Media Models, Markets and Manipulation

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Week 1 Media Paper
Please use three peer reviewed sources.
Also include as an additional source:
Orwell, G. (1946) Politics and the English language. Downloaded Sept 28, 2009 from:
The Lesson:
Media Models, Markets and Manipulation
Did you ever play the game of “telephone” as a child? One person silently reads the message, and one by one each person in the group tells the next person. The last person repeats the message to the group and we compare it to the original—usually with hilarious differences.
That sometimes happens in mass communication as well, but the results are almost never funny. So in our first week of Introduction to Communication, we will explore the things than can cause a breakdown in the process of getting information from its source to us in our homes and at work.
Communication Process
The communication process outlined by Shannon and Weaver has six parts:
1. Message
2. Encoder
3. Sender
4. Channel
5. Decoder
6. Receiver
In my days as a publisher, I [sender] would take a story [message] set it in type and print it [encode] in a magazine [channel] send it to my subscribers [receivers] who would read [decode] it. That process has not changed a bit, in spite of all the technological advances—it fits any medium you can mention.
Of course feedback is missing from the Shannon Weaver model
Noise and Bias
Sometimes, the process gets distorted. One distortion is noise—channel noise or semantic noise. Channel noise is easy; that is bad reception, kids or dogs bothering you while you watch TV, a wet newspaper that you cannot read, etc. Semantic noise is more subtle; it interferes with our understanding the message if the sender uses words that are not clear.
In fact, some senders create semantic noise on purpose. George Orwell wrote about this in 1946 classic essay Politics and the English Language. We have had some classic examples in recent years, from one president who said: “It depends how you define sex,” to one who said: “We have enough coal to last for 250 years, yet coal also prevents an environmental challenge.”
One is spin; one is called a “Bushism.” Both are semantic noise.
Then we encounter the so-called media bias. In the United States, many people argue that the media is too liberal or too conservative and presents the news with that biased slant. I’m not so sure.
Three Media Markets
Mass communication is a business with three parts.
Some people just watch “broadcast” TV—ABC, NBC, CBS, CW and FOX, plus a few local UHF channels. Others pay for satellite or cable access to some 900 channels. But either way, people pay for every show they watch.
Internet access is free at Starbuck’s, McDonalds, and other wi-fi locations, but most households pay for internet service, according to the Pew Foundation. Still, even those who pay must pay again for content whether from Nexflix, Hulu, Vimeo, the New York Times or Huffington Post. Many people think news is free online; it is not, nor is FaceBook free.
The Media Delivers
Media generally produces information or entertainment, which costs them quite a bit of money to deliver. Media cannot stay in business providing free information and entertainment, so they turn to consumers for income.
Consumers Pay
Consumers pay for information and entertainment in either of two ways. One can pay directly for the content, as with subscriptions to “premium” cable channels or pay-per-view cable programming. A subscriber can also pay for magazines that have no advertising, such as Lapham’s Quarterly and Consumer Reports. Some web sites are available only to those who subscribe.
Yet consumers need not always pay directly for information and entertainment. Sometimes, people just “pay attention” by watching. In those cases, the media sells the audience attention to advertisers.
Advertisers Pay
Advertisers want consumers to see and hear advertisements, so advertiser pay media to print or broadcast an ad while consumers are “paying attention.”
So where does the bias come in? I think we select—demand—bias rather than suffer from it. If someone only listens to Rush and only watches FOX news, that person will swear ABC is a left wing propaganda machine. His or her political opposite who only listens to Air America and only watches PBS will swear ABC is a mouthpiece for the Republican party
If Bill O’Reilly’s ratings fell, would FOX keep him on because they are biased? I doubt it. He stays on because people watch him. Enough people watch so FOX can charge advertiser a lot of money for commercials. Those are the three parts working. And that is how consumers control the bias.
Information Limits
Here is the rub. We have more sources of information than ever. We can get the news on our home page, favorite blog, our cell phone, radio, pod-cast, our PDA, and on our Blackberry. Those sources are really, really fast, but they are also really, really shallow. Information—selected by topic and source—is delivered constantly in sound bites. And we pick which ones and we—as a society—are very focused in what we pick. So we think we are well informed, but are we?
How much do you remember of these big news stories:
1. What financial fraud precipitated the Sarbanes-Oxley Act?
2. Who is Bernie Madoff?
3. In what country were 33 miners rescued after 17 days underground?
4. Why is Conrad Murray M.D. famous?
5. Why did Gabrielle Giffords not run for reelection?
If you know the answers, you are in a small minority of Americans. My point is, we don’t really get as much information as we think we do. There is a reason. We get a continuous bombardment of sound bites with no depth.
How many words-per-story are we getting? If I hear or see the same 150-word brief about the economy 20 times today, am I as informed as if I read one 3,000 word article in The New York Times? I don’t think so. Yet newspaper readership is at a 60-year low and even TV news is losing viewers at a phenomenal clip.
Could this be why our society is getting more polarized?
Orwell, G. (1946) Politics and the English language. Downloaded Sept 28, 2009 from:
Shannon, C. & Weaver, W. (1963). The mathematical theory of communication. University of Illinois Press: Champaign, IL
The Question for the Essay:
.Does media reflect society or shape it? Consider at least three different media: web, TV, newspaper, movies, radio, or movies. This is not about the technology, so ignore smart phones, email, PDAs and the like. Focus on the messages we get every day in ads, in stories, in movies, in TV programs, and on radio such as talk shows.
You must discuss this in terms of the three markets and focus on the audience’s role in reflecting media and allowing media to shape society.
You may consider whether media are unifying or divisive forces; whether they foster diversity or stereotypes, engender class envy…the choices are wide open.
Why do the media and consumers adopt their respective roles?
Requirements: 400-600 words and include research from two sources other than the text or lecture. Submit as an attachment in MLA format.

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