Why is Phillip Schofield Trending News…?

The scandal surrounding Phillip’s Schofield departure from This Morning has eclipsed many other news items over the past week.

The scandal is that several years ago Schofield had an affair with man 30 years his junior while at This Morning who he’d initially met when the younger man was just 15 years old, and then he had lied to This Morning bosses and everyone else about having had the affair when questioned.

So he held his hands up last week and quit, not only This Morning, but he says his TV career is now over.

This whole event has been headline news for a week. It’s a very popular news item, according the the BBC’s most read item list Philip Schofield’s career ending is more interesting than the government potentially losing its legal battle over breaching covid rules, for example.

The above screen capture was taken on Friday 3rd June, the same day Schofield did a brief interview with the BBC in which he was questioned about his relationship with the young man, it was emotional, but content thin.

Interestingly around the same time the BBC also did a similar style interview with the scumbag Andrew Tate, in which he is challeneged about his misogynist views, but that is nowhere in trending.

It seems people are much more interested in trivia compared to critical issues of power and politics.

Why is Schofield Trending?

I think probably the pluralist view is the most applicable here: Schofield has been a presenter on national British T.V. for decades, many people grew up with him, and here he is having his career ending early.

And it’s a tragic end in real life to a great career, brought down by one mistaken relationship and one little white lie, it’s a real tragedy, a real life drama.

People love this kind of thing, this is just pure demand for drama and entertainment and so the media provides.

I don’t think we can find any support here for the Marxist theories of the media which argue this is all about media manipulation of content and agenda setting to keep people stupid, this event just happened too quickly for that to be the case.

Of course maybe the public have been trained to need this kind of content over the longer term, so this could be a result of a long term drip-drip effect of trivia in the mainstream media, which may offer some support for Marxist theories, but this is very difficult to prove empirically!

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The online safety bill: get ready for life without WhatsApp!

The online safety bill currently working its way through parliament is set to undermine the privacy of individuals using currently encrypted apps such as WhatsApp.

At the moment if you use WhatAapp or Signal your communications with whoever else via the app are private, they are protected through encryption so third parties cannot easily access them.

However the online safety bill does not include any specific protection for encrypted apps such as WhatAapp and effectively gives government agencies such as OFCOM the right to demand that such companies who are operating the UK monitor their user’s communications.

Because they can’t currently do so, because of the encryption in place, this means WhatAapp and similar communication apps would have to stop encryption in the UK, thus undermining the privacy of all peer to peer communications.

The theory behind the online safety bill is to be more able to track communication related to child abuse, trafficking and terrorism, but to be able to do this you literally have to make everyone’s communications potentially open to government surveillance.

This is an interesting example which reminds us that the Nation State is in some ways still more powerful than global companies, at least sort of….

If the bill goes through then WhatAapp will probably just stop operating in the UK, as the UK only represents 2% of its global user base, it is a global company after all, showing us just how small the UK government is in relation to global forces.

The only other countries which outlaw encryption are China, North Korea, Syria, UAE and Qatar, all countries with not the best human rights record.

So this is what’s becoming of the UK… it is becoming a surveillance state. The real losers are ordinary UK citizens….

Another problem with banning encryption and giving the government more power to store private data is that it makes data breaches more likely. The chances are that if you are surveilling possible criminals, you are probably going to catch some non-criminals in the surveillance net too, exposing their data to potential hacks.

It’s literally another case of the UK government trying to undermine individual human rights, in this case the right to privacy.

Find out More

The Guardian.

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Is the BBC News Biased…?

The BBC was in the news this week because Elon Musk mislabelled it as ‘government funded’ whereas in reality it is a publicly funded corporation, paid for by the license fee.

This means that it is, effectively, the great British public who are real owners of the corporation, and, as such, the content of the BBC news should reflect diversity in British society and a suitably broad variety of opinions.

However, while the ‘owners’ of the BBC are diverse, the people who decided the news agenda are not as diverse, much more likely to be privately educated and upper middle class.

However, this still doesn’t mean that the content of the news is going to be biased, and there will be variation on television and radio news, and within different news programmes.

There is actually very little systematic and representative research on bias in the BBC, the latest proper university research was from between 2007 and 2012 by Cardiff University which showed that conservative views were given more airtime than progressive ones.

However this may just be because the government is conservative, and a bog standard news item is to give whatever Tory minister time to talk rubbish, which could alone be enough to skew the difference.

Conservatives also complain that the BBC is too progressive and biased against consverative view points.

