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Daily academic Sociology Questions and Answers with Mwiinde Laison - Assess Marxist explanations of the mass media

by Mwiinde Laison ( sociologist, author and mentor)
03 Jul 2017 at 13:18hrs | Views
Question
Assess Marxist explanations of the mass media (25)

Comment overview
The question needs students to high explore the applicability of the Marxist views on media. Students in the high band should be able to include aspects like media and ideology, media and cultural imperialism, media and capitalism and media and propaganda. Students should show judgmental statement because the question is an assessment. A high eveidence of evaluation is needed to score high.

Suggested answer
Marxists are very critical of capitalist societies and believe that the mass media is standing in the way of social change. According to Marxists, the ruling class (r/c) uses dominant ideology to maintain class inequality through the use of the mass media. Bagdikan claimed that there are 6 main conglomerates in the US who are in change of all the mass media outlets. He claims that almost all media owners are a part of a power elite. Curran found that there are few key conglomerates in the UK that control the press media and broadcasting media (e.g. News Corps, ITV). The role of these massive corporations according to the Marxists are to transmit these dominant, conservative r/c ideologies in the form of entertainment and news to persuade people that we live in a meritocratic society (people need to work hard for success). This creates false class consciousness and the belief that society is democratic.

Marxists argue that the owners of the media corporations are happy to transmit these ideologies because they are a part of the ruling class and want to maintain hegemony. They make sure to only transmit a narrow range of approved views that reinforce the idea of meritocracy.

The problem with the Marxist view is that it implies that all media owners and political elite are united in some sort of ideological conspiracy to brainwash the population. However, sociologists only have second hand accounts rather than first-hand experience to confirm this theory that concentration of media ownership is damaging democracy.

The Glasgow Media Group suggest that the media content does support the interests of those who run the capitalist society. However, this is an unintended by-product of the social backgrounds of journalists and broadcasters rather than a conscious capitalist conspiracy. The GUMG point out that the majority of news reporters and journalists come from an overwhelmingly white, middle class background. Since most are from this background, the journalists tend to believe consensus views because they interest them. They believe that these views are therefore appealing to the majority of their viewers and readers. Ideas that don't conform to the ideology the journalists follow are seen as ‘extremist' and are rarely broadcasted.

On the other hand, the GUMG criticise Marxists views because they argue that journalists are not motivated by a desire to defend capitalist interests. They argue that the media industry is more interested in profit making and simply don't have the time to select what news to present. The owners of the media are too busy dealing with acquisitions and marketing plans to deal with trying to get their dominant ideology across to their audience.

Hall, a Marxist sociologist, agrees that the news is supportive of capitalist interests because those in powerful positions have better access to media than the less powerful. Hall argues this is a result of news values that most journalists take on. Most journalists also rank the views of certain people (hierarchy of credibility), they see politicians and business leaders as more important and news worthy than ordinary people. Therefore, this support that the media is in favour of hegemony and transmitting dominant ideology because it takes the ideas from influential figures.

A contrasting theory would be the pluralist theory of media ownership which argues that modern capitalist societies are democratic. The behaviour of the media owners is influenced by the market. The real power holders are the customers, readers and viewers because they have the power to boycott/watch the news. This theory would disagree with the Marxist view because they argue that the power is with the w/c rather than the r/c. Also, pluralists say that the power of the r/c is restricted by state and government controls. This means that there is no way that the r/c is purely trying to transmit conformist views because there are so many constraints.

There are public service broadcasting services such as the BBC which are legally obliged to prove impartial and objective media to counterweight any bias from private sector news firms. These contradict the Marxist perspectives about the media owners wanting to maintain hegemony because these PSB purpose is not to provide r/c bias to its audiences.

In conclusion, Marxists are guilty of oversimplifying the relationship between owners and media. Pluralists as a criticism of Marxism is also out of date because it has failed to acknowledge that journalistic or editorial integrity no long has a great deal in media.

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Source - Mwiinde Laison ( sociologist, author and mentor)
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