Institutions refer to the companies that are involved in the
production of mass media texts. Media institutions are
1. Highly regulated and hierarchical global businesses, often
with an economic interest in a diverse number of interrelated
media hardware and software (synergy).
2. Profit driven
3. Places where media texts are actually taken through a
4. Creative businesses, where innovation and individual talents
5. Capitalist businesses, where issues of ideology,
representation, cultural myths and power are worked out and
contested. There are many alternative and independent
media production that challenge and contest these areas with
ISSUES OF POWER AND
Key areas of concern
• Who owns and controls the media?
• Are media texts constructed and read by audiences with the values, beliefs and attitudes of the
Case study 1 Sheryl Crow and Wal-Mart
‘Watch out sister, watch out brother,
Watch our children as they kill each other,
With a gun they bought at the Wal-Mart
Lyrics from Sheryl Crow, Love is a Good Thing
• There are 4 area within this case study that needs considering.
1. The song is about the singers concerns about gun violence and linked this to Wal-Mart selling
2. Wal-Mart banned the album in their stores. They are the biggest seller and retailer of pop music.
The power Wal-Mart have over popular music is immense. They have the power to legislate and
dictate what should be considered as offensive lyrics and deny a voice to those who may
challenge the company.
3. In response to the ban, DJs began selling the album in defiance of the ban. The fans renamed
the film the Wal-Mart song and it became a protest song not only about gun culture but
corporate power in America.
4. Wal-Marts ban was not about protecting people from perceived harm, but denying them a voice.
Case Study 2: Women in
Some Hollywood statistics
• A study by San Diego State University analysed the
production jobs taken by women in the 250 top
grossing films in America during 1999. they found that
• Only 4% of women were cinematographers
• 15% executive producers
• 12% writers
• Only 4 women directors in the top 250 films.
What these statistics indicate is an industry run and
controlled by men; men who make the production
decisions, men who have the most creative and
technical jobs behind the camera, men who make
films from males point of view.
Find a song/album that has been banned in this
country and produce an A4 sized report on
1. An introduction to the song
2. Why and how the song/album was banned
3. Whether you think this ban was correct
Present your report to the rest of the class
The Cultural Industry
Adorno & Horkheimer, two Marxist theorists came up with a theory
called the ‘Cultural Industry Model’. The theory states that
• Media texts are produced in the same way as other goods, for
example, car manufacturing plants.
• Media texts are dumb, empty, easy on the eye and gentle on
the mind so that the widest number of people (the masses) can
• Media texts are loaded with dominant ideology subconsciously
put there by the producers. These dominant ideologies help to
explain, justify and naturalise representations that are false.
They also deny the inequalities or prejudices capitalism
• Media texts produce a mass, passive and obedient audience of
consumers who are lulled into accepting the dreams and hopes
offered by the cultural industries.
Case Study of Cultural Industry
New Hollywood Cinema• A British director Mike Figgis had been given the green light to direct Mr Jones (1993), the
story of a manic-depressive to star Richard Gere. However soon after filming started the control
of the shoot and the type of film Figgis wanted to make was being challenged by the producers
of the film.
• The producers were not happy with film as they found it ‘too dark’ and potentially a box office
disaster. They recommended that Figgis should give the film a more upbeat theme and wanted
him to shoot some of the film on the beach, even though the central character was locked in a
hospital. Eventually Figgis was removed from the film and it was re-edited by another director
and sank without trace. The case study indicates that;
• Producers are still some of the most powerful people in the film production process.
• Producers have a narrative formula, a template for successful picture that they expect directors
to work to.
• Art, authorship and creativity are eroded by the business side of the industry.
This form of filmmaking according to Wyatt can be defined as High Concept Cinema. According to
Wyatt High concept cinema can be defined as having the following components:
1. The look: high production values, fast editing – MTV style, a concentration on visuals,
consumerist items, look and style, beautiful characters and star vehicle projects, with emphasis
2. The hook: simplified and simplistic narrative patterns (capable of being told in less than 15
sentences). Love interest, universal values of good and evil, star-genre-director vehicle, music
by famous composer/international band and merchandising possibilities.
