American Mainstream Media – Player Or Tool?

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Many different types of communication tools, such as the TV, cinema, radio, newspapers and magazines, web sites and the music industry, can be classified as media. An important issue relating American media is the concept of “concentration of media ownership”. This concept implies that the ownership of most of America’s media lay in the hands of a few media conglomerates, who both earn huge sums of money through advertising and sale of copyrighted material, and, at the same time, are considered as important global players, regarding the fact that they influence people’s views about their surrounding world to a large extent.

But on the other hand, some argue that instead of being powerful players, the American media are in fact tools in the hands of the government. In this paper, each theory will be investigated to see which one better describes the role of media in both the American society and also the world.

It is claimed that there is no stronger power in the world than the American public opinion, and this public opinion is itself shaped by the media, so media can be regarded as taking the place of the powerful kings and popes of the past centuries (National Vanguard Books, 2004). There are many different ways through which media carefully shapes people’s opinions. It provides its audience with an image of the world, and then tells them what and how to think about that image. By stereotyping, the media also tell people how to think and judge about others (this others can refer to different races, women…). The media also plays its role by concentrating on certain stories and issues, while omitting others.

Among other communication media, the television is the most influential, regarding the fact that people spend a lot of time watching TV, probably much more than they spend on other media, such as the cinema or newspapers. According to a survey by Mediamark Research, 98% of Americans have a television, while only 79% are newspaper readers. Three examples of how public opinion is shaped by American media are:

– middle east news, and how the Arab-Israeli conflict is portrayed

– the 9/11 events and the wars that followed

– racial issues

The government has always declared the media to be a power that doesn’t always act in the right way. The conservatives have always complained that the US media have been unpatriotic and not supportive of government’s foreign policy, or simply too liberal.

The Media Research Center has carried out a study on the role of media on the war on terror, from such a conservative viewpoint. The report gives examples of why the American media have not reported the war and relating issues in the correct way:

– Peter Jennings of ABC, in a live program 2 days after the 9/11 attacks stated: “the US might no longer be a free country” and he also claimed that civil liberties have been suspended in the country.

– The “US Patriot Act” was reflected in a way by the media that made it look like some form of unconstitutional “snooping into the lives of ordinary Americans”.

– In the case of moving of Al-Qaede prisoners to Guantanamo Bay, media reported that they had been tortured, and should have access to civilian courts.

– When the New York Times revealed that the NSA (National Security Agency) was monitoring phone calls, it made it look like a threat to civil liberties. (Rich Noyes, 2006)

There are other studies that have used the war on terror to conclude that the media in America have been independent players, and not controlled by the government.

Jim Kuypers is a political communication researcher who claims that the mainstream media intentionally reflected the speeches of President Bush in a biased manner. Kuyper claims that “if someone were relying only on the mainstream media for information, they would have no idea what the president actually said. It was as if the press were reporting on a different speech.” He concludes the US media to be an “anti-democratic institution”. (Kuypers, 2006)

Other writers have claimed that the media have concentrated too much on the government’s failures and weaknesses during the war. (Lustick, 2006)

Opposing this “media as power” theory which portrays the US media as an independent power, calls it the “Fourth Estate”, and claims that journalists are more influential than any government official in setting the public (and sometimes foreign) agenda, are the “media as tool” advocates.

Two important points helps understand why the media are referred to as a tool:

– the media is dependent on the government for the information that it can obtain, and that it can call credible

– the media can criticize the government only within certain parameters that are acceptable to the government and its notion of national security

These facts are said to turn the media into a public relations arm of the US government. (Edward, 1993)

Again, the war on terror would be an interesting context in which the role of media can be studied, this time with the “media as tool” viewpoint.

The concept of “embedded journalism” appeared during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and proved to be a good way to keep reporters content and controlled at the same time. The media put pressure on the government to allow them better access to battlegrounds; they were not pleased with the way they were shut down from information in case of Afghanistan, and also the way they were censored in the Gulf War. And pentagon made the best out of all this, as Lt. Col. Rick Long of the U.S. Marine Corps put it: “Frankly, our job is to win the war. Part of that is information warfare. So we are going to attempt to dominate the information environment.” (Kahn, 2004)

In this project, reporters signed contracts with the military which limited what they were allowed to report. Reporters were embedded in selected military units, and so shared their everyday lives with soldiers, and relied on them to get them to the place they wanted, and they usually didn’t have access to any other source other than the military.

A Penn State study reveals that this project did affect the number and the type of stories that were published by major newspapers, and the result was that more articles about the U.S. soldiers’ personal lives and fewer ones about the impact of the war on Iraqi civilians were printed in the 754 news articles that were analyzed in this study. (Linder, 2006)

It can be concluded that the media can enjoy a certain degree of independence, provided that they don’t cross certain red lines, and remain faithful to certain notions that are important to the US government. American media is not just a “power” or a “tool”, but a powerful tool that can be used in a very affective way by the government, if only they can come up with clever ideas and projects, like the “embedded journalism” project. In the “Information Age” (Hess and Kalb, 2003), tactics like hiding the whole story or direct censoring will certainly be ineffective. The US government surely will evaluate its “embedding strategy” and might come up with new and innovative ideas in order to reflect issues and events in its own way, and stay in control of this powerful soft tool.

Bibliography:

1. Edward, Herman, The media’s role in U.S. foreign policy (Power of the Media in the Global System), Journal of International Affairs, June 1993

2. Hess, Stephen and Kalb, Martin, The Media and the War on Terrorism, Brookings Institution Press, 2003

3. Kahn, Jeffery, Postmortem: Iraq war media coverage dazzled but it also obscured, NewsCenter, 18 March 2004

4. Kuypers, Jim, Bush’s War: Media Bias and Justifications for War in a Terrorist Age, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. , October 28, 2006

5. Lustick, Ian S., Trapped in the War on Terror. University of Pennsylvania Press, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006

6. Linder, Andrew, Study on Embedded Journalism, The Pennsylvania State University, 2006

7. Noyes, Rich, MRC research director, The Media vs. The War on Terror: How ABC, CBS, and NBC Attack America’s Terror-Fighting Tactics as Dangerous, Abusive and Illegal, September 11, 2006

8. Research staff of National Vanguard Books, Who Rules America? The Alien Grip Our News and Entertainment Media Must Be Broken, November 2004

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History of the Media, Radio, and Television

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When were the forms of media created? When did advertising first show up? Who owns the media?

Creation of the various forms of media

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Newspapers & Magazines ~ 1880

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Movies ~ 1910

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Television ~ 1945

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Cable Television ~ 1980’s

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Satellite Television, Internet, Digital Communication ~ End of the 20th century

In 1920, radio was first developed, primarily for use by the military, strictly for sendingHistory of the Media – Old Radios messages from one location to another. David Sternoff, the then-president of RCA, first had the idea to sell radio sets to consumers, or what were then called radio receivers. However, consumers needed a reason to buy radios, so RCA was the first to set up radio stations all over the country. Between 1920 and 1922, 400 radio stations were set up, starting with KBKA in Pittsburgh. Stations were also set up by universities, newspapers, police departments, hotels, and labor unions.

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By 1923, there were 600 radio stations across the United States, and $83 million worth of sets had been sold.

The biggest difference in radio before and after 1923 was that the first advertising was not heard on the radio until 1923. RCA at the time was made up of four companies:

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AT&T

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General Electric

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United Fruit

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Westinghouse

United Fruit was one of the first global corporations, and one of the first to advertise on the radio. The AT&T division of RCA first thought about selling time on the air to companies, which marked the start of “toll broadcasting.” WEAF was the first station to operate this way, causing widespread outrage, and accusation of “polluting the airwaves.”

Because of this controversy, the practice of selling advertising time was called “trade name publicity.” Sponsors linked their name with a program on the air, rather than advertising a specific product in a 30 second “commercial” as we know it today.

Why did AT&T decide to experiment with charging companies for air time?

AT&T was not making any money from broadcasting at the time since they only made transmitters, not receivers. They only made money when new radio stations bought the equipment required to broadcast. They did not make money from consumers buying radios.

AT&T also started the practice of paying performers for their time on the air, rather than only volunteers, which was standard practice for radio content up until that point.

The first radio network

In 1926, RCA set up the first radio network, NBC. They decided it was more effective and efficient to produce shows in New York City, and then link the main radio station with stations all across the country, connected by AT&T (another RCA company) phone lines. (Now television networks are linked by satellite to their affiliates).

This was the beginning of the network affiliates system. The ideal network makes sure everyone in the country is capable of listening to their signal. NBC at the time had two philosophies:

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Radio content was a “public service,” whose function was to sell radios.

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Radio content was designed to generate income from advertising.

History of the Media In 1927, the second network was formed. It was CBS, started by William Paley. Paley was the first to think that networks could make money strictly from advertising, not even getting involved in the sales of radios. Like AT&T, CBS did not make radios. From the start, they made their money from selling advertising.

The rising of radio networks caused the Radio Act of 1927 to be passed, which established the FRC, or what is now known as the FCC, to allocate broadcast licenses. The need for such an organization was brought on by the fact that airwaves are limited resources, and broadcasting itself is a scarce public resource. By the 1930’s, the structure of radio have been set by the commercial format, although advertising never dominated radio like it would television later on.

In the 1920’s and ’30’s, radio programs were divided into two groups. Sponsored shows, which had advertisers, and unsponsored shows, which did not. The radio station paid for the unsponsored shows. The sponsored shows, