Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The Systematic Removal of History

“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman” (de Beauvoir 1976, 267).  When considering the prolific amount of advertisements inundating us with tips on how to obtain femininity and become the woman we want (or a man wants us) to be, this statement bears a ring of truth.  Tania Modleski contends, “femininity in our culture is largely a male construct, a male “design,” and that this femininity is in fact a matter of external trappings, of roles and masquerade, without essence”(1988, 91).   But who gave man the power to determine femininity or female beauty? 

According to Simone de Beauvoir, it was Aristotle who first discussed what was wrong with woman: “The female is a female by virtue of a certain lack of qualities”(de Beauvoir, S. 1976, xvi) with St. Thomas following suit by referring to woman as an “imperfect man” (Ibid., xvi).   Freud believed, “The discovery that she is castrated is a turning point in a girl’s growth” and is the only way a woman can reach “normal femininity” (Freud).   Women have always been othered in order to maintain the hegemonic status quo.

In The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan discussed the “problem that has no name” (1963, 19), which came about because of the “sense of dissatisfaction”(Friedan, B. 1963, 15) some women felt with their life of servitude to husband and children.  They had been told, “they could desire no greater destiny than to glory in their own femininity”(Ibid., 15) which of course was reliant on how they looked after their family, and their appearance.   This left a lot of women feeling lonely, unable to talk about their discontent in fear of being ostracised.   

For Naomi Wolf, magazines filled this fraternal gap, providing friendship and a forum for “woman-to-woman debate”(Wolf 1990, 72).  However while providing this service, their primary reason for existence was to obtain “whatever the economy, their advertisers, and, during wartime, the government, needed at that moment from women” (ibid, 64).  The 1950s saw magazines filled with advertisements for home appliances and cleaning products, but these have been replaced with adverts focusing on skin care and make-up: “So modern women’s magazines now centre on beauty work rather than housework” (ibid, 65).  In a way, it was better for women when the focus was on the house. 

The constant promotion of idealised beauty (or a particular version of beauty from a select few) contributes towards (or some might argue, is the major contributor to) the self-hatred that keeps the beauty, fashion and magazine industries alive.  It makes perfect sense.  In order to stimulate the need to consume the vast array of beautifying products available, women have to believe they are flawed. These “extreme contradictions between the positive and negative elements of the magazines’ message” (Wolf 1990, 70) are problematic because no matter how many empowering stories there might be in the publication, the underlying message is that women are just not good enough the way they are.

Naomi Wolf’s assertion that airbrushing “age off a woman’s face is to erase women’s identity, power, and history” (1990, 83) really made me think.  I had never thought of it in the terms outlined by Wolf.  As she states, the public outcry if “all positive images of blacks were routinely lightened” (Ibid., 83) would resonate throughout the media.  However routinely changing a woman’s image is fine.  

One might argue that airbrushing the image of one woman isn’t going to change the world.  Firstly, the airbrushing happens a lot.  Just leaf through the pages of a glossy magazine – any mature woman included, looks remarkably good for her age.  Dalma Heyn admits, “retouching artists conspire to ‘help’ beautiful women look more beautiful; i.e., less their age” (quoted in Wolf 1990, 82).  Secondly, it reflects on all women.  The images represent what women are supposed to look like, so the “routine” airbrushing of age from a woman’s face promotes the message that older women should stay at home out of sight.  (Kind of interesting for me living here in Dubai where you rarely see older Emirati women out in public.) To stay eternally young is a losing battle.  Does anybody know anyone who thinks Joan Rivers looks attractive?  Living in a world obsessed with being mutton dressed up as lamb is a testament to the fact we’ve lost our way.

Power comes from experience (okay, money too, but that also increases over time).   Think of people who you think of as having power or authority – are their faces smooth, or do they have some lines?  Power isn’t about being physically strong or rich; it’s about having the capacity to influence or being competent.  This only comes through knowledge and experience.  There’s a reason why so many leaders are older! We probably wouldn’t want a pretty, young thing heading our government.  Politics might become nicer to watch, but without experience, the best decisions may not be made. 

Airbrushing the history off a face connotes that what has gone before has no value.  It belittles who that person has become; after all, we only become who we are because of our experiences.  A face is the signpost of your background.  Maori wear their moko with pride because it speaks of their whakapapa (ancestry) – the lines on a face have a similar meaning; they tell your personal, as opposed to your familial, ancestry.    

Your face is the first thing other people see.  Sure, we all can’t be supermodels, but surely that’s not the point.  Your face should tell who you are, not be representative of a type.  Maybe the “pressure from advertisers is endemic” (Tebbel 2000, 112) but setting up readers to believe they are inferior in order to please a client is obscene. Therefore I absolutely agree with Wolf, “To airbrush age off a woman’s face is to erase women’s identity, power, and history.” I see it as another way of maintaining patriarchy.  If women can be persuaded we’re good enough the way we are, perhaps we won’t find the courage to succeed in male dominated fields. 

Beauvoir, S. de.  1976, The Second Sex, ed. and trans. H. M. Parshley. New York: A.A Knopf.
Freiden, B. 1963, The Feminine Mystique, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, INC. 
Modleski, T. 1988, ‘Femininity by design’, in The Women Who Know Too Much: Hitchcock and Feminist Theory / Tania Modleski.  New York: Methuen, 1988. Chapter 6, pp 87-100, 134-136.  
Tebbel, C.  2000.  “Cosmetics/Magazine Industry: Periodical Pains,” in The Body Snatchers: How the Media Shapes Women.  Sydney: Finch, 108-131. 
Wolf, N. 1990, 'Culture', in The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are used Against Women.  London: Vintage, 58-85.  


In the 18th century, the media became the fourth estate, alongside the first estate (the Lords Spiritual – clergy), the second estate (the Lords Temporal – nobility) and the third estate (the House of Commons).  Their role was and still is, “to act as a guardian of the public interest and as a watchdog on the activities of government.” (Australian Politic.com 2011, online). Or in other words, to inform the public and keep those in power accountable, and by doing so, contributing to the public sphere.  Of Denis McQuail’s six normative theories of media purposes, the social responsibility theory is the one that corresponds best (more realistically) with the fourth estate, as it calls for the media to be “guardians of the [democratic] process” (Watson 2008, 118).  Where this theory is in danger of failing is that it requires pluralism to operate properly, and with the “current trend towards the convergence of ownership” (Watson 2008, 118) the opportunity for pluralism in mainstream media is continually decreasing.  This convergence of ownership actually affects the other two normative theories that relate to the fourth estate. The democratic-participant theory is a utopic dream, worth aiming for but in reality unattainable primarily due to the convergence of ownership.  The free press theory is the category where the West would currently place itself, but it fails to meet the first principle which is to be “servant to none but its readership” (Ibid. )– again a utopic view as it’s not the readership that demands loyalty but the ownership.   The information presented in “the news is supposed to be objective, to provide a balanced account of issues and events… But the media often privilege certain voices, the agenda setters” (O’Shaughnessy and Stadler 2008, 26).  And these voices being privileged are the power elite, which is shown by the fact that, “Four Western news agencies supply 90% of the world’s press, radio and television” (Bainbridge 2008, 365).  A variety of voices are vital for the fourth estate to be realized, and because this is not the case, the public’s perception of events is influenced (some would say controlled) by the media.

When an event happens, it can be difficult to ascertain what we actually know for certain because of the amount of ‘spin’ placed on the information being disseminated: “Today, few would disagree that the Bush administration resorted to propaganda in order to justify its war on Iraq and that the news media simply presented as fact information that they should have carefully scrutinized” (Kumar 2006, 48). However, in a democracy it’s important that the stories appear to be truthful therefore great pains are taken to make the information look genuine.  Persuading the audience that something is truthful derives from disinformation.  The information is tailored “to mislead, either by selection, economizing with the truth or just plain lies” (Watson 2009, 425).  Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky wrote a pivotal book explaining this process in 1988 entitled, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media.  They describe the media as serving “the ends of a dominant elite” (Herman, E.S. 1988, 1) with the news passing through a series of filters, which sanitise the story, making it appropriate for release.  The filters they identify are ownership, advertising, sourcing, flak and anti-Communism.  For these filters to work, “the manufacture of consent by a ‘specialized class’ that can override the short-sighted perspectives of the masses must entail media control by that class” (Herman 2000, 101).  Once again, the convergence of ownership is the issue here. 

