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Representation of an issue

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  • 1. Representation of an IssueAn issue is any topic that is represented in themedia – third world poverty, the use ofsexualised images in products aimed atchildren, size zero, why did people riot inLondon?Often an issue is represented in the media because it is topical – it is linked to somethingthat is currently happening and about which there are a number of different views. Thus, itis an issue that audiences are interested in and about which they want to find out more. Themedia text that represents an issue to us is, therefore, gratifying our desire for surveillance(Uses and Gratifications) – it offers us the chance to inform ourselves about the issue and,perhaps, form our own views…People will always have different opinions about an issue; there is never just one view of itand certainly never just one correct view – some people would say that the solution topoverty is western aid, others that the solution is to help Africans to help themselvesindependent of the west; some would say the riots are caused by poor parenting, othersthat they were caused by social deprivation.Since media texts are produced via mediation (the process of making a text involves humandecisions about how to turn reality into a media text), they tend to reflect the views andopinions of those who make them, either the views of the individuals involved or theinstitutions who commission them. Thus, when we look at a text that deals with an issue, weneed to identify, firstly, what the issue is and, then, what view of the issue we are beingoffered. In some texts we will only get one view or representation of an issue (e.g. a charityappeal for an emergency is only likely to promote a view of the third world poor as helplessand in need to western aid). However, some texts my offer a range of views (e.g. aPanorama documentary on the cause of the riots may interview different experts who eachgive a different representation of what caused them)Once you have identified the representation(s) offered of an issue, you need to be able toidentify some of the techniques used to create that representation e.g. use of biased orloaded language, selection of images, restricted or balanced points of view (e.g. onlyinterviewing people promoting one view or of people promoting different views), use ofstatistics…….The next step would be to consider WHY this text has opted for this representation.You can also go on to look at the different response people can make, using Stuart Hall’sReception Theory. This might show that, whereas a text may be trying to encourage us tosee an issue in a certain way, that the audience is active and free to decide what to do withthe view we are invited to take – we can go along with it or reject it.

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