The Celebrity Boat Race – Screamingly Upper Middle Class

The over-representation of the upper middle classes in charity sporting events

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I was unfortunate enough to catch an A BBC Breakfast item on the celebrity boat race for Sports Relief on Wednesday.

This featured Louis Minchin interviewing some other celebrities and James Cracknell about the upcoming charity boat race in which four teams from BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky will be competing to raise money for mental health charities.

An mostly upper middle class celebrity love-in…

Now I know rowing is traditionally associated with independent schools, as are media celebrities, and I detected a distinct upper middle class twang going around the self-congratulatory interviews. This made me wonder what the class background of the boat race celebs was.

Given that 6-7% of the population is independently schooled, I did a quick trawl to figure out how over-represented (if at all) the upper middle classes are in this event.

A note on the methods

I simply looked up the celebs on Wikipedia, and about half had information about their schooling, in one case (Rachel Parris) the school had information on her.

NB there are some data gaps below, and I stopped at 50% as I’ve only got so many hours in the day….

Team BBC – at least 33% Independently schooled, 4* over-represented compared to the national average.

  • Louise Minchin –  privately not educated at St Mary’s School, Ascot
  • Steve Backshall – unknown, but brought up in a smallholding in Bagshot, Surrey which suggests a reasonably wealthy background
  • Maya Jama – educated at Cotham school (not independent)
  • Michael Stevenson – unknown
  • Jay Blades – probably not privately educated, as from Hackney
  • Rachel Parris – independently educated at Loughborough selective school

Team ITV – probably 50% privately educated, or about 8* over-represented

  • Matt Evers – don’t know (N/B American)  
  • Colson Smith – don’t know
  • Isabel Hodgins – independently educated at the Sylvia Young Theatre School
  • Dr Ranj Singh – don’t know
  • Andrea Mclean – probably independently educated, brought up in Trinidad and Tobago
  • Romilly Weeks  – she’s a Royal Correspondent and lives in London, so almost certainly independently educated.

Analysis – actually not bad social class representation, for the media.

I’d had enough of digging after 12 celebs, so I’m basing this on a 50% sample.

  • Approximately 45% of the celebs are independently educated, which means the independently schooled are about 7* over-represented compared to what they should be.
  • Having said that, the independently schooled make up more than 60% of media professionals so this boat race line up is actually MORE representative of the working classes than might be expected.
  • Based on my sample ALL the white women have been independently educated. Minority women and men are more likely to (probably) be from a working class background).

I’ve rounded up as the two British Olympic rowers are also independently schooled: James Cracknell and Helen Glover (in fairness on a sports scholarship).

Jame Cracknell – An upper middle class jaw jaw?

Over to you for some further research

NB, over to you if you want to do some further research, I’ve included the C4 and Sky teams below. I’d be surprised if they didn’t have similar percentages.

Let me know in the comments if these findings are generalisable!

Team Channel 4

  • Jamie Laing
  • Cathy Newman
  • Chelsee Healey
  • Amanda Byram
  • Tom Read Wilson
  • Ed Jackson

Team Sky

  • Dermot Murnaghan
  • Natalie Pinkham
  • Hayley McQueen
  • Lloyd Griffith
  • Nazaneen Ghaffar
  • Carl Froch
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I’m not so sure Stuart is the victim of someone playing the race card…

Alastair Stewart recently resigned his position as a news reader for ITV, following accusations that he’d made a racist comment towards someone on Twitter.

Stuart was having a twitter conversation with Martin Shapland about the relationship between the taxpayer and the crown, and in a reply to Shapland he used a Shakespear Quote:

“But manproud man, Dress’d in a little brief authority, Most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d— His glassy essence—like an angry ape.

Shapland, who is black, picked up on the ‘ape’ part of the quote and accused Stuart of being racist, and trying to disguise a racial slur within a quote.

Stuart resign from his 40 year career as a news anchor before he was sacked – that tweet above which broke ITV’s guidelines on the use of social media.

NB Shapland has said that he didn’t want him to resigned/ be sacked, and that an apology would have done.

