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We Media Summer 2015


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A2 OCR Critical Perspectives 'We Media and Democracy' Introduction booklet.

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We Media Summer 2015

  1. 1. Tupton Hall School OCR A2 Media Studies - Critical Perspectives in Media (Section B) ‘We Media’ and Democracy – An introduction… NAME _______________________
  2. 2. C.Welch/THS/A2 Critical Perspectives ‘Introduction to ‘We Media’ and Democracy’ 2 YOUR COURSE at A2 As per your course at AS, A2 is assessed by 50% coursework and 50% examination. You have already made a start on your coursework so this guide is intended to give you an introduction to the media debate that you will be investigating. Half of your exam involves you analysing your own productions; the other half of it is answering a question about a key debate about the media in terms of social and cultural contexts. All of the course links together. Your knowledge of technical aspects of production in TV drama; issues around representation; types of institutions and your own choices in your productions have hopefully improved your understanding of how media producers create meaning, how audiences understand that meaning, ways in which it is funded and produced and how the digital age is having an impact on all of this. The big difference is that at A2 we expect you to investigate and indulge in the area which you are already experts in – your own media use, interests and habits. At AS, we gave you examples and told you they were ‘important’, ‘interesting’ or ‘significant’. Whether they were previous exam clips or ‘Utopia’, thriller examples or Warp Films – these were media sources chosen by us. We (or the exam board) have been essentially saying, ‘watch this! It is good quality. It is important’. A2 is more democratic: you will be choosing which song, artist, genre and style to go for in your music video productions and choosing your own examples to research and analyse. Similarly, for this we may provide you with some case studies but we expect you to contribute and share your examples. After all, our tastes are not all the same! So in the spirit of democracy each of us will bring something: you will bring examples from your media use and then exchange them with others in the group. We will bring the theories and help you use these to get a better picture of what your media use can tell us about what is happening in the wider media and what this might mean for us (democracy).
  3. 3. C.Welch/THS/A2 Critical Perspectives ‘Introduction to ‘We Media’ and Democracy’ 3 ‘We Media’ and Democracy – What is it about? “People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.” (Alan Moore; V for Vendetta) Let’s start with this word ‘democracy’. What does it mean to you? To many people, it is about Westminster politicians arguing over who is right or wrong and voting in elections every five years. This is, of course, an important part of it but it is much more than that. If we look at an issue such as same sex marriage – these often start with a group of people wanting to change something that exists (in this case, same sex marriage being illegal) and working to get public support for an idea until it becomes widespread, mainstream almost and eventually forcing a change in policy as politicians realise how popular the idea is becoming. It often takes a long time, involves having views that are often unpopular or controversial and a feeling that it will not succeed. A previous Chesterfield MP, Tony Benn put it like this, “First they ignore you, then they say you’re mad, then dangerous, then there’s a pause and then you can’t find anyone who disagrees with you.” So we need to get away from the idea that democracy is just about Westminster, Prime Ministers and all that. We’ll explore different ideas about what it is in the autumn however here’s one quick definition: ‘a community in which everyone and anyone can participate and contribute.’ You might be thinking, “What has this got to do with Media? And...this sounds like politics! I signed up for Media Studies!” Well, depending on your viewpoint, the mass media plays a role in brainwashing the population into thinking certain ways. Or it reflects the society we live in and its habits and concerns. Or it does a bit of both. We either accept a lot of what we are told by our TV stations, websites and newspapers (Hall ‘Reception Theory’ – dominant reading), trust certain ones but not others (negotiated reading) or take a view that it’s all lies and propaganda (oppositional). There are values, opinions and views of the world encoded in all media texts (consciously or sub- consciously) from news articles to soap operas, music videos and YouTube channels. In terms of the media landscape, you were all born into an exciting, turbulent age with regards to the media. Rapid changes in technology have changed media production, consumption and the way in which content is distributed (David Gauntlett’ ‘Media 2.0’). One of the questions that underpins this area of study is really, what are the positives and negatives of the changes to the media in this age? Big media organisations are adapting and using social media, apps, news aggregators and often provocative headlines as clickbait in order to reach their existing and new audiences. Some have been more successful than others. For example, The Sun is still the most popular print newspaper but online ‘The Daily Mail’ and ‘The Guardian’ are the most widely read. But it has forced large media organisations to rethink their business models. Most predict that the newspaper in its printed format will disappear over the next 30 years. The main idea for this section of the course comes from a book by Dan Gillmor (2004) called ‘We the Media’ which put forward the theory that the media, because of the internet and advances in technology, is becoming more democratic. He argues that we no longer have to get our news or media from what he calls ‘Big Media’ (News International, BBC, Daily Mail, CNN, Google etc.) and that is allowing for a wider range of voices and perspectives to be heard which will make the media more democratic and representative of people. He predicted that:
  4. 4. C.Welch/THS/A2 Critical Perspectives ‘Introduction to ‘We Media’ and Democracy’ 4 ‘The spreading of an item of news, or of something much larger, will occur – much more so than today – without any help from mass media as we know it. The people who’ll understand this best are probably just being born. In the meantime, even the beginnings of this ‘shift’ are forcing all of us to adjust our assumptions and behaviour.’ (Gillmor 2004:42-3) Although his book is already over ten years old we can see plenty of evidence through citizen journalists. These are people who perhaps do not even see themselves as, or want to be, journalists but either start a campaign about an issue they believe in or become an eyewitness. Notice how many pictures or video footage that now gets used by news channels as their main footage has been filmed by people on their smartphones. They often get there before the news crews or they may be a victim or bystander when something dramatic occurs. The 24 hours rolling news stations need images and news quickly so those images often become the ones that people associate with the news story: the ‘iconic’ picture or grainy, wobbly video clip. This has been going on for quite some time and goes hand in hand with technology becoming better, cheaper and more portable. For example, the first footage from the September 11th attacks was captured by people on their personal cameras. Supporters of Gillmor’s ‘citizen journalists’ could also look at the London riots of 2011. BBC and Sky media crews were attacked and so they pulled their camera crews out. In an era of 24 hour media coverage of events, viewers faced something of a media blackout with recycled aerial shots of buildings burned. That void was partly filled by journalists such as Paul Lewis from The Guardian who relied on eye-witness reports on Twitter to follow clues as to what was happening and where. Most of these were reliable: people genuinely trying to help to get information out. Where there were hoaxers or people ‘trolling’ these were often contradicted and disputed by other users. The clean-up that followed was organised by a citizen on Twitter and was not some official call from the mass media. We can apply these ideas to virtually every area of media. People can create their own media or YouTube channel which surely means that the media is becoming more democratic as we aren’t just being told the news by organisations who may have their own bias and interest in what they are showing us. The popularity of vlogs and YouTubers further demonstrates the changing nature of media use. So we see ‘big media’ now actively using ‘We Media’ as their sources where previously it would have been a reporter and news crew. However, questions still remain about how they use certain bits of user generated content. The power of being the editor! For example, if a teenager dies in mysterious circumstances, newspapers often look for a photo from their social media usage that suits their chosen narrative. A picture of a teen with a bottle of vodka in their hand or adopting mean-looking gangster-poses being used over and over again creates a different impression to a nice smiley shot with the family cat! Then there are people using social media to speak directly to their ‘audience’ or each other. Established media personalities are now getting in on the act. Russell Brand gets millions of viewers via his ‘Trews’ channel. What this gives bloggers and vloggers is control over the story. You or I may give an interview or be invited onto a programme to give our view but we have no control thereafter as to how we are represented. Supporters of ‘We Media’ would claim that this could end up to be the most democratising development in media history. Gillmor claims that it is ‘the former audience’ who are now making the news and who will increasingly set the media agenda. Others see this as too optimistic and point to the fact that platforms such as Facebook, YouTube etc are now huge
