SOCI Midterm Notes 02/09/2014
News is shifting from reporting actual news to reporting drama/entertainment to keep our attention.
It makes the news and events more enjoyable and one feels more involved
What is important is replaced by what is dramatic or emotionally compelling.
One of the biggest international stories of 2010.
Estimated 1 billion viewers/readers worldwide.
Great story but no impact or importance out of local context.
Human interest stories don’t require a lot of journalism and research to establish context is unnecessary.
Comedy shows about the news are often the only ones that provide some degree of ‘truth’ about the world.
The Daily Show
The Onion News Network
Why don’t people take news more seriously? What is the role of journalism in society?
Canada and US have highly concentrated ownership of mass media companies
Media ownership is highly concentrated, and dependence on advertising limits the range of views available
in the press and on radio and television.
Digital Access Index (DAI).
The DAI measures the overall ability of individuals in a country to access and use Information and
Communication Technologies. The categories of the DAI are:
Infrastructure (number of fixed and mobile subscribers)
Affordability (internet access price as percentage of the Gross National Income per capita)
Knowledge (adult literacy and school enrolment level)
Quality (international bandwidth per capita and broadband subscribers)
Usage (internet users)
The Technological Perspective
This perspectives derives primarily from the work of two Canadian scholars, Harold Innis and Marshall
Timebased media are modes of communication that endure over time but are relatively immobile
across space. E.g. stone or clay tablets.
Spacebased media can cover much greater space but are less durable over time e.g. writing on paper,
transmitting sounds via airwaves.
Timebased have a strong sense of tradition and custom. Promotes religious forms of power and belief.
Spacebased assist territorial expansion, empire building, and secular forms of power and culture. E.g.
military and state.
Innis’s idea influenced the work of Marshall McLuhan (1946)
McLuhan argued that the relationship between communication and institutions and culture was mediated by
the way that forms of communication alter the ways we experience the world and how we think.
“The medium is the message”
Print makes us view the world as comprising of separate objects and linear, cause and effect.
Abstract effect of print causes individualism, privacy, rationality and social differentiation.
McLuhan viewed TV as a balance between print and radio. Sound and sight.
TV is more socially inclusive giving the idea of a “global village” Characterized as a technological determinist for encouraging the belief that social change is shaped
primarily by the nature and function of technology and not by conscious human action.
The Critical Perspective
Definition: takes the view that the media reinforce dominant ideology and the position of the dominant class
and other powerful groups. The theory has two variants. One sees dominance as more open to challenge
and resistance than does the other.
First variant derives from the orthodox Marxism. From this perspective, media corporations serve the
economic interests and political power of the dominant class.
This creates acceptance and legitimization of the status quo.
Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno (1972 ) first developed this argument.
Saw the mass media as a part of a broader culture industry that functions to create mass
deception about the exploitative and oppressive character of capitalist society.
Propaganda model argues that the media serve the interests of the leading political and economic
class by filtering information.
Herman and Chomsky (1988) identify 5 main filters.
The medias orientation to profit making
Their dependence on advertising for revenue and profit
Their reliance on powerful institutions and individuals as sources of information
Negative reaction – what the call flak – if the media deviate from promoting elite interests and values
Their adherence to anticommunism as an overarching belief system.
With the decline of communism, the fifth filter has morphed into war on terrorism.
The second variant acknowledges that the capitalist class and other powerful groups use dominant
ideology to reinforce their position and maintain the status quo.
Hegemony is the exercise by the dominant class of cultural leadership by using the media to naturalize
and universalize dominant ideology, and to absorb the challenge of alternative and oppositional points of
To be successful, hegemony has to be flexible enough to accommodate and incorporate a range of
different viewpoints (Knight, 1998).
Political Economy of the Media
The critical perspective draws attention to how the social and cultural roles of the media depend on their
role as agents of political and economic interests. Political economy focuses on the ownership and control of economic resources, and the effect of
technology and economic power on cultural values, social structure, and political decision making.
Multimedia chains – corporations that own a diversified array of media operations and outlets in
different fields e.g. radio, TV, publishing that operate worldwide.
Best known is the Walt Disney Company.
The worlds dominant media corporations are U.S. –based
To secure and enhance their market position multimedia chains practice horizontal and vertical integration.
Horizontal integration refers to the sharing of facilities and resources between different plants and
Vertical integration involves the control of resources and assests at different stages of production and
The recent development of digital technology has created mergers that are packages such as cable,
satellite and telephone in one package.
Bell and Rogers
Critics argue that the convergence of media platforms reduces the range of voices and perspectives that
the mass media represent.
“The domination of the media by entertainment conglomerates exerts a consistently corrosive effect
undermining debate when we need it most” (“The Big Ten”, 2002)
The mergers demonstrate that the traditional distinctions between print and electronic media are
disappearing, at least at the corporate level.