But is this an example of racism?

The first thing suggesting that the tweet had no racist intent is that Stuart has used that quote with other people, which suggests that the intention is to suggest someone’s opinion is invalid because it is not properly informed with all of the facts, rather than it referring to someone’s racial background.

The second thing in Stuart’s defence is his track record: I’ve never come across a sniff of him being Racist before? Obviously all is colleagues and friends say he isn’t, but then they would… but if one was racist, you’d expect something to have ‘come out’ after 40 years in the media spotlight?

Finally, there’s the background of Shapland – some of his previous tweets suggest he’s something of a ‘race warrior’, with some of his tweets calling out white privilege.

I’ve been looking around for an example of something that appears to be racist, but on slightly closer examination . almost certainly isn’t racist, and this seems to be a good example of that!

This feels like ‘trial by social media and political correctness’

As I understand it, in the eyes of the law (certainly where hate crime is concerned) if a victim perceives there to be racial intent, then there is racial intent, so in that sense, ITV had no choice to but to let Stuart go.

However, in this case, the objective truth seems more likely to be that there was any racial intent in that tweet:

It’s probably even the case that even Shapland himself didn’t really think Stuart was being racist: rather it feels like what happened is that Shapland sent off a terse reply ‘playing the race card’ without really thinking about it as part of a social media tiff.

And in the rapid world of social media, you might be able to delete those kind of tweets, but not before someone else has screen shotted and retweeted them!

Final thoughts

To my mind this is a very postmodern event – this kind of thing just couldn’t happen outside of social media.

I don’t think this has turned out too well for Shapland either – he’s getting a lot of actual abuse on twitter now, Stuart has been a popular part of our media landscape for generations!

Also, careful how you use Twitter, it’s not a great case for ‘debates’!

Was the BBC’s coverage of the 2019 election biased?

Is the UK biased against the conservatives? How do we even measure this?

More conservatives complained to the BBC about anti-Tory bias in its 2019 election coverage than Labour supporters complained about there being an anti-Labour bias. (Source).

This trend is consistent with complaints about bias received by the BBC throughout 2019 – most complaints were from conservatives, complaining about the BBC being anti-Tory or anti-Boris – especially The Today Progamme, Andrew Marr Show and Newsnight.

However, the above analysis is based on formal written complaints, which is not a valid indicator of the nature or extent of bias in the media – there may have been more complaints on Twitter and Facebook about the BBC being pro-Tory in its election coverage, but these aren’t ‘formal’ complaints and so don’t need to be dealt with by the BBC.

Hence we need to treat the above figures with caution, especially when Tory voters tend to be older, and Labour voters tend to be younger – the former are more likely to make formal written complaints, the later more likely to take to social media.

Writing in the Observer, Peter Oborne calls out the BBC for being biased towards to Tories and against Labour, so there is definitely a difference in subjective opinions over what counts as bias.

NB – sociologically speaking, all of the above should be dismissed as subjective value judgments – there is nothing factual about the nature or extent of bias in the BBC in any of this!

Is it possible to measure political bias in the BBC objectively?

For the BBC as a whole, probably not, because it’s so difficult to measure agenda setting – what’s kept out of the news, which is itself ideological.

Where the narrow news agenda is concerned I guess any attempt to objectively measure bias would need to focus on specific programmes – say Newsnight, where one could count the air time given to different guests, and the kind of interaction between the presenter and the guests too, and the amount of time given to pro-Tory and pro-Labour issues.

However, the later is tricky – although inequality is more of a Labour issue, is devoting half a Newsnight programme to it biased towards Labour? It’s still something the Tories have to deal with.

Also, how do decide whether a presenter ‘asking hard questions’ is biased against an interviewee or just doing their job?

In short, it’s difficult to measure bias on Live T.V. shows, much easier in News Papers.

Not sure what the solution is TBH!

Political bias in the media 2019

Examples of right wing media bias from the filthy Daily Mail, from the 2019 general election.

There’s nothing quite like a General Election to reveal the bias in mainstream newspapers, which is a major topic within the media option for A-level sociology.

