shows become global phonomena, creating a shared culture
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Is new media democratic?

  • Some sociologists argie that new media can be used to break down cultural hegemony
  • Online media platforms make communication less regulated - websites like YouTube, Tumbl and other blogging websites five you the opportunity to create your own media and present your ideas to a global audience
    • This makes media more representative of society as a whole because anyone can say or write what they think
  • Cultural pessimist Andrew Keen (2007) argued that the democratic nature of the internet can harm the quality of media content
    • Media like Wikipedia that are crowd-produced may be more democratic than other media but they are dilled with badly written, uninformed and unchecked content. These sources are free and easy to access so they often replace traditional, professional media
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Media messages about gender

  • Media messages about gender are stereotyped
  • Most editors are men and women don't appear in the media as often as men
  • There are male and female stereotypes in the media
    • Women are often presented as ideals for other women to aspire to and some believe that eating disorders have risen as a direct result
    • Media tends to present women in a limited range of roles, some say there are only two: domestic and sexual
    • Achievements of women often presented less important than their sex appeal - form of 'symbolic annihilation'
    • Women often presented as victims by the media
    • Ferguson (1983) researches women's magazines and found that they gave advice and training on being (stereotypically) feminine in sexual, domestic and romantic settings
    • Some adverts portray men as incompetent at stereotypically female domestic task
    • Action films portray men as violent and show male violence in a positive way

'Symbolic annihilation' is when a social group is represented negatively, falsey or is completely ignored

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Media representations of gender influenced by bina

  • Binary opposition means looking at the world in terms of pairs of opposition 
  • Levi-Strauss (1963) said that one half of a binary opposite pair is culturally marked asn being more positive than the other (ie. in male/female, males are culturally marked as more positive)
  • The media often uses these binary oppositions in stereotypical representations of gender, ie. as portraying men as breadwinners and women ad housewives
  • Binary opposition includes the idea of 'the other' - the dominant half of the binary pair (men) is seens as the normal/standard/regular version, the half of the binary pair percieved less positively (women) is 'the other'
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Is gender representation of media changing?

  • Westwood (1999) - there are lots of female characters on TV and in film who do not conform to gender roles. These characters are seen as 'transgressive' because they go beyond stereotypical representations of women
  • Gauntlett (2002) - identifies changes inmedia portrayal of masculinity. Some men's magazines mirrored the format of women's magazines with advice on health, looking good and attracting women. Often promoted 'meterosexual male' who cares about how he looks, respects women and displays traditionally femal traits, however many men's magazines still sexualise women
  • Gauntlett says that diverse representation of gender creates a wider range of genderred images to choose from
  • Postmodernists like Hermes (1995) think people can reject media messages about gender
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Representations of sexuality in the media

  • The media often presents inaccurate stereotypes of LGBT groups or ignores them altogether
  • As a result media representation of people with LGBT identities can be negative or even non-existent and is another form of symbolic annihilation
  • Batchelor (2004) said media representations of homosexuality often suggest that being gay is an embarrasing problem and that lesbianism is completely ignored by media aimed at young people
  • Craig (1992) - gay men are often stereotyped as either 'camp', 'macho' or 'deviant'. Many TV shows use camp gay characters for comedic relief and being gay is often characterised as a problem and lots of gay characters are often presented as struggling with their sexuality
  • Gauntlett (2008) - argues that things are improving as people are now more accepting of a wide range of sexual identities
    • Positive representation of sexuality in the media is increasing and Gauntlett argues that this will lead to more acceptance
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Disabled people in the media

  • Disabled people are under-represented in the media
  • There is very little representation of disabled people in the media
  • Cumberbatch et al (2014) studied a selection of the most popular British factual, drama and entertainment TV programmes
    • UK government statistics show that about 19% of the population has some form of disability but their study found that people with disabilities had far lower proportion of speaking roles in these programmes
  • Fictional representations of disability (both supporting characters and lead characters who were important to the plot or narrative) were slightly more common
  • Disabled people are poorly represented in powerful positions in the media - those who do hold positions often have specialised in disabled issues
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Roles for disabled people

