Submission Dates for Essay and Reading Log

 Reading

Log – Now due on the 17 of Jan 2005  Essay – Now due on 7 Jan 2005

Media as an Organisation
LM 124 Lecture 3

Definition of Media
“The mass media comprise the institutions and techniques by which specialised social groups and organisations disseminate symbolic content to large heterogeneous and geographically-dispersed audiences”
(Curran 1977:9)

Media: From the angle of demand and supply
‘The growth of mass communications is a dual process. On the on hand it describes the development of an industry, on the other, the evolution of an audience. The relationship between the two is one of supply and demand for two basic social commodities: leisure facilities and information.’ (Golding 1974: 14)

Social Power and Commercial Intentions
Mass media always have an industrial and political perspective to their activities.  The ‘policies and professional routines’ are ‘located within the political, economic and legal structures of society.’ (Corner and Hawthorne 1993)  The media has to be studied at two levels; -Economy – concerned with product and distribution of materials goods and wealth Politics –concerned with the power and processes of social regulation.

Social Power and Commercial Intentions
This means that media organisations function within a society which accepts the legitimacy of financial gain, regard the profit motive as ‘natural’ and allows the media to generate quite extensive social power.

Media message as a commodity

Features of media as a commodity means that they, ‘ are not unique, variable and unpredictable, but often manufactured, standardised, always multiplied in some way.’ (McQuail) Media form a significant part of the everyday cultural life of modern industrial societies. In this sense, media institutions can also be seen as being involved in the production, exchange and reproduction of meaning.

How do we study media organisations?
Three Approaches;



Economic/industrial perspective – looking at the distinctive features of media as economic enterprises. Political Economic theory-looks at the processes of concentration and the powers of ownership but also the cultural and social implications of commercialisation. Public Interest – examine media structures according to a public interest perspective against the kinds of expectations imposed on it from a national and political perspective.

Political-Economic thoery

This theory looks at the relationship between economic structure and media organisation and the ideological content of media. Media institution has to be considered as part of the economic system with close links to the political system. Media content produced is influenced by the pressure to expand markets and the economic interests of owners and decision-makers (Garnham 1979).

Demand for media
Demand for media has been influenced by; - The amounts of time available. - The growing affluence of social groups. - Differential styles and patterns of media consumption and use – larger divisions of social class, gender, age or occupation.

Features of Media Organisations
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Has to cater to different markets – consumer market/revenue vs advertising market/revenue. Concerned about the social composition of the market – income and education levels, whether it is homogenous or concentrated geographically. Competition between media and uniformity in terms of product. High ‘first’ copy cost – dependent on economies of scale and hence vulnerable to demand and advertising revenue. Ownership and control – how are the powers exercised?

Economic Consequences

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Like most commercial industries – there is a tendency towards concentration of ownership(i.e horizontal or vertical). Rise of International conglomerates. Reliance on advertising and circulation. Driven by profit. May promote its own political ideologies. Reduction of independent sources Concentration on largest markets Avoidance of risks Reduced investment in less profitable genres. Minority audiences often neglected

The Role of Media Professionals



The autonomy of media professionals in an organisation is constrained by two main factors; Profitability – all producers are to an extent vulnerable to commercial pressures. Regulations – media professionals operate within codes of practice designed to prevent unacceptable standards of production or irresponsible behaviour.

External Regulations

Besides internal codes of ethics, media organisations are also subjected to external regulation by government (I.e.official secrets act passed in 1911, ‘prevention of terrorism act’ in 1988 to prevent IRA from accessing media) Legislation is also used to maintain fair competition in the market place. This is mainly evident in Broadcasting where laws prevent any one company from owning more than one ITV franchise or owning both a national newspaper and TV station.But these boundaries have been continuously eroded and modified especially with satellite and digital technologies.


TV and Radio are subject to the strongest controls mainly for technological and political reasons.The BBC’s licence is renewed after ten years, the licence fee is set by the government which also appoints the board of governors. Their role is to ensure that BBC fulfils its obligations. Non-BBC television services including ITV, Channel Four, Cable and Satellite are licensed and regulated by the Independent Television commission (ITC).

Why is Broadcasting regulated?
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In the name of ‘public Interest’ This meant providing locally relevant information, balance on political issues and diversity in terms of programming. In 1986 the Peacock Commission endorsed the ‘public service idea’ – I.e. keeping the quality and diversity and national political and cultural interests.

Case Study – Broadcasting in Britain
Development of broadcasting from 1920s till today is characteristed by significant technological and cultural change.  The development of broadcasting represents the relationship between the state as regulator and the public as consumers.

Principles of the BBC
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Funded by people who own a set. Two key ideas that shaped the BBC was the licence fee and the notion of a monopoly. Through a royal charter the BBC was changed into an Independent national organisation. It would not be directly controlled by the government but still receive a licence fee and be free from the entertainment led popularism of other media. It also inherited a board of governors (12 members). The governors would then appoint a Directorgeneral who would be responsible for the day-to-

Development of the BBC
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John Reith(1st general manager of the BBC). Reith’s philosophy, ‘ to inform and to entertain.’ Believed that the BBC had the objective to ‘unify the nation.’ Till world war 2- BBC tended to think of it audiences as living in a ‘suburban Utopia’ – middle class with high cultural interests like poetry, classical music, drama and talks.