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What is meant by the term ‘media framing’ and how does it contribute to our understanding of the influence of the media in contemporary societ

What is meant by the term ‘media framing’ and how does it contribute to our understanding of the influence of the media in contemporary societ

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Mark Walsh. Originally submitted for CK101 at University College Cork, with lecturer Ciaran Mc Cullagh in the category of Social Studies
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Mark Walsh. Originally submitted for CK101 at University College Cork, with lecturer Ciaran Mc Cullagh in the category of Social Studies

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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05/13/2014

 
What is meant by the term ‘media framing’ and how does it contribute to ourunderstanding of the influence of the media in contemporary society”
 
The purpose of this essay is to look at what is meant by the term ‘media framing’ and see
how it contributes to our understanding of the influence of the media in contemporarysociety. Firstly, media framing will be defined and an illustrative example will follow this sowe understand the term. Then, works from the Glasgow University Media Group, Tamar
Liebes, Leen d’Haenens and Marielle de Lange will be looked at so that. In the concluding
paragraph, an attempt will be made to put the findings together and then we should havean idea of how media framing contributes to our understanding of the influence of themedia in contemporary society.An important question in media studies is the nature of the perspective from which themedia describes and interprets the social world. This is where media framing enters the
discourse. Entman, (1993:52) states that “to frame is to select some aspects of a perceived
reality and make them more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote aparticular problem definition, casual interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment
recommendation for the item described”. What Entman is saying is that frames define
problems
 –
determine what a casual agent is doing with what costs and benefits, usuallymeasured in terms of common cultural values; diagnose causes
 –
identify the forcescreating the problem; make moral judgements
 –
evaluate casual agents and their effects;and suggest remedies
 –
offer and justify treatments for the problems and predict their likelyeffects. The media place events and issues within particular contexts and encourageaudiences to understand them in particular ways. They provide us with perspectives on
issues. The media give “the story a ‘spin’...taking into account their organisational an
d
modality constraints, professional judgements, and certain judgements about the audience”Neuman, Just, and Crigler (1992:120 cited in Scheufele, 1999). ‘Media framing’ is just one
way that the media try to influence contemporary society.Now that we hav
e defined ‘media framing’ we will try to illustrate how it works by looking atthe work of Robert Entman: ‘on innocent and not so innocent civilians’ (cited in McCullagh
2002:30).Entman argues that there are 5 aspects to a media text that need to be consideredin the search for media frames: sizing-judgements (amount of space and degree of 
 
prominence given to a story); agency (use of particular words and images to suggest howand where responsibility for an event being reported should be placed); identification (useof particular words that encourage or discourage identification with those most directlyinvolved); categorisation (the way in which the media labels events or issues); andgeneralisation (degree to which the media generalise from an incident or issue in the newsstory to the nature of the political system in which the event occurred or the issue arouse).Entman looked at the shooting down of two civilian aircrafts
 –
a Korean plane shot down bySoviets in 1983 and an Iranian plane shot down by a US Navy ship in 1998. While the eventswere similar in most respects, the major American media framed them in very different
ways. The incident involving the USA was framed as ‘accidental’ while that involving the
Soviets was treated as criminal (Categorisation). The American incident was given less spacethan the Soviet incident (sizing judjements). The American incident was described as
‘ghastly’ and ‘tragic’, whereas the Russian one was described as ‘murder’ (agency). The
victims of the American action we
re described as ‘passengers’ and ‘travellers’, those of theRussian action were described as ‘loved ones’ and as ‘innocent victims’ (identification).
Finally, the Russian action was seen as the inevitable product of the Soviet system, whileresponsibility in the US incident was much more limited. It was confined to the officer incharge and to the US Navy (generalisation). This example clearly shows us how framingworks and how media framing of events and issues could influence contemporary society.But in order to analyse how media framing contributes to our understanding of theinfluence of the media in contemporary society we will have to look at how audiencesreceive the messages and if they are able to de-code them. In order to do this we will lookat work carried on audience research by the Glasgow University Media GroupIn the Glasgow University Media Group research by Greg Philo, groups of three or fourpeople were given a set of photographs which were taken from television newsprogrammes about the
miners’ strike in the UK. The groups were then asked to imaginethey were journalists and to write their own stories about the strike. Their ‘news reports’
which were written one year after the strike had ended, were then compared with actualnews programm
es from BBC and ITN. It was found that “there were extraordinarysimilarities” (Philo 1993: 259). “It was remarkable how closely some of the group stories
 
reflected not only the thematic content of the news but also the structure of actual
headlines” (Ibid
).The research went on to distinguish between what the groups had seen on the news andwhat they believed had actually taken place. There was remarkable unanimity of belief 
among the groups about what they had actually been shown. For Example, “98 per ce
nt
believed that most picketing which they had seen on the telly was violent” (Philo 1993:261).
But what the research found as most remarkable was the number of people who believedthat these television images represented the everyday reality of picketing.
“There was
generally a fear expressed of even going near a picket-line, because of the high levels of 
physical fighting which were believed to be going on (Ibid)”. In all, they found that “54 per
cent of the general sample believed that picketing was most
ly violent” (Ibid). This quit
clearly contributes to our understanding of the influence of the media in society as it shows
how ‘media framing’ can influence people. 54 per cent of this sample, were clearly
influenced by the media framing of the event.However, they also found that while some people clearly accepted the television images of picketing as being typical of what had actually occurred, others did not accept them. Whenlooking for the reasons for rejecting the television account they found that the most
powerful factor was the effect of direct or indirect experience. In their general sample, “43per cent of the people believed that picketing was mostly peaceful” (Philo 1993:265). When
giving reasons, about a third of these based their beliefs on the experience of knowing or
having met policemen or miners. This clearly shows us where the contribution of ‘mediaframing’ to our understanding of the media in contemporary society can sometimes not be
effective. In this instance we can see that the role of personal experience can be crucial.These can be important basis from which the dominant messages of media reporting can beresisted.
A work by Tamar Liebes, ‘Birds of a feather flock together’ (1992, cited in McCullagh
2002:160), looked at how Israeli television treated the protests by the Palestinians in whathas become known as the Intifada. She looked at how the protests were framed and foundthat Israeli television tried to depoliticise the conflict representing it as violent unrest and asurban riots rather than as a civil war. She found that in order to frame it in this light:

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