Media Audiences

Question

Please answer the following questions with each answer approximately 700 words in length.

1. Ross and Nightingale argue ‘audience research is a vehicle for monitoring the impact of both the mediatization of human senses and the industrialization of the productive capacity of the media’ (2003:13). Using examples, briefly discuss the term mediatization.

2. How is war propaganda linked with audience management? Please use examples in your answer.

3. The term ‘audience’ has been defined in different and overlapping ways, from the definition deployed by pioneers in the field of mass media research, to definitions found in more recent debate and theoretical dispute. Using examples briefly discuss differences in defining the term “audience”.

Media Audiences. This unit investigates the key debates, interventions, and sites of conflict in the field of audience research. It also examines how media and cultural industries conduct and use audience research.

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Contents

Ross and Nightingale argue ‘audience research is a vehicle for monitoring the impact of both the mediatization of human senses and the industrialization of the productive capacity of the media’ (2003:13). Using examples, briefly discuss the term mediatization. 2

References. 12

Ross and Nightingale argue ‘audience research is a vehicle for monitoring the impact of both the mediatization of human senses and the industrialization of the productive capacity of the media’ (2003:13). Using examples, briefly discuss the term mediatization.

The concept of mediatization is critical to a proper understanding of the role that media plays in culture and society. Although the term ‘mediatization’ has been used in different texts to discuss the effect of the media on different social phenomena, little effort has been made to explain the concept itself (Hjarvard 2008, p. 106).

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The term ‘mediatization was used for the first time do examine the impact of the media on political communication. Kent Asp, a Swedish media researcher, spoke about the mediatization of political life in reference to a political system that is adjusted to and influenced by the demands of the mass media during political coverage. One form of adaptation is when politicians phrase their rhetoric using phrases that polarize and personalize the issues. They do this in order to increase their chances of gaining media coverage.

According to Ross & Nightingale (2003, p. 7), mediatized information is one of the five aspects of various media events that always recur as sources of interest in media research. The other elements include audience activities and participants, audience participants as individuals, media power relations, and media time or space of a particular event.

The level of people’s engagement with mediatized information is dependent on many factors. Ross & Nightingale (2003, p. 7) mention five main factors that determine an audience’s level of engagement with media information. These factors include the definition of the subculture, the variety of media activities chosen, the orientation of media materials, how a subculture is empowered and the interpretation of members of a subculture.

According to Asp, the extent to which the media is becoming independent of political sources is a sign of mediatization since it gives the media additional control over the content. In other words, mediatization in today’s setting is viewed in terms of its impact on the inner workings of different social entities and their corresponding mutual relationships.

Through mediatization, society is being transformed in such a way that information is no longer scarce. In this regard, attention becomes a strategic resource. Anyone with a message society has to compete for this resource. Such competition makes information abundant, thereby transforming media into a powerful institution that impacts on the way in which political institutions set their agendas.

With the introduction of the internet, new forms of mediatization have emerged. The internet has introduced new horizons on the way information is mediatized. The internet revolution has made it necessary for media researchers to reconsider who is able to participate in today’s media activities an audience and who is not. it has also necessitated the task of determine how internet time and spaces change and people’s thoughts about their day-to-day interactions with the world around them.

Mediatization in the information age has also raised new questions regarding regulation and ownership of internet-based media. The question of whether sharing of information through new collaborations and contexts results in redundancy also arises. Additionally, today’s media researchers are confronted with the task of determining the types of information that is mediatized for internet use and the way in which mediatization influences the manner in which the world is organized (Ross & Nightingale 2003, p.11). 

Today’s social institutions have not been left behind as far as media influence is concerned. Indeed, a large majority of them have undergone the most far-reaching transformation through sustained media exposure. Whenever reference is made to media audiences, information is said to be mediatized when the power and management dimensions of a media event are put into consideration.

The concept of mediatization also tends to be used in reference to the influence of the media on contemporary politics. Hjarvard (2008, p. 106) gives examples of how Fernando Collar de Mello, Silvio Berlusconi and Tony Blair made use of the media to rise to power in Brazil, Italy, and Britain, respectively. On the other hand, Hjarvard adds that mediatization presents the problematic consequences that have been brought about by modern mass media. In other words, mediatized politics are often viewed as a style of politics that is no longer autonomous. This is because it is highly dependent on the mass media in all its core functions.

When the meaning of the term ‘mediatization’ is viewed from a broader the perspective, it is considered a product of media influence. The development of the media is an essential element of the every modern society’s development process. The influence of the media should be regarded as one of the most critical elements whenever mediatization of modern culture is being discussed.

The mediatization process of the modern culture may be said to have been triggered by the 15th-century invention of the printing press. This invention marked the establishment of a technology that facilitated the circulation of information in society. Books, magazines, and newspapers were revolutionized by this technological invention. Large numbers of people were able to communicate over long distances using this media. Mediatization in today’s context should be viewed in the context of the information age, whereby people across the world are able to share an infinite amount of information on the internet in real-time.

