“This is the end…my only friend”

As The Doors so rightly said “no safety or surprise, the end”, everything has an ending, much like our first BCM110 assignment. When I first heard our assignment was going to be blogging, I immediately dread even the thought of writing my own opinions on such an open and critical space. However as I learned the topics we would be asked to blog about, my attitude soon changed. From the media effects model, to who controls the media, to semiotics and controversial images I have learnt that a sign always has a signifier and a signified, NOT to believe everything you read in the newspaper as true and always remember from WHOSE point of view the piece is being written. I’ve learnt that we can’t just blame the media for societal problems but that actually we must first look at ourselves and the social issues surrounding our lives.

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This week we learnt about Children and the media and the fact that because of their vulnerability and youthfulness they become an easy target for the media as they are easily persuaded and bought. This topic is one that creates ‘moral panic’. Not only are children subject to media exploitation they are also the subject of it. Shows like “Toddlers In Tiaras” and “Dance Moms” – clearly American, illustrate this idea very well. As children are forced into leotards, covered in fake tan, full faces of make up beaming and huge almost scary smiles plastered across their faces, there is no way you could argue that this isn’t child exploitation and abuse even if the children say they like the pageants and the life style their parents have chosen for them.

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Using this case study, the topics we have discussed over the past 6 weeks can be seen. The media effects model is evident in this show as it can be seen to contribute to the epidemic of poor self image amongst young women and diseases like Bulimia and Anorexia but the way that these shows are received completely depends on the recipient. If the viewer is aware that these shows are not reality and just another social example of peoples unruly eagerness to be ‘perfect’ or for their children to be perfect then this is not the cause of the show at all. Similar to this is the idea of connotations and denotations, these shows denote young girls dressed in tutus and going into beauty pageants but the connotations of these shows are child exploitation, over sexualisation of children and placing moral value only on looks.

In addition to this the network which hosts Toddlers in Tiaras, TLC is a huge corporation who really only cares about making money. They also screen shows such as “19 Kids and Counting” and “16 and Pregnant” evidently they don’t mind what they put to air as long as its making them money.

 

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Youtube’s Public Sphere

The mediated public sphere is a place for discussion and debate amongst the public on issues that matter to them, it is seperate from the government and creates a shift in thinking from what the media DOES to the people, to what the people DO with the media. A television show about marketing and advertising “The Gruen Transfer” contributes to this metaphor of the public sphere greatly by showing controversial advertisements, some even banned, and creating discussion amongst a pannel of advertising professionals. Gruen Transfer also features a segment called “The Pitch”, here companies are asked to “sell the unsellable”, a topic which raised massive debate, was “Banning all religions”.

It prompted the largest response from the public in The Gruen Transfer’s four year history with over 160,000 views (and growing) on YouTube (Campaign Brief 2011). The show’s typically controversial topics that have been turned into advertisements in the past have included legalising child labour and lowering the legal drinking age to 16, but have never received such a reaction. Religion is a massive issue amongst the public sphere which creates debate for all human beings as almost every person has their own opinion on the subject and Grun Transfer is just one of the media texts which have sparked discussion. However It can merely be called discussion when literally thousands of passionate posts and responses have been posted on various forums and Youtube.

How this can recieve more debate than making an advertisement about legalising child labour is bemusing to me,  but it shows how sensitive a topic religion is in the public sphere and also demonstatrates the usefulness of such platforms as youtube for hosting this debate. Will Anderson, famous Australian comic and host of the Gruen Transfer said on the show ‘for the first time in four seasons of Gruen we had agencies decline to take a shot at it. No one had a problem when we wanted to bring back child labour, invade New Zealand or euthanise everyone over 80, but this idea scared people.'(Will Anderson 2011).

 

“He Who Controls The Media, Controls The Masses”

As a result of economic conditions or circumstances, access to the marketplace of ideas is restricted to a privileged few who own or are a part of conglomerates through being a share holder. These share holders such as Rupert Murdoch, Gina Reinhart, James Packer, Bruce Gordon have stakes in companies such as Ten News, Win Televison, Fair Fax Media, News Limited and many more. The problem with having only a few large stake holders in charge of many newspapers and news television stations is that news stories can become riddled with bias and the publics informed opinion of societal issues can therefore become limited to the opinion of those in charge of media coverage. Malcolm Fraser wrote, “In present circumstances the print media espouses the most conservative economic policies” (Malcolm Fraser 2012).