A look at the opinion polls shows that only 61% of the public thinks the BBC is fair compared to higher percentages when asked about Sky and ITV, but then again that lower result may just be because the ‘fairness debate’ is more in the news in relation to the BBC.

It is probably the case that Sky and ITV are MORE right wing than the BBC, it’s just that we don’t notice!

Bias is a very difficult thing to prove, certainly asking whether the whole of the BBC is biased isn’t a good starting point, you’d need to focus on say ONE specific news programme, maybe BBC News at 18.00, or Question Time, or The news on Radio 4 at 8.00 a.m. for a period of time and subject this to time-based and qualitative content analysis to find out for sure.

It’s interesting that this is so much debated and yet so few people are doing ANY systematic research on the matter!


This material is relevant to the media topic within A-level sociology

Solidarity with Gary AGAINST Human Rights Abuses

The Tory’s Migration Bill is inhumane

This is the week I unconditionally forgave Gary Lineker for all those awful Walker’s Crisp commercials!

Gary Lineker made a legitimate point about the Tory government’s immigration bill stating that it was an “immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s”.

Gary Linekers migration tweets

Linker is not a BBC employee, he works freelance in his capacity as Match of the Day host, and he was tweeting his opinion about the government’s proposed Immigration Bill as a private individual rather than in a professional capacity on his personal Twitter account.

And for this Lineker was suspended from presenting Match of the Day by the BBC management.

What the management didn’t expect was that several other football hosts and pundits would come out in solidarity with Gary and refuse to take part in Match of the Day on Saturday and related football shows over the weekend, one result of which was a reduced MOTD of 20 minutes!

By Monday 13th March the BBC had apologised for any misunderstanding and confusion surrounding their social media policy for staff and had agreed to reinstate Lineker to MOTD.

This event highlights several sociological themes:

  1. The migration issue itself – Lineker is right to highlight this issue, and I think that’s what we should be focussing on.
  2. A secondary issue is that it shows the BBC is biased towards right wing views and is prepared to censor left wing criticism on its behalf.
  3. It reminds us of the direct ties between the Tory government and the current head of the Corporation. This whole event was an example of social capital being played out.
  4. It shows us how the media operates to distract us from the really important political issue at hand – we have not been discussing the politics of migration over the weekend, we’ve been discussing Gary Lineker, and his dog!

You can read a summary of the Gary Lineker saga in The Guardian.

The discourse around migration

Lineker’s statement that the language the Tories are using is like that used in 1930s Germany is factually accurate.

A former United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights made a similar point back in 2015 referencing the language Tories were using to describe Britain’s ‘immigration problem’ at that time.

tory language against migrants like 19030s Germany

David Cameron has used the term ‘swarms’ to refer to people coming to Britain, and Theresa May has previously stated that migration to the UK makes it ‘impossible to build a cohesive society’.

The similarity with the 1930s lies in the discussions that were had at the 1938 Evian Conference in the which the UK, USA and other countries discussed the issue of accepting Jews from Germany in response to Nazi policies.

The allies decided not to allow significant numbers of Jews to migrate, with the Austrian minister at that time stating that to do so would be to ‘import Germany’s race problem to the rest of Europe’.

It is this language of othering and the inhumane approach to the plight of refugees fleeing persecution which we see mirrored today in Tory rhetoric against migration.

More recently the inhuman being and current Home Secretary that calls herself Suella Braverman has referred to the small boat crossings to the UK as an invasion and said there were possibly billions of people who want to come to the UK, greatly exaggerating the extent of immigration.

In reality, migration to Britain is relatively low compared to other countries, and a larger problem may well be the government’s inability to process applications swiftly, which helps create a problem that simply doesn’t have to be a problem.

The current Immigration Bill would automatically ban anyone with a legitimate claim to asylum from coming to the UK if they previously tried to enter illegally. So literally, if there is another genocide somewhere in the world and someone tries to to escape that by coming to Britain illegally and gets caught, there is no way they can ever get back here by formal channels.

And of course the formal channels are very very very narrow!

This video by Jonathan Pie does a nice job of explaining the issue….

The biased BBC

Just to stress this is a minor point, the main issue really is the inhumane immigration bill, but the fact that the BBC decided to ban Lineker from presenting MOTD in attempt to get him to apologies for tweeting facts shows how the BBC is biased in favour of right wing Tory rhetoric.

Note that Alan Sugar, another prominent BBC personality has previously tweeted supporting Brexit and has tweeted against Corbyn, but he faced no sanction.

