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Introducing Media Institutions

Steve Campsall | Wednesday December 08, 2010

Categories: Introductory Resources, Intro to Media Institutions

One of the most difficult Media Studies ‘Key Concepts’ to write about meaningfully in your essays is ‘Media Institutions’; but write about it you must if you want to obtain a high grade at the end of your course.

It can help to think about what it means when a concentration of media companies – those that can manufacture high quality media texts and products and distribute them widely and easily – lies in just a few hands. These companies are called ‘media institutions’.

Source: Sony Christmas Advert 2010

An institution is something in society that plays a major role in people’s lives. Thus, the family, school, the NHS are all ‘institutions’.

The media plays a massive part these days in everyone’s lives – and that’s why we speak of ‘media institutions’.

But there is a key difference between the family, the health service and school and media companies.

The first three are there to serve us all; the last works to serve its shareholders.

It’s a fact that most of the media is owned by just a handful of companies and individuals.  In the USA, for example, just five large corporations control nearly all the ‘visual media’ such as television and films.

[Rupert Murdoch, News Corporation CEO]

  • Can you think of any well-known ‘media moguls’ who own a large share of the UK mass media industry – TV, film, newspaper, music, etc?
  • Now being very cynical in your thinking, can you suggest why they wish to own such massive media empires?
  • Now be far more objective an un-cynical and answer the same question!
  • Where do you think the truth lies?

Critics argue that a concentration of media ownership offers an individual or a corporation a huge level of influence and thus power. In the music industry, for example, just two or three worldwide corporations dominate sales worldwide – despite the growth of internet music.

  • How might ownership of a music empire be important?
  • You might not have even realised...

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