3. The book: popular best selling fiction the source of the film/script.
• Cultural globalisation is the process which a wide range of
cultural texts (films, adverts, TV programmes, music, books,
magazines etc) are transmitted to global audiences, across
large expanses of space at greater speeds ever than before.
The cultural globalisation theory suggests that people’s
everyday life experiences have changed because of this.
• John Thompson has argued that cultural globalisation creates
a mediated worldliness and mediated historicity.
1. mediated worldliness: our understanding of the world is
constructed through the mediated world.
2. mediated historicity: people’s understanding of the past, of
history, is increasingly dependent on media texts that change
and re-present the past for people in thinly disguised but
ideologically loaded history lessons.
• The positive aspects of globalisation is that it erodes national
boundaries, a global village.
• The negative side is that it erodes national/ethnic identities.
• Media imperialism can be defined in the following 4 ways
1. Media imperialism involves the global domination of media
production by a small number of western media
2. Media imperialism involves the flow of information, news and
entertainment from the west to the third world countries. The
third world countries are unable to resist or reply to this
domination because of power and resource inequalities.
3. Global imperialism involves the transmission of a
homogenised (similar) and low quality western culture, which
threatens to flatten out all rich and cultural diversity.
4. Media imperialism involves the global transmission of a
dominant, western ideology that naturalises the western way
of life as the only life worth having.
Case Study of Imperialism
Fast-Food British TV
• In 1966 a drama documentary Cathy Come Home (1966) followed the life of a newly wed
couple. We see them fall in love, marry, prosper, have children, become unemployed,
homeless, separated and Cathy’s character becomes homeless. The programme proved to
be a powerful way of conveying the misery of homelessness and the welfare system that
could do very little about it. When shown on BBC it got record audiences and the response
from the audiences and media pressure, resulted with a Housing Bill and the charity housing
group Shelter. TV was seen as a way to involve the citizens in the way their country was run.
• However PSB was being undermined and challenged by two factors.
1. Margaret Thatcher’s right-wing government adopted a market force led approach to the
economy, which subsequently effected the entertainment industry. The govt forced PSB
broadcasters to be driven by profitability, rather than PSB principles.
2. By the late 1980s the impact of satellite and cable TV was being felt. The increase number in
channels meant that audiences could watch programmes from all over the world. The PSB
(BBC and C4 ) and commercial channels were asked to compete with the new channels. This
meant more commercial films, serials, soaps and sport. This increase in choice meant the
dumbing down of terrestrial channels. This meant
• The decline of serious programming in the race for ratings.
• Similarity of programmes from both terrestrial and non-terrestrial channels in the race for
ratings and market share.
• The decline in the provision of minority programming in the race for ratings and market share.
• Costing and profitability became more important in the race for efficiency over quality.
Criticisms of Cultural Globalisation
Cultural Globalisation and Imperialism has been
criticised on a number of grounds
1. Not everyone has access to western media in
the third world, so they cannot have as much
2. There is a diversity of cultures that are
available to people. For example gangsta rap
by Black Americans is played by working class
3. There is also a reverse flow of media
production and control coming from the
developing world to the west. For example
Bollywood films, Chinese programmes on Sky.
Alternative and Independent Media
• The media that we find on our TV, in our cinemas, on
our radios and the net are not all owned by big
multinational corporations. For many people, a great
deal of what they consume comes out of the
alternative and media sector. For example pirate
radio, independent films such as Do The Right Thing,
magazines such as Big Issue or Private Eye.
• However independent media institutions are also
involved in producing media texts that are similar to
the big institutions – C4 independently financed and
produced Four Weddings and a Funeral. Similarly big
institutions also produce alternative media.
1. Independent media institutions are motivated by artistic and
political concerns. They give a voice to new and emerging
talent, and to issues, themes and controversies that need
expressing, but which do not necessarily attract large
audiences, make much money. Mainstream media who are
profit based, tend to ignore these areas.
2. Independent media institutions often operate in niche market
places with clearly defined target audiences. For example
Film Four digital channel has film buffs and 30-something
middle class as its target audience.
3. Independent media institutions are often small scale, have
collective decision making and distributed and consumed
differently to big institutions. For example The Big Issue is
sold to the public on the streets of UK by homeless people,
who keep a percentage of the revenue from every copy sold.