Intrigue in the Big League

A uni student's intrigue in marketing and media

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It’s been 6 weeks now since I first started blogging, and I have to say my views on media have definitely been developed.

So far in my university course: Introduction to Communication and Media studies, we have covered several topics. They include; The Media Effects Model, Semiotics – Ideologies and Interpretations, Media Ownership and The Public Sphere. These topics have widened my perspectives of the media and have shown me how the media is evolving.

When introduced to the ‘effects model’, I was shocked that so many people tried to blame the media for certain violent acts of individuals. After researching the ‘effects model’ and looking into studies completed to prove that the effects model held truth, I decided the model was greatly flawed and although the media can affect the public to an extent, it isn’t to blame for the violent acts of individuals.

When introduced to Semiotics, I started to see how the interpretation of a sign can differ between individuals who have different ideological positions. I now understand how signs in the media can produce different reactions from the public.

When introduced to media ownership, I learnt that 90% of the media is now owned by only 6 companies and this  means that the media is controlled only by the people who own or have shares in those companies. This greatly impacted news reporting in those traditional media outlets and Fox News was a great example of how the owner of the company could impact on the news reported.

When introduced to the public sphere in the media, I learnt that the public sphere is place for people to discuss an issue and this issue could later influence political action. I began to understand how popular media texts could contribute to some of these discussions on the public sphere and I found that ‘Parenthood’ was a good example of how this might happen.

My knowledge of the media has been greatly broadened since the start of my course. I can now form my own opinions on many aspects of the media due to what I have learnt. This blog and my posts have helped me to understand what a huge part of life media is becoming and the extent at which media is evolving.


Parenthood – The Public Sphere


“The public sphere is . . . a metaphorical term used to describe the virtual space where people can interact. . . . The World Wide Web, for example, is not actually a web; cyberspace is not a space; and so with the public sphere. It’s the virtual space where the citizens of a country exchange ideas and discuss issues, in order to reach agreement about ‘matters of general interest'” ([Jurgen] Habermas, 1997: 105)


Parenting and childcare is a major topic in the public sphere. How should we raise our children? How should we discipline our children? How should we teach our children? These are all common questions addressed in the public sphere. Governments are always trying to find ways to improve education and facilities for youth. There are many arguments between different groups with different ideological positions about the best parenting methods.

Blogs and Twitter are both forms of media in the public sphere. They are both platforms that allow a discussion flow between parties. There are many spaces on these platforms to discuss parenting.

Shows such as Today Tonight and A Current Affair are not part of the public sphere because they only show one side of a story, it is opinionated and it doesn’t allow a discussion or response from a different party.

Media can contribute to public sphere debates and even help form an opinion of an individual on an issue. A TV show directed by Ron Howard shows the difficulties and rewards of parenting. It contributes to the debate of parenting in the public sphere. Ironically, it’s called Parenthood.

This series shows the differences in parenting techniques in different families depending on the circumstances and situation of that family. It also shows how individuality and ideological positions changes the way some parents may choose to raise their child. Whether these differences are great or small, in the nature of reality TV, they do represent different parenting techniques in reality.

The series also shows how different children with different personalities might need to be raised differently to other children, even, perhaps, to their siblings.

The public sphere is enhanced by public views and allows people to share their opinions and experiences. These discussions can be impacted by media and I think Parenthood is a good example of how this could happen.

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Owning the Media: Murdoch’s Fox News Puppets

While traditional journalism first started as a way for journalists to expose the truth and let their audience know the current events in the world, ownership of the media has changed the purpose of these traditional media outlets. Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corp, was born an Australian but expanded his media outlet to the US where 90% of the media is owned by only 6 companies. These companies are; News Corp, Viacom, Disney, Time Warner, GE and CBS. Just 30 years ago, 90% of American media was owned by 50 media companies. This means that 90% of everything that Americans see, hear and consider important on the media is controlled by only six very rich companies. (more info)

Rupert Murdoch, as owner of News Corp, has control over Fox Broadcasting Company. This means he has control over Fox News and any other shows created for Fox.

There has been a lot of criticism about the quality of Fox News and the way the news reported is influenced greatly by Murdoch himself. A movie called Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism, was created with many former Fox News journalists explaining the ways in which Murdoch crafted the news to persuade the audience to have the same opinion on issues as he did.

When it came to elections, controlling the media was a way to impact the public’s opinions and perceptions of the running political figures. A lot of what the public knew about the candidates was seen in these popular media outlets. A lot of “news” reported about elections by Fox News was not actually news at all, it was propaganda. This propaganda was ordered by Murdoch himself to show  favour towards a certain candidate. David Brock, President/CEO of Media Matters for America, explained how this propaganda impacted on democracy:


“It’s fundamentally undermining democracy which is based on knowing some good and solid information so I can make an informed choice.”

Another issue raised in Outfoxed was Murdoch’s claim that the news reported on Fox News is fair and balanced. In Outfoxed they show evidence to contrast this.

This is Family Guy’s interpretation of the type of people Fox News chooses to interview. The irony is that Family Guy is actually owned by Fox Broadcasting Company, and therefore owned by Murdoch as well.

The reason media ownership is important is that the owners are only giving one perspective of the news based on their ideological position. The fewer the owners, the fewer the range of opinions. This means the audience is only receiving a biased representation of the news instead of a diverse range of opinions from different sources. Therefore, the public can not make an informed decision on their opinion of the news.


Ideologies and Interpretation

human_meat@theage_photo, on twitter )

Before you try and decide what this image represents, or what it means to you, try and just think about the objects that create the image.