The Vietnam War was a defining event in war reporting due to an unparalleled quantity of media coverage.  The coverage, showing those at home the reality of the situation, was paramount in turning the public against what they saw as an unjust war: “…television distorted the war by showing graphic images of the dead, turning Americans against the war” (Kumar 2006, 50).  This is a good example of the media upholding their responsibility as the fourth estate by making the power elite answerable.  This resulted in many of the power elite believing  “that it was media coverage of the war that led to the US defeat”(Kumar 2006, 50).  This caused the military to devise what John MacArthur describes as “a system of media control” (quoted in Kumar 2006, 50), namely the establishment of a pool of reliable reporters who:

“allowed the military to control the movement of journalists and to restrict where they went and what they saw. Journalists were taken to selected sites and not allowed to interview soldiers without a military minder present. Additionally, reporters were not allowed to pass on stories until they were inspected by the military. In the absence of direct access to the war, reporters were treated to press briefings with images of precision bombing and laser-guided missiles hitting their target” (Kumar 2006, 50-51).

During and after 9/11, while studying in the U.S, a friend was watching CNN and saw the first broadcast of the footage of the Palestine Hotel being fired upon.  This footage, provided by Abu Dhabi TV, one of the group of stations “commonly subsumed under the label Arab Satellite Broadcasting, or ASB” (Wessler and Adolphsen 2008, 439), included Arabic writing on a banner at the bottom of the screen, asking for assistance because they were being attacked.  The footage disappeared from screen and was replaced by the anchorman stating, authoritatively, that there was no information available as to what was happening.  He told his friends what he saw but nobody believed him.  They refused to believe that Americans would fire on journalists.  Several days later, the real story was released.  His friends were amazed at his ‘scoop’.  The quick removal of initial footage, that containing the Arabic, shows information management for propaganda purposes.  Obviously somebody translated the Arabic, realised how bad this could potentially look for the war effort, and removed it before much damage could be done.  The showing of images, but denial of knowledge of what was happening, is what Kumar outlines as one of the three strategies that were employed to connect Iraq to 9/11.  The first strategy, incorporating a degree of uncertainty in order to avoid public condemnation, was achieved by presenting “facts attached with a disclaimer of uncertainty, so that when the evidence was proved false, the credibility of the source could still be maintained by blaming faulty intelligence or claiming that the information was classified” (Kumar 2006, 56).  The second strategy, establishing “guilt through suggestion” (2006, 56), was achieved through constantly mentioning Iraq and Al Qaeda in the same sentence.  The third strategy, establishing “guilt through speculation” (Kumar 2006, 56), involved discussing possible scenarios of the alliance between Iraq and Al Qaeda and the ramifications (for the U.S) of that union. 

The filters that Herman and Chomsky developed can be seen in this example as well.  CNN is owned by Time Warner and as such, came under pressure to tow the party line.  According to CNN war correspondent, Christiane Amanpour:

"I think the press was muzzled, and I think the press self-muzzled. I'm sorry to say, but certainly television and, perhaps, to a certain extent, my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News. And it did, in fact, put a climate of fear and self-censorship, in my view, in terms of the kind of broadcast work we did" (USA Today 2003, online)