 

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For example in the 2013 elections terrible bias was shown in the media between Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott. Specifically News-Corp owned, The Australian and The Daily telegraph which had headlines such as “Kick this mob out” and “Rudd a Nazi”. It was clear through these headlines, just whose alliance Rupert Murdoch was with. But is it fair to have two of Australia’s biggest newspapers slamming one election party with opinionated piece after opinionated piece? No! Shoving bias media headlines down Australians throats and one sided arguments is surely going to affect polling as Bob Hawke stated, “The corrosive effect of having derisory front page treatment of the Government every second day and flattering treatment of the Opposition every other day is very real,” (Bob Hawke 2013).

This example shows why it is so important for the public to have a diverse array of people in control of the media. The very backbone of democracy stands on the belief that everyone should be free to express their own opinion and elect who they see fit to run their country, if this opinion has been warped by a select few wealthy, powerful people, then do we have the freedom to real factual information at all?.

References

1. 2012, Fraser Malcolm, “Malcolm Fraser: Does it matter who owns our papers? Yes it does”  https://theconversation.com/malcolm-fraser-does-it-matter-who-owns-our-papers-yes-it-does-7738 accessed 31.3.14

2. 2013, Hawke Bob, “Former PM Bob Hawke slams ‘terrible bias’ of News Corp election coverage”   http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-28/hawke-joins-chorus-against-news-corp27-election-coverage/4917014 accessed 31.3.14

3. Werner A. Meier “Media Ownership- Does it matter?” http://lirne.net/resources/netknowledge/meier.pdf accessed 31.3.14

Controversy Creates Conversation

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What do you see when you look at this image? two men kissing? two representatives of whole nations kissing? Paramount Leader of the People’s Republic of China and the President of the USA kissing? Does it disturb you? is it confronting? is it offensive? is it in a way a sign of peace? This ad is designed to make people feel or think anything outside their comfort zones. All interpretations depend on personal knowledge, myths and ideologies.
Images represent something, in this case, breaking barriers, love, universality, peace and the campaigns objective, “unhate”. Alessandro Benetton, the deputy head of the company this campaign was made for, said in a statement, “The central theme is the kiss, the most universal symbol of love, between world political and religious leaders,” showing that the connotations of this image can be taken as positive, promoting an attitude we can all embrace, unity and toleration.

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However the connotations of this image can also be negative, a huge outburst arose from another picture from the same campaign of the Pope kissing Ahmed el Tayyeb, an Egyptian imam and a prominent figure in Sunni Islam. Many catholics claimed it was disrespectful, an offence to the feelings of believers and the Pope himself. The image connotes homosexuality, something that is historically frowned upon by the Catholic religion. Displaying the Pope himself as homosexual in this quite intimate embrace, connotes a value and belief that traditionally Catholics have fought against.

These two public figures are also on opposite ends of the political and religious scale and have had serious conflicts in the past. The Muslim world severed ties with the Catholic Church in 2006. Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned spring 2013, discussed an incident in which Islam’s prophet, Mohammed, was described as a warmonger who spread evil teachings. Obviously this would have a negative reaction from all Muslims. With the new pope, Pope Francis in late 2013, Al-Azahr has offered to renew relations by suggesting, Pope Francis should publicly declare that “Islam is a peaceful religion.”

This image is much more than just two men kissing, its a representation of beliefs, history, religion all being put aside to “make a statement of brotherhood with a kiss,” Benetton said in an interview.

The first of many..

Hello avid readers, and fellow bloggers!… So, why the guinea pig generation? Ever since I was a child, growing up and going to school, my year was always the first to experience the experiments some institution would come up with and their idea on how things ought to be done and the next thing you know we were the guinea pigs of the idea. Innovation requires a certain play between trial and error, being the only way to realistically conclude whether the concept successfully does what it was created to do. The biggest issue with such trial and error guinea pig testing is that you go into the experiment knowing that there is a certain likelihood of the project resulting in error — there is a chance that the entire project does more damage than is acceptable. Technology advanced when it did and we were the generation that grew up learning and utilizing all the latest technologies. We are yet to see how they will effect us in the long run.

I am a first year student at the University of Wollongong currently undertaking the long and strenuous but (hopefully) rewarding 4 and a half year journey of a double degree in International Studies and Communication and Media. I’ve decided to major in marketing and advertising and learn the beautiful language of Spanish and hopefully become fluent and learn enough to study overseas in the next year or two. I’m passionate about history, politics, international affairs, and have a BIG dream of one day working for the United Nations. Blogging is unfamiliar territory for me, as much as I may love to browse some of my personal favourites, this is the first time sharing my opinions, insights and knowledge in the form of a blog.