‘We Media’ and Democracy – student
IDEAS AND PERSPECTIVES ABOUT THE
POWER OF THE MEDIA
Source: ‘Media Studies: The Basics’
• Political economy (macro/bigger picture) : Concerned with a factual, institutional understanding
of how media is produced and circulated, including ownership, finance, politics, regulations and law.
• Ideology (micro/small individual articles): more textual- decoding and deconstructing messages at
work in media texts and how these are patterned and structured across texts.
You can view the refugee crisis through both macro and micro. Macro would look at who owns the
media and who is making the newspapers. This will have its own view based on the person who
owns the media.
Where as Micro will look at the smaller individual articles that aren’t influenced by big
media(usually citizen journalists) and how they are written and what their opinion on the refugee
There is a dynamic and powerful relationship between the ownership of media productions and the
distribution and the dominant ideas that are reinforced in media texts, but this is changing because
of the new social media.
Powerful Media - Micro and Macro
Tony Benn's five questions
What power have you got?
How did you get it?
In whose interests do you exercise it?
To whom are you accountable?
How do we get rid of you?
Benn urges future generations to pose these questions to anyone in power.
“The House will forgive me for quoting five democratic questions that I have developed during my life. If one
meets a powerful person--Rupert Murdoch, perhaps, or Joe Stalin or Hitler--one can ask five questions: what
power do you have; where did you get it; in whose interests do you exercise it; to whom are you
accountable; and, how can we get rid of you? Anyone who cannot answer the last of those questions does
not live in a democratic system.”
Throughout his years as a politician, and later after he retired in 2001, Tony Benn has defended the rights of
the people against those of institutions and those who have power because he recognised that on the whole
such power is not exercised for the benefit of others but for themselves. The following video reveals Tony
Benn at his best accusing the BBC of capitulating to Israeli pressure by refusing to air an appeal on behalf of
the people in Gaza under the guise of media impartiality. He goes on to broadcast the appeal address
himself not once but twice -- yet again refusing to accept that something cannot be done just because
someone in power has deemed that it cannot be. It is just one example of the consistency of his belief, to
borrow a phrase, that "Yes we Can!“
Plato’s view of democracy
• Plato’s theory for democracy is that there must be different categories of
humans. A society functions, and people are actually happier if they ‘know
their place’ and stay in it according to Plato. The ruling elite make the
decisions which the middle classes will make happen and will inform the
lower orders about what is to be done.
• Plato wrote about how art was used to distract the lower classes from reality
and what was actually happening and how they are being exploited by those
• The Matrix and The Truman Show are modern day reworks of what Plato’s
views and ideas about democracy were.
• Plato essentially said that there should be no such thing as democracy and for
things to work, there should be a class system in which the wealthy are at the
top or as Plato would describe them ‘elites’ and the least wealthy people
would be at the bottom as ‘lower orders’.
• Plato believed that not all members of society were capable of making wise
• Plato stated that democracies are anarchic societies without internal unity,
that they followed citizens' impulses rather than pursuing the common good,
that larger democracies are unable to allow a sufficient number of their
citizens to have their voices heard, and that they were typically run by fools.
“Utilitarian Liberty” – John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill opposes the ideas put forward by Plato who suggests that a functioning society should
run on denial of freedom where people should be ruled, kept in place and distracted from any
questioning of the system.
The idea of ‘utilitarian liberty’, as put forward by Mill, is that society should function by providing the
highest possible amount of freedom for citizens. This again allows the citizens to determine their own
actions up to the point where their actions can be seen to hurt or harm others.
This therefore, can be seen as citizens self-fulfilling for as long as they focus on their own freedoms and
ideas, adhering to the ‘’self-regarding principle’’ as suggested by Mill.
However, it is hard to differentiate when these actions start becoming other-regarding, rather than self-
An example of this is Twitter because you have the freedom of speech however there are rules and
regulations which constrict what we say. People have been charged with offences for verbally abusing
MEDIA AND THE LIBERAL-
By Georgie and Ellie
• A democratic society is one elected and accountable human beings have the power to
make decisions on behalf of, impacting on, the rest of us.
• It discusses the idea that in democratic states, people have the freedom and the right
to criticise their government if they are unhappy and can demand reform.