As an extension of this self-censorship, “Before the start of the Iraq war, CNN set up a system of ‘script approval’ where reporters had to send their stories to unnamed officials in Atlanta before they could be run. This would ensure that if the military made any errors, CNN monitors would act as the second layer of filtering” (Kumar 2006, 51).  CNN may have felt “obligated to carry extremely dubious stories and mute criticism in order not to offend their sources and disturb a close relationship” (Herman and Chomsky 1988, 22).  The reason a major player like CNN would conform to this extent is because they don’t want to lose advertising revenue if seen to be against the war, ergo anti-American.  As Edward Herman explains, these media outlets are businesses wanting to make a profit, “and they are funded largely by advertisers who are also profit-seeking entities, and who want their advertisements to appear in a supportive selling environment” (Herman, E. S. 2000, 102). CNN also had embedded journalists who would be expected to report favourably: “Embedded reports were more favorable in tone and displayed more trust in the military, thus conforming to the intentions of military public relations strategy” (Wessler and Adolphsen 2008, 443).  CNN were proactive when it came to flak and although they incorporated a lot of footage from ASB stations, they were “framed as an untrustworthy source of information" (Wessler and Adolphsen 2008, 454) through the CNN anchors saying they weren’t sure “how authentic the utilized Arab foorage (Wessler and Adolphsen 2008, 451) was. The original filter of anti-Communism is dated today but can easily be replaced by anti-terrorism.  This us and them dichotomy is needed to justify the legitimacy of the war.  As Herman and Chomsky explain, it’s not just in times of war where news is framed in terms of Self and Other; this also happens in times of peace.   The division caused by this binary opposition, allows for endorsement of the dominant ideology and sets the scene whereby “rooting for ‘our side’ [is] an entirely legitimate news practice” (Herman E.S. and Chomskhy, N. 1988, 30-31).  This Othering, or “the relationship between the Occident and the Orient” (Said 1978, 5) is one of dominance and is needed to assert hegemony and maintain the status quo.  It’s easier to drum up unabashed support if the invasion/liberation is framed as the civilized West wanting to help the uncivilized oppressed and bring freedom and our way of life to them. 

Much has been written about Rupert Murdoch’s pro-war stance.  In fact on more than one occasion he has been “accused of using his papers…’to advance a political agenda’” (Watson 2008. 111).  An example of this is how unashamedly proactive he was in dictating the position his media outlets took with regard to Iraq.  Point in case, the order given to his 175 newspapers resulting in each one supporting “the invasion of Iraq” (Bainbridge 2008, 365).  James Watson asserts that for the majority of media barons, “the allure of power…was a decisive factor in the content and style of their publication” (Ibid., 109) and this is certainly the case with Murdoch.  His mobilization of public opinion through News Corporation (by way of Fox, The Sun, The Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph to name a few) highlights the strength of the power elite and how important his media outlets were in legitimizing the war.  In a 2004 interview, Murdoch acknowledged, “With our newspapers…We have supported Bush’s foreign policy.  And we remain committed that way” (Bainbridge 2008, 365).  On the other hand, those outlets “that attempt to give fair coverage to the enemy’s point of view are soon accused of being unpatriotic” (Ibid., 124).  This is shown in the way, Fox, took their “support to the extreme, going so far as to ridicule antiwar protesters” (Kumar 2006, 51).  The overt pro-war stance that Fox News took and their habit of mocking antiwar sentiments influenced the way the other media outlets reported what was happening in Iraq: “Through the media, he was convincing subordinate groups it was in their best interests that Americans invaded Iraq” (Bainbridge 2008, 7). 

