Media Culture & Society

Published by SAGE

Print ISSN: 0163-4437


Flexible Films?
  • Article

January 1998


95 Reads

Helen Blair


The origins of this paper lie in the formation of the Film Industry Research Group in the Business School at the University of Hertfordshire. This was driven by the re-emergence of film production as a high profile industry within the county. Subsequently, the importance of the film industry has, along with other cultural and creative industries, been stressed by the present Labour Government at a national level.

Policy Process, Policy Learning, and the Role of Provincial Media in China
  • Article
  • Full-text available

May 2011


355 Reads

This article examines the multifaceted roles of provincial media and officials in China’s Guangdong province in the national policy process, and their patterns in articulating policy influence through policy implementation and learning. Key issues are (1) the role of the Province in policy formulation, implementation and learning; (2) the mechanism whereby provincial media can influence national policy makers; and (3) the function of policy learning in the overseas television channels policy process. Analysis has found: (1) despite there being little space for provincial media to participate in national policy formulation, they have practised great discretion in policy implementation; (2) policy input is primarily through the policy learning process; and (3) the policy learning process in Guangdong not only functioned as a response mechanism to the legacies of previous policies, but also provided a legitimate platform for provincial media to negotiate with central government for both policy change and policy incentives.

Democracy or polyarchy? US-funded media developments in Afghanistan and Iraq post 9/11

January 2008


148 Reads

Most media scholars that analyse post 9/11 events in Afghanistan and Iraq base their research predominantly on how both wars were represented in Western media sources. This study, however, will not discuss media coverage but instead will focus on a much neglected issue: the foreign support system provided to indigenous media outlets in both Afghanistan and Iraq. More specifically, it will critique the influence of US-based democracy promoting organizations on the development of potentially independent media outlets. These organizations, like the National Endowment for Democracy, often play an integral role in shaping the media environments of foreign countries; however, their motives for promoting democracy are at best ambiguous and in some cases even counterproductive. Evidence provided in this paper supports the contention that the main goal of various 'democratic' activities is not to encourage deliberative forms of democracy, but to promote low-intensity democracy or polyarchy instead.

Reporting and the transformations of the journalistic field: US news media, 1890-2000

January 2011


47 Reads

How have journalistic ideals of public service arisen? To what extent do journalists live up to these ideals? Can we make any claims as to the social conditions that this performance depends on? Using Bourdieu’s theory of fields of cultural production, this article addresses these questions with evidence from the history of journalism in the United States. What is most distinctive about modern journalism is a specific practice: active news-gathering or reporting. This practice became common in the 1860s and 1870s with the emergence of journalism as a field with its own stakes, relatively independent from political advantage or literary merit. The power of field-specific capital to organize practices in the media has varied since then. The field consolidated in the era from 1890 to 1914, with the newspaper industry expanding. In the interwar years, the boundary between PR and journalism became blurry and the institutional basis for active news-gathering declined. Under favorable economic and political conditions reporting practices, including local and investigative reporting, flourished between 1945 and1970 across media forms. In the past 40 years the importance of active news-gathering has declined.

World music at the World Service, 1942-2008: public diplomacy, cosmopolitanism, contradiction

July 2010


143 Reads

Music plays an important role in the BBC World Service. This article shows how, across sixty five years, notionally global music has been broadcast as a pragmatic way of reaching audiences beyond Britain. There is a contradiction here. The scheduling of 'world music' undoubtedly represents a cosmopolitan imperative to embrace cultural difference. Yet it is also an instrumental means of framing programmes and appealing to those audiences which are particularly significant for the funders of the Service, namely the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Through analysis of music programming and commentary at three conjunctures (World War Two, the 1980s and the contemporary period) a changing, yet in certain respects continuous, pattern in the use of music for public diplomacy is discerned. The article concludes by suggesting that optimistic readings of cosmopolitanism fail to account sufficiently for the contradictions at stake here, contradictions which arise from persisting unequal relations of global power

The Battle Over the FCC Blue Book: Determining the Role of Broadcast Media in a Democratic Society, 1945–8

March 2011


168 Reads

During the 1940s a media reform movement of grassroots activists and a progressive Federal Communication Commission (FCC) emerged to challenge the commercial interests consolidating control of US media. A key initiative born out of this movement was the so-called Blue Book, a high-water mark for FCC progressive activism that mandated social responsibility obligations for broadcasters in return for their use of the public airwaves. Ultimately, red-baiting tactics defeated the policy initiatives outlined in the Blue Book and the media reform movement was largely contained. The following analysis draws from archival materials to illuminate the resulting arrangement for US broadcasters.