So here we have it, a straight up example of overt right wing bias from the BBC, a literal attempt to censor the views of someone who is (rightly) stating facts that are anti-government.

Elite media and government networks

As to why this bias this also seems clear. The current Chairman of the BBC has direct links to the Tory party: he previously helped Boris Johnson secure an $800 000 loan and then didn’t declare it when applying for the job, he’s currently under investigation.

And there were a lot of messages of complaint sent by Tory party members about Lineker’s Tweet being in breach of the BBC impartiality rules, which clearly wasn’t the case, but the pressure was enough for the BBC to ban Lineker and get itself into this mess.

Distraction politics

While it is heartwarming to see a celebrity come out in favour of vulnerable and his friends come out in solidarity with him, let’s not forget the real issue: we should be waging war against the Tory policy of immigration, the Lineker and BBC fracas is a distraction!

This Tory government is disgusting: they are incompetent, 40 years of Tory policies have driven our economy into the ground, especially Brexit and Liz Truss’ budget, and now they are trying to scapegoat migrants, which is a distraction from their own incompetence.

Unfortunately this Linker episode is in danger of being another layer of distraction away from the migration issue, we need to be careful to remember who the real problem is – the Tory party!


This material is relevant to anyone who cares about people, the issue of globalisation and global development and also media studies.

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The Guardian (2015) Refugee rhetoric echoes 1938 summit before Holocaust, UN official warns.

Is addiction to technology real?

People are increasingly addicted to smartphones and video games, and this seems to be by design!

People spend four hours a day on average on their phones, which is equivalent to 60 full days a year, or one quarter of their waking lives.

People are literally addicted to video games, social media, pornography and online shopping – and the numbers who are addicted to technology are growing.

We already find it difficult to switch off from the many apps on our phones and this could be about to get much worse with FaceBook, Google and Microsoft ploughing billions of pounds into constructing the MetaVerse.

These are just some of the claims that some experts make about the addictive nature of technology, but is this addiction to technology actually real?

Elaine Moore, a tech columnist for the Financial Times subjected these claims to critical analysis in a recent Radio 4 analysis podcast: Addiction in the Age of the MetaVerse.

Addiction to video Games

According to Supply Gem (Accessed November 2023) the video games industry is valued at between $221 billion and $385 billion, and there are between 3.09 and 3.26 billion gamers worldwide.

What drives a lot of that revenue are online games such as Fortnite and Call of Duty, games which are immersive, in real time and are played most obsessively by children and young adults.

Teachers have already raised concerns about the amount of time children spend playing these games and when virtual reality headsets are introduced they can become even more immersive and addictive.

The World Health Organisation recently added Gaming Disorder to the classification of Diseases.

The World Health Organisation’s definition of gaming disorder.

Ruth Lockwood from the NHS run centre for gaming disorder defines addiction to gaming as a lack of control over the amount of time an individual spends playing computer games, a tendency to prioritise gaming over other areas of one’s life to the detriment of other life activities. It is a compulsion to play video games even when there are negative consequences to doing so!

According to the experts above, gaming addiction is a real and recognised addiction and it is something that the NHS provides help for.

According to meta-analysis conducted in 2021 (and summarised by Game Quitters) 3-4% of gamers are addicted to video games, but the percentages vary considerably by age:

But what about other aspects of tech are they addictions too? 

Smart Phones and Addiction

Over 80% of the UK population now own a smart phone, with the figure being nearly 100% for the under 50s. People on average spend four hours a day on their phones which is 60 full days a year or 25% of our waking lives.

A recent 2019 YouGov survey found that 59% of 18-34 year olds would feel anxious if they were without their smartphones for a day because ‘they wouldn’t be able to instantaneously communicate with their friends or family’

Some people are on their phones so much that there is even a term – ‘fubbing’ which means scrolling through your phone while you’re in the middle of a conversation.

If you think you are spending too long on your phone then you might want to try The Smart Phone Compulsion Test developed by David GreenField and the Centre for Internet and Technology Addiction.

Pretty much anyone who takes that test is going to fail, and Catherine Price suggests this doesn’t mean that the test is invalid, rather it means that all of us have problematic relationships with our phones.

Smartphones are addictive by design

If you wanted to invent a device that would make the population perpetually distracted and isolated you would probably end up with the smart phone.

Many design features on Smart Phones are deliberately made to be addictive, evidence for this is that many design features mimic those of slot machines, which are widely regarded as some of the most addictive machines in the gambling industry.

This is especially true of any apps which rely on advertising as advertisers’ revenue increases the more time we spend on these apps, and the more attention we give them!

