I guess this post is a reflection of what i have learnt over the past weeks.
If I were more cynical I would sum this up with a few points:
- You can’t blame the media first without looking at the issue/individual.
- That advertisers know you better than you know yourself.
- The media is owned by the mootable Murdoch so don’t believe what you read.
- And the public overreacts over every issue.
In some sense these arguments bare some form of truth. But as I said, that is put very very pessimistically.
In terms of the media, our world changes by the second. One example of this is how “In today’s House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Department of Defense budget, a member of the committee read an unclassified passage in a classified report on North Korea’s nuclear capabilities” but then retracted the statement stating “it would be inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully tested, developed, or demonstrated the kinds of nuclear capabilities referenced in the passage.”
This could, of course, be true. But having learnt about the public sphere – one could consider that the original statement had the potential to cause fear in the public, and to counteract this fear the US government retracted the statement. But that just sounds like a weird conspiracy.
On the issue of Media Ownership which had the greatest impact on me, I highlighted how nearly all of our (Australian) newspapers are own by Murdoch or Fairfax. It would be ‘silly’ to claim that either media mogul strictly outlines what is allowed to be printed by ‘their’ journalists. But when “127 newspapers around the world, with a combined circulation of 40 million a week, supported the Iraq war“, It pays to be skeptical of what you read.
And this certainly proves the point.
Ultimately, what this course has taught me is to be skeptical. Be careful what you read and their agenda. Things aren’t ever just black and white – there is always grey.
Graph – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Iraq_War_Media_Sources_Opinion_Percentage.svg
Graph Research – http://fair.org/extra-online-articles/amplifying-officials,-squelching-dissent/
The Public Sphere is essentially how issues and the news is discussed in public. This week we were asked to look at a media text that contributes to debate in the public sphere. I thought a good example would be to have a look at two of the biggest pictures of 2012/13.
Both movies were Box Office hits grossing $680,200,000 and 17 Oscar nominations collectively. However it is the issue of African-American slavery that really made controversy in the Public sphere.
Lincoln, directed by the respected Spielberg, explores the political history surrounding the passing of the thirteenth amendment to secure the freedom of African-Americans. Django Unchained, directed by the less publicly respected Tarantino explores the violent history of the slave trade in the Southern states of America and closely follows the actions of Django to secure the freedom of his African -American wife.
Django Unchained subsequently garnered a large amount of controversy in the public sphere. The film can be considered an ‘exploitation film’. An ‘exploitation’ film is defined as ‘a type of cinema, often cheaply produced, that is designed to create a fast profit by referring to, or exploiting, contemporary cultural anxieties.’ Firstly, Django Unchained was not produced cheaply with a budget in excess of 100 million. The movie, however, does portray slavery in a poignant yet black-humor manner. Whether this is through branding, fight-to-the-deaths, eaten to death by dogs or ‘hot boxing’; these abhorrent images certainly brand your memory. The movie was heavily criticised, including that of Cecil Brown who claimed it was “a howling, empty N*gger joke played on Black people.” and director Spike Lee, “American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western.”
Lincoln historically portrayed the issue of slavery by demonstrating the white Congressman’s inner struggle on whether African-Americans can be considered people too. The movie played on this ignorance, illustrating examples of slavery, racism and the slow progression of how (spoiler alert) the thirteenth amendment was passed. The movie had little to no academic criticism for its portrayal of slavery. Most likely because very minimal slavery was actually portrayed on screen.
So which one made a bigger impact in the public sphere? Personally I believe it was Django Unchained. Despite Lincoln hitting all the right buttons in Hollywood, but it was Django that confronted the history of slavery in the public sphere.
Django Unchained: http://ia.media-imdb.com/images/M/MV5BMjIyNTQ5NjQ1OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODg1MDU4OA@@._V1_SX214_.jpg
The concept of Freedom of the Press is one that strictly relates to the state and requires a complete abolition of governmental media regulation and censorship. It is, however, widely unknown how such an unregulated media in Australia would achieve the exact opposite. There was a large outcry in the media recently as the Labor government imposed a new media reform to restrict ownership of the media. Senator Stephen Conroy was heavily criticised for his failed attempt at media reform. The bill of course can be considered to be heavily flawed, as Margaret Simons of Melbourne University states “If they were passed in their current form, the balance would be struck in the wrong place, with too much discretion given to a government-appointed statutory officer”.
This was further debated on ABC Insiders.
It however seems difficult for the Australian public to support such a reform when News Limited paper, The Daily Telegraph, portrays the senator as a dictator.
Conroy compared to the most controversial dictators of the 20th century.
It seems strangely coincidental that Murdoch, the owner of News Limited and the Daily Telegraph would want to halt the media reform that would essentially prevent the monopolisation of Australia’s media to a handful of businesses (or just one individual). Furthermore when 2.3m readers are subjected to a very persuasive front page comparing Senator Conroy to a ‘despot’, it is obvious how difficult attempts at media reform are. It would also shock many to know that their capital city papers such as the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Illawarra Mercury, The Australian financial Review, The Daily Telegraph, Courier Mail, The Australian and the Herald Sun are all owned by either John Fairfax Holdings or Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited.
And that is just the Newspapers.
So why does media ownership matter? The more appropriate question is why is a Free Press important? Because democracy depends on an informed and balanced public. And unfortunately neither an extreme government regulation or massive media monopoly is going to achieve this.
Conroy – http://truthinmediaresourcecentre.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/dailytele.jpg