  5. 5. C.Welch/THS/A2 Critical Perspectives ‘Introduction to ‘We Media’ and Democracy’ 5 multinational companies and can own and control the content – all that has changed is the people making the content. What’s wrong with ‘big media’? A good place to start is if we have a look at where news comes from. In a newspaper or a news website there is often a mixture of reporting done by the organisation’s journalists, opinion pieces written by ‘commentators’ and (increasingly so) a re-telling of news released from global news agencies. This leads on from your AS exam and the issue of media ownership. Let’s look at one of the largest private media corporations, News Corp, owned by Rupert Murdoch. In the UK, he owns or is a majority owner of ‘Sky’, ‘The Sun’, ‘The Times’ and the ‘Press Association’. The first three you probably will have heard of but the last one is interesting as it is one of the main global news agencies who collect news and report it quickly and (they would argue) just stick to the facts. These agencies are where the majority of news content comes from. Newspapers, websites and TV stations often will re-report this news to their audience but put their own slant and interpretation on it and add aspects such as people’s reactions to the news. Next time you are reading or watching some news, try and work out if any ‘journalism’ has taken place. By this, I mean that the TV/Radio station or newspaper has actually got one of their reporters or journalists to investigate the story further or find out stuff for themselves. If not, they are probably just using one of these agencies. ‘Metro’ newspaper is a good example of a newspaper which mainly uses agencies. So, we have a situation where a lot of the major news actually comes from very few people and is then regurgitated in various ways around the media. That is a lot of power in very few hands. Although all of the separate titles and channels have their own style, Murdoch makes no attempt to hide his political views and analysing the news from his organisation you will often find many of these views present. For example, Murdoch believes in privatisation of public services – organisations like the NHS should be run by private companies who can profit from it. It might be useful to do a quick scan of some of these titles and look at how they report the NHS. Notice also whether they are as critical of hospitals or services run by private companies. The Guardian newspaper has a different set of beliefs and you are more likely to see stories about struggling hospitals, scandals within private hospitals and positive stories about the NHS. Then there is the problem (as the phone hacking trials demonstrated) about how this affects our democracy when media corporations have that much power that they influence politicians and politics far more than us – the people who vote them in! Murdoch has been very powerful in the UK, Australia and US in setting the agenda with politicians too friendly with him or too scared of losing his news corporation’s support. The first major politician in recent times who openly criticised this as being undemocratic and a form of corruption was Ed Miliband. If any of you can find me a positive story about Ed Miliband in News Corporation’s titles then I will buy you a bacon sandwich! I am not suggesting that this won or lost the election or that Rupert Murdoch is secretly running the country but we would be foolish if we thought that his meetings with various Prime Ministers were occasions where he discussed what was best for us. We would also be equally naive if we believed that a government would not consider the consequences of annoying Mr Murdoch. But, is this good for democracy? If we can all accept that all newspapers and TV stations have an ‘agenda’ or a bias then we can be more informed when watching and reading them. This does not mean that we should not trust
  6. 6. C.Welch/THS/A2 Critical Perspectives ‘Introduction to ‘We Media’ and Democracy’ 6 anything they write or say – there is a lot of excellent journalism out there which does thorough investigating and raises issues that may go unnoticed –but we need to be more active and questioning when consuming news. The BBC is a bit different as it is funded by the taxpayer and has strict rules about giving both sides to the story. However, it is often accused by right-wingers as having a left-wing bias and vice versa. This makes their decision making a bit different to other channels. How much influence this has on our understanding of events or issues is open to question and I want you to decide this for yourself. Let’s be clear: we do not live in a dictatorship so we are not talking about the ‘Hyperdermic Needle’ effects model where we are unthinking and helpless to resist the propaganda but perhaps a ‘Cultivation’ model where audience understanding is shaped partly by ‘opinion formers’ of which news programmes and newspapers are key players. To give one example, a 2009 study, ‘Hoodies or altar boys’ by Women in Journalism looked at news representation of teenage boys. They scanned over 8000 news stories in national and regional newspapers about teenage males and found that over half were about crime. The most commonly used words were "yobs" (591 times), followed by "thugs" (254 times), "sick" (119 times) and "feral" (96 times). They also found that teenage boys’ best chance of having a positive news story written about them was if they met a violent or tragic end! Do you think this would affect how people view teenage males? Or indeed how they (or you) view themselves or each other? Here’s a couple of questions for you: immigration is often in the news and the word ‘migrant’ has come to mean many different things. However, it is a purely descriptive word which now has negative connotations. So, how many of the world’s refugee population comes to the UK? Which countries in Europe (including us) take the most refugees? What about over the world? Secondly, it’s hard to turn on your TV and open your newspaper without seeing a programme about people on benefits, someone on benefits with 15 kids who lives a lavish life or people fraudulently claiming a disability benefit when they are fine to work. Channel 4’s ‘Benefits Street’ showed some of the behaviour and lifestyles associated with welfare