It’s also worth noting that slot machine addiction was the first officially recognised behavioural addiction in the United States.

Catherine Price has is author of How to Break up with your Phone – a 30 Day Plan to Take Back your Life. She argues that Smart Phones have the power to change the way our brains work.

However her book reminds us that our time and attention are finite and that maybe continually scrolling through our phones isn’t the best use of our time!

We cannot do two cognitively demanding things at once – for example we can’t think of two things at the same time, so in layman’s terms it is impossible for us to multitask.

Problems with Smartphone addiction

Anna Lembke, a Professor of Psychiatry and author of ‘Dopamine Nation‘ points out that SmartPhones light up the ‘reward pathway’ in the brain, from where dopamine is released, in the same way drugs and alcohol does.

There’s no blood test or brain scan to test for this type of addiction, instead researchers use Phenomenology – looking at individual experiences and the way patterns are repeated.

People who are addicted are in an altered state: their gremlins are now driving the bus. The prefrontal cortex which is necessary for factoring in future consequences and deferred gratification goes offline!

People in such a condition, such as compulsive tweeters fail to appreciate how their reward system has been hijacked and see their addictive behaviour as something they need to do.

Advantages of Smart Phones

James Ball, author of ‘The System: Who Owns the Internet, and How it Owns Us‘ is sceptical about the idea that everyone is addicted to their phones.

He argues that tech leads to behaviours that look like they may be addictions but aren’t necessarily addictions.

A phone fulfils different needs all at the same time – we might be having a coffee with a friend and our phones allow to us to check in with other people quickly while still having that coffee.

So possibly we shouldn’t interpret someone checking their phone every five minutes as being a ‘compulsion’ – rather it is something that enables us to effectively manage busy lives – and if it wasn’t for the smartphone allowing us to check-in with other people so easily maybe we wouldn’t be be meeting that friend for an IRL coffee in the first place.

The Metaverse

The MetaVerse is a digital reality that exists in parallel to actual reality.

Some authors think the idea of the Metaverse will be so compelling that we’ll forget to log off from the internet altogether!

Computers have become smaller and the way we interact with them has become more and more intuitive and the Metaverse evolves this make computers invisible, it actually extends into our reality, impinges on it!

Facebook, Google and Apple are all very interested in the Metaverse and are investing huge sums of money into it. Meta alone invested $10 billion in 2021 and all major companies are developing their own head sets.

The merging of the real and virtual world could have sever implications for people’s mental health as it could allow people to block out aspects of their realities that they don’t like and don’t want to deal with, but they would have to allow

The Metaverse could get more and more potent, more addictive – like PacMan isn’t going to do it for a five year old today!

And the government are very unprepared for this next step in the evolution of virtual reality. A recent Digital White Paper didn’t even mention the Metaverse once. The government seems to be on the back foot and unable to anticipate what’s going to happen in the future.

A moral panic over the Metaverse?

James Ball doesn’t think we are into an age of hyper-seductive targeted marketing in the Metaverse given how inaccurate the current targeted advertising is!

There are also possible advantages – motivational apps for developing good behaviours such as walking more or giving up drinking, and we are rewarded with badges for example.

Signposting and Relevance to A-level Sociology

The material above is mainly relevant to the media option at A-level sociology, but this should also be of general interest to anyone with a Smartphone!

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Jean Baudrillard

Postmodern society has no underlying reality, there are just signs and symbols.

Jean Baudrillard (1929 to 2007) argued that material reality was disappearing and being replaced by a system of signs, leading to a social world which had no objective material reality at all, but rather one that was being continually produced by an endless series of signifiers.

In this new social reality all objects became manufactured commodities, devoid of any original meanings or material ‘use-value’ they once had.

Baudrillard’s early works were published in the late 1960s and early 1970s and he drew on the post-structuralist thinking which was influential at that time. Initially he focused on developing a critique of consumer culture, but into the 1980s and 1990s he started to develop his better known ideas about there being no underlying reality other than hyperreality.

Baudrillard is usually classified in social theory text books as both a post-Marxist and a postmodern thinker.

A postmodern critique of Marxism

Baudrillard developed a criticism of Marx’s analysis of capitalism and especially his concept of use-value (a concept which was fundamental to Marx’s theories of alienation and exploitation, see FAQs below for an explanation).

The ‘use-value’ of an object derives from that object’s material qualities. For example a coat’s use value is that it keeps you warm and dry, and a car’s use value is that it transports you to places in relative speed and comfort.