Predicting push-button warfare: US print media and conflict from a distance, 1945–2010

September 2012


77 Reads

In the more than 50 years following World War II, the concept of ‘push-button warfare’ has continually metamorphosed in media discourses as a symbol of technological warfare from a distance. This rhetorical transformation has occurred within the context of complex social, cultural and historical shifts, and along the way news sources have played a key role in framing debates for readers. Acting as a translator of uncertainty and future scenarios, journalists and others have deliberated on values of and risks posed by automated forms of war and their potential impact on the United States and the world. This article examines nearly 500 print media stories in order to make sense of the shifting dialogue around push-button warfare both in times of tumult and relative calm. The longitudinal study investigates how reporters frame predictions, prophecies, forecasts and expectations when trying to assess future technologies for war and peace.

Table 1. Principal characteristics of PRL in its early period 
The role of the media in empowering minority identities: Basque-language radio during the Franco dictatorship (1960s–1976) and their influence as identity catalysts

May 2012


184 Reads

The Spanish Civil War ended with the imposition of a dictatorship (1939–75). During those years, Spanish was the only official language throughout Spain. However, in the 1960s the Basque language (spoken in the Basque Country, between Spain and France) would enter into the sphere of public communication thanks to the new rising media. Nevertheless, the Basque language was still generally viewed as a poor and marginal language. This article’s main object of study is the Popular Radio of Loyola, located in the province of Gipuzkoa. This radio station was the first general-service broadcasting medium using the Basque language, and the precursor of the modern Basque Radio and Television Corporation (EITB).

Figure 1. UK television fiction episodes about politics, 1965-2009  
Trends in political television fiction in the UK: Themes, characters and narratives, 1965-2009

April 2012


668 Reads

British television has a long tradition of broadcasting ‘political fiction’ if this is understood as telling stories about politicians in the form of drama, thrillers and comedies. We identify and discuss three genres in which UK political TV fiction has been shaped throughout the decades: comedy, thriller and drama. We examine the characters, themes and narratives in these genres and assess whether they invite political engagement from their audiences. Across time and genre, the main characters turn out to be mostly plain men of uncertain age – around 40 or over – somewhat grumpy, somewhat clumsy and hardly ever in full control of their situation. The dominant themes across time and genre link closely to these types of main characters: in most thrillers they are overwhelmed by sinister outside forces or inside political machinations. The narrative of the political machinery that exerts its inescapable corruption over all individual politicians runs strongly through the three genres across the whole time period. A further similarity across time and genre is that most series are firmly linked to real-life politics. It is this particular aspect that produces their potential relevance for affecting people’s political understandings, judgements and engagement.

‘Feminism rules! Now, where’s my swimsuit?’ Re-evaluating feminist discourse in print media 1968–2008

July 2012


242 Reads

Using both content and critical discourse analysis, this article traces the emergence of and changes in the ways feminism has been discursively constructed in 998 British and American news articles between 1968 and 1982 – which I define as the ‘height’ of the Second Feminist Wave, and 2008 – marking 40 years after feminism began gaining momentum in both nations. In analysing the British Times, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, and Guardian newspapers, as well as the American New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Washington Times, I argue that not only has there been an erasure of feminist activism from these newspapers over time, but that discourses of feminism have become both de-politicized and de-radicalized since the 1960s, and can now largely be considered neoliberal in nature – a problematic construction for those seeking collective social change.