recipients. The country has a big deficit caused by the financial crash of 2008 and greater attention than ever has been paid to those who are taking advantage of the benefits system. Government has responded by making life more difficult for those claiming benefits, cutting the amount they can claim, forcing all of those classified with having a disability to be re-assessed and changing how people apply for benefits. The Chancellor George Osborne said he was going after ‘the skivers’ who live off ‘the strivers’. So, how much of the overall welfare budget in the UK is believed to be wrongly claimed? You can find the answer at the end of this booklet…if you are at all surprised then think about why you thought what you did. Was it what you have experienced or heard? And where did you hear it from? If it was someone else, where did they get their information from? What role do you think the media have played in this? And, why have they wanted you think this? Also, what is the effect of this on people’s attitudes and perhaps who or what they will vote for? Difficult questions but worth exploring. Another criticism of so-called ‘big media’ is who works in it. The writer Owen Jones, in his book ‘The Establishment’ mentions how more than half of the top 100 media professionals in Britain come from private schools, even though only 7% of Britons are privately educated (Jones himself is from a comprehensive in Stockport) – it begs the question, are these people best placed to make big decisions about how ‘we’ are represented or served by the media? Can they be relied to ‘get it’
  7. 7. C.Welch/THS/A2 Critical Perspectives ‘Introduction to ‘We Media’ and Democracy’ 7 when commenting or framing the news or a story in a way which represents people’s views (democracy)? That is not to say that if you are privately educated you cannot relate to the majority of the population but it does suggest that a certain type of person, from a certain type of background (still very male, white and rich) is the one telling the story and setting the agenda. Can we expect the media to question and challenge the status quo when most of the people in it have done very well out of things being the way they are? Furthermore, when we move away from news and think about many of the programmes on TV: does it narrow the stories being told? However, perhaps we are being a bit unfair on ‘big media’ to claim they are anti-democratic. More than ever, we see ordinary people becoming the ‘stars’ of so-called ‘fly on the wall’ documentaries. Sometimes gaining celebrity status as a result. It could also be argued that, in programmes such as X- Factor etc where the audience votes they show an open-mindedness about who gets to win, voting for people with different ethnic backgrounds, sexual preferences or disabilities. Ordinary people being on TV used to be a big thing but is now very commonplace. Isn’t this democracy in action? Also, if ‘We Media’ is such a movement then why do we still have these big, very Media 1.0, participatory shows – ‘a community in which everyone and anyone can participate and contribute.’ If we are living in an age of greater democracy in the media then why are people watching and participating in great numbers in these shows rather than creating blogs and sharing their own created content with each other? Some claim that programmes like this are ‘low quality’ and demeaning to working class people, in particular, they serve to disempower citizens by making them look ignorant and immoral. Others argue that the critics of these programmes are snobs who would prefer to see working class people being talked to or about, rather than doing the talking and taking centre stage. Finally, ‘We Media’ throws up some interesting contradictions. The ideas of ‘We Media’ and ‘Media 2.0’ suggest that if you were to witness some injustice – for example, Police abuse of a teenager – you could capture this on your mobile phone, post about it on social media or set up a blog and campaign to try and get some justice for the teenager without having to rely on someone from the established media listening to your story. Your footage and campaign could even then force its way into the ‘big media’ – something that is happening with greater regularity. This could lead to more accurate media reporting, greater citizen involvement and a healthier democracy as a result. However, it could also be argued that the sheer amount of content means we rarely get beyond the headline. How many of us ‘like’ a status or share a post without having read what we are sharing or thought about it too much? We may believe someone who may be a trustworthy friend without checking the story behind the ‘story’. Are we more likely to believe something because it DOESN’T come from the mass media and therefore isn’t tainted by bias or power? Does it just mean our news feeds are just full of narcissistic rubbish, misinformation and petitions about whether or not Kanye West should headline Glastonbury? On a darker note, perhaps we should take the rose-tinted glasses off about the power the internet gives to users when we think about how the group known as ISIS use new technology as a means of production to spread their propaganda and recruit around the world. A friend of mine shared the meme on the following page on Facebook. I liked it (despite the bad grammar) as I was a bit sick of politicians. The power to now create a meme, distribute it yourself and potentially influence people is undoubtedly a good thing, right?