For much of modernity the meaning of objects lay in their use-value, a coat meant something that kept you warm, a car meant something which was faster than a horse and more comfortable than a bus.

However, this changes in age of postmodernity when the production of signs, not physical commodities increasingly becomes the key factor of social life the symbolic value of objects becomes more important than the the use value of objects as a source of shared meaning.

For example the meaning of a coat lies not in the coat’s utility but in the branding of that coat, in the labels attached to it, in whatever signs marketers have decided to attach to it.

In postmodernity the material reality of the underlying objects is obliterated by this system of signs, what is important is the symbolic value of objects. What matters about an object is what it tells us about the person using that object, not its use-value

Baudrillard rejected Marxism, because in Marxism the value of an object can be explained by the labour power than went into making it, but in postmodernity the value of an object lies in the symbolic meaning of that object, in what signs are projected onto it, which marketers can just make up as they go along, value is no longer to do with simply material production.

Contemporary capitalism is much more irrational and uncontrollable than Marx imagined and it operates according to its own possibly unknowable logics and is certainly beyond control by a unified ruling class.

Baudrillard rejects class based analysis of society. Baudrillard believes that the system of signs is autonomous from social class and is running away from human control into directionless change.

No underlying reality

Today there is no ‘reality’ based in use-values that can be distinguished from ‘fictional’ exchange-values.

He rejects the Marxist distinction between the truth that the ruling classes control material reality and exploit the working classes and the fiction they create through ideological control.

The media no longer produced propaganda for a ruling class, because that is based on the distinction between reality and fiction.

In postmodernity, everything is just on the surface, everything visible and on display, there is no underlying reality or truth to be discovered.

All that exist are surfaces and there is no substance beneath them.

A postmodern analysis can thus only examine this system of signs and follow how they transform without trying to find a deeper truth behind these transformations.

The reality we receive is so mediated by signs and symbols, it is pointless to unpick it for the real meaning.

In postmodernity the value of a product lies in its branding not in its use value.


Baudrillard suggested that the media was the key institution in postmodern society because the media is where signs and symbols circulate, and there are a bewildering array of signs and symbols and their meanings change in an unpredictable way.

Signs and symbols in the media do not refer the objects they purportedly refer to. Instead, real objects no longer exist and in fact create the objects they supposedly merely reflect. (This is what Baudrillard refers to as simulcra: signs and symbols that create reality).

Instead of images reflecting reality, images now create reality. This is the condition of hyperreality.

Postmodern culture consists of a reality created purely by unstable and shifting symbols and signs. Especially in the media.

In postmodernity we have the ‘death of the real‘ – all we have is an unstoppable and never ending reality-creating symbols in a media dominated world, Systems of signs and symbols have taken on a life of their own.

This is a post-modern take on alienation: symbols, which were originally made by humans, have taken on a life of their own and come to dominate and control the people who made them.

This situation was never intended and is not controlled by anyone.


Baudrillard argued that Disneyland was an expression of hyprreality – a theme park full of simulcra which clearly had no hidden underlying meanings other than the cartoon characters and buildings therein.

Disneyland had a social function, it was presented to America as fictional in order to convince people that the ‘real’ America was ‘real’ – whereas in fact Disneyland is the real America and America is Disneyland, in fact they are one and the same, both part of hyperreality.

Disneyland does not exist to cover up the exploitative nature of American capitalism like marxists would claim, it hides nothing, because in postmodernity there is nothing to hide.

Under conditions of hyperreality information and meaning are both clear and incoherent at the same time.

There is no hidden depth to images, their information is immediately apparent, thus is the obscenity of communication.

However information is also unclear because there is so much information that it all ceases to make sense, so many channels and images create a state of meaning-chaos.

This overwhelming blizzard of information creates a sense of vertigo and ecstasy in the minds of audiences. There is so much meaning and information available that nothing makes sense anymore!

Disneyland is and example of hyperreality.

The Gulf War Never Happened

One of Baudrillard’s most famous (some might say outrageous) observations was that the Gulf War never happened, referring to the first Gulf War in the 1990s.

What he meant by this was that the reality of the war on the ground was so mediated by the time reports of it hit the media that representations of it were more like a film or a video game that the representations of the event turned it into something completely different.

The signs and symbols, or simulcra as Baudrillard calls them, claimed to represent reality but in fact they created it.