  • Research by Cumberbatch and Negrine (1992) looking at British TV over 6 weeks found the roles for disabled people were based on pity or comedy
  • Found that disabled actors never appeared just as actors playing a person who just happened to have a disability, only in roles particularly about the disability
  • There are some positive portrayals of disabled people in films and on TV such as Stephen Hawking's experience of motor neurone disease in The Theory of Everything 
  • Cumberbatch et al (2014) also discovered that roles for disabled people on popular TV are now more likely to be serious than comedic 
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Media representations and stereotypes of disabilit

  • Barnes (1992) argues that diables people are often presented as being reliant on the charity of others - shows like Children in Need may reinforce thisstereotype without meaning to 
    • Noted that people with disablilties tebd to be presented as being unable to contribute to their local community
  • audience response depends on people's actual experience of disability
    • Cumberbatch and Negrine found that people with limited or no real-life experience of disability were critical of the media and ejected stereotyped images
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Class stereotypes in the media

  • Media editors and executives are almost allmiddle class
    • middle class people also apear on TV more often than working class people, both in dramas and on news programmes
  • Drama roles for working class characters are mostly limited to soap operas
    • upper class characters are often seen in historical costume dramas which tend to give people a romantic picture of life and class
  • News often reresents working class people a a source of trouble in 'anti-social' behaviour, riots, strikes, crime etc.
    • The neo-Marxist Glasgow University Media Group (1982) suggest that the media is spreading the view that the working class are trouble to ensure dominance of capitalist ideology

Glennon and Butsch (1982) looked at 40 years of families on TV in the USA and found that 4% of sitcoms featured a damily where the head of the household was a manual worker, in real like 36% of American families were like this. Nearly half the families had a professional as the head of the hoursehold whereas in real life only 25% were like this. Most of the TV families were wealthy and glamorous. They thought that most working class dads were portrayed as stupid and comical for the audience to laugh at (ie. Homer Simpson)

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Class stereotypes and the media contd.

  • Newman (2006) argues that media gives positive attention to things that only the wealthy can afford
    • Newspapers devote a lot of space to reporting on stocks and shares, but most UK families don't own any
    • According to Newman, the media blames the working class for poverty and unemployment and when poverty is discussed, statistics are used instead of talking about human suffering.

Media stereotypes on class identity

  • Research from Medhurst (1999) showed that when middle-class students were shown the programme The Royle Family, which featured deliberately exaggerated and stereotypical working-class characters, they thought it was an accurate portrayal of working class life
  • Stuart Hall (1982, 1992, 1996) thinks that the media has always portrayed the middle classes in a positive light and the working class in a negative light. He says that the media has reinforced people's class identities which keep the divide between the classes strong.
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Media Representations of ethnicity

Cumberbatch et al (2014) - Looked at representations of ethnicity in TV programmes

  • When they studied the 60 most popular British factual, entertainment and drama TV programmes they found that the percentage of people from ethnic minorities who held a speaking role in the shows was quite representative of the overall proportion of ethnic minorities in the UK population.
  • Some ethnic minorities were over-represented (ie. Black African Caribbean groups) and some were under-represented (ie. South Asian groups)
  • Study found that people from ethnic minorities are more likely to appear in entertainment shows and are fairly well represented in factual shows as 'key contributors' (ie. interviewees)
    • Representation in major roles is limited - ethnic minorities are less likely to be presenters or have lead roles in drama
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Ethnicity representations in media

  • New technology means there are now more specialist satellite and digital TV and radio channels
    • Often cater for specific ethnic minorities and they're controlled by people from those ethnic minorities
    • However, there aren't many people from ethnic minorities in positions of peower in mainstram media
  • Tabloid newspapers sometimes stereotype some ethnic minority groups as being  problem or a threat
    • Van Dijk (1991) made a detaied content analysis of headlines in five British national newspapers - argued there was often and association between ethnic minorities and violent/negative language
  • Some media representations of multiculturalism have been criticised
  • Media portrayals of ethnic minorities can also be part of media representations
    • Some representations of multiculturalism are utopian (suggesting that everything is perfect) and some admit that there are problems
  • Cottle (2000) - media portrayals of ethnic minorities reinforce views of non-whites as the 'other'
    • Says representations of multiculturalism gloss over problems and historical impacts
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Audience reactions to Ethnic stereotypes

