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Chapter 14

SOC103 Starting Points Chapter 14

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University of Toronto St. George
Lorne Tepperman

Chapter 14 – Media and Mass Communication Chapter outline - The media influence almost every aspect of our thinking (culture, ideas, ideologies, values) - The media influence the way we interact with one another, and therefore how societies change - The media today are different from what they were a century ago o No longer limited to books, newspapers, radio for sources of information about the world o Paper-based news has become obsolete and replaced by news available from online sources o Television programs are facing competition from media outlets like YouTube o Cell phones have replaced landlines as the preferred communication device o Trend towards more flexible communication devices - Mass media is the technology that makes mass communication possible (printing press, radio, television, photocopier, camera) o Compete with new media sources (online blogs, popular websites) - Mass communication is the transmission of a message from a single source to multiple recipients at the same time o Replace intimate contacts with more distant contacts Ways of looking at MASS MEDIA - Functionalism o The role of media as a mechanism for informing, socializing, and educating the public o Media literacy and mass media consumption are important factors in modernization  Modernization is the development of non-traditional, mainly Western, knowledge, attitudes, and practices in less developed countries on a wide variety of topics (work, leisure, family life, consumerism, parenting)  The more media consumed → the more knowledgeable about the world and about cultural variety → the higher people set their own sights → the more likely they are to demand a democratic society  Media consumption indirectly brings about social change o Marshall McLuhan said “the medium is the message”  Information flow increases the appetite for more information  More information increases the interest in variety and debate - Critical theories o The ways powerful groups in society use media they own to further organizational and class interests o The use of media increases their wealth and ensures continued political hegemony o The political economy perspective is a viewpoint that focuses on the ways private ownership affects what is communicated, and the ways it affects the exercise of power  A variant of the critical theory o The use of media in politics to manipulate public opinion about particular candidates or issues  Media over-coverage and slanting of particular topics increases fearfulness, lack of trust, and desire to punish offenders, which increases willingness to give more power to politicians and police to hire more personnel, build more prisons, and ignore civil liberties o Gerbner and Gross  Cultivation theory  The mass media have become the main source of information in society today  People who watch television for four or more hours a day are “heavy viewers” o Exposed to a lot of violent imagery and storytelling  People are affected by the Mean World Syndrome o Heightened state of insecurity o Exaggerated perception of risk and danger o Fearful propensity for hard-line political solutions to social problems  The overuse of television creates a homogenous fearful population  Normalizing violence  Numbing people to real-world violence  Certain stories (child abductions) raise parental anxieties out of proportion to the real risk  The theory views the mass audiences as passive, receptive, vulnerable, and easily manipulated  The media gradually build up false images about the world through continued bombardment of images  The theory ignores the intelligence of audiences and evidence from the two-step theory of communication (the process of influence and opinion formation is more complicated) Classic studies: Deciding What’s News (1979) - Herbert Gans o The media control the way we see our world in terms of foreign affairs or welfare o The book examines  The way the news world works  The way what happens in the real world becomes news on the television or in the newspaper o Findings  There is an inclination to include at least some stories (famous people, violence, bloodshed, sex, scandal) that appeal to a mass audience because news reporting is concerned with gaining and keeping a mass audience  The national news is shaped by interests of the organization and people in high positions  The national news upholds the actions of elite individuals and elite institutions  There is consensus among news organizations about which ideas and values to communicate  The news includes the value of individualism, a belief in responsible capitalism, and a desire for social order and strong national leadership  The news communicated to audiences is inaccurate or distorted  The news is a submerged class struggle in which the middle class is acting in the interest of the elite classes o The news chosen to cover are determined by many factors  Internal pressures (outlook of the media organization)  External pressures (tastes of the audience) o Comments  Links sociological theory and data to make a solid argument (Robinson)  Offers insight into the closed world of news-making and explains the rationales behind news choices (Graber)  Reveals the role of journalists and news organizations in perpetuating the political status quo (Robinson)  Provides a foundation on which other sociologists have built an approach to media (Murray)  Most comprehensive sociological account of the news media world and its societal influence - Media ownership o Media broadcasting reflects the interests of the media owners o Publicly owned media is concerned with public service, fulfilling social needs (educational programming for children), and providing news from