Newspapers: Concentration, Monopoly, and Advertising
In Canada, corporate ownership and control has undergone rapid changes since the 1970s and has
become highly concentrated.
The concentration of ownership has raised questions about freedom of the press and diversity of opinion
that are regarded necessary in a democratic company.
The level of media concentration in Canada is high by global standards and more than twice as high as in
Newspapers have to specialize and appeal to particular market segments in order to survive.
The result has caused a decline in diversity and news topics and viewpoints to accommodate for cost and
the urban environment
Some studies have found that monopolization leads to as decline in the volume and length of news stories,
especially national and international coverage. (Candussi and Winters, 1988; Trim with Pizante and
Other research finds that monopolization brings about no significant change and may even lead to small
improvements (McCombs 1988)
The internet is a major problem for all newspapers. It is easier to access the news but causes the problem of how to get subscribers, donors, advertisers and
some mixture of these.
Television: Economy, Culture, and Identity
Television companies are more motivated by profit than promoting Canada’s identity.
Englishlanguage television relies heavily on American programming despite it costing more to license.
American drama is much more attractive than Canadian drama.
Cultural nationalists argue that broadcasting should be an instrument of Canadian culture and identity,
actively promoting Canadian content (Collins, 1990).
Quebec is very good at TV dramas that reinforce francophone identity.
Cultural imperialism involves one society’s media exerting an overwhelming and unilateral influence
over another society’s culture. E.g. America over Canada.
Canada is one of the world’s largest importers of cultural products. The bulk come from the United States.
Many people forget that a lot of Alist stars come from Canada and focus on the fact that they now live in
Through mass media Canada is quickly becoming a postnational society.
Because of economic and cultural globalization, a strong, unified, and permanent sense of national identity
may be a thing of the past.
Representation and Ideology: The Meaning of the Message
Representation is the use of language, visual images, or other means of communication to portray
something in a coherent and meaningful way.
Framing is the process of defining the boundaries of a representation and the organization of its
contents. Framing pertains to the selection of what is included and excluded, what is accentuated, and what
is played down.
News and Ideology
Conservatives argue that news media have a leftliberal bias that runs counter to the views and interests
of society’s mainstream (Miljan and Cooper, 2003)
According to conservatives bias operates in three ways
First, the media have an anticorporate bias and are critical of marketoriented solutions to social
Second, journalists give greater or more favourable attention to the views of interest groups and
constituencies that share their personal liberal or leftwing political views
Unions, environmentalists, social welfare Third, the mass media concentrate on negative events, issues, and news angles, ignoring the positive
aspects of social life
Defining the News
News Values include such criteria as immediacy, personalization and extraordinariness, in terms of
which news media define and represent events and issues.
By definition, news is about what is recent or immediate.
There are many examples nowadays of journalists being able to report and get the news out as the event is
News stories often create a sense of uncertainty about what will happen next
This approach causes concern with the consequences of events and issues at the expense of their causes
and development (Knight, 1982)
When news does deal with causes and explanations, it often reduces them to the level of individual motives
and psychology. This is an effect of personalization.
News has to enable the reader or viewer to identify with the events.
Critics often charge that this focus detracts from a fuller understanding of the political system and the more
substantive aspects of political policy (Taras, 1990)
Above all, news concerns events and issues that are out of the ordinary and that entail conflict,
confrontation, deviance, or disorder (Knight, 1982)
For critical theorists, negative emphasis on news does not undermine mainstream values and beliefs but in
fact reinforces dominant ideology in at least two ways.
First, by dwelling on the negative, news invokes and reproduces dominant definitions of what is normal. It
identifies certain events and actors as dangerous, bizarre, or disruptive and represents them as a threat to
what is socially desirable. (Knight, 1982)
Second, news coverage of deviance and conflict tends to focus on the actions of the appropriate social
control authorities – the government, the police, the experts – to restore order.
Gathering the News
Official news sources are authoritative voices – for example, politicians, police officers, and
professional experts – that the media often use to define the meaning of an event or issue.
Ordinary news sources are news sources that do not represent organizations or groups, and include
eyewitnesses and victims of news events.
Alternative news sources are representatives of social movements and of social advocacy groups
whose viewpoints often diverge from those of dominant social groups and their representatives. These three types of media appear in a varying degrees.
Alternative sources often face a dilemma.
They are used simply as a reaction to official sources. In this case, their voice is a negative one of
grievances and complaints rather than a constructive one of analysis and proposals.
They can attempt to draw on the media’s attention. They must engage in public protests or other media
stunts, events that associate their views with disruptive behavior and can undermine their legitimacy.
The outcome of the battle between journalists and their sources depends chiefly upon the status of the
sources and the power they can exercise over the flow of information.
The government exercises the greatest amount of control over the flow of information.
There can be competition and diversity between the three different forms of news sources.
Media Effects and Audiences
There is little resear