  8. 8. C.Welch/THS/A2 Critical Perspectives ‘Introduction to ‘We Media’ and Democracy’ 8
  9. 9. C.Welch/THS/A2 Critical Perspectives ‘Introduction to ‘We Media’ and Democracy’ 9 YOUR FIRST TASK During the holidays, I want you to report back on the news that you hear about. I don’t want you to go looking for news or do anything different to what you would normally do. We are going to investigate how you hear about news events. This can be anything from a natural disaster, the war in Syria, a local issue, a celebrity divorce/marriage/baby …whatever. The only criteria is that it is a ‘big story’. Fill in the table on the next pages and bring it with you for the first week back. Use the following codes for ‘Where does it come from?’ B1 I saw/heard/read about this from a news organisation (eg 10 O’Clock News, radio news, bulletin, newspaper) B2 I read about this on a news website (eg: The Guardian/Huffington Post/Daily Mail online) B3 This appeared in my newsfeed but is originally from a well-established news organisation (if you’re not sure, check! ‘Bob’s Big Blog’ probably isn’t…) B4 This was shared/linked to by someone I know but is originally from a well-established news organisation W1 Somebody told me about this but I am not sure where they heard about it W2 I saw some ‘friends’ talking about this on social media but am not sure where they got their information from W3 I think this is from a non ‘big media’ source: for example, someone’s blog or a petition that was sent to me. W4 I saw this on YouTube but the person does not seem to work for a big organisation Use the following codes for ‘What did you do with it?’ Headline I just read/heard the headline but didn’t read much more about it Depth I watched a feature on it/read a whole article/listened to the whole report Shared I shared this with people on social media Target share I shared this with friends via various various social media platforms INCONCLUSIVE CONCLUSION So, plenty of food for thought. If we can agree that ‘big media’ is anti-democratic (and maybe we can find many examples where it is isn’t) and, if we accept that ‘We Media’ provides opportunities for the ‘former audience’ to create their own content – be it news or their own TV series – or respond and contribute towards traditional media sources, then we are surely living in an age of greater democracy where ‘everyone and anyone can participate and contribute.’? We shall investigate further at A2!
  10. 10. ‘We Media’ and Democracy Summer Task What is the news story? Where does it come from? (use the codes on the previous page) What did you do with it (see codes on previous page)? What is your view on this news story? What is the ‘dominant’ meaning that the producer of this text intended? Do you trust it to be accurate? Why?
  11. 11. LOOKING FOR ANSWERS? The UK takes less than 1% of the world’s estimated 50million refugees. Only 25% of these are given refugee status; 75% refused. Within the EU, Germany and Sweden provide the most sanctuary to people fleeing conflict or poverty. In fact, richer countries do not take their ‘fair share’ at all with the vast majority of refugees The government’s own figures estimate that only 2% of the total fraud committed in the UK is from people wrongly claiming benefits. Overall, total fraud across the economy amounts to £73billion. It is believed that this costs the country £1bn – which is a large amount. But not when compared to tax fraud which was around £14.5 bn. Or as percentage of the overall welfare bill, 0.56%. In actual fact, the government’s audits showed that £17.7bn in benefits and tax credits that people qualified for went unclaimed. The Meme about parliament. The bottom picture (packed to debate their own pay) claims to be from 11th July 2013. However, there was no debate on that day. The picture was actually from Prime Ministers questions which is always well attended as MPs get to directly question the PM on anything of their choice and the news channels all run extracts from it. The screengrab above was from a debate about the impact of welfare changes but it was hours into the debate when MPs often go off to other meetings or appointments. The meme feeds into popular anger at MPs being ‘in it for themselves’ but is incorrect. This throws up one of the issues with ‘We Media’, if we understand a newspaper’s agenda then we can read articles from it with a bit more of a sense of power – are we critical enough of what we read online if it suits our opinions/beliefs? Further reading, watching and sources Try Adam Curtis ‘Bitter Lake’ BBC iplayer: lengthy and a upsetting in places, Curtis’ central point is that the mass media just bombard us with events with very little depth or back-story meaning we become more confused and feel more helpless. OCR Media Studies for A2 Third Edition by Julian McDougall– this textbook is a few years old now so you should be able to find it a bit cheaper 2nd hand Women In Journalism. ‘Hoodies or Altar Boys’ 1643964.html Citizen Journalism and the 2011 Riots Inside the Murdoch Empire Analysing the news ‘We the Media: Grassroots journalism, for the people, by the people’ by Dan Gillmor Check out our ‘A2 Critical Perspectives’ playlist (more to follow on this playlist)