Evaluations of Baudrillard

Some of Baudrillard’s criticisms of classical Marxism are certainly valid:

  • His idea that value no longer derives purely from the material use-value of products is certainly valid, Symbolic value which is applied through marketing certainly plays a major role in postmodern society.
  • His idea that the maelstrom of signs and symbols in the media have something of a chaotic life of their own and that this system of meaning is not controlled by a distinct ruling class should maybe be taken seriously, especially in the age of YouTube creators.
  • His theory is also inherently critical of metanarratives, especially Marxism, which offers us the possibility of emancipation from the idea of truth.
  • He also recognised that audiences were not passive dupes which were controlled through the media. Rather he believed that information just flowed through them with very little effect!

Criticisms of Baudrillard

He takes the idea of simulcra and hyperreality too far. By stating that the Gulf War never happened he is ignoring the actual reality on the ground for the people who suffered through it.

It is one thing pointing out that media representations are far removed from some representations of reality (especially war) but another to say that they create that reality. To be blunt, the families of the people who died or were injured in that war may have different views to Baudrillard.

He also ignores the fact that with the cost of living crisis and climate crisis it would seem that underlying material reality really does matter. Global warming and inflation have very real impacts on people’s lives.


This material has been written mainly for A-level sociology students studying the Theory and Methods aspect of the AQA specification. Baudrillard is usually classified as one of the main postmodern thinkers within A-level sociology although the level of depth above may be quite advanced for some students.

Baudrillard’s work on hyperreality is also relevant to the media module. He is the main guy who believes there is no reality other than media created reality in postmodern society.

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Jean Baudrillard image: By http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Ayaleila – cropped from ., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10482055

Natural Disasters and News Values

Natural disasters hit several news values including negativity, threshold, picture values and unambiguity.

There was a high magnitude earthquake in Turkey this week, killing, at time of writing (Monday 6th Feb 2023) 1900, and there is little doubt that the death toll will rise significantly.

When I heard this unfortunate news on Radio Four at 7.00 a.m. I knew straight away that this would probably be filling up the Live news on pretty much every news site in Europe for the next day or two, possibly the rest of the week.

And when I checked out the BBC News site at around 14.00 this is what I saw on their home page (screenshot below). There is nothing but the Earthquake related stories on the main page, and it is very rare to have so much dominance.

This should be of no surprise to any student of media studies who has learned about how News Values shape the content of the news.

News Values are criteria which journalists believe make stories news worthy and include such things as how impactful event is in terms of number of people affected, how unusual it is, and how visual it is.

The more characteristics and event fulfils, and the more extremely it does so, the more likely it is to get more news coverage, and a major Earthquake hits just about every news value there is…

News Values and Earthquakes.

  • Negativity – maybe most importantly where the news is concern is that an earthquake is negative, it destroys infrastructure and peoples lives, literally the later in the case of this large magnitude earthquake.
  • Threshold – 1900 recorded dead after just half a day makes this already one of the largest natural disasters in recent history.
  • Unambiguity – It’s a natural disaster, no politics involved (well, maybe with the response), but this is very easy to understand: earthquake happens, buildings collapse, people get died and injured, the community responds.
  • Picture values – it’s got it all: drone footage of the wreckage, shell shocked survivors, toddlers being pulled out of collapsed buildings by rescue workers…
  • Unpredictability – While seismologists can predict earthquakes to an extent, the sheer scale of this Earthquake made it unusual.
  • Continuity – unfortunately this fits with a well established narrative of other earthquakes and the planet becoming increasingly unstable, and in Syria it fits in the the narrative of tragedy following the recent war.

Natural Disasters and News Values: Final Thoughts

For sure there are more factors which determine the content of the news, but when it comes to natural disasters it is almost as if journalists go into ‘easy mode’.

There’s a format for reporting such events that fits in so easily with News Values journalists pretty much have a day off as they’ve done this all before!

It’s another layer of tragedy on an event that’s already tragic, the way the media kind of treats it as business as usual.

Signposting and relevance to A-level sociology

This material is a useful contemporary example for students taking the Media option in their second year A-level sociology.

Another concept that may be relevant to this is that of hyperreality. When it comes to Natural Disasters, the media reporting is so removed from the reality on the ground that you have to ask yourself whether this isn’t just a fiction by the time it gets to the media!

Limited Media Reporting of the Labour Conference 2022 – Ideological Agenda setting or just ‘news values’…?

Examples of The Metro’s right wing ideological bias in Autumn 2022.

The Metro’s reporting (28/09/2022) of Sir Keir Starmer’s Speech at the 2022 Labour Party Conference was definitely limited, and offers students of media studies an interesting contemporary example of how news values and/ or agenda setting influence the news agenda.

