Complete media portfolio

ENTRY 1: Representation

Question: Considering a television news report and a newspaper article on the same topic, which form of representation is more effective at conveying information? Why is this the case?

TV news report: BBC News at Six, BBC One, 18.00 to 18.30, Monday 15th February 2010

Newspaper article: Richard Norton-Taylor, 'Colonel condoned hooding, Mousa Inquiry told', The Guardian, 16th February 2010, p. 8 (Appendix A)

Within both items, there are a number of content factors that communicate a selective, naturalized representation. 'It is important to remember that any one of these factors within any communication process will affect the content and treatment of its message.'[1]

Concerning source and need, 'it is no secret we [The Guardian] are a centre-left newspaper'[2] whose profit is dictated by having a regular centre-left readership, who have taken a critical stance against the war in Iraq. The BBC on the other hand is a publically owned corporation with the self-declared duty to cater for an audience of political variety.[3]

As a result, the article conveys to the passive reader an accusative message of guilt and responsibility. Such use of language has meaning.[4] Using signs, such as captions and headline, the message is reinforced. Comparatively, and taken in combination with the text, captions and headline, both pictorial images transmit a robust message.

The BBC, however, produces an alternative representation, stressing that the 'once highly decorated' Col. Mendonca has been found not guilty by a previous court martial investigation. The encoding of actual footage documenting the disturbing mistreatment and a pictorial family image of Mousa also has the intended effect of deriving meaning. Utilizing moving footage, in particular, has the greatest informative effect, as 'images are the most "real" thing we have', as Baudrillard noted.[5]

The BBC news report has substantial setbacks with relation to time dedicated to the story. However, considering that the overwhelming amount of 'media saturation' is centred around television The BBC news report will have been more effective in their representation as it will have informed a greater audience. [6][7][8] In spite of that fact, however, overall I consider the newspaper article to be most effective for the strength of its message communicated.

ENTRY 2: History and New Technologies

Question: What are the main differences between the way that Trafalgar was reported in The Times in 1805, and the way current conflicts are reported?

Newspaper article: Julius Cavendish, "Botched attack by Nato kills 27 civilians", The Independent, 23rd February 2010, p. 21 (Appendix B)

The number of significant and distinct differences between The Times article of 1805 and The Independent article of 2010 ultimately concern the birth, growth and application of new technologies into media production and the historical transformation of the media itself, politically, socially and economically, between 1805 to today.

The economic epoch of industrialisation and modernisation brought with it greater political developments for media production. Funding from advertisers has 'reduced dependence on political subsidies' and has lessened 'the limitations of official censorship' therefore granting media outlets a greater, but gradual, sense of freedom of speech from the political establishment. [9] Attempted government regulation via libel suits and stamp-tax duty has also been ineffective at stifling greater independence. Thus, whilst The Times article can be said to articulate the view of the British political establishment of 1805, The Independent has the freedom to take a critical stance to contemporary conflicts.

Whilst The Times article of 1805 was constrained to such political limitations it was also constrained to the technological advances of its age, in much the same way reporting is today. However, within the last 200 years substantial technological development has occurred which has enhanced media production. Technological inventions and working models, outside media production, have also been adapted into mediation evolving how we both receive and perceive messages.[10][11][12] Such technological inventions, ranging from electricity to photography to the internet have played an instrumental role in enhancing the communicative process. Indeed, development in travel has eroded the time-space barrier also. Thus whilst The Times 1805 article was published 'more than a fortnight'[13] after the Battle of Trafalgar victory and death of Admiral Lord Nelson, The Independent was published within three days of 27 civilians deaths in Afghanistan.

Moreover, socially, the political battle led by the trade union's radical press also brought improved conditions for the working class, including less working hours and increased 'spending power' allowing for 'non-work activities', particularly time spent on 'media consumption' and ultimately set in place the core issue of demand rather than merely supply.[14] It is these factors that have altered the reporting of current conflicts over time.

ENTRY 3: The Media and Democracy

Question: Using a specific example of media participation, discuss whether the media is an adequate forum for public debate and discussion. Does the media actively manipulate public debate, or does the public have a genuine voice?

Television Programme Analysed: Question Time, BBC One, 22.35 to 23.35, 4th March, 2010.

Whilst proponents of Question Time argue that it provide citizens with informative education on societal issues, where space is granted to open and free discussion for a variety of views to be expressed, crucial to assessing whether the media actively manipulate public deliberation and participation is to study the Question Time format.

The Question Time format consists of less than half a dozen of the studio audience asking five members of the panel to express their views on an issue reported by mainstream media earlier in the week. Whilst it may be perceived that the audience set the agenda of the discussion to take place, the reality is that the discussion concerning Jon Venables was set by media reports.[15] Indeed, the fifth member of the audience to speak expressed her view that several media organisations have shaped the public's view on the issue by printing speculative stories on the reason why Jon Venables was recalled to prison, therefore becoming more than 'critical outsiders' acting as a 'fourth estate'.[16] As a result, the concept of a democratic public sphere constituting not only genuine voice but also rational and informed deliberation as essential ingredients departs from the Athenian concept.[17]

Moreover, there is very little participation from the audience concerning deliberation. Only those from the studio audience who ask the questions and additional members of the audience who raise their hand to express their views participate. In the case of the question concerning Jon Venables, only nine members of the studio audience (excluding the member who asked the question) participated in expressing their views. For the rest of the studio audience, they viewed their role as spectators.[18] It is this self-censorship as well as the 14 minutes given to the discussion that enhances the lacking of the public sphere.

