Read Item N below and answer the question that follows.
Applying material from Item N and your knowledge, evaluate the pluralist view of the ownership and control of the media.
Commentary on the Question
This seems to be a standard question, with the item picking up on the fact that the media are democratic and provide equality of opportunity and that they respond to the needs of the audience.
Intro – outline Pluralism
content of the media broadly reflects the diverse range of opinions found in any democratic society.
audiences control media content as media professionals and owners produce what audiences demand because they are motivated primarily by profit.
media companies are in competition and if a media company doesn’t produce what audiences want, another company will and will attract more viewers.
In this essay I will evaluate the two points brought up in the item, using Marxist theories to develop my evaluation points.
Media are part of the democratic process
media are an important part of the democratic process: give different interest groups the opportunity to put forward their views (in item!)
Elections/ Brexit – media play a crucial role. no way that parties can get their views across to millions of voters without access to the Media.
The news has commentators from different political parties, suggesting that the people are well represented.
Social media the above seems especially true –political leaders and parties use Twitter and other outlets to voice their opinions, Donald Trump/ Momentum.
However, Marxists argue that there is a subtle bias in news broadcasting which favours right wing views because media owners and journalists are themselves part of the elite.
Gatekeeping used to keep issues damaging to the right out of the news agenda
Agenda setting skews debates in favour of right-wing arguments – the Green Party gets hardly any air time compared to the Brexit Party.
Fiona Bruce is notorious – sides with the right and is barely able to hide her sneering contempt for those on the left (e.g. Dianne Abbot). Perpetuates Dominant Ideology.
Some radical thinkers have been censored by social media platforms – Tommy Robinson is one example of this.
Advertising in political campaigns costs money – so the more money a party can spend, the more of a voice it has – the Trump campaign spent a fortune on the last election for example. Supports the Instrumentalist Marxist view that those with money control media content.
Social media encourages ‘echo chambers’ – while most groups are free to express themselves, they are only ever preaching to the converted – Labour’s views probably won’t be reaching Brexit voters, for example. Thus the media isn’t quite working democratically – it isn’t encouraging debate.
Media respond to the demands of the audience
Advertising is used effectively in the media by a range of companies to advertise their products and provide people with information about what they want.
Amazon, with its cheap products and peer reviews of products provide people with access to consumer goods and useful information more efficiently than ever.
However, from a Marxist point of view, the internet is primarily about advertising, and it is used by companies such as Facebook to manipulate people into buying things they wouldn’t otherwise – creating false needs.
This isn’t helped by concentration of ownership – especially vertical integration and lateral explanation
The fact that advertising revenue accounts for so much profit of the big four tech companies suggest more support for Marxist theories rather than pluralism –most people do not advertise anything online.
Advertising even influences what search results one gets on Google – suggesting that the answer to any question you ask is influenced by money.
In conclusion, while there is some support for the fact that New Media do allow more freedom of expression than traditional media, so there is some support for Pluralism, the content of such media does appear to be biased and limited in subtle ways, so that in terms of what we actually see, there isn’t equality of opportunity, and we are not provided with the information we want or need, so I reject the Pluralist view of the media, it remains too simplistic!
This is an example of a 20 mark essay question written for the AQA’s A-level sociology paper 2, Topics in Sociology, Media option.
Read Item N below and answer the question that follows.
Applying material from Item N and your knowledge, evaluate the view that the media have a direct and immediate effect on their audiences [20 marks]
Commentary on the question
A classic essay, asking you to evaluate the Hypodermic Syringe Model, picking up on the relationship between violence and the media as an example.
Introduction – hypodermic syringe model key points
the media can have a direct and immediate effect on the audience, audience as a ‘homogeneous mass’ (all the same), and as passive
content creators can manipulate vulnerable audiences
associated with neo-Marxists Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer (A and H), from the the 1940s
They noted that there were similarities between the ‘propaganda industry’ in Nazi Germany’ and what they called the ‘Culture Industry’ in the United States.
A and H saw popular culture in the USA was like a factory producing standardized content which was used to manipulate a passive mass audience. The point was to creat false psychological needs and keeping capitalism going.
Pluralists and postmodernists would criticise the above theory – people have diverse needs which they actively meet through media, and especially New Media.
Other evidence that media messages can have a direct and immediate effect on audiences:
Orson Welles’ radio adaptation of ‘War of the Worlds‘ in 1938.
However, people are more media literate now.
The ‘beauty myth’, especially the representations of size zero as normal, have encouraged an increase in eating disorders.