Screening science, producing the nation: Popular science programs on Israeli television (1968-88)

July 2012


19 Reads

From 1968 on, the state of Israel deployed television as a tool in the service of its ongoing project of reproducing the nation and as a propaganda tool that targeted the population of the newly occupied territories and the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel. With the collaboration of the scientific elite, the televising of original popular science programs, aired on the sole government-controlled channel at prime time, contributed immensely to these projects. Through these programs, the state disseminated a specific image of the nation’s scientific prowess for popular consumption in the euphoric aftermath of the Six Day War. This article examines the first 20 years of the state’s projects, during which the grip of Zionist collectivism was still strong, the monopoly of the government-controlled channel was not yet challenged, and the programs enjoyed astonishingly high ratings. My examination focuses on the ideology and motivations of the producers; the ways in which the communication elite and the scientific elite, enjoying a position of hegemony, collaborated by disseminating the nation’s accomplishments in both the Arabic and Hebrew programs; and the actual content of the programs at large and specifically that of four episodes of Tazpit, the popular science program of the 1980s.

Inverting film policy: film as nation builder in post-Soviet Russia, 1991-2005

March 2011


72 Reads

The collapse of the Soviet Union marked the beginning of a search for a national identity in Russia. This article investigates whether the Russian State recognized cinema as a cultural good for nation-building purposes. On the basis of qualitative and quantitative methods, it is demonstrated that after 1994, films with a national claim became more likely than other films to obtain state support. This was not the result of a deliberate policy, but rather an expression of a prevailing common sense whereby filmmakers and other stakeholders were preoccupied with a national identity. From 2000 onwards, stimulating the construction of a national identity became one of the primary policy goals. Paradoxically, the communication of such policy goal provided no guarantee for an increased output of national films. The case of the post-Soviet Russian film policy shows that the creation of a common sense often has a greater impact than policy measures.

The 1995 Rugby World Cup and the politics of nation-building in South Africa

October 1998


709 Reads

The 1995 Rugby World Cup was held in South Africa just one year after the country's first democratic elections. Throughout the tournament, the importance of competition victory for the South African team — playing under the banner of `One Team, One Nation' and endorsed by President Mandela — was articulated by the team, the local media, politicians and by its supporters in terms of its centrality to the project of nation-building. This discourse dominated all others. What made this articulation of the event all the more remarkable was the historic connection of the game with Afrikaner popular culture and with the political interests of the previous apartheid regime. Drawing on Dyan and Katz's (1992) model of the `media event', the article examines the processes behind this attempt to rearticulate the meaning of `South African rugby' away from narrow, race-specific interests towards those of the newly elected non-racial ANC-led government's nation-building project.

Protest 2.0: online interactions and Aboriginal activists

September 2011


298 Reads

Social movements, like every other aspect of life, have become increasingly reliant on the internet for networking, information sharing and coalition building. This is the case even for disadvantaged groups with few resources and less capacity for utilizing computers and the internet. Aboriginal activists in Townsville have been slow to exert their presence on the web, but are gradually becoming savvy in the use of electronic networking in furthering their cause. They rely on listservs, blogs and, more recently, social networking sites to make their struggle known to a wide audience. In addition to the use of Web 2.0 to supplement ‘offline’ activism, there is a new form of ‘virtual’ activism emerging. The rise in ‘push-button activism’ increases the opportunities for everyday engagement with the state by social movement participants. However, it also changes the notion of participation as marches and demonstrations give way to electronic petitions and Facebook fan pages.

Citizens and consumers: Discursive debates during and after the Communications Act 2003

July 2007


101 Reads

The regulation of media and communications in the UK has recently been subject to reform resulting in the creation of the Office of Communications (Ofcom). This statutory body, established by an Act of Parliament, is a new, sector-wide regulator, protecting the interests of what has been termed the ‘citizen-consumer’. This article charts the discursive shifts that occurred during the passage of the Communications Act through Parliament and in the initial stages of its implementation to understand how and why the term ‘citizen-consumer’ came to lie at the heart of the new regulator’s mission. By critically analysing the various alignments of ‘citizen’ and ‘consumer’ interests within the debates, the underlying struggles over the formulation of power, responsibility and duties for the new regulator and for other stakeholders – industry, government and public – are identified. The article concludes that the legacy of these debates is that regulatory provisions designed to further the ‘citizen interest’ contain significant and unresolved dilemmas.