  • Hartman and Husband (1974) analysed children's responses to media and compared the responses of children in two parts of Britain
  • In an area with a low ethnic mix, children believed negative media content and thought of 'race relations' in terms of conflict. In an area with a high ethnic mix children rejected the media stereotypes in favour of their own experiences
  • Therefore audience response to ethnic minority sterotypes varies depending on the real-life experience of the audience - people don't always accept media stereotypes if they know better for themselves
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Age stereotypes in the media

  • Often a sexist double standard in the way older people are represented in the media
    • Older women are less likely to get a leadin film role or a TV presenting job
    • Older men are 'allowed' to be romantically paired with young women
    • Lots more old men presenting TV programmes than there are older women
  • Biggs (1993) found lots of representation of older people in entertainment shows, however they were often stereotyped in roles like forceful, vague and difficult
  • In America, Signorelli (1989) studied prime-time TV charactersand found that both young and old were underrepresented - TV representations were biased towards middle-aged people
  • Feather and Hepworth (1995) found that magazines for older people tended to push an image of 'youthful' older people - enjoying holdiays and wearing youthful-looking clothes
  • Newman (2006) found that class influences representation of age. Older upper-class and middle-class people are often cast in TV dramas as characters with high social status and advanced careers
  • There are often stereotypes relating to young people - children are often represented as innocent, slighty older youth are seen as a social problem who are prone to dug abuse, binge drinking, petty crime and unplanned pregnancy
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Age representations in media

  • Wayne et al (2008) looked at representations of young people in the news
    • They found that young people are often presented as a threat to the rest of society. They also have few opportunites to express their views, meaning they can't influence the way they are presented in the media
    • As a result, the serious problems that young people may face (ie. unemployment, money issues and poor mental health) are often devalued and ignored. Lack of sympathy for young people can make these problems worse because the government and rest of society think that they aren't important enough to address
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Media representation of young girls and consumer c

  • McRobbie (2008) - in the last few decades media representations of girls have changed
    • In the 1970s young girls were often presented in magazines as being passive and led by a desire to impress boys.
    • By the 1990s TV shows and magazines aimed at girls moved away from this representation and used language of 'Girl Power' to suggest that girls were free to be what they wanted to be
    • Presented girls as active consumers who could choose how to express themselves
    • McRobbie argued that the media wanted to create a consumer market forproducts aimes at young girls and women. Media even encourages young girls to desire products aimed at teenagers so that they will become consumers too
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Hypodermic Syringe model

  • In the 1920s, when radio and newspapers were just starting to get important in society, sociologists developed theories about how the media affected people
  • The hypodermic syringe model says the media injects its message into the mind of the audience in the same way as drugs are directly injected into the body
    • The idea is that the media is so powerful that its messages directly influences the individual and they're powerless to resist/reject the message. 
  • This theory says that all individuals in the audience are affected in the same way. Some sociologists decided it was too simplistic - Treat it as passive and easily led
    • In 1938 - Orson Welles recorder radio production of H G Wells' story The War of the Worlds and it involved fictional news bulletins. Some radio listeners believed the fake news bulletins and panicked. 
      • Used as evidence of the dangerous/direct power of the media and it created concern in society (for people believing in the hypodermic syringe model it was proof enough)
  • Critics also point out that not all audience members react in the same way to the same piece of media but it did stay popular as a theory about how media influences children
    • During refugee crisis in 2015, photographs of 3 year old Aylan Kurdi who drowned off the coast of Turkey was shared and used to criticise the European governments for their approach to the crisis. After this media messages about refugees became a lot more sympathetic to them and audience attitudes changed, too.
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Media messages and their interpretations