Lastly, whilst proponents of Question Time would argue that it is an adequate forum for representative and aggregative public debate, critics would argue that genuine public voice is not accommodated as 'three out of four people support...that Venables' alleged offence be made public'[19] whereas the vast majority of the Question Time studio audience and participators did not support the details being released in the public interest.

Therefore, I think the concept of the public having a genuine voice and being free from media manipulation is questionable under these circumstances.

ENTRY 4: Ideology

Question: Consider a tabloid article on a current news item and identify which ideologies are shaping the story. Use the story to discuss the relationship between ideology and bias.

Newspaper article: Trevor Kavanagh, 'The union monster he hid behind for 13 years turns on Brown', The Sun, 12th March, 2010, pp. 26 & 27 (Appendix C)

The relationship between ideology and bias is problematic because the two are inextricably linked. However, if we study its relationship with the third party of power we come to see that the media is non-ideological and therefore any message communicated is hegemonic rather than natural. Considering that values such as consumerism and capitalism hold sway in British society[20] and industrial action is regarded as a threat to such ideas, it is of no surprise that the public is influenced by the media to view industrial action in a negative light. This negative perception is shaped by the message communicated by The Sun in its recent article covering the coming strikes to British transport.

As a result, it is important to note the political position of the paper, its editors and proprietors.[21][22] A noteworthy fact is that 'The Sun believes - and prays - that the Conservative leadership can put the great back into Great Britain.'[23] This convergence of interest explains why the textual language and imagery employed in this item also goes further than merely being a critique of Brown and the unions. Words and phrases of Britain being "held to ransom" by "power-crazed union barons", likening them to a "Frankenstein monster", and asserting Brown having "wrung his hands", refusing to "lift a finger" over the issue 'direct the audience to think and feel largely as those with the power of production prefer.'[24][25] It is these 'symbolic fictions'[26] in both the language and the imagery, which portrays future strikes to turn British transport industry into forsaken scenes, which clearly indicate not only which side the paper is taking but that the paper is partisan when it comes to the issue.

Indeed, the article itself does not address the issues central to the dispute but rather dedicates it's time to denigrate PM Gordon Brown and the unions. In this way, whilst The Sun may claim its ideological stance in delivering information to be one of impartiality and objectivity, 'The very concept of objectivity is continuously contested in practice.'[27] As well as not laying out the main issues of the dispute, The Sun gives little to no access to differing perspectives over the issue except those which reinforce the negative portrayal of the unions. As a result, the relationship between ideology and bias can only be understood when power is taken into account.

  1. Graeme Burton, More Than Meets the Eye 3rd Edition (London: Arnold, 1997) pp. 29 and 37
  2. 'it is no secret that we are a centre-left newspaper' extract taken from
  3. Mark Wheeler, Politics and the Mass Media (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997) p. 104
  4. Richard Keeble, The newspapers handbook, 2nd Edition (London: Routledge, 1998) pp. 97 and 106-116
  5. 'images are the most "real" thing we have' extract taken from Joely Agar's 'Media, Politics and Representation' Lecture, Lecture 2 (QUB, 2010)
  6. Tim O'Sullivan, Studying the Media, 3rd Edition (London: Arnold, 2003) p. 4
  7. Mark Wheeler, Politics and the Mass Media (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997) p. 64
  8. Bob Franklin, Packaging Politics: political communications in Britain's Media Democracy (London: Arnold, 1994) p. 31
  9. James Curran and Jean Seaton, Power without responsibility: the press and broadcasting in Britain, 5th Ed. (London: Routledge, 1997) pp. 11-12
  10. Tim O'Sullivan, Studying the Media, 3rd Ed. (London: Arnold, 2003) pp. 200-204
  11. David Cannadine, History and the Media (Houndmills, Hampshire: Macmillan, 2004) pp. 98-102
  12. Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: the political economy of the mass media (London: Vintage, 1994) p. 3
  13. Tim O'Sullivan, Studying the Media, 3rd Ed. (London: Arnold, 2003) p. 191
  14. Tim O'Sullivan, Studying the Media, 3rd Ed. (London: Arnold, 2003) p. 193
  15. Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (London: Vintage, 1994) p. 4
  16. Mark Wheeler, Politics and the Mass Media (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997) pp. 1-2
  17. Ricardo Blaug and John Schwarzmantel, Democracy: A Reader (Edinburgh: University Press Ltd., 2006) p. 26
  18. Lawrence Grossberg, Ellen Wartella and D. Charles Whitney, Mediamaking: Mass Media in a Popular Culture (London: SAGE Publications, 1998) p. 360
  19. Quote extracted from
  20. James Curran and Jean Seaton, Power without responsibility, 5th ed, (London: Routledge, 1997) pp. 203-207
  21. Fred Inglis, Media theory: an introduction (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990) p. 90
  22. Glasgow University Media Group, Getting the message: news, truth and power, edited by John Eldridge, (London: Routledge, 1993) p. 138
  23. Quote extracted from
  24. Fred Inglis, Media theory: an introduction (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990) p. 75
  25. Glasgow University Media Group, Getting the message: news, truth and power edited by John Eldridge, (London: Routledge, 1993) p. 341
  26. Fred Inglis, Media theory: an introduction (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990) p. 80
  27. Glasgow University Media Group, Getting the message: news, truth and power edited by John Eldridge, (London: Routledge, 1993) p. 6

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