• Example: MacPherson (1966), statement about the ‘muddle’ of democracy we began
with, the Liberal-Democratic state is defined by welfare and regulation.
• Questions raised in a liberal democracy include: How much power should one media
owner have? What role do they have in holding the government to account? How should
they be regulated?
• In a communist regime or dictatorship, like China, media will be explicitly controlled
by the state to convey their information and view of the world of the masses. An
example of conflict that happens between liberal-democracy and the media is that the
Metropolitan Police have criticised Panorama for airing an episode about the VIP
Paedophile ring. Other people argue that people shouldn’t be accused of being a
paedophile without fair trial. The police think that it could prejudice the case.
Whereas the BBC believe that questions need to be asked about the investigation.
Marxist Theories of Power
By Emily and Charlotte
A state of hegemony is achieved when a provisional alliance of certain social groups exerts a consensus that make the power of
the dominant group appear both natural and legitimate. Institutions such as the mass media, the family, the education system
and religion , play a key role in the shaping of people’s awareness and consciousness and thus can be agents through which
hegemony is constructed, exercised and maintained. (Watson and Hill, 2003:126)
People who rule in any society do so not only by controlling the means of production (the ways of making money-in his day
this would be land and factories but in our times we can think about Rupert Murdoch, Richard Branson and Bill Gates who
own- and are striving to keep control of- the means by which information is exchanged) but also the production of ideas.
Marxists say we don’t do very much about the unfair nature of the capitalist system because we are convinced that everyone
has the chance to become Alan Sugar, or similar ‘rags to riches’ role model (which is clearly not the case as the system cannot
allow everyone to succeed) and because we cannot think of a viable alternative. Althusser was a Marxist who developed this
idea by distinguishing between two forms of state control- Repressive Sate Apparatuses- these are physical, ‘concrete’ ways of
controlling us- the law, the police, the army and Ideological State Apparatuses- the media, the church, education. The point is
simple- you don’t need the RSA if the ISA works. People wont challenge the system if the ISAs are all working to make it seem
natural and fair- so the ISAs, including the media, work to create consensus.
Gramsci was the Marxist intellectual who developed the idea of hegemony, which we started with, to explain the importance
of this constructed consensus. This is a theory of media propaganda which sees the central function of media as being to serve
the interests of the powerful who own, control and use media to convey and reinforce their values.
In simple terms, theories aim to prove that we are manipulated by those in power- who control the media- to think we are
agreeing with dominant ideas, which we come to think of as of our own ideas. A much more recent example of the
manufacturing of consent is explored by the Outfoxed documentary which sought to expose the incredible levels if editorial
control imposed by Rupert Murdoch on the journalistic practices at work in the US Fox News network.
There is distinction between Marx and Marxism which is rather obvious but nonetheless important. Marx’s theories are his
own work and Marxist theory is the adaptation and development of his thinking which is still happening today- so we have
‘New Marxism’, ‘Marxist Feminism’ and other variations. Marx himself did not write about ‘the media’, as such but his
theories- particularly around ideology, have been applied to media for generations, and will continue to be applied into the
future, for sure.
Feminist Theories of Power
Feminism is about the questioning of gender norms. It’s argued that femaleness is just a biological, sexual category, whereas
femininity is a socially, culturally constructed set of ideas about the female gender and feminism as a political situation.
Furthermore, women are still marginalised in the media, including sexist jokes and everyday misogyny, which is easily treated as
‘just banter , exemplified by the use of photo shop within magazine articles and covers. Arguably, media texts undermine gender
inequality and reinforce patriarchal ideology as the ‘norm’, while the male culture reinforces its power by defining women in this
way and encourages the anxiety which is associated with women recognising the ideal version of themselves.
An example which subverts the idea that women get anxiety because they have to recognise the ideal version of themselves, is
the latest photoshoot from Demi Lovato. This photoshoot had three rules; no makeup, no clothes and no retouching. This
photoshoot exemplifies that not all women need to recognise the ideal version of themselves. If this idea was true, Lovato
wouldn’t have said ‘no retouching’ which is common on almost every celebrity photo shoot and magazine cover, as she would
have wanted the ‘retouching’, in order to have the idolised, idealistic perfect figure.
