Media representation of power


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Related to the French CAPES Anglais syllabus 2010 / 2011

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Media representation of power

  1. 1. Media REPRESENTATION of power.OK, up to now everything we have been talking about has been related to POWER and theMEDIA.... but in the title of the unit there is also the word REPRESENTATION..... • What does it mean / imply? • Why is it important? • How might we use the concept of Representation?Remember, everything we see or hear in the media is being REpresented, literally: RE-presentedThe ‘RE’ implies ‘again’, a ‘second time’: there is something not original, not perfect,potentially out of place, out of time, out of context, i.e. something that can: ‘suffer in translation and transmission’.In general Communication Theory there is a process in which the original ‘Presentation’ canbecome changed by accident and innocence, negligence or design. In its worst case it canbecome totally biased reporting or propaganda. What was actually presented may be far fromthat which is RE-presented and even further from that which is ultimately understood by therecipient. This theory suggests that there is a process at work:A Source  A process of the encoding of that source in some format or other (film / TV / webpage/newspaper / radio / podcast / social media etc)  Transmission via a particular channel, of the media  Reception (perception via the senses)  Decoding of the material / message by the recipient (by reference to expectation, priorknowledge, experience and values)  Resulting impression / impact upon the recipientLet’s look at a few instances of how this might happen:-Encoding the Source. This can involve media matters such as: • Whether or not to cover the ‘story’ at all • Where. How high a billing / profile / importance to accord to it (Frontpage / headline news?) • How is it to be presented? In what context…. With what accompanying explanation / interpretation / editorial line? • How is it to be edited…………? Of course one could choose to edit things back to show only one particular aspect of the speech/event which on its own would produce a very biased impression of the presentation itself. Why is the representation being effected in this manner? • When to show it. One can ‘bury’ a story by choosing how and when to present it (A senior PR aide in Tony Blair’s government got fired for suggesting that some unwelcome news be ‘smokescreened’ by a big story). • Does the power behind the Representation have any vested interest in showing the source / story in a particular light? What response/impression on the part of the recipient is being sought by the representation?
  2. 2. Remember – this can be a truly dramatic influence: Leni Riefenstahl took Hitler’smegalomanical military rallies and NAZI parades and gave them an almost benign, etherealand glorious ‘sheen’ by means of lighting, mise-en-scene, clever camera work, editing and theuse of music. Her REpresentation was a million miles away from the real presentation: shecreated a totally different impression and effect.The media may strive to be ‘neutral’ in its reporting, but there are facts at work which militateagainst it: 1. All things carried by the media are REpresentations, and the process of RE-presenting means the original presentation is necessarily ‘handled’ and reformatted and edited and interpreted in some way which may change its essence. These are perhaps intentional chances introduced, but no matter who is behind the camera or wielding the journalist’s pen, we are only human and ultimately subjective no matter how dispassionate and neutral we try to remain. 2. The world’s major Media Corporations tend to have powerful men and money behind them. These twin influences are likely to ‘leak’ out through the media they own and force or influence the editorial ‘line’. 3. The media target certain markets to purchase their products: people tend to buy what they want to hear and newspapers sell it. It is therefore inevitable that the ‘message will be tailored to the market’.By way of illustration….a famous British political comedy by Jonathan Lynne and AntonyJay: ‘Yes, Prime Minister’, offered the following exchange between Jim Hacker thefictitious PM and his Cabinet Secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby in the presence of hisPermanent Secretary, Bernard Wooley:Sir Humphrey: The only way to understand the Press is to remember that they pander totheir readers prejudices.Jim Hacker: Dont tell me about the Press. I know *exactly* who reads the papers. TheDaily Mirror is read by the people who think they run the country. The Guardian is readby people who think they *ought* to run the country. The Times is read by the peoplewho actually *do* run the country. The Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people whorun the country. The Financial Times is read by people who *own* the country. TheMorning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by *another*country. The Daily Telegraph is read by the people who think it is.Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?Bernard Woolley: Sun readers dont care who runs the country - as long as shes got bigtits!SEE this on YOUTubeAnd if you liked this appreciation of British newspapers and the ‘classes’ which buyparticular papers, you will love this 1960s Representation of class in Britain done byJohn Cleese (of Monty Python fame) and the Two Ronnies.See this on YouTube.
  3. 3. So, when looking at a representation we need to reflect upon all these issues and to beable to distinguish between the presentation and the REpresentation and understandand attribute / suggest the reasons for such differences. The power we see or feel isbeing REpresented may not be the same as the power that was presented…..