I mean, we all know that the mainstream news is biased, but during elections, any attempt to report political events in a fair or neutral way just seems to disappear altogether.

In the case of the the UK’s most widely circulated, and most offensive, newspaper, The Daily Mail, even the most cursory discourse analysis reveals a very strong pro Tory and anti Labour stance, often framed as ‘pro-Bexit and anti-Brexit, and also often personablised as pro Boris and anti Corbyn.

Below are a few examples from the filth that is the Daily Mail.

‘Vote Boris’

I mean could the pro Tory bias be any clearer?!?

Corbyn in the Dock

Corbyn on trial – implies he’s done something so wrong as to be accused of being a criminal. And next to it an assertion by Boris presented as truth.

Labour’s Brexit Portrayal

So here the headline moves away from the personal attacks, but we’re back to it underneath – with a ‘sneering’ Corbyn, implying he’s somehow evil and arrogant, not caring about the people.

Corbyn’s Two Fingers to Leavers…

This is probably the most disgusting headline of all: as if Jeremy Corbyn is that flippant about how leavers feel, and as if the issue is that simple.

And finally: how to help the Torys win…

Conclusions

Mainstream newspapers may be less well circulated than ever, but they do offer a very easy insight into just how biased they can be. And if this bias is in the print version, you can be it’s in the online versions, and not just at election times, although at less fraught times, the bias will be a lot subtler!

Representations of men in the media

This post focuses on traditional representations of men as reinforcing aspects of hegemonic masculinity before considering some of the changes to male representations in more recent years.

Traditional representations of men reinforce hegemonic masculinity

Traditional representations of men have ascribed certain attributes to male characters such as strength, power, control, authority, rationality and lack of emotion. In other words, media representations of men have reinforced hegemonic masculinity.

Gilmore has summarised this even more simply, arguing that the media stereotype men into ‘the provider, the protector and the impregnator’.

Violence as a normal part of masculinity  

According to Earp and Katz (1999) the media have provided us with a steady stream of images which define violence as an ordinary or normal part of masculinity, or in their own words….

“The media help construct violent masculinity as a cultural norm. Media discourse reveals the assumption that violence is not so much a deviation but an accepted part of masculinity”.

Wider representations of men and masculinity

Children Now (1999) conducted research in the late 1990s and found that there were six common types of representation of men in the media

  • The joker – uses laughter to avoid displaying seriousness or emotion
  • The jock – demonstrates his power and strength to win the approval of other men and women
  • The strong silent type (James Bond) – being in charge, acting decisively, controlling emotion and succeeding with women.
  • The big shot – power comes from professional status
  • The action hero – strong and shows extreme aggression and violence
  • The Buffoon – a bungling father figure, well intentioned and light hearted. (Homer). Hopeless at domestic affairs.

(Boys to Men: Media Messages About Masculinity, Children Now 1999).

The Crisis of Masculinity, the New Man and changing representations of masculinity

As with women, the changing roles of men in society are reflected in changing representations of men in the media.

Representations of men are moving away from absolute toughness, stubborn self-reliance and emotional silence with more male characters being comfortable with showing emotions and seeking advice about how to deal with the problems of masculinity.

There are also an increasing amount of images within advertising which encourage men to be concerned with body image and appearance as well as a sexualisation of male bodies, in which they are presented as sex objects for female viewing pleasure, much in the same way as female bodies have been traditionally been used by the media.

Applying material from Item B and your knowledge, evaluate the view that the media portray women in a stereotypical way [20 marks]

An essay plan covering some of the knowledge and evaluation points you could use to answer this question for AQA A-level sociology paper two: the media option.

You might like to review this post on how women are represented in the media before going through the plan below.