Figure 1.   Daily Mirror , 27 March 2003, p. 11. Main image by Gustavo Ferrari, second image unaccredited. Copyright Mirrorpix. 
Table 1 . Humanitarian motivation frame: number of photographs and percentages for tone in each newspaper
Figure 2.   The Observer , 30 March 2003, p. 4. Copyright: Reuters/Jerry Lampen. 
Images of liberation? Visual framing, humanitarianism and British press photography during the 2003 Iraq invasion

November 2011


764 Reads

Although the 2003 Iraq invasion was not wholly framed as a ‘humanitarian intervention’, the rhetoric of bringing liberation, democratization and human rights to the Iraqi people was widely advanced by the coalition and supporters as a legitimating reason for war. This article assesses the role played by press photography in legitimizing or challenging this crucial framing during the invasion across a range of UK national newspapers. Privileging visual content in research design, the study presents selected results from a comprehensive content and framing analysis of press photography during the invasion period (March–April 2003), specifically examining the prominence and treatment of photographs in the humanitarian-related visual coverage, along with the accompanying words used to define, support or detract from the events depicted. While finding that the rationale of humanitarianism generally played well for the coalition during this study period, this article explores the problematic nature of the narrative of liberation.

'A genuinely emotional week': Learning disability, sport and television - notes on the Special Olympics GB National Summer Games 2009

March 2012


209 Reads

In July 2009, the Special Olympics Great Britain National Summer Games for athletes with learning disabilities were held in Leicester. Uniquely the Games achieved considerable television news coverage. This article offers a preliminary analysis of television representations of the Games. National TV coverage of the Paralympics is now established, but Special Olympics – and sport for people with learning disabilities in general – receives little media or research attention. This is partly because Special Olympics remains located outside mainstream national sporting networks and its ethos stresses the importance of participation over sporting excellence. The 2009 Games’ television coverage projected complex and ‘mixed’ messages reflected in the language, tone and images typically employed by broadcasters. We identify three key themes: first, the problematically relentless ‘positive’ tone of the coverage, which echoes wider public discourses concerning learning disability; second, the media emphasis on ‘human interest’ narratives and so, via these, the invidualizing of learning disability questions and the general absence of any wider discussion of political or social agendas linking sport and disability; finally, how television in its occasional focus on the families of athletes with learning disabilities articulated values and tensions which characterize the unusually conflicted status of the Games.

Figure 1.   2010 Total newspaper articles related to child abuse. NST: New Straits Times . 
Figure 2. Newspaper articles related to child abuse by month.
Figure 3. 2010 Department of Social Welfare reported child abuse and maltreatment cases.
Figure 4. 2010 Royal Malaysian Police reported child abuse and maltreatment cases.
Figure 5. 2010 newspaper articles related to child abuse by issue. SBS: Shaken Baby Syndrome.
The ‘social tsunami’: Media coverage of child abuse in Malaysia’s English-language newspapers in 2010

May 2013


2,383 Reads

Since the early 1990s, Malaysian society has displayed a deepening concern over steady increases in reported cases of child abuse in the country. For many Malaysians, knowledge of this issue comes from the mainstream media. This research analyses media coverage of child abuse in two mainstream English-language daily newspapers throughout 2010. The analysis focuses on how this issue is presented and ‘framed’ in the media. Through the use of simple episodic framing and a distorted focus on extreme cases of child abuse, media coverage internationally obscures the reality of child abuse as it occurs within the context of contemporary social, cultural, religious or political systems. This hinders any genuine understanding of the problem, leading to flawed solutions. We find these international patterns largely replicated in Malaysia. Furthermore, gendered socialization processes in Malaysia make women and mothers principally responsible for family life and there is a tendency to blame and punish mothers for child abuse even when they are not the perpetrators. Internationally, child welfare experts and academics have advised the media to focus reporting on the underlying causes of abuse so that the issue can be better understood and addressed and this advice is pertinent for Malaysia today.