The majority of information being relayed to the public more often than not derives from one of three places.  Watson claims that governments supply more information than any other group in society with transnational corporations next.  According to Herman and Chomsky, in 1971 the Pentagon’s public information service published 371 magazines making it “sixteen times larger than the nation’s biggest publisher” (1988, 20).  They claim that, “Only the corporate sector has the resources to produce public information and propaganda on the scale of the Pentagon and other government bodies” (Ibid., 21).  According to Trevor Thrall (2000), “journalists found that they had little information and no pictures other than what the Pentagon had provided them, and this is what they reported” (Kumar 2006, 50). More and more “a significant proportion of news originates in public relations releases” (Herman 2000, 109). Mark Dowie (1995) asserts that there are approximately “20,000 more public relations agents working to doctor the news today than there are journalists writing it (quoted in Herman, 2000, 109).  This streamlining of the newsroom is contrary to the concept of the fourth estate, as press releases are not designed to be objective but to sell a product, opinion or issue.  The third place where media outlets receive footage is from other media outlets.  Of course with the convergence of media ownership it makes sense that information would do the rounds within an organisation.  However, often information needs to come from further afield than an overseas office in the same organisation.  As stated by K. Hafez (2004), “it is obvious that Western media frequently utilize footage by Al-Jazeera, Abu Dhabi TV or Al-Arabiya.  However, contexts, discourses and interpretations only rarely make their way into Western media” (quoted in Wessler and Adolphsen 440-441).  Footage from another country, especially one that has been set up as the uncivilized Other to our civilized Self, needs to be framed in adherence with societal norms (dominant ideology) in order to fit the local framework, otherwise it might not lend credence to the war.

The “current trend towards the convergence of ownership and relaxation in restrictions on cross-media control”(Watson 2008, 118) is preventing the media from fulfilling their role as the fourth estate.  In order for the true role of the fourth estate to be achieved, diversity is needed.  If ownership of media is concentrated, then the message being received by the public will be homogeneous and will therefore uphold hegemony.  Diversity means that a variety of perspectives are being represented in the media, not just the views of those whom Larry Gross describe as: “(mostly) white, (mostly) middle-aged, (mostly) male, (mostly) middle and upper class, and entirely heterosexual (at least in public)” (quoted in Watson 2008, 348).  If “hegemony directs the public to think a certain way, pluralism offers the public choice” (Bainbridge 2008, 8).  As Donald Rumsfeld stated, “The battlefield is not Iraq, in a sense.  The battlefield’s in the media…” (quoted in Tiffen 2006, 99).

Australian Politics.Com. 2011.  “The Fourth Estate”.  Accessed August 31, 2011. 
Bainbridge, J. 2008.  “Convergence”.  In Media and Journalism: New Approaches to Theory and Practice, 357-375.  Melbourne: Oxford UP.   
Herman, E.S. and Chomsky, N.  1988.  “A Propaganda Model”.  In Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media.  New York: Pantheon.  
Herman, E.S.  2000.  “The Propaganda Model: a retrospective”, in Journalism Studies Vol. 1, No. 1, 101-112.
Johnson, P. 2003.  “Amanpour: CNN practiced self-censorship”.  USA Today.  Accessed August 31, 2011. http://www.usatoday.com/life/columnist/mediamix/2003-09-14-   media-mix_x.htm#.  
Kumar, D.  2006.  “Media, War, and Propaganda: Strategies of Information Management During the 2003 Iraq War”, in Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1, 48-69, March 2006.
News Corporation.  2011.  Accessed September 1, 2011. http://www.newscorp.com/.  
O'Shaughnessy, M. & Stadler, J. 2008, 'Media Studies', in Media and Society: An Introduction, 4th edn, 10-30.  Melbourne: Oxford UP.
Said, E.  1978.  Orientalism.  New York: Penguin Books.  
Watson, J. 2008, Media Communication: An Introduction to Theory and Process. Houndmills and  New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Wessler H. and Adolphsen, M.  2008.  “Contra-flow from the Arab world? How Arab television coverage of the 2003 Iraq war was used and framed on Western international news channels” in Media, Culture & Society, Vol. 30(4), 439-461.  Sage Publications.  


Why I Watch Television

Rubin’s six major reasons why people watch television are pretty self-explanatory really. DeVito’s uses and gratifications survey schedule (1994, 460) fit in with Rubin’s reasons. However, before I start placing my viewing habits under Rubin’s categories, I want to go on record as listing the reasons I think I watch TV in order of priority: diversion; companionship; learning; pass the time; stimulation or arousal; relaxation.  There are no other reasons why I have the TV on – these gratifications cover all my needs. 