  • A woman lying down
  • A white container
  • Plastic covering the woman
  • Red substance/liquid all over the woman and the container
  • Human Meat sticker on the plastic

These are denotations. They make up a sign (any representation that carries meaning).

stop-goStudying a sign and understanding its uses and/or interpretations is semiotics.

There are signs that have conventional meanings that we should know in society – GO / STOP

And there are signs that are interpreted differently by different individuals.

The above sign was created by a group called Animal Equality in a protest at the ‘Day Without Meat’ event in Barcelona, Spain. You could say it was an advertisement for veganism/vegetarianism.

The image has caused some controversy in the public, and controversy is caused when people interpret messages differently. This is usually due to people’s different ideologies.

Ideologies can change over time. The way kids should be raised (family) and same sex couples getting married (marriage) are changing ideologies.

A changing ideology relevant to this image is diet. Vegans? Vegetarians? Meat eaters? They would all interpret the message differently.

As a meat eater, my interpretation of the image is as follows (connotations):

The image shows that animals are being treated in an inhumane manner by humans and that animals should be considered equal to humans. A woman lying in her own blood in meat packaging makes me think about how I might feel if a ‘superior’ or ‘more intelligent’ species were to kill, cook and eat me. To me the message being conveyed is: just because animals do not have the same intellectual capacity as humans, does not mean that they shouldn’t have the same rights as people –  they are living, feeling and breathing creatures alike.

While that is my interpretation of the image, it does not change my ideological position. I remain a meat eater because I was raised to understand that meat from farm animals is a main part of everyday diet. My ideological belief is that meat is a natural and normal part of diet.

Media messages are sent every day, minute, hour, second. These messages are interpreted differently by people with different ideological positions, and that is how arguments, discussions and controversy begin.

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Asking the Wrong Questions – The Effects Model

Recently I read an article in which David Gauntlett discusses Ten things wrong with the ‘effects model’. This post summarises just two of those points and adds my own reflection to why the effects model(1) is inconclusive.

Point 1: The effects model tackles social problems ‘backwards’

When trying to explain violence in society, the effects model asks the question; Did media cause the offender to react and behave differently? However the question that should first be asked is; What caused the offender to take those actions? The first question tries to make connections between the media and the crime the offender committed, whereas the second question first addresses any reasons that may have triggered the perpetrators behaviour and tries to make connections between the offender and the crime. Could their identity, background, character or so on give more reason to the cause of the crime?

Point 2: The effects model treats children as inadequate

Many studies that try to prove the truth of the effects model have been done using children. They are used because it is assumed that the true effect mass media can have will be displayed most obviously in children, and that the children won’t fully understand or are easily tricked by the media. Certain projects, however, have shown that in many cases children can understand and even intelligently review the media.

A man named Albert Bandura conducted a study with a media clip, a bobo doll and 36 boys and 36 girls aged 3-6.


The children were shown a clip of a woman beating a bobo doll, punching it, hitting it, picking it up and throwing it, jumping on it and even hitting it with a small hammer. The children were then placed in a room with a whole bunch of toys, including a bobo doll and a small hammer. Left alone, the children ignored most of the toys except for the bobo doll, and you can probably guess what they did to it. They beat it, jumped on it and hit it with a hammer. Bandura’s conclusion on this study was that behaviour can be affected by the media. I don’t find this conclusion accurate at all. Although Bandura argues that the children acted the way they did because of the clip they were shown, he did not ask the question; Why did the children act the way they did? He merely assumed it was because they were imitating the clip. You try watching the clip and honestly ask yourself if you were put in the same room with that bobo doll, wouldn’t you think it might be an entertaining idea to… well beat the living hell out of it?

These points might remind you of a human tendency that I believe the effects model uses and even perhaps abuses. Think about when you used to get in trouble at home. You would pretty much try to think of any excuse that might take some of the blame off you, right? I’m not suggesting that the effects model is childish. In the simplest terms; the effects model was first acknowledged because there was concern that violence and other content in the media could have a negative effect on society. However with such inconclusive studies and proof, people have started using the effects model as an excuse or scapegoat when it comes to explaining certain violent acts in society.

If they start asking the right questions in studies, will more conclusive results be found?

(1) The effects model can be described as the belief that media and in particular television can affect the beliefs and behaviour of the audience, usually for the worse.

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Hi my name is Victoria.

I lived in Canberra but didn’t like any of the Media options at the Universities there so I moved to Wollongong to attend the University of Wollongong and I am currently living at Weerona (university specific accommodation). I am studying a double degree of Communications and Media Studies and Journalism. I chose these degrees because I have always been interested in writing and the media however I have no idea what I want to do later in life so I am hoping the course shines light on which aspect of media I might like to pursue.

I have thought about looking more into advertising and how certain charities and volunteer groups advertise their cause. I travelled to South Africa and Swaziland in December last year (2012) with a group called VESA. VESA stands for Volunteer Eco Students Abroad and takes groups of 30-50 people to South Africa, Fiji or the Amazon. The volunteers are mainly students or people younger than the age of 25, however the groups are not exclusive to this. The first week is comprised of only volunteer work that ranges from construction work, teaching at schools and helping out at animal conservation centres. The trip lasts two or three weeks; the second week travelling to Swaziland for adventure tours and the third is optional and continues to Mozambique. You learn a lot from the trip and the experience is unforgettable. The cost of the trip is very affordable even if you are a Uni student who only works two to three days a week. I strongly recommend anyone who wishes to travel and also volunteer to consider travelling with VESA.

You can visit their website at

This is my first post and you’ll see many more from me.