Professor Ágnes Gulyás discusses the fundamental changes in local media.
Dr Ken Fox explains why Oscar success for Moonlight was also a success for independent filmmakers.
Dr Agnes Gulyas, Reader in Digital Transformations, looks at the role the media play in politics, focusing on the current US Presidential election.
In the current US Presidential race Donald Trump has accused the “disgusting and corrupt media” of representing him and his campaign dishonestly and falsely. He claimed that if “media covered me honestly and didn’t put false meaning into the words I say, I would be beating Hilary by 20%”. Mr Trump arguably exemplifies post-truth politics which is based on reliance on assertions and feelings rather than facts and seems to be focusing on reinforcing rather than addressing prejudices. His political campaigning, style and communication marks a departure from practices of previous presidential candidates.
However, with blaming the media, Mr Trump is following a long held tradition among politicians who are trailing in the polls, or who have found themselves in the middle of an uncomfortable scandal. For these politicians, media are easy scapegoats and blaming them is a logical, if cynical, way to try to divert attention from themselves. These types of accusations are often vague with a hint of a conspiracy theory. Even their use of the word ‘media’ is ambiguous, as the term is so broad and all-encompassing it can refer to anyone who produces any type of media content. I suspect though Mr Trump’s criticism is really aimed at news media that have published unfavourable stories of him and his campaign.
From their point of view, however, these news outlets follow traditional functions of media and journalism in democratic societies: to provide information and analysis, hold politicians accountable and offer balanced news reporting. There can and certainly are issues with how news media report on and represent certain individuals, groups of people and events. There are examples of misrepresentations, especially of those societal groups who are in minority, lack power or underprivileged. There are also examples for lack of balanced news reporting. For example, several studies show that the coverage of the EU Referendum campaign earlier this year was heavily biased towards the Leave side in a large section of the UK print media.
However, the media are not a monolithic all-powerful institution. Political debate and public discourse agendas in democratic societies are shaped by the interdependent, hybrid relationships between politicians, media and the public. The debate about the effects of media, including the influence news coverage has on how people vote, has a long history and it is one of those questions that cannot be conclusively answered scientifically. The dominant view on the issue is that the news media do not tell people what to think but they have an influence on what people think about through framing and influencing public debate agendas.
This agenda-setting role, however, is arguably changing in our digital age where post-truth political culture is increasingly prevalent. Traditional ways of accessing news are shifting as news audiences are becoming more fragmented and news consumption on mobile and via social media platforms are rising. But the digital news environment does not automatically provide balanced news coverage for the audience, and relevant information and analysis could be difficult to find. On social media people tend to communicate in echo chambers with others who have similar views to themselves. Although we can access more information and analysis than ever before, there are indications that too much information can lead to greater confusion especially when facts, opinions and feelings are blurred, as they are in a post-truth political culture.
Instead of blaming the media, politicians should focus on ensuring that all of us continue to have access to news media that provide quality information and analysis, hold politicians accountable and offer balanced news reporting. The need for such news media and journalism is as important in the digital age as it was in the analogue epoch.
Professor Mike Weed, Professor of Applied Policy Sciences and Head of the School of Human & Life Sciences, comments on BBC Sport’s coverage of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Just over two weeks ago the world was looking forward to the start of the Olympic Games. And in the build up to the Rio 2016 Opening Ceremony, BBC Sport turned its attention to a discussion of the “controversies” that had surfaced in the run up to the Games.
They certainly had plenty to choose from: the week prior to the Games had seen a schedule of Jogos da Exclusão (Exclusion Games) protests, another of which was gathering as the BBC Sport coverage rolled; Terres des Hommes reported on 600 families evicted from the favelas and on children’s rights abuses; Fora Temer protests against the perceived corruption of the interim Brazilian President, who was audibly booed at the Opening Ceremony despite attempts to drown out protests with music, included those against the cost of the Games; the Torch Relay seen live (as opposed to carefully chosen TV coverage) looked like a military parade; and all this was kept in check by a security presence of 85,000 police and military personnel to secure the green, blue and yellow jamboree in Rio 2016’s front-of-house. As the Games began, Calamidadeo Olimpica (Olympic Calamity) protests took place inside the Olympic Park and outside the Olympic Stadium, volunteers resigned over human rights abuses, and the Ford Foundation alleged the Games had brought violation of human rights, increased public debt, and the concentration of expensive infrastructure in prosperous developed neighbourhoods. ESPN reported that the enthusiasm usually evident around celebrations like Carnival and New Year’s Eve was noticeably absent, that nearly two out of three Brazilians believe the Games will bring more harm than good, and half disapprove of hosting the Olympics.
But for BBC Sport, the controversies being discussed on the eve of the Games were the increasing number of positive drug tests among athletes, and the systemic doping uncovered in Russia. A key issue for sport, perhaps, but not really on the same scale as 600 of the city’s poorest families losing their homes and the perception that the country’s failing economy has been exacerbated by the financial burden of the Games.
It is an oft repeated cliché that sport and politics shouldn’t mix, and BBC Sport concluded its eve of the Games discussion with all its sports star pundits agreeing that they hoped they could “now just focus on two weeks of top class sport”. But should we expect more of sports coverage from the nation’s public service broadcaster? Should we expect that the world’s premier sporting event is presented, not in a vacuum, but in the social and economic context in which it takes place? Should we expect sports reporters, first and foremost, to just be journalists?
Or are we, as viewers, complicit? Marxist scholars have compared sport to religion as an “opiate for the masses” that distracts the working classes from the real economic issues that affect their lives. But does the BBC Sport coverage of the Rio 2016 Games provide something different: an “opiate for the middle classes”? A gold, silver and bronze distraction that spares us the distress of having to see the real struggles that are taking place, and perhaps being exacerbated, in people’s lives behind Rio 2016’s heavily securitized Olympic curtain?
Professor Mike Weed is Professor of Applied Policy Sciences and Head of the School of Human & Life Sciences. He was part of a global panel hosted in Rio in August 2016 that discussed good governance in bidding for and organising the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Dr Ken Fox, Principal Lecturer School of Media, Art & Design, explains why this year’s winners at the Cannes Film Festival are important.
The 88th Academy Awards took place in Hollywood on Sunday, with much talk in the lead-up to the ceremony about whether Leonardo DiCaprio would finally win Best Actor. But the Oscars made the headlines not just to announce this year’s nominees, but for the lack of diversity, with renowned actors Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, and others, boycotting the event.
The wait is nearly over for Star Wars fans with the latest film, The Force Awakens, due to be released in cinemas across the UK tomorrow. But why is the Star Wars series so popular?