The item refers to three main types of stereotypical representations

  • A limited range of roles (Symbolic annihilation)
  • Concern with appearance (The Beauty Myth)
  • Women needing a partner

Symbolic Annihilation

  • Symbolic Annihilation (Tuchman, 1978) =  under-representation/ narrow range of social roles, gender stereotypes – housework and motherhood
  • ‘Mouse that Roared’ Henry Giroux – Disney Films – Snow White.
  • Gauntlett – increase in the diversity of representations, reflects wider social changes.
  • films with ‘strong’ lead female characters – e.g. Alien, Kill Bill, and The Hunger Games.
  • However, lead female characters are slim and attractive
  • The Bechdel Test.
  • Global Media Monitoring group (2015) – women in news – the overall presence of women as sources was 28%. largely confined to the sphere of the private, emotional and subjective, while men still dominate the sphere of the public, rational and objective.

The Beauty Myth

  • media present unrealistic and unattainable images of women which encourages women to worry unnecessarily about their looks (Naomi Wolfe).
  • Tebbel (2000) body and faces of real women have been symbolically annihilated, replaced by computer manipulated, airbrushed, artificially images.
  • Killborn – women presented as ‘mannequins’ – size zero, tall and thin, and with perfect blemish-free skin.
  • Orbach – media associates slimness with health, happiness, success and popularity
  • Recent evidence challenges Beauty Myth…. Backlash to 2015 Protein World’s ‘Beach Body Ready’ advertising campaign
  • Since 2015 increase in the diversity of representations of women in advertising: Dove‘s Real Beauty‘ campaign72 , Sport England ‘ This Girl Can‘ campaign.
  • 2017 – Advertising Standards Authority launched new guidelines on avoiding gender stereotyping in advertising, banned ads 2019.
  • UN women’s Unstereotype Alliance‘.

Women needing a partner

  • Ferguson (1980) – content analysis of women’s magazines from the end of WWII to 1980: cult of femininity: caring for others, family, marriage, and concern for appearance.
  • Ferguson: teenage magazines aimed at girls offered broader range of female representations, but still a focus on him, home and looking good for him.
  • However, McRobbie – Cosmopolitan has featured positive representations of young women as seeking to control their own lives rather than being dependent on men.

 

The reception analysis model of audience effects

Reception analysis model states there three main types of ‘reading’ which audiences make of media content:

  • The dominant reading: which is the same as the media content creators.
  • The oppositional reading: which opposes the views expressed in the media
  • The Negotiated reading: where people interpret media content to fit in with their own lives.

The reception analysis model.png

The reception analysis model is an ‘active audience’ model associated with Morley (1980) who conducted research on how several different groups of people interpreted media messages.

Audiences are polysemic

According to Morley audiences came from many different cultures and thus there were many possible ‘negotiated’ readings. He further argued that individuals had many aspects to their identities, and they interpreted media content in a variety of ways, often chopping and changing their interpretations over time.

Morley thus believed that audiences were active rather than passive and their interpretations were not always easy to predict.

 

The selective filter model of audience effects

The selective filter model of audience effects (Klapper 1960) holds that media messages pass through three filters before they have an effect.

This is an active audience model which suggests that the audience do not just passively accept what they see in the media as ‘the truth’, as the hypodermic syringe model suggests.

According to this theory the three filters are:

  1. selective exposure
  2. selective perception
  3. selective retention

selective filter model.png

 

Selective exposure 

Different groups are exposed to different media content, which will influence the effect the media can have on them.

Audiences actively choose what to watch, which is influenced by their interests, age, gender, education etc.

Censorship may also deny some groups access to certain content, thus denying them exposure. An example of this is with age-graded media content which parents might prevent their children from watching.

Selective perception

Audiences may reject some of the content they are exposed to, for example because what they see does not fit in with their view of the world.

Festinger (1957) argued that people actively seek out media content which affirms their already existing views of the world.

Selective retention 

Finally, content has to stick for it to have an effect.

Audiences are more likely to remember content they agree with.

Sources 

Adapted from Chapman et al: Sociology AQA A-level Year 2 student book

 

Representations of Ethnicity

black male stereotypes.PNG

Van Dijk (1991) conducted content analysis of tens of thousands of news items across the world over several decades and found that representations of black people could be categorised into three stereotypically negative types of news:

  • Ethnic minorities as criminals
  • Ethnic minorities as a threat
  • Ethnic minorities as unimportant.