However, evidence of women (and men) resisting such messages – and setting up ad campaigns which celebrate diverse body shapes criticises this.
Campaigns behind Trump and Brexit used sophisticated targeted advertising to nudge voters into voting for Trump and Brexit, suggesting the media can have a very direct and immediate effect on specific populations.
However, it is not quite accurate to say this is the media having a direct and immediate effect –they don’t even bother targeting the people who they know will make ‘oppositional readings’ – thus the two-step flow and reception analysis models may be more applicable.
Violence (in item)
There is some evidence that media violence can ‘cause’ people to be more violence in real-life…
The Bandura ‘Bobo Doll’ experiment
However, this experiment was carried out in such an artificial environment, it tells us little about how violence happens in real life.
A more nuanced version is ‘desensitisation’
There are enough criticisms which can be made of the Hypodermic syringe model to say that it is mostly invalid today….
model may have been true in the 1940s when the media was relatively new and audiences less literate, but in today’s new media age, audiences are more likely to criticise what they see rather than just believing it, and to check what they see with other sources.
Audiences are also clearly more diverse, active, and USE media for their own devices rather than the other way around.
Finally, it is just too simplistic a theory to explain social problems – societal violence has many causes, and it’s all too easy to scapegoat the media
This model explains little about how the media and audiences are interrelated in a complex postmodern age.
Read Item M below and answer the question that follows.
Applying material from Item M, analyse two reasons why the media often portray minority ethnic groups negatively. [10 marks]
Commentary on the question
A non-standard question about representations, focusing on ‘why’ rather than on ‘how’ one group is represented. There are two clear hooks in the item – the first about power and the second just about difference, suggesting that candidates make two points – one from a broadly hegemonic perspective, the other focussing on the public/ pluralism. Remember that you can pick up marks for evaluating in this type of 10 mark ‘with item’ question.
Before reading the answer you might like to review the material on ethnicity and representation, and some of the theories of ownership and control such as Pluralism, Instrumental Marxism and Hegemonic Marxism, all of which can be applied to this question.
The first reason why minority groups are represented negatively is because they have different values/ beliefs and practices from ‘mainstream’ society and are perceived by the wider public as not being fully integrated into the ‘British way of life’. The public at large is thus prejudiced against ethnic minorities, and anything which seems to threaten British identity.
By focusing on negative representations of minorities – Islamic terrorists, benefit claiming immigrants, Romanian beggars, for example, newspapers such as The Sun and the Daily Mail can sell more newspapers and make more profit – it is easier to do this by perpetuating stereotypes compared to running stories which challenge such negative representations.
It is relatively easy for papers to find stories about ethnic minorities which have many news values because some ethnic minorities do engage in activities which are ‘shocking’, and it’s maybe understandable why newspapers may choose not to publish stories in which minority groups are just ‘being British’ – because there’s nothing ‘newsworthy’ about such stories.
This theory fits in with the pluralist view – newspapers aren’t deliberately prejudiced against ethnic minorities, they just run stories which reflect public bias to increase profits.
Hegemonic Marxists would argue that ethnic minority groups are represented negatively because they are underrepresented in positions of power – both in society/ government and within the media itself.
According to Stuart Hall, ethnic minorities have been used as scapegoats for society’s larger economic problems – knife crime by black youths in London in the late 1970s was turned into a moral panic by negative reporting in the press, even though the rate of that crime was declining.
In a similar way gang crime today is largely constructed in the media as a black problem, rather than a multi-ethnic phenomenon.
A further reason why such negative representations are so common could be the lack of black voices among media professionals, meaning the white majority just go along with the racial victimization of young black youth by the government and police.
However, such negative representations may be changing in the age of New Media, which gives more power to ethnic minorities to challenge stereotypes and power inequalities in society more directly.
Beliefs in society 2018 Questions and examiner commentary
Outline and explain two ways in which globalisation may affect religious beliefs and practices (10)
Most students able to explain two ways in which globalisation may have affected religious beliefs and practices.
Popular answers included pluralism and greater choice, deterritorialisation and the growth of fundamentalism.
Some weaker answers described recent changes in beliefs or practices without making the role of globalisation clear.
Applying material from Item I, analyse two reasons why minority ethnic groups in the United Kingdom are often more religious than the majority of the population (10)
This question was generally answered well.
Popular answers included cultural defence and cultural transition (although the difference between these two concepts was not always clear), and the idea that migrants are simply more likely to be religious when placed in a secular society.
This question referred specifically to the United Kingdom and so answers about other countries could not be credited.