While it’s true that ‘women are commenting on the waistlines of celebrities’, this photo shoot subverts the idea that all women
care about the idealistic ‘waistline’, and therefore if Lovato cared about the social expectations and her figure in the photo’s,
‘retouching’ would have been done in order to adhere to the expectations of society. The idea that ‘the male culture reinforces its
power by defining women in this way and encouraging this anxiety’, was exemplified and supported when the photoshoot
received comments that she was posing merely for ‘attention’. This suggests that women will feel the ‘anxiety’ due to the pressure
of males in society, to be what they want to see, and from women, who want to have someone to look at that has the idealistic
Postmodernist Theories of Power
Baudrillard’s idea of
‘hyper reality’ is best
Disneyland as an
example; it is a real
place that represents
fiction. The media
simulates and adapts
the media to an
almost irrelevant to
the original story.
They say that there
is nothing relatable
to the original story
due to the changes
media makes to the
Postmodernism is a micro theory as goes
into detail about individuals rather than
looking at society as a whole.
Lyotard argues that there
is a differences in the
truth of what the media
is saying and the reality
of the situation. For
example, there was a
picture of a man
compared to an ISIS
terrorist that seemingly
looked similar; but in
reality they are different
people. This shows that
not all news is truthful.
Dixon (2011) – Politics 2.0
The idea that social networking and e-participation technologies will revolutionalise our ability to follow, support, and influence
A new kind of public sphere that might be evidenced so far by online polling, blogs, public opinion for a, whereby ultimately the
web itself becomes the medium for political action and activism.
<-- Obama hosting a REDDIT AMA (Ask Me Anything)
So, Politics 2.0 is the usage of the internet to influence politics. Politicians utilise internet campaigns
yr 6t r political videos to virally spread messages and allow technology to increase the support they might
receive. Obama also used Twitter as a key medium to launch his 2012 election,
All that happens in online discussion of social and political matters is that college-educated professional, established journalists,
commentators, politicians, organisations and think-tanks get a boost to their visibility (Hindman 2006: 24)
The internet isn’t a great place for discussions because the majority of people only use the internet for sex, shopping and
entertainment. The internet is increasingly being used for surveillance and not the best medium for political debates.
I am all for utilising the online medium to its greatest potential and it will give a lot more people the ability to respond to political
programmes and force politicians to reply. However, not all people have sufficient access to the internet to have/be included in a
In 2011, Morozov created a theory that freedom on the internet is an illusion created by
those running it and that there are multiple breaches in surveillance, privacy, censorship
and authority. He also states that technology has “not only failed to protect people’s rights,
but is also used against them by authoritarian regimes.”
During the Arab spring uprising, it was widely believed to be started on social media
networks such as Facebook and Twitter when the truth is, local ‘Big media’ of Iran(Al-
Jazeera) are the true origin of the movement.
This is an example of Morozov’s quasi-political view that technology and media can lead to
or catalyse political change.
A somewhat recent news story that supports Morozov’s
theory is the CIA ‘whistle blower’ Edward Snowdon who
explained that people are constantly being watched. The
government are even capable of accessing and controlling
a person’s mobile phone even if its turned off. This is a
clear demonstration of how freedom is just an illusion.
• Regulating media is necessary in terms of reducing influence and effects,
and can be regulated in terms of its content or ownership and distribution.
• Media regulation seek to protect people and members of the public who
feel that regulations have been infringed can turn to press complaints
• Infringements include distinguishing between fact and comment, privacy,
harassment, misrepresentation, intrusion, the protection of children.
• However, PCC is often called the weak body due to the fact that some
newspapers perpetuate the practice of ‘publish and be damned because
they know they have far more money than the people who would be suing
• This way of working is described as power without responsibility.
• Fairclough: “the link between texts and society/culture is seen as
mediated by discourse practices”
• Fairclough explains using key theories about discourse from Bourdieu
and Foucault, that politicians use certain phrases in their speech to
create ‘orders of discourse’ or in other words a way in which they create
‘the norm’ in a particular field. They do this to make us see things in a
particular point of view or more importantly in their point of view. An
example of where this is done regularly is in news journalism, politicians
use the word migration instead refugees because they want us to see a
certain point of view or perspective on a matter. Because the word
migration makes us take the perspective that they are here to take jobs
and are making the country worse, whereas refugees makes us
sympathise and therefore it shows how politicians are clever in the
language they use.