Minority groups as criminals

Wayne et al (2007) found that nearly 50% of news stories concerning young black people dealt with them committing crime.

Cushion et al analysed Sunday newspapers, nightly television news and radio news over a 16 week period in 2008-9 and found that black young men and boys were regularly associated with negative news values – nearly 70% of stories were related to crime, especially violent gang crime.

They further pointed out that black crime is often represented as senseless or as motivated by gang rivalries, which little discussion of the broader social and economic context.

Back (2002) conducted discourse analysis of inner-city race disturbances and argued that the media tends to label them as riots, which implies they are irrational and conjures up images of rampaging mobs, which in turn justifies a harsh clampdown by the police.

There is little consideration given to the view that such disturbances may be the result of legitimate concerns, such as responses to police and societal racism, which need to be taken seriously.

Minority groups as a threat

In recent years media moral panics have been constructed around:

  • Immigrants, who are seen as a threat in terms of their numbers and impact on jobs and welfare services.
  • Refugees and Asylum seekers – analysis from the ICAR in 2005 noted that asylum seekers were often portrayed as being a threat to British social cohesion and national identity, with such people often blamed for social unrest.
  • Muslims – who are often portrayed as the ‘enemy within’

Moor et al (2008) found that between 2000 and 2008 over a third of stories focused on terrorism, and a third focused on the differences between Muslim communities and British society, while stories of Muslims as victims of crime were fairly rare.

They concluded there were four negative media messages about Muslims:

  • Islam as dangerous and irrational
  • Multiculuralism as allowing muslims to spread their message
  • Clash of civlisations, with Islam being presented as intolerant, oppressive and misogynistic.
  • Islam as a threat to the British way of life, with Sharia law.

Amelie et al (2007) focused on coverage of veiling as an Islamic practice, and found that media coverage tended to present this is a patriarchal oppressive practice, with little coverage focusing on the wearing of the veil as a choice.

Minority Groups as Unimportant

Van Dijk (1999) further noted that some sections of the media imply that white lives are more important than non-white lives.

He claimed, for example, that black victims of crime are not paid as much attention to as white victims of crime.

Shah (2008) claims that that the BBC engage in ‘tokenism’ – Black and Asian actors are cast as presenters or in roles just to give the appearance of ethnic equality, regardless of whether they ‘fit’ into the role.

The result is that many ethnic minorities do not identify with ethnic minority characters,

As a whole the mainstream media pays little attention to the genuine concerns and interests of ethnic minorities, because the mainstream media is dominated by a metropolitan, liberal, while, male, public school and Oxbridge educated, middle class elite.

Changing representations of ethnicity 

NB – the photo at the top of this post is actually taken from a recent campaign to challenge the black male criminal stereotype in the media… find out more in this BBC article.

Sources 

Chapman et al (2016) Sociology AQA A-level Year 2 Student Book

The postmodernist model of audience effects

Postmodernists argue that the media is an integral part of postmodern society. Individuals actively use the media to construct their identities, and there is a sense of playfulness, creativity and unpredictability about how they go about doing this.

Postmodernists criticise other theories of audience effects, especially the Hypodermic Syringe model for assuming that audiences are homogenous (the same) and any models which assume there is such a thing as one dominant or preferred reading of media messages, such as the reception analysis model.postmodernism-media-effects.png

A diverse and active audience

Individuals read media in a diverse variety of ways, and how they read media content depends on a range of factors, including the entirety of an individual’s prior life experiences. Audiences can also change the way the interpret media content over time and make multiple readings of the same content simultaneously.

It follows that of all the models of audience effects, the postmodernist model sees the audience as the most active.

No such thing as an ‘underlying’ reality

Finally, postmodernists also argue that the media is constitutive of people’s realities – there is no deeper reality underneath media representations, media representations are no less real than non-media reality (if indeed there is such a thing!). It is thus meaningless to say that the media has an ‘effect’ on audiences as to make such a claim assumes that media representations and the audience are two different things, in postmodernism they are not, they are one and the same.