The modernization process has been accentuated by many developments in between the age of the printing press and the information age. Such developments include television, radio, and most recently, the internet. Mediatization and its effects on society and culture have necessitated the development of national and international media. These media have changed the way information is shared both institutions and individuals.

Schulz (2004, p. 101), uses the concept of mediatization to highlight the broad sense in which media brings about social change. Schulz identifies four processes through which media transforms human communication and interaction. First, the media develop communication abilities among people in society. The second role is that of substituting social activities that previously used to take place on a face-to-face platform. Thirdly, media also combine activities, whereby face-to-face communication is combined with mediated communication in everyday social encounters among individuals. Finally, mediatization necessitates the adaptation of behavior among different actors in efforts to accommodate valuations, routines, and formats that govern media operations.

2.         How is war propaganda linked with audience management? Please use examples in your answer.

War propaganda refers to a public relations strategy for manipulating people’s attitudes towards war instead of engaging in an open dialogue. Pro-war propaganda is normally spread by war industrialists and governments while anti-war propaganda is normally spread by enemy sympathizers and pacifists. Propaganda is defined not by its extent of truth or falsity, but by the methods of manipulation that are facilitated in various media. War propaganda is characterized by media-based use of loaded vocabulary, misdirection, fallacious demagoguery and staged events, all of which are justified as being motivated by either patriotic or idealistic cause.

Audience management is a critical element of any war propaganda. Proper media-based audience management facilitates successful completion of this propaganda. Where one country is pitied in a war against another, the national audience has to be influenced positively in order to be in support of the government’s attempts at invading the enemy or resisting invasion. Such an influence has to take a form that simultaneously deceives the enemy.

A proper understanding of media audience research, therefore, is necessary in order for war propaganda management efforts to succeed. The conceptual problems that arise during media audience research today are brought about by the rapid changes that are taking place in today’s media technologies (Turnbull 2002, p. 89).

The approach that is adopted by academic researchers in understanding the media audiences differs from the one that is adopted by commercial media industry players and policymakers. Commercial media players are only interested in audiences as markets or consumers. On the other hand, policymakers consider media audiences with regard to their social and moral welfare as cultural citizens. Each of these different perceptions has different implications with regard to the questions that are asked and the procedures used during research.

However, regardless of the perspective chosen by war propagandists in their attempts to understand and manage media audiences, many challenges are posed by technology changes. Digital forms of information access and delivery provide audiences with multiple ways of engaging with today’s media. An increase in the channels and forms of information delivery makes it increasingly difficult to analyze and understand media audiences.

Policymakers in both the U.S and U.K seem to have learned many propaganda lessons from past armed conflicts, particularly in Suez Canal (1956) and Vietnam (late 60s and early 70s). The role that the media played in the Vietnam War is believed to be a deciding factor in the victory of the Vietnamese and the defeat of the U.S. however; dissent started being featured in the U.S media only after the ruling elite started holding differing views regarding the war. Meanwhile, contemporary American war planners have learned how not to risk going into war with uncensored media coverage in trail. According to McArthur (1992, p. 138), the U.S administration seemed determined, beginning in the Reagan Administration, to ensure that never again would reporters be given an opportunity to ‘confuse the public about the government’s aims in a war, whether accidentally or deliberately’.

Censorship, therefore, is an essential component of audience management in matters relating to war propaganda. Such censorship entails not just provision of information security but also provision of pictures. During the Gulf War in 1991, this lesson was properly applied when the war commanders kept journalists at bay. These journalists were only supplied on a daily basis, with images of only those smart bombs that did not miss their targets. Every day, they would be provided with footages of ‘precision bombs’ that neither missed targets nor targeted civilians. The impression created was that of a clean war were ‘smart’, ‘surgical’ strikes left all civilians unharmed. The emphasis on clean war by the U.S and U.K was an attempt to divert public attention from the debate on weapons of mass destruction. Some of these weapons of mass destruction included uranium-tipped shells and ‘daisy cutter’ bombs (Kellner, 1992, p.63).

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In the 2003 Iraq War, techniques of propaganda and public relations were crucial for many, going by lessons learned in previous wars. Propaganda was disseminated to journalists are reported in the form of news. News management was a key strategy of managing the opinions that the American and indeed international audiences held regarding the war. Many storylines, issues, and slogans were framed in such a way that they served the government’s purposes. Throughout the war, showy briefings were staged and compelling television footages were made out of various visual and electronic media appearances by policymakers (Hiebert 2003, p. 254).

Hiebert notes that while it seemed as if Bush Administration had won support at home, similar public relations attempts abroad seemed to have failed (p. 255). Kumar (2006, p.56) heaps some of the blame for the 2003 Iraq War on the mainstream media for failing to embark on counter-war propaganda analyses and commentaries through a thorough investigation of the case for war. According to Kumar, the media-military industrial complex contributed to ensuring that pro-war arguments dominated the public sphere.

