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Social Problems. Social Problems and the Media. Mass Media. Play strong role in shaping how people look at the world Disseminate culture: meanings, values, beliefs Define which issues on public agenda How issues will be framed Whose voices and opinion will be included or excluded.

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social problems

Social Problems

Social Problems and the Media

mass media
Mass Media
  • Play strong role in shaping how people look at the world
  • Disseminate culture: meanings, values, beliefs
  • Define which issues on public agenda
  • How issues will be framed
  • Whose voices and opinion will be included or excluded
douglas kellner 2003
Douglas Kellner (2003)
  • Kellner says:
  • “The media provide access to and construct social problems for large numbers of audiences throughout the world and in turn themselves have become a social problem in view of their multiple and complex effects, many negative.”
  • (
media as a social problem
Media as a Social Problem
  • Augie Fleras (2001) identifies four themes:
    • 1. Media “riddled with values and agendas” of dominant groups
    • 2. Media disseminate images and stories that influence behaviour, attitudes, values, beliefs
    • 3. Media in Canada are not upholding Canadian ideal of a pluralistic and socially conscious society
    • 4. Media entertain rather than informing the Canadian populace of important issues and leading the way to social change
commercial imperative
Commercial Imperative
  • Most media are owned and controlled by large corporate conglomerates
  • In business to “make money” therefore, bottom line is profit over social responsibility
  • Our news is constrained and filtered:
    • very few independent news sources left
  • Even CBC (publically owned) bows to the “commercial imperative”
the news and elite control
The News and Elite Control
  • Commercial media neglect “common good” in favour of profit maximization
  • News is often reported according to elite agendas or as sensationalism or entertainment in order to increase “sales”
  • Today, news reporting lacks analysis and depth – we are inundated with “sound-bites”
  • Many sources of bias in news: in ownership, reporting, and presentation
  • Todd Gitlin (US sociologist) says purpose of media programming (i.e. news) is to sell audiences to advertisers
propaganda model chomsky and herman 1988
Propaganda Model(Chomsky and Herman 1988)
  • Thesis: The media operate to serve the interests of the corporate and economic elite. Media offerings are processed through a series of filters and consequently act as propaganda which furthers the elite agenda.
  • Media Filters:
    • 1. Media ownership
    • 2. Advertising
    • 3. Sourcing of information
    • 4. Right-wing corporate "flak"
    • 5. Anti-communism
media and ideology
Media and Ideology
  • Because media are owned by dominant elites, primary task is to serve elite interests
  • Tend to privilege and “normalize” dominant perspectives, values, beliefs
  • Hegemony (Gramsci) – media achieve “consent and domination through consensus and control rather than coercion”
  • The media “manufacture consent” (Chomsky and Herman)
media and democracy
Media and Democracy
  • Kellner (2003) believes the media is undermining the democratic process. We need to address this “social problem” immediately…
  • He states: “Democracy…requires informed citizens and access to information and thus the viability of democracy is dependent on citizens seeking out crucial information, having the ability to access and appraise it, and to engage in public conversations about issues of importance. Democratic media reform and alternative media are thus crucial to revitalizing and even preserving the democratic project in the face of powerful corporate and political forces.”
media and minorities
Media and Minorities
  • Mainstream media tend “to underrepresent minorities in areas that count, to overrepresent minorities in areas that don’t, and to misrepresent minorities in countless ways” (Fleras and Kunz, 2001)
  • Minorities in media are either:
    • 1. Invisible
    • 2. Stereotyped
    • 3. Problem people
    • 4. Adornment


media and violence
Media and Violence
  • Much debate in this area
  • Violent imagery in media “normalizes” violence. Individuals tend to become desensitized.
  • Or become irrationally fearful – “mean world syndrome” (George Gerbner, 2000)
  • Gerbner (2000) says that the media “cultivate” certain beliefs and ideologies about the world around us (Gerbner’s video “The Electronic Storyteller” will be shown during the lecture on violence)
the advertising industry
The Advertising Industry
  • We have become a “consumer culture”
  • Advertising promotes consumption and waste
  • Also promotes unhealthy lifestyles and unrealistic images
  • Is partly responsible for societal problems such as environmental degradation and resource depletion as well as serious physical and mental health problems such as obesity, eating disorders, depression.