Hate pie charts
*may not be accurate
Curtis & BuckinghamIn the mass democracies of the West and new ideology has risen up. We have come to believe that the old hierarchies of
power can be replaced by self-organising networks. (Curtis, BBC2, 30.5.11)
• The increase in social media use can result in ordinary individuals gaining more popularity from their news production
causing their stories to become more popular and overtake big media and their power.
• In todays society due to web 2.0 and 3.0 people are now able to access big news stories before the big companies are,
resulting in the public getting the story out quicker, persuading others to read their view.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcy8uLjRHPM – Media as a source of confusion
To a large extent, the most active participants in the creative world of web 2.0 are the ‘usual suspects’. Indeed, if online
participation is as socially, culturally and politically important as the enthusiasts suggest, it seems likely that, far from
liquidating social inequality, it might actually accentuate it. (Buckingham, 2010b: 6)
• Usually the most popular and highly read social media pages are sourced from big media companies such as BBC or SKY
anyway, so the use of social media for news stories doesn’t enhance ordinary individuals news projection, but instead,
increases the ways in which large businesses can project their news to new audiences.
• The public are more likely to follow a trusted source such as BBC or SKY on social media due to the reliability of their news
stories, enhancing big companies popularity.
• An element of post-colonial theory which looks at how powerful empires
or countries do not occupy others in the same way as before but instead
influence thinking through culture and media
• Schiller (19997) talks about a state of ‘cultural homogenization’ – the
McDonalds effect (the same American food on offer in every city) is
replicated in culture and in media representations.
• A more complex issue is how such cultural dominance then becomes the
creator or representations of the ‘other’. Think about how Muslims are
represented in some films now or, in older films, Russians. There is then a
debate to be had as to whether this influences our view of different
• This can be seen in the dominance of American films in our cinemas. On
one level it is a political economy issue, most of the big cinema chains and
film production houses have more economic power and so the films will
be bigger budgets and their vertical business models help distribution etc.
• An example of this on TV could be the news representations of US
presidents or music stars – are they ‘sold’ to us as the superior product?
Talent TV and Democracy:
Technological advances in television, has as the theorist Helsby (2010) states led to the rise of “celebrity
culture,” which has now become “the zeitgeist (spirit)” of modern times. Different people have capitalised on
this interest such as Simon Cowell and Alan Sugar. Depending on people’s views, this creation of Talent TV in
the form of programmes such as ‘The X Factor’ and ‘The Apprentice’ has resulted in a debate which argues
whether they are democratic or not.
Reasons it could be considered democratic is because anyone has the chance to enter these shows.
Viewers are attracted to this as they can view normal people taking part to become well known which
creates the ideal that anyone can achieve their dreams. Viewing celebrities taking part in these types of
shows such as ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’ further attracts viewers. They’re also argued to be
democratic and further attractive because people have the opportunity to vote for who they want and are
allowed to share their opinions.
However, as Laughey (2007) states, Talent TV can be argued as not democratic because it “serves the ideological
interests of economic and political powers,” such as Simon Cowell. Instead, many believe talent shows can be fixed
to suit the views and choices of those in control. People such as Marxists believe shows which promote competition
may seem entertaining, but instead create a false consciousness which legitimise the hierarchal structures of the
shows and instead promote capitalism which weakens the working and lower classes.
Amber and Calum.
Power and Globalisation
Global media is a relationship between ‘state power’ and the communication across the
borders. This can be where the government regulates what the public can have access to.
This can happen in countries which are in a dictatorship like North Korea where they have
no access to the internet or any outside influence.
Global media is always the subject of debate, between three main points – people power,
ideological power and corporate power.
Ideas can be spread over the world by virtual invasion, such as the influence of American
ways of life. For example people expect there to be a McDonalds or Starbucks to be in
With media globalisation there is a shrinkage of the world for everyone has better access
to everything. This also makes a cultural hybrid for people from some countries start to
take on the culture of another, such as the influence of America is Japan and other Asian
Google is a global power with last years(2014) searches world wide rounded to
2,095,100,000,000. This shows the power they have world wide for do we use any other