Biased Reporting…

There are some good examples here of what appear to be deliberate bias against labour…

Firstly on the headline page not only is the labour conference given half the space of the royals story the headline ‘don’t forgive’ makes them seem aggressive and harsh, AND there’s a little quip about Keir and his wife being dressed in sync which is maybe an attempt to belittle labour.

And then there’s the order and manner in which the two main items of the day are presented…

Firstly we have the royals, BEFORE the labour conference reporting…

And even Eurovision trumps Labour!

And then on page three AFTER Kate and Will and Eurovision we finally have an item on the labour party conference (well it’s page four, page two was a full page advert)…

Also note how this is all just dull text – there’s no attempt at all to bullet point the key ideas – there could be a nice infographic where the advert is to the left which would make this material more readable, but there isn’t.

Rather the message here seems to be ‘ignore this dull stuff but here’s some pictures of Keir and his wife who have dressed well’.

News Values…?

Of course it could just be plain old News Values influencing why Kate and Wills are appearing before Labour – the royals are more photogenic, and pictures matters in papers, and we have just had the death of the Queen so there is continuity.

HOWEVER, given the national interest surrounding the cost of living crisis and Tory economic policy crashing the economy I think there is more than News Values at work here…

Why I think this reporting might be ideological

There is some extremely significant political context to Starmer’s speech, rooted in some major socio-economic turbulence this Autumn.

The recent Tory budget gave some major tax cuts to the richest in society on top of recent hand-outs to the UK’s two biggest oil companies – BP and Shell, while ordinary people are left to soak up much of the increased cost of living themselves.

In short, the Tories have done more to help the rich than the poor and showed little interest in investing in a green-future to provide long term solutions to increasing energy prices and any potential future price shocks.

And Keir Starmer, the leader of the major opposition party is, in this speech, outlining a viable alternative strategy to what the Tories are offering.

And yet this speech has been relegated to small text on pages 4 and 5, after the pictures of Will and Kate in Wales.

To my mind this seems to be a straight up attempt to offer the masses some royal entertainment fluff rather than reporting on the Labour alternative to the cost of living crisis in an accessible manner.

I mean, think about it – they could have bullet pointed the key facts but all we have is a very unattractive full text version of the speech, it’s very easy to just ignore it, effectively rendering it invisible to many readers.

And given that the Metro is a right wing paper, that is probably the whole idea!

Discussion Questions

What do you think? Is this an example of ideological agenda setting?

Are the owners and editors of the Metro using their position of power to narrow the agenda of news reporting and discredit the views of Keir Starmer and the Labour Party…?

Or is this just plain old news values at work and the paper simply providing what the audience demand…?


This material should be of interest to students studying the Media option as part of A-level sociology.

It should also be of interest to students generally – it’s your future the Tories are messing up after all!

You can watch Sir Keir’s full speech here:

The Labour Party Conference 2022

Sir Keir’s Speech Fact Checked

Sociology Applied to #GentleMinions

Shock Horror – groups of older children have been ‘descending’ on cinemas recently to ‘disruptively watch’ the latest Despicable Me Movie – Minions: The Rise of Gru.

These children have been meeting up at cinemas in groups as large as 50, dressed in suits and calling themselves ‘Gentleminions’ and filming themselves getting up to various antics such as walking in slow motion through cinema lobbies with hands held in a particular ‘pointy finger’ despicable me pose and being rowdy during viewings of the movie – doing things such as cheering when Gru appears on screen…

Some of these children filmed these antics and uploaded them to TikTok where some videos received hundreds of thousands of views, some into the millions.

Cinema staff and management weren’t so amused by the actions of the ‘gentleminions’ with some cinemas banning groups of older children in suits from buying tickets for the movie, and with some parents of younger children saying they were scared by these antics.

These acts of minor deviance by young people should be of interest to anybody studying the Crime and Deviance aspect of sociology – as such disruptive and rowdy behaviour is clearly deviant in the context of a cinema where the social norms are that viewers keep themselves to themselves in the lobby are and are quiet during screenings.

But there’s a lot more Sociology we can apply to this contemporary event!

Sociology Applied to the #GentleMinions

First off – I call them older children because I can’t quite bring myself to call them young men, which in terms of their biological age at least some of them are. (At least I think most of them are 16-20 judging by their physical appearance, it’s hard to tell – the older I get the younger the young seem to be!).

So the first sociological concept this event reminds me of is the ‘social construction of childhood‘ – it reminds me that childhood is something flexible, and in this case we have young adults actively choosing to regress into a state of childhood for an evening.

