Wk 7 - Feb 25

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University College Courses
Rick Salutin

Uni 221H, notes from class 7, feb. 29, 2012 economics of mass media (continued) another area of concern bagdikian expressed regarding media ownership and its effect on bias in the news, has to do with the role of advertising. since ads are the main source of income for media owners, there are worrisome implications. there is evidence of pressure to create a ‘buying mood’ among readers or viewers based on giving them certain kinds of news, or giving it to them in certain ways, that will enhance rather than undermine their impulse to buy the products advertised in the same news media. so airlines for example exert pressure not to report too many stories about airline safety, which the news media might or might not successfully resist. there might also be pressure to place those stories at a distance from, for instance, airline ads. this can also lead to pressure to report stories that have a ‘neutral’ quality politically so that a minimum of readers or viewers are agitated or alienated by the coverage. in the early days of newspapers, they tended to cultivate a set of readers with particular political views. for those with different views, there were other newspapers reflecting those views. but as advertising came to dominate revenues, the pressure to find ways to draw in all readers (or viewers) regardless of political attitudes, became greater. so, for example, stories about crime, or natural disasters, the weather and celebrities- avoid the kinds of issues that people tend to take sides on politically and they are likely to maximize audience numbers, which in turn leads to the ability to charge higher rates to advertisers. would it be possible to have newspapers, magazines etc. without ads, and avoid the problem? some people argued that newspapers are the only product we buy for which we don’t expect to pay full price. if we buy a dozen eggs, we pay for the eggs, we don’t pay a reduced price and expect ads (on the carton of eggs, or on the eggs themselves) to cover the rest of 2 the cost. would that make the cost of newspapers prohibitive? perhaps, but the costs would also diminish since much of the costs of paper going into newspapers is needed for the ads in them. so the total costs would decline in response. this option has been called ‘pay reading.’ but all this is subject to change in the era of the internet when the paper part of newspapers is declining as customers shift to the internet and newspapers rely less and less on paper. consider by contrast to bagdikian, harold innis’s view. innis felt that the nature of print media led to a narrow, sensationalistic, fragmented, fact-based approach which would occur no matter who owned the media or how many owners there were. the ‘bias’ of print (and media extensions of it such as radio or tv) are rooted in the ‘technologies of communication’ themselves, rather than who owns them. innis maintained that the ‘bias’ toward subjects like crime, disaster or celebrity is inherent in the nature of the medium itself, not in the pressures exerted by the need to advertise, though he would not have denied that advertising can also play a separate role on its own. what about alternate forms of media ownership such as public ownership, e.g., the cbc. does this avoid the issues raised by bagdikian concerning media concentration or the pressures coming from advertisers? not necessarily. the cbc is an amibiguous case since it is partly dependent on ads and partly on the subsidy it receives from the government. but the increasing similarity between its style of news coverage and the coverage by the purely commerial outlets suggests innis’s view is at least partially correct. we discussed the campaign for creation of the cbc in the 1930s, which used the slogan, The State or The States, to gather public support. we asked what the argument for a national public broadcaster was, and a number of possibilities were suggested. we’ll return to the reading on the cbc for the last part of the course. till now we have dealt with a general theory of media, mainly thru the 3 work of harold innis, and with mass media such as newspapers, radio or tv, along with criticism of them by people such as chomsky, edward said and ben bagdikian. in the next part of the course we will concentrate on new media, which we will basically treat in terms of the internet. mass media have often been characterized as ‘one to many’, i.e., they go from a single source like a newspaper or tv show to huge audiences of individuals. the internet has been characterized as ‘many to many’ by contrast, where vast numbers of individuals communicate with each other. we considered whether there were any special virtues to mass media and suggested the creation of a sort of community might be one such virtue. in the heyday of tv, for example, with what is known as ‘appointment viewing’, huge audiences all shared the same event, like a favourite program or championship game and then could discuss it next day at their workplace or school. this did create a certain kind of unified experience or community. the same happened when new music was chiefly confined to radio and there were a limited number of radio stations available. before moving to the topic of the internet and new media, we discussed the excitement that has historically greeted almost all new media technologies, moreso than other new technologies. refrigeration, for example, was a transformative technology for people’s lives, but was never received with the enuthsiasm of new media technologies. one example was th th th
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