  • Two-step flow model was developed in the 1950s and it says that media does not influence people, but not everything is influenced directly
  • The first step is the media messahe reaching an audience member
  • Secondly: How thier understanding of the message is shaped by social interaction with other audience members
  • Katz and Lazarsfield (1955) said that there were key individuals  in each community whose reaction directly influenced others - these 'opinion leaders' openly expressed their reaction and opinions and others follow their lead
  • They studied the media influence on American voters - concluded that most people followed the opinion leader's vews on who they should vote for but the opinion leaders often get their ideas straight from the media messages
  • Doesn't just have to be two steps -  message can go through several stages of interpretation - Hobson (1990) studied office environment and found that a few key individuals influenced what others watched on television and their reactions to the programmes. These opinions were passed on to another bunch of colleagues. A social norm of what to watch spreads through the whole office and new recruits have to conform to fit in
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Social/Cultural context and audience responses

  • Cultural effects theory introduced the idea that social context is important when lookingat the effects of the media - the theory claims that different people interpret the media in different ways
  • Idea is that audience interprets the media in the context of the culture they already belong to meaning that the effect of the media is quite complex and it's not the same for everyone
  • Culture refers to the small, subcultural groups an individual belongs to and also the wider, general culture of society
    • Looking at the War of the Worlds broadcast that caused panic, it did so because of the cultural context in which it was broadcast, if the same thing were broadcast today the same reaction would not occur
    • At the time of the broadcast there was insecurity in American society because of a financial crisis and the move towards war in Europe so radio programmes were frequently interrupted for news reports and there was a general expectation for bad news
    • People wouldn't have been surprised to hear a real report of bad news interruptin a drama programme which made it more likely that some members of the audience would believe the story
  • Neo-Marxist  Stuart Hall (1980) argued that media has dominant ideological messages 'encoded' but people from different backgrounds decode them differently
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Media reporting of deviance and moral panics

  • Stan Cohen (1973) - media reporting of expected trouble could create a moral panic
    • used the example od Mods and Rockers from the 1960s - the media reported that there would be fights between the two youth subcultures
    • Lots of people turned up to fight or watch, partly because of media publicity. The public then panicked over reports of how many people turned up to the fight

Small Group behaves in a deviant way - media report the story - media report similar stories again - original group labelled as a threat to social order - more people join in with the deviant behaviour - moral panic, where the public demands that something is done about it

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Effects of media messages

  • Media effects can build up over time to create or reinforce cultural norms
  • Images of women in the media creat stereotypical images and pace expectations on girls and women, there is a long-running campaign by some feminists to remove pictures of ******* women from national newspapers because they aregue these images reinforce the dominant view that it's OK to objectify women as sex objects - The Sun ended it's 'Page 3' feature in January 2015
  • Some theorists think it's not just the content of the media that has a long-term effect on society - the technology of media as an impact, too
    • ie. internet technology has transformed the way people communicate, shop, apply for jobs etc. 

Marshall McLuhan (1964) - media technology had a greater effect on society than media content - it's the type of media we consume that matters

  • Different forms of media can be described as 'hot' or 'cool'. 'Hot' media (like films) don't require much effort to be understood but 'cool' media (like comics) need to be interpreted by the reader
  • Different forms of media require different levels of engagement
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The effect of violent media on audiences

  • Lots of research has focussed on the effects of violent media on the behavious of audiences
  • Sociologists have focussed on young children in particular as they are often seen as impressionable and might repeat the behaviour they see
  • Newson (1994) - you can become 'desensitised' to violence if you see enough of it on TV and in films and games, meaning you get used to seeing violence in the media and don't see it as shocking anymore
  • Most famous example of violent media effects research is Bandura et al (1963) - Children who are exposed to violent media go on to imitate the violence that they have seenHypodermic syringe model has been used to link fictional media violence with shootings
    • Showed children a film of a man hitting the doll and when the children were left alone to play with the same doll that they watched in the film, the ones who had seen the video hit the doll and those who had not seen it played with it normally.
    • This showed that violent media could cause violent behaviour
  • In 2012 a gunman killed 12 people at a screening of Batman The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, and was dressed as the villain from the film, the Joker who is a violent character
    • Caused the media to link the attack to the film itself and they suggest that the gunman was directly influenced by the violence shown in it
    • Other mass shootings in America get linked to violent films and video games despite no evidence that the attacker has consumed/been influenced by violent media
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The Glasgow University Media Group