Think about it – these people would have grown up with the ‘Despicable Me’ Franchise, being actual biological children when most of the movies were screened – and now, once the five year wait is over for the next instalment they want to regress back into that time that was probably more comforting for most of them!

So this is an illustration of the blurring of the boundaries between adulthood and childhood and in this case of adults choosing to act like children for a short while.

A Thoroughly Postmodern Event!

Obviously (hopefully) Despicable Me and the Minions are not real, they are a media construction, a cartoon.

This event couldn’t have happened without the media – and probably wouldn’t have happened without TikTok.

These kind of stunts are much more appealing to get involved in if your going to feature in a video that gets hundreds of thousands of views, after all!

An attempt at Belonging…?

Becoming a #GentleMinion, engaging in minor disruptive stunts in the cinema, filming them and uploading to TikTok is a pretty accessible way of feeling like you’re part of of something larger.

Think about it – the Minions ‘belong’ – they are like a very large community that work together, for the most part, for shared purpose, something that it is somewhat lacking in our real world postmodern society that is increasingly divisive and fractured.

But just by wearing a suit and pranking in the cinema for an evening and being part of a TikTok upload you get to be part of a global ‘movement’ that for a fleeting moment share their love of this movie.

It may be a fleeting and desperate attempt at belonging, but I kind of get it – and it’s harmless enough.

A minor moral panic….?

They’re hardly the mods and rockers but these cinema antics were/ are deviant and they did upset people and this did cause a response from the cinema-authorities, who banned some youths in suits from watching the Despicable Me movie…

So we have present three aspects of Stan Cohen’s classic moral panic theory….

However, in terms of degree of deviance these events are clearly not that harmful, and more interestingly it’s the youths themselves sharing their antics on TikTok – not the mainstream media exaggerating how deviant or disruptive they were.

#GentleMinions – Final Thoughts…

Personally I see this as relatively harmless youthful antics, not great for young kinds watching the movie with their parents, but in the grand scheme of things this is on the low end of social harm!

And this is hardly a challenge to the social order – if anything it reinforces it – it’s young people saying how much they like to consume mainstream media – I mean if any of these people were a threat to existing power structures they’d be out campaigning with a real social movement and probably wouldn’t spend so much time identifying with a cartoon!

Representing Gender Diversity – The New Netflix Norm…?

Small confession…. I’ve had way too many Netflix binge sessions over the last year, and one thing I’ve noticed is that most of the Netflix shows have a wider range of representations of gender than I’m used to seeing on the BBC.

In fact practically every series features pretty major characters who are gay, bisexual or (more recently) transgender and as a general rule these sexuality-identities are incidental to the plots – that is to say that for the most part characters are just gay (for example) and that’s that, rather than their ‘gayness’ being part of the plot itself.

In other words Netflix seems to be doing a great of job of normalising gender diversity.

I imagine most students are familiar with Netflix and this should offer some accessible evidence to update the topic of the representation of gender in the media.

A few examples…

The Hundred

FINALLY, A T.V. series which features a bisexual woman as the MAIN CHARACTER – she starts off with a boyfriend, he dies, and then she seems to develop a preference for always women as the series progresses – but no big deal, that’s just how it is!

The 3%

Most characters are heterosexual but the ‘Utopia’ in the series is founded by a ‘founding trio’ who are in a three-way relationship, and later on in the series it turns out one of the main characters is a Lesbian, but actually very reticent about sex (not that interested in emotional closeness for various reasons) and there is also one transgender character, B list rather than A-list though.


One of the best pieces of T.V. I have ever seen – featuring a bad gay FBI agent and a closet gay Hillbilly – they are not the most savoury of characters, but then again neither are most of the characters in this series which also features possibly the most dysfunctional yet functioning ‘cereal packet nuclear family’ ever.

Star Trek Discovery

The only show I’ve ever seen which features a non-binary character – the show does make a bit of a thing out of this as at one point they explain their sexuality to someone else (not identifying with any gender in particular.

Incidentally the main character ‘ is a woman, but with a traditionally male name – Michael – NEVER questioned which I kind of like. Almost like a subtle challenge to one of the most obvious gender markers.

There are MORE examples…

I kept this to just FOUR examples, but there are many many more – drop your suggestions in the comments.

Or it might be more useful/ difficult to drop new shows which DON’T have a gender diversity theme going on – it seems to be the new norm on Netflix..

For more posts on related topics please see my page on Media Studies