Mass Media The Public Sphere Media Culture. Pervasive media in our lives – the media saturated environment. Effects of mass media? Two views: 1) Non literate peoples have benefited as television and radio make for a more democratic flow of information- John Fiske
Mass Media The Public SphereMedia Culture
Pervasive media in our lives – the media saturated environment
Effects of mass media?
1) Non literate peoples have benefited as television and radio make for a more democratic flow of information- John Fiske
2) Those who control television and radio gained more control over society by duping consumers who consume their produced images.
Media operate in the context of other media and we are aware that they are not neutral in conveying messages.
In terms of information… a documentary on the JFK assassination is very different from Oliver Stone’s JFK, which we may know is staged, but still may influence our perception of the historical event.
The way we rank media is based on where that media stands in relation to older and new media - and whether they are primarily oriented toward entertainment, news or information.
For example, news on the internet has come to be associated with speed of transmission and a global scope.
The original sense of mass audience was an undifferentiated vast audience of people with little individuality.
Mass media is also synonymous with the rise of television.
Of course, now we have a much more fragmented audience…. A range of multidirectional media and choices for communication have replaced an older model of mass media.
Media, both news and fiction, facilitate the social sphere for public debate and action.
We are also aware that the broadcast media pitch their shows to viewers with buying power. Middle class youth 13-26 are sought after…
Thus we are influenced -and we influence - broadcast media in the ways we use it.
The computer and Web allow anyone to become and author/producer, thus giving rise to international subcultures.
Satellite technology gave rise to global communications and the end of narrowcasting for some 20 years, until community television rose again in the form of “minority” networks appealing to narrow demographics/cultures, especially through cable television.
There is no longer a single mass audience, but perhaps multiple audiences who are the products of narrowcasting.
Critiques of mass media
Critics argue that the new electronic technologies are powerful new tools for mass persuasion (or propaganda) allowing for political oppression and control.
Viewers, they fear, are gullible recipients of media messages.
This chapter discussed one of the primary examples of modern propaganda, Leni Reifenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, a documentary account of a Hitler rally in Sept 1934.
The point is that this film encourages overt nationalism and idolatry of a political leader.
This film, along with the Nazi’s introduction of television as something to be viewed collectively in public spaces, helped forge a collective ideology.
The collective practice of looking was a major tool in Josef Goebbels’ propaganda ministry in Hitler’s Germany.
Guy Debord understood the effects of collective practices of looking.
His group Situationist International, noted how the social order of the late 20th c global economy exerts influence through representations.
Thus, the spectacle, ie, the image and the practice of gazing as central, becomes the instrument of unification.
The Situationists, or Situs, were the first revolutionary group to analyse capitalism in its current consumerist form.
Debord noted that experience has been reduced to representation.
Jean Beaudrillard continued his theory, believing that simulation transcends the real. (Simulacra are copies without originals)
This allows for a replacement of the real in every relationship.
For example, the virtual worlds of Disneyland, computer worlds’ virtual reality, Internet, etc.
A spin-off of this was the realization that TV was a narcotic that was, by unifying and consolidating masses under a single political belief, was replacing actual participation in organized politics, hence leading to more and more disaffection.
The Frankfurt School (Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Herbert Marcuse) criticized post WW2 capitalist and consumerist orientation of popular media forms.
The culture industry creates and caters to a mass public that cannot distinguish between reality and illusion.
They found the culture industry generates a false consciousness, encouraging consumers to buy into the belief system that allows capitalism to thrive. (They were strongly influenced as victims of the rise of Nazi Germany in the 30s)
As universalists, the Frankfurt School used Marxist ideology to explain how the dominant class who own the media, control the content and sell the masses ideas that perpetuated the domination and oppression inherent in a capitalist economy.
They were concerned with the effects of the media on the masses, not vice versa.
They believed consumers of “high culture” (classical music, art in museums, an educated viewer) stood above those of “low culture” whom they considered mindless dupes of culture industry and industrial capitalism. (who loved popular music, “kitsch” art, and had low education)
Frankfurt School’s belief in top-down culture is weak in its universalizing tendency and failure to note how consumers of culture have distinct negotiating patterns and are part of many cultures.
In short, there is no unified mass culture and a singular media industry.
The culture industry realizes this
and produces products for niche audiences, including a counter-hegemonic approach to challenge dominant ideologies.
The mass media and democratic potential
Will new media serve as a promising tool for democratic ideals?
With such a diversity of programming possible how can we be sure about “public” culture?
Marshal McLuhan believed that media were simply extensions of our natural senses, helping us to connect with distant communities and bodies.
McLuhan, as a technological determinist, was not as concerned with the content of a message as the medium through which it was received.
This empowers individuals, whose own body is extended throughout the world.
In the late 60’s this meant guerilla tv was possible, and lots of people could become producers.
And he anticipated the power of instant circuitry where nothing in the world is any longer remote in time or space.
McLuhan was a harbinger of cyberculture.
Television and the question of sponsorship
Broadcast advertising has been the US paradigm for the media of radio and tv from the earliest years, and serving the corporate sector’s interest was the route preferred, not vice versa even though “regulation” was allegedly in the public’s interest.
The consumer was to be exposed to the medium as advertisement more than entertainment.
Television delivered people (audiences) to the sponsors….
In early years of tv in the US, corporate sponsorship was explicitly part of program and sponsors closely controlled what viewers saw.
This ended in the early 50s with shows getting longer and out of the reach of one sponsor; this put shows back into the hands of the networks.
After quiz show scandals of the late 50’s (sponsors rigged shows) the sponsors no longer programmed shows.
When networks laid down coaxial cable in the 50’s, this linked 600 stations to the three major networks, thus ending possibilities of local programming and creating national network programming.
Since the 70’s explosion of cable systems may have multiplied the number of network and program choices ie, specialty channels, but it has given rise to media globalization as is seen by the reach of CNN as a world wide casting of news.
Britain’s government launched the BBC in the 30’s and had a monopoly on tv until the mid 50s with the introduction of commercial tv.
BBC [which charges viewers a viewing license fee annually GE] contracts with producers.
Channel 4 (a government owned operation too) introduced in 1980s to allow for independent producers and alternative viewpoints.
Public broadcasting model was also adopted in Canada, France and Germany.
In US the PBS network tried to be non commercial and allowing for minority viewpoints, but corporate sponsorship is today very important for its survival, even though voluntary viewer support is there too.
Media and the Public Sphere
Viewers often experience interpellation, ie they see themselves as members of a national audience.
This is a reflection of what Jurgen Habermas called ‘the public sphere’ which in the 19th c was a physical place where middle class men assembled to discuss matters of public interest, but in the late 20th c this sphere is truly public, involving women, minorities, the poor, etc. and involves many media.
Is this a single public or a multiplicity of publics?
TV helps create the idea of a national culture even though it moves images around the planet. The tv talk show has gained inordinate power in influencing public debate.
Authors fail to mention that the level of debate and discussion tend toward the lowest common denominator, not to the educated mind. This is often referred to as “the dumbing down of the American mind”
New Media Cultures
Traditional distinctions among media are less definable; media can be less monolithic and centralized as we see with uses of the WWW (web).
There are now many local and national responses to what is seen as American cultural imperialism.
Protest, media appropriation and mediated debate are now the opposing polarities to the old centralized control of powerful entities.
Lets look at four media examples of what we have discussed:
The dissemination of news in schools via Channel One - that carries commericials
How War is presented for public debate
An example of guerilla type TV
An example of radio as a public sphere as well as propaganda
This DVD will be reserved at Bailey Howe Media for reviewing.