  • The  Glasgow University Media Group (GUMG) has looked at media effects since 1974
  • They have done a lot of research into the effects of news and current affairs reporting, they analyse the media content by looking at its messages and values
  • They have also surveyed and interviewed audiences to find out how much influence the media has on them
  • They studied reactions to reports of violence during the miners' strike of 1984-5. 54% of their audience sample, who had seen media coverage of the stirke, believed that the picket lines were mostly violent. Police and people who were on the picket line said that there wasn't as much violence as the media suggested and the audience based their beliefs based on what the media told them was happening

This group is a Marxist group

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Criticism of the idea that violent media has negat

  • Others have criticised the idea that violent media normalises violence
  • Cumberbatch (2004) - there is still no clear evidence that violent media influence the behaviour of children or adults. Reviewed over 3500 studies about the effects of violent media and according to him, none of them prove that a certain link exists
  • Young (1981) - violent media may actually have a positive effect on attitudes towards violence. Viweing violent media may result in 'sesitisation' to violent crime because it increases awareness of the consequences of violent acts. Individuals can learn from fictionalised examples of violence and the aftermath and as a result avoid committing violent crimes
  • Fesbach and Sanger (1971) - violent media give people an opportunity to let out all of their aggression in a positive way, such as shouting at a computer game being a safe way to vent anger and relieve negative emotion because no one gets hurt. This process is known as 'catharsis'
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Is Effects research ineffective?

  • Gauntlett (2008) - crtiticises some of the methods used in effects research
  • Is positive about the effects research done by GUMG but criticises other media effects research
  • Attacked the experimental method used by Bandure et al in their doll experiment as it was carried out in a laboratory environment. He thinks this makes the results ot the experiments artificial because the experiment doesn't reflect the way children behave in the real world, as in the real world they are influenced by their parents and friends to act differently
  • Says that lots of effects research is based on myth that children are powerless puppets of the media. Other research suggests that children can recognise from an early age that it's not acceptable to imitate fictional violence
  • Gauntlett prefers to use what he calls imaginitive methods such as asking a group of school children in Leeds to make their own videos about the environment and he then observed the results. This way he was studying chilren in their natural environment instead of in a lab, which is called an ethnographic study
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Other Criticisms of media effects models

  • Some argue that media effects studies don't always make it clear what they mean by 'violence' - often they only look at fictional violence and dont't consider how audiences will react to different kinds of violence
  • This is a problem fro research that uses the hypodermic syringe model - doesn't consider that some 10 year olds are more mature than others and have different reactions to the media
  • Morrison (1999) - context is key -some studies forget that violent media are presented in different contexts which can affect the way the audience interpret the violence
    • Viewing violence that is meant to be funny or that appears in a comic contextmay have a different effcet to seeing images of brutal violence in real-life warzones
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Interpreting the media - Uses and Gratification th

  • Theory was developed by theorists such as Blumer and Katz (1974) - says that people use the media to meet their needs
  • Audience actively chooses what media to experience using such cutting-edge tools as free will and the remote control. Everyone chooses for themselves so each person's media diet is different
  • Good example is study of Soap opera audiences by McQuail (1972) - looked at how audiences used Coronation Street to fulfill a need for social companionship - many audiences felt part of the character's lives and felt interest and concern for what would happen next in the storyline
  • Lull (1990) - listed social uses of TV in the UK, found that men, women, young and old used the media to meet different needs
  • Uses and gratification theory is Functionalist - says that media exists to serve the needs of the public
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Interpreting Media - Selective Filter Model

