Archive for November, 2011

Media mogul Murdoch does it again..

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

It’s an on-going saga stretching back to 2000 and since then it has affected many people from celebrities to politicians, potentially multiple newspapers and even popped across the pond to America. As I write this Milly Dowler’s parents are giving evidence to the Leveson inquiry; a public inquiry in to the so-called “phone hacking scandal” and media integrity. Others to testify include: Steve Coogan, Hugh Grant, J K Rowling, Gerry and Kate McCann, Anne Diamond, Charlotte Church and many others.

Early enquiries came to nothing and it was not until it was uncovered that phone hacking had been targeted at dead soldiers families, victims of the 7/7 bombings and school girl Milly Dowler that action was taken in response to public outcry and the 168 year old News of the World closed down.

We all know roughly what happened so, what we really need to ask is; how was this allowed to happen? At the heart of this issue is the fact that newspapers are self-regulatory through the PCC (press complaints commission) which is unable to even enforce its judgements. Fundamentally, you don’t bite the hand that feeds you and the press funds the PCC. Whilst freedom of speech is also an important issue; the press cannot be allowed to break the law and get away with it. Clearly self-regulation does not work.

Another issue we need to discuss is media ownership. Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism is one documentary which really makes clear Murdoch’s influence and reach in to the world media and claims (take with a pinch of salt) that his empire reaches 2/3rds of the world population through his 9 satellite TV networks, 100 cable channels, 175 newspapers, 40 book imprints, 40 TV stations and 1 movie studio. He reaches 300 million alone in Asia.

His influence stretches in to UK politics and he has had close relationships with a number of Prime Ministers. This influence is worrying in a democracy where the majority are supposed to have the say; not one individual.

This is not the first time, nor probably the last, that Murdoch’s empire has been at the heart of controversy. The Sun scored an own goal in 1989 when it claimed that Liverpool FC fans, and I quote, “urinated on the brave cops” and “picked pockets of victims” during the Hillsborough disaster in which 96 people died. Clearly this was untrue and a campaign against The Sun quickly materialised. To this day The Sun has low sales within Liverpool and Liverpool FC fans country wide shun the paper.

Many former employees of Fox News commented on their experiences whilst working there in Outfoxed. Larry Johnson, a former Fox News contributor, described the structure of Fox News as a “dictatorship” and Frank O’Donnell, a Fox News producer, stated it was made clear to them that their every action was being watched by those at the top.  It strikes me as odd therefore, that Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulston claim they knew nothing about phone hacking and other questionable practices at the News of the World. Especially since Rebekah Brooks did admit to knowing about the bribing of police officers as early as March 2003.

Really, when such a lack of ethics inhabits a good deal of the Murdoch empire, should we even be surprised the phone hacking scandal happened?

Why study the media?

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Another year and the same old question resurfaces; why exactly is studying the media important?

Manuel Alvarado, one of the early supporters of media in education, said it best when he essentially said that we should study the media simply because it exists. How many people do you know that haven’t ever read a newspaper, watched a television show/film or been on the internet?  It is something that is heavily integrated in to all of our lives.

There are, however, many other more “academic” reasons for studying the media. The first main reason is that we can learn a lot about society because the media is in some ways a reflection of society. We created the media in its many forms and we therefore put a part of ourselves within it. It is a record of our civilisation now as it is (and has been) and also of how we perceive the world. It is a time capsule of sorts; only one we don’t have to wait to dig up.

The media is also not only a reflection of the society which creates it but also a tool for propaganda and control of that society. From early in history world leaders knew this and used it to their advantage. For example; propaganda film: “The Eternal Jew” in Nazi Germany or even the earliest considered propaganda the Behistun Inscription (c. 515 bc). It is important in this respect to learn about the media because then we can learn to make a distinction between propaganda and “truth”.

It could also be argued that without the media civil rights movements past and present would go absolutely no where. Take a look, for example, at the “Arab Spring” and “Occupy” protests currently happening. The world is changing and the media is at the forefront of this revolution. Through this new form of social media these ideas spread and people were able to form their own versions of these movements locally. It can be argued that the government, the police and the corporations are at the top of our society. Social media gives us a new platform to criticise and analyse their behaviour. For example; police brutality has been well documented on youtube and blogging platforms. Both sides of the picture are now being shown.

On the other side of the coin traditional media is still clinging to its old ways. The Occupy protests originally were not covered in great detail, if mentioned at all. There was for some time a media blackout surrounding them. This shows so clearly the power of the few (those who own the media corporations) have over the majority. One such clear example is that of Rupert Murdoch and his huge media empire. He has often been accused of undermining British Democracy and criticised for close relationships with PM’s and MP’s alike. Without the general population knowing how this works nothing can be changed. After all this is supposed to be a democracy.

Above all the media has revolutionised our lives. Nothing will ever be the same again.

And finally; if that doesn’t convince you maybe this will. Media studies contains: history, geography, civics, literature, business, language, science and technology, philosophy, psychology, art and politics.