Exile media, global news flows and democratization: The role of Democratic Voice of Burma in Burma's 2010 elections

July 2012


295 Reads

This article explores the links between transnational media flows and social and political change in authoritarian regimes through a conjunctural study of Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), a Burmese exile media organization. Drawing on observation and interviews conducted at DVB’s Oslo studio during the 2010 elections in Burma as well as documentary research, the article explores how diasporic media may contribute to democratization in a military regime where press freedoms and political expression are severely curtailed. The first section draws on Appadurai’s theory of global flows to scrutinize transnational flows of people, capital, media, ideas and technology contributing to DVB’s operations from 1992 to 2010. The next section engages with theories of media and democracy in order to examine DVB’s innovative satellite television coverage of the 2010 elections. The article concludes with a brief discussion of the ongoing relevance of opposition media based outside of Burma amid liberalization measures undertaken by Thein Sein’s nominally civilian government in 2011.

The X-factor of Charity: A Critical Analysis of Celebrities' Involvement in the 2010 Flemish and Dutch Haiti Relief Shows

September 2012


54 Reads

In our contemporary mediatized societies, philanthropy seems to be part of celebrities’ ontology, while celebrities have become indispensable for the charity industry. This has provoked both negative and positive appraisals, although the specific nature and consequences of celebrities’ involvement remain unclear. This article contributes to these debates by providing a systematic analysis of the roles celebrities play in telethons, which we redefine as charity media events, allowing us to study the shows in their full contextual complexity as ideological constructs. Applying qualitative content analysis, we have analysed two charity media events following the 2010 Haitian earthquake. In general, four distinct roles have been discerned: celebrities add an aura of exclusiveness and glamour, they render distant suffering relevant to domestic audiences, they function as principal motivators, and also contribute to the commodification of charity. Celebrities’ involvement thus reinforces charity media events’ dominant discourse of charitainment, in which a disaster is portrayed as a short term problem that can be remedied by supporting relief aid. Although this analysis does not disregard the usefulness and impact of fundraising campaigns and the contribution celebrities can make, it criticizes the oversimplified representation of complex issues and the decontextualized and depoliticized interpretations of distant suffering.

The domestication of foreign news: News stories related to the 2011 Egyptian revolution in British, Finnish and Pakistani newspapers

September 2013


1,285 Reads

The article studies the domestication of foreign news by identifying the different ways in which the Egyptian revolt was reported and discussed in Britain, Finland and Pakistan. The data comprise the press coverage of the 2011 events in three newspapers: The Times in Britain, Helsingin Sanomat (HS) in Finland, and the Daily Times in Pakistan. We argue that, in addition to journalists, there are other agents who contribute to domesticating foreign news items. This makes understandable the unexpected differences between the three newspapers. One might assume that coverage of the Arab Spring would have been more impartial and less emotional in Britain and Finland than in Pakistan, which is culturally closer to Egypt. The opposite was true, however. The coverage of the events in Daily Times primarily consisted of hard news. The Times and HS, on the other hand, sent their reporters onsite, and the news stories used several discursive means to bring the events experientially closer to their readers. Yet, the Egypt uprising was used as a lever in domestic politics more forcefully in Pakistan. That is because the uprising was domesticated to local politics by other actors than just journalists.

One earthquake, two tales: Narrative analysis of the tenth anniversary coverage of the 921 Earthquake in Taiwan

April 2012


552 Reads

This article studies media coverage of the ‘921’ Earthquake in Taiwan during two periods in 2009, ten years after the disaster, which occurred on 21 September 1999 (the date which provided the event with its compressed identifier). First it looks at coverage in the wake of another major disaster (Typhoon Morakot) that occurred just before the tenth anniversary of the earthquake, and then during the regular tenth anniversary commemorations of the earthquake. Using narrative analysis, this article notes that during the first period, journalists responded to a disaster event with an historical precedent by adopting the 921 Earthquake as a benchmark, ‘villain’, and moral allegory to explain the current disaster and forecast future closure. During the second period, this study shows how journalists used regular commemorative features on the 921 Earthquake to describe that event based on survivor testimony and present commemorative events. By portraying two interpretations of a single past event back to back, this study demonstrates how news media selectively employ the ‘usable past,’ and the implications of this for the formation of collective memories of past events.

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