  • Theory says how audiences choose which media to experience and also control whoch parts of the media meddage to pay attention to/engage with
  • Pick out the parts that fit in with their views and ignore the rest
  • Fiske (1988) - individuals become very experienced readers of the media and users can understand that one 'media text' in several different ways on several different levels
  • Klapper (1960) - to get its messages across the media has to go through three selective filters:
    • Selective exposure -  people only consume the media they are able to get
    • Selective perception - people ignore messages they don't want to hear
    • Selective retention - people only tend to remember what they agree with
    • He said this makes it easier for media to reinforce what people think than to change their minds
  • This model emphasises the power of the individual to control their experience and says that people use it in a more sophisticated way - a little postmodernist because of this
  • Selective filter model criticised for overestimating the control of the individual over very powerful media messages
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Interpreting the media - Structured interpretation

  • Theory says there is a sominant interpretation of media messages which audiences go along with
  • Like the two other theories indiviually pick which media they engage with but this theory says this takes place in a social context
  • Social context creates a preferred reading/interpretation of the media message, such as films being written, filmed and promoted with a prefered reading in mind. The makers of films like Spectre want it to be seen as intriguing and convincing instead of stilted and boring
  • Different social groups have different dominant interpretations of the same text, meaning this theory differs from the others that saw things as a mass reaction
  • Morley (1980) - studied how television audiences responded to one news programme - Nationwide. Showed the same programme to several different social groups and found that their responses to the programme varied hugely, but within each group individuals mostly responded in the same way
    • Trade unionists saw it as biased towards management and management trainees saw it as pro-union
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Postmodernist theory on interpreting the media

  • Postmodernists say that there are many, many meanings to any social/cultural aspect of life
  • Say there isn't any aspect of life where there's one single, objective truth or reality that absolutely everyone experiences
  • Postmodern audience picks and chooses between a range of images, messages, ideas and meanings
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Postmodernists - does media take the place of real

  • The development of media & technology have meant that everyday life is chock-full of images/messages competing and conflicting with each other
  • Media presents so many different images/stories woven into every day life that the boundary between reality and the media is blurred, the media becomes reality
  • The explosion of reality TV and the obsessive interes people have with soap stars are good examples of this
    • With reality TV, real people get put in an unreal situation which is presented as real and the audience follows it like a soap
    • With a soap, pretend characters get treated by the press and audiences as if they're real
  • Theres an example of news media - when something is on the news it seems like that proves it's real/true. The news isn't the objective truth, but news presented as reality becomes reality
  • Idea is related to postmodernist idea of a simulacrum (something that looks real, but isn't) like a copy but without any kind of connection to the original. Postmodernist theorists say that these simulacra actually replace reality
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Postmodernists - does media take the place of real

  • French Postmodernist Jean Baudrillard (1981,1994) - everything has been replaced by simulacra. Called the replacement reality hyper-reality - hyper-real imges seemed more real than real and that meant they took over from reality. Suggested that obviously made-up images were used to give people the impression that they could tell reality from simulcrum when in fact they couldn't
  • In The Gulf War did not take place, Baudrillard (1995) - the 1991 Gulf War existed more as images on TV screens than as actual fighting. The Gulf War as media spectacle or video game type simulation became reality
  • In the media a piece of informtation/image can be distorted intentionally in order to make it appear correct to viewers, meaning it is made less true in order to look more true
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Criticism of Postmodernism interpreting the media

  • Critics of Bruadrillard say his writng is deliberately obscure and that it dismisses the reality of suffering and inequality
  • Postmodernism has alos been criticised for being too theoretical - it's really hard to find any kind of evidence which would prove postmodernism right or wrong
  • Very difficult to find a direction when the starting point is the premise that no idea hasa a straightforward meaning and individuals create their own reality, so that there's no definition of what's 'real' or 'true' and that reality has been replaced with something that just looks a lot like reality
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Is the media dumbed down?