Applying material from Item J and your knowledge, evaluate the view that an increase in spirituality in the United Kingdom has compensated for the decline of organised religion (20)
Answers here showed a good range of knowledge.
Most students took cues from the item and discussed a range of developments, such as variations of secularisation, growth of science and rationality and the growth of New Age activities.
There was pleasing evidence of knowledge of contemporary postmodern approaches but only the best answers explicitly addressed spirituality or considered that there might be a difference between the spiritual and the religious.
Families and Households 2018 Questions and examiner commentary
Outline and explain two ways in which government policies may affect family structure. [10 marks]
There was a tendency to go into detail about the chosen policies rather than to discuss effects on family structures.
Some answers assumed an effect and did not take the opportunity to use their sociological understanding to explore the ideas in greater depth. For example, some answers said that changes to divorce laws increased the number of lone parent families, but few discussed increases in reconstituted families or bi-nuclear families.
Similarly the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act of 2013 was recognised as increasing the number of same sex married couples but also led to same sex divorces, changes in adoption, surrogacy and so on.
Applying material from Item C, analyse two ways in which demographic trends since 1900 may have affected the nature of childhood in the United Kingdom today. [10 marks]
Many answers went into reasons for the demographic changes referred to in the item rather than focus on effects on childhood.
Others discussed childhood a hundred years ago or earlier.
However, many did develop points about child centeredness by looking at its positive consequences for childhood and then developing this to link it to over protectiveness, age patriarchy, pester power, toxic childhood and so on.
Similarly, the presence of grandparents was in better answers not merely described but analysed as to how it could be both positive and negative in contributing to socialisation and childcare and in adding to the burden of care for the family with some children becoming young carers.
Better answers were distinguished by, as the mark scheme says, ‘developed applications’, going beyond the immediately apparent.
Applying material from Item D and your knowledge, evaluate the view that individual choice in personal relationships has made family life less important in the United Kingdom today
Many answers discussed changes in family life such as divorce, cohabitation, same sex marriage and gender roles in terms of greater choice but few explored whether these developments made family life more important or less important.
More developed analysis showed how diversity did not always lead to less importance being given to family life, importance of a changed form of family life. Functionalism and the New Right were often included but, sometimes with Marxism, described rather than being applied to the question.
There was a shortage of postmodernist views in addition to choice and diversity. Better answers referred to pure relationships, confluent love, negotiated families and alternative life courses.
For anyone signing up in the next week (before May 10th, I’ll also throw in access to eight pre-recorded revision Webinars covering the entire A-level sociology syllabus, available at this blog post (password protected: if you sign up for the three Webinars, I’ll email you the password!). NB six are currently available, 2 to be uploaded next week!
I will be running three A-level sociology revision webinars to cover both the core content and exam technique for the three A-level sociology exam papers: Education with Theory and Methods (paper 7192/1), Topics, focussing on the families and beliefs options (paper 7192/2), and Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods (7192/3).
The webinars are 90 minutes long and scheduled for the following dates, on the Sundays before the relevant exams:
11.00 A.M. Sunday 19th May – Education with Theory and Method
11.00 A.M. Sunday 2nd June – Families and Belief
11.00 A.M. Sunday 9th June – Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods
All of these webinars will last 90 minutes during which I will provide a (necessarily) brief overview of the content within each topic, and a discussion of several specific exam practice questions. The main focus will be on exam technique.
Students will be able to ask questions during the Webinar, via text, and there will also be time for students to ask questions at the end.
Attendees will be able to download support materials in advance of the webinars, ask questions during the seminars via ‘chat’, and students will also be able to review the seminar afterwards as they will be recorded and stored on the site. Recordings will be available until the 16th of June (several days after the final A-level sociology exam).
The one off £29.99 registration fee not only gives you access to all of the Webinars scheduled below, the price also includes downloadable hand-outs with exemplar question and answers for all of the question types on the three exam papers. The documents included in this bundle include:
Exemplars of 4,6,10 and 30 mark essay questions for Education.
A hand-out on how to answer methods in context questions, with examples.
Exemplars of the two types of 10 mark questions and 20 mark essay questions for families and beliefs
Exemplars of 4,6,10 and 30 mark essay questions for Crime and Deviance.
Exemplars of 10 mark research methods questions
Exemplars of 20 mark ‘theory and methods’ questions.
NB – if you are already enrolled on my more extensive 12 week revision webinar series, you don’t need to sign up for this, we cover everything in these three webinars in the 12 webinar series, just in more detail.
For further details of my resources and work please see my blog – revisesociology.com
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