a Canadian viewpoint  Funded by the government, advertising revenues, or memberships and donations (TVO) o Privately owned media is concerned with profit-making  Most of the mass media in Canada are privately owned  Truncation or distortion of news occurs mostly because of private ownership  Historically, individuals or small groups have owned small media companies  Over time, the small news companies have combined to form massive multimedia companies, but controlled by a smaller number of powerful players o Findings by the Royal Commission (also known as the Kent Commission)  Media ownership is concentrated  Conglomerate is a business structure that engages in several unrelated business endeavours (moviemaking, gambling, casinos, alcoholic beverages)  Cross-ownership is a business structure in which one corporation owns media businesses of different types (newspapers, magazines, television networks, radio channels) o Compromise journalism’s social responsibility to the reading public o Result in lower spending by newspapers on editorial content and investigative reporting o Driving good journalists out of the profession  Inadequate pay  Poor newsroom management  Concern for profit at the expense of good journalism  Public perceived that the quality of political journalism has declined  Smaller newspapers would not survive in the face of newspaper closures and mergers  Growth of electronic publishing and telecommunication information, and rapid development of the electronic media, is a problem for the future of the newspaper industry  Findings had little impact  Recommendation for legislation to reduce the power of conglomerates was ignored  Newspaper industry opposed creating the Press Rights Council because it would promote government interference  Research did not prove that chain-owned monopoly newspapers are worse than the old individually owned competitive newspapers - Canadian content o The preservation and protection of Canadian culture has always been a touchy issue because Canada is next door to the largest, richest, and most influential media machine o The private media companies favour American content because it almost always guarantees profit o Implications  Canadian government, through the CRTC, has to force private media companies to include Canadian content  Canadian government has to provide financial incentives to producers to create new Canadian content  Public broadcasters (TVO, CBC, NFB) have to carry the weight of Canadian content programming  It is difficult for Canadian media workers to make a living, so many have left for the US o The federal Broadcasting Act regulates Canada’s media and strengthens Canadian culture through controls on related economic and political institutions  Broadcasting policy for Canada  Specification of regulatory powers to be exercised by the CRTC  CRTC ensures media organizations comply with the rules regarding Canadian content  Specification of how the CBC/SRC is to operate o Both the Broadcasting Act and the CRTC have other responsibilities to satisfy  Other than to protect the public interest  More sympathetic to private media companies than to public media companies  Neo-liberal policies have resulted in media deregulation, privatization, and concentration  Shows that the government’s role has decreased - Media and politics o The news published in newspapers or broadcasted on television  Promotes particular political and cultural ideologies  Spreads propaganda  Perpetuates mainstream capitalist ideology o News stories are coded messages about the nature of society and social life in society o Political journalism is biased in favour of one political party or ideology over another  Most newspapers are either conservative or liberal  Gans showed that all mass media is mainstream (slightly towards the left or right)  None express radical, provocative, or anti-establishment views  Narrow journalism erodes the quality of political debate o Blurring public opinion o Oversimplifying complex issues o Political media coverage is based on polls rather than in-depth analysis of issues  Devotes most of the coverage to who is leading the race  Reflects an underlying concern with public opinion called vox populi (the voice of the people)  Fails to provide a close examination of competing views  Undermines the idea of democracy as a deliberative process  Produces a popularity contest  Increases the rates of bandwagonism (people changing their political views to side with the election winner) o Political media coverage is involved in agenda-setting (focuses attention on some issues but not others)  Influence what voters think about  Shape what voters think about the candidates  Few focus on policy issues  Most focus on the candidates’ characteristics  Show the favoured candidate in a positive light and the opposing candidate in a negative light  Privately owned media condense the political landscape into a two-party competition - Global media o Globalization is sometimes called American imperialism  Globalization spreads American values and beliefs around the world through American-owned mass media  Globalization results from the developments in media technology, and deep economic and political motives o Neo-liberal free-trade treaties (such as NAFTA) have increased the ease with which cultural goods (books, videos, movies) pass through national borders  American media companies have a tremendous impact on culture worldwide  Canada is a major importer of American films  Consume a disproportionate amount of American culture  Concerned about the impact of American culture on our own  Constant exposure to American media will weaken a distinctive Canadian culture  One-sided cultural flow (from the US to Canada) o Canadians starting to pay more attention to how the world (other countries) views us  Arab news
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