3.         The term ‘audience’ has been defined in different and overlapping ways, from the definition deployed by pioneers in the field of mass media research, to definitions found in more recent debate and theoretical dispute. Using examples briefly discuss differences in defining the term “audience”.

Today’s media of information are being provided in environments that are more cluttered than traditional ones. This cluttering has changed the manner in which people access information. The composition of media audiences has become difficult to define. Cluttering of the environment in which audiences access media information is evident through technological changes and the corresponding transformations in audience behavior. For instance, traditionally, television viewing was a group experience occasioned by the availability of only one TV in each household. Today, there are several TVs, desktop and laptop computers in many homes. Additionally, the information age brings with it many platforms of accessing and interacting with both traditional and modern media. These changes make it difficult to define and understand audiences.

Various definitions of the term ‘audience’ have been proposed, some by researchers, others by commercial players and policymakers. The definitions differ depending on the aspects of an audience that interest each one of these people. For commercial media, audience is understood in terms of money. These media generate the largest proportion of their profits through the sale of advertising space. They do this by bringing together audiences and advertisers. For them, therefore, an audience refers to only those people that are of interest to advertisers. Media industry players are only interested in knowing what will attract and hold the attention of the consumer for long enough to interest an advertiser.

Social researchers take a slightly different view of an audience. They are often interested in measures called demographics. Demographics involve categorization of people according to various factors such as sex, age, education, ethnicity, and income. Both industry and academic researchers may find it relevant to categorize audiences in terms of taste and patterns of media consumption. Both may also use research methods such as questionnaires, interviews, and surveys.

However, the industry researcher ends up defining an audience differently because of his reasons for conducting the research work differently from those of the academic researcher. The uses in which his findings are put are different from those of the academic researcher. For an academic researcher, interest is on what the audience is doing and why simply as a matter of general social concern. For industry researchers, the knowledge of audience demographics can be sold to advertisers to enable them to reach their audiences (Turnbull 2002, p. 89).

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In media studies, the term ‘audience’ is often used in reference to people, either as a group or individuals. It is also used in reference to large groups such as newspaper readerships, the mass audience for television news and the public. The people in this sense of the term ‘audience’ are viewed as sharing a few attributes apart from an interest in the ongoing event. This understanding corresponds to the areas of focus that are of interest to media industry researches.

Elsewhere, an audience is understood as a group of people who share links that are of crucial, enduring socio-cultural significance. Such an audience may be viewed to be a culture, subculture, ethnic group, religious or indigenous community, domestic household or a taste culture. This definition appears to encompass the demographic issues that are of central interest to the academic researcher. In each of these groups, and engagement with a certain media brings about certain shared perspectives that may encourage or discourage such engagements in the future. This is the reasons why they are better defined using the word formations rather than masses.

In both aspects of understanding media audiences, change in audience characteristics and behavior is inevitable. For this reason, media research companies have to keep monitoring changes in consumer demographics in order in light of the changing trends.  Information on these changing trends is crucial for the choice of programming and marketing strategies among media companies. For instance, (Turnbull 2002, p. 90) highlights an industry case study that involved niche marketing strategies for use by Channel Ten, an Australian television station. In this study, Channel Ten reversed its fortunes during the 1990s by targeting the 16-39-year demographic simply through a change of programming strategies.

In contemporary audience research, overlaps of definitions are common. Indeed, these overlaps are partially responsible for the ongoing debate and theoretical dispute in audience research. Another disputed area regards the aspects of media events that act on the audience. The debate also rages with regard to the assumptions that need to be made with regard to the aspects of media events that act on audiences. Finally, definitions of audiences to differ based on whether media influences are considered to be beneficial or not.

References

Hiebert, R, 2003, ‘Public relations and propaganda in framing the Iraq war: a preliminary

review’ Public Relations Review, Vol. 29, No. 3, pp. 243-255.

Hjarvard, S, 2008, ‘The Mediatization of Society: A Theory of the Media as Agents of Social

and Cultural Change’, Nordicom Review, Vol. 29, No. 2, pp. 105-134.

Kellner, D, 1992, The Persian Gulf TV War, Westview, Boulder.

Kumar, D, 2006, ‘Media, War, and Propaganda: Strategies of Information Management during

 the 2003 Iraq War’, Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, Vol. 3, No.1, pp. 48 – 69

McArthur, J, 1992, Second Front, University of California Press, Berkeley

Ross, K, & Nightingale, V, 2003, Media and audiences, Routledge, London

Schulz, W, 2004, ‘Reconstructing Mediatization as an Analytical Concept’, European Journal of

Communication, Vol. 19, No. 1, pp. 87-101.

Turnbull, S, 2002, ‘audiences’ in Cunningham, S & Turner, G. The media and communications

 in Australia, Penguin Books, Melbourne

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