Anyway, here are my reasons for watching TV (in terms of Rubin and DeVito’s categorisation):

1.    To learn:

(So I can learn about things happening in the world; so I can learn how to do things I haven’t done before)

Definitely – two of my favourite channels are the History Channel and the Discovery Channel. But if I’m to be honest, I don’t watch them as much as the movie channels. I am a habitual watcher of the news. I grew up having dinner in front of the 6:00 news with the family and this habit has stayed with me, as it has my siblings.  In saying that, I still prefer the news in New Zealand, than CNN, Fox, Al Jezeera, or the BBC.  I guess you like what you’re used to. 

2.    To pass the time:

(Because it passes the time; when I have nothing better to do)

Living in a city can be quite an expensive undertaking – there’s very little you can do without having to pay for it.  In summer because of the soaring temperatures, you are limited to what you can do.  Therefore, I often find myself watching television to pass the time.  This is not the chore it sounds like though as there is a multitude of channels to choose from. 

3.    For companionship:

(So I won’t be alone; because it makes me feel less lonely)

I guess this is more applicable than I would like to admit. Although I can’t say I’m overly aware of being lonely, I do like to have the TV on for the background noise it provides.  I’ve always been able to work in front of the telly.  When I was at school, my homework was completed in front of the telly.  And it was completed to a high standard otherwise my mother would have put an end to the practice.  I plan courses and lessons in front of the telly, and I do some of my university work (sorry Lisa) in front of the telly.  I find the television is easy to ignore, as opposed to music, which I have never been able to play while working as lyrics end up in what I’m doing.  Why should television be easier to have as background noise than music? I’ve always put it down to replication of the noise of the classroom.  In New Zealand class sizes vary but generally they are around 24 – 30 depending on the school.  Having this amount of students in a class creates noise.  I could always work at school, but at home if it was silent, my focus wavered.    This is not the case with swatting for an exam – I do need silence then – but then I have a different mindset when in that situation.

I’m one of those people who ALWAYS has something to do, whether it’s work or study related, or one of my projects.  However, even my projects are completed in front of the telly, or rather with the telly on in the background.    

I have also been known to keep the television on to keep my cat company!

4.    To forget, for diversion:

(So I can get away from what I’m doing; so I can get away from other members of the household)

As loathed as I am to admit it, my television is the major tool I use for procrastination and diversion.

Procrastination: I am an organized person.  I consistently meet deadlines and pride myself in being able to manage my time effectively.  When I say the TV enables procrastination, I’m not talking about me sitting there zoning out when deadlines are due! What I’m talking about is… hmm clean the bath or watch Cabaret?  Now the bath will be cleaned, but either during ad breaks or between movies!

Diversion: Being able to immerse myself in other people’s problems, triumphs, scandals, and journeys make me feel better about the ups and downs in my own life!  When work gets hectic,  I need to blob out in front of the telly to maintain my sanity.   And here’s where my love of reality TV has come into its own…

5.    For stimulation or arousal:

(Because it’s thrilling: because it excites me)

Sure I find some programmes exciting – e.g. the final of American Idol or Survivor and I do hate to miss regular episodes of my programmes (currently only Modern Family).  I guess the most excited I get viewing TV is watching the All Blacks play.  A movie has the potential to bring out the full range of emotions (as do some advertisements!).  Anything about New Zealand can make me homesick and turn me into a blubbering idiot.  I can’t watch without getting involved – no matter what the programme is.  I have, on more than one occasion, made an absolute fool of myself for crying when everyone is laughing, and laughing when everyone else is crying.  I tend to enjoy everything I watch (obviously, or I wouldn’t watch it!) and due to my drama background, get as much pleasure from performances as I do from narrative. 

6.    For relaxation:

(Because it’s a pleasant rest; because it relaxes me)

I like to think this is the case, but if I’m honest with myself, I get quite involved with what I watch, therefore it’s not always relaxing.  In saying this though, I have been known (on many occasions) to fall asleep in front of the telly!