  • Culture can be divided into high and low culture, with high culture being seen as good for society. The division in culture is often considered an elitist binary opposition
  • Other theorists refer to mass culture, which is passed on by media. Popular culture is another way of looking at the culture of the 'masses' - some prefer it as it's a nicer term than low culture
  • The idea of popular culture is based on an active audience who can shape their culture unlike the concept of mass culture which relies on a passive, media-controlled audience
  • There's a debate about 'dumbing down' in the media - simplifying content and avoiding intellectually challenging the audience. Eg. the news contains more sensationalism and celebrity gossip than it used to
  • Popular classical artists can be seen as popularising high culture and bringing it into mainstream popular culture - or as replacing high culture with a dumbed down sense of mass culture substitute
  • The dumbing down argument isn't new - 1869 the poet and social commentator Matthew Arnold feared that high culture was under threat
  • Pluralists argue that audiences get the media that they want, so dumbing down can't be fully the fault of the media
  • Frank Furedi (2004) - intentionally simplifying cultural content is elitist because it assumes the masses are too stupid/won't keep up
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Global industry and global culture

  • In recent decades there ahs been concentration of media ownership - few media corporations dominate the global market - called media globalisation
  • Devereux (2003) - most of the large media corporations are based in the west, so images from western societies dominate the global media market
  • Commercial satellite and cable TV services mean content can be broadcast across the world
  • Global Advertising has contributed to the growth of global capitalism
  • Strinati (1995) - postmodernist, media promotes the consumption of logos and brands which files the global economy and culture
  • Some sociologists argue that governments in Europe and the US have derregulated the media - the governments allow capitalist media corporations to set up global media networks which allows the corporations to influence culture on a global scale

Global Media has created a 'global village'

  • McLuhan (1962) came up with global village,new technologies bring people closer together
  • We hear the news/gossip about people all over the world and can talk to people anywhere, too. 
  • At the time he wrote this, it was probably on the phone but this has increased further since
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Internet impact on global culture

  • Globalisation of media exposes us all to cultural and social commentaries and news from lots of countries, helping us to understand how out culture is similar to other cultures and we develop a shared global culture
  • Matos (2012) - before the development of the new media in the 90s most of the world's media focussed on national issues, whereas now they have a much more gloabl outlook. The internet allows newspapers to report on global events that affect us all
  • The internet has made global communication cheap and easy - people can create their own media content and share their cultural experiences/values with others, without direct government/media outlet involvement
  • Some think that the new media will lead to divisions in the 'global village' imagined by McLuhan - people who have access to the internet and IT education will have an advantage over people who dont - digital underclass
  • Countries with better communication networks will have a stronger cultural influence than countries with poorer internet connectivity
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Cultural Imperialism?

  • There is a debate over whether globalisation of culture is harmful to the national cultures - some say Western culture is taking over across the globe, this is called 'cultural imperialism'
  • McBride (1980) - Western media products flow into less developed countries and change lcoal cultures, making a ready market for western consumer goods
  • People in many parts on the world share the same consumption patterns as a result of global advertising. Internet has allowed national boundaries to be broken down, Google has revolutionised the way companies advertise to global audiences
  • Klein (2000) - this lead to increasing cultural homogenisation - everyone's culture is becoming the same
  • Has been argued that technological advancement has made all national cultures less important, spread of technology means all countires have become victims of global cultural homogenisation
  • Some theorists claim that globalisation is specifically Americanisation - it's American culture that gets copied
  • There are 4 main global newspapers that media outlets across the world use as sources for news. These agencies have been accused of spreading Western cultural prejudices through their reporting
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Cultural Hybridisation?

  • Since the 1990s some sociologists have suggested that globalisation of culture is actually resulting in cultural hybridisation - local, national and global cultures are all mixing together to create a series of hybrid cultures across the world
  • Sreberny-Mohammadi (1996) - many local cultures have resisted cultural imperialism and that the strong and growing industry in Asia and South America which actually export the media products back to the west
  • this is often referred to as culture moving in 'multidirectional flows' - culture flows in lots of direction, not just from America into other countries. This creates cultural diversity, not cultural homogenisation
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