Looking over my answers, my initial list of priorities I had for watching TV would be amended to the following: companionship; diversion; stimulation or arousal; learning; relaxation; pass the time. 

I’m a little embarrassed that learning isn’t higher on my list! But if I’m to be honest, it really isn’t why I plant myself in front of the box.  More often than not, especially these days, it’s to watch mindless drivel that I can blob out to. I find it interesting that so many of my artistic choices would be considered high culture (I’m into theatre in a BIG way, love Shakespeare, enjoy opera, listen to as much classical music as I do Red Hot Chili Peppers, read ‘real’ newspapers as opposed to tabloids, and visit art galleries whenever I travel) but I have a weakness for reality TV, an example of (extremely) low culture.  And it embarrasses me.  After all, I like to think of myself as a fairly intelligent person… where on earth does this compulsion toward reality TV come from?  Escapism.  Pure and unadulterated escapism.  In saying that though, I would still maintain, according to Rubin and DeVito’s categories for watching TV, my main gratification is companionship for the sole reason that I put the TV on whether I’m in front of it or not.  It has become my companion.

Advantages of Content Analysis

My preferred definition of content analysis is the very last one listed by Berelson; Kaplan’s description of content analysis as attempting “to characterize the meanings in a given body of discourse in a systematic and quantitative fashion”(qtd. in Berelson, 202).  I liked this definition because I could understand it!

Gerbner’s assertion that TV images promote “our culture’s beliefs, ideologies and world views” (qtd in Watson, 319) confirm that close inspection of content is required in order to identify and challenge hegemony.  Because the content of what is being fed to us is influential and has the potential to be harmful, it is imperative that content is scrutinized. It may be true that “people are actually less subject to influence than the Annenberg findings seem to indicate” (Watson, 319) but the proliferation of homogeneous messages being disseminated are indicative of Gerbner’s mainstreaming, where the majority of views being presented ultimately “skew towards the right” (Ibid., 319).  The ramification of this is the reinforcement of the dominant ideology, which in turn makes it harder for alternative views to be promoted. 

Analysis of the content of media texts is needed to ensure all voices have the opportunity of being heard and all stories of being told, not just those from the people Larry Gross describe as: “(mostly) white, (mostly) middle-aged, (mostly) male, (mostly) middle and upper class, and entirely heterosexual (at least in public)” (qtd. in Watson, 348).

By revealing “patterns and frequencies” (Fiske, 144) in the messages being denoted, content analysis can identify the values and attitudes being connoted.  If we are aware of the messages being circulated, we can challenge them.  If we see that many sub-cultures in society are rendered voiceless, we can address it.  Content analysis gives us the ammunition to make changes. 

Gerbner called the relationship between the mass media and the “culture from which it grows and to which it speaks" (Fiske) cultivation. Media outlets don’t establish ideology, (that has already been accomplished by family, school, government etc) they reinforce the ideology of the ruling class. The research Gerbner undertook in 1970, ‘Cultural indicators: the case of violence in television drama’, concluded that the “violence on television is a dramatic portrayal of power and influence in society”(Ibid., 144).  The dominant echelon of society is portrayed as the heroes or successful perpetrator, in opposition to those with low status who are the victims.  According to Fiske, “being a victim on television is a metaphor for being of low status in real life”  (Ibid., 145).  He asserts that it is through ideology that “the ruling class maintains its dominance over the working class” and because the ruling class are in control of the media, hegemony is preserved.  

Berelson, B. 2000 [1952], 'Content Analysis in Communications Research', Media Studies: A Reader, eds P. Marris & S. Thornham, New York University Press, New York,
pp. 200-209.
Fiske, J. 1990, ‘Empirical Methods’, in Introduction to Communication Studies, 2nd edn, Routledge, London, pp. 135-163.  
Watson, J. 2008, ‘Research as Exploration and Development’, in Media Communication: An Introduction to Theory and Process, Palgrave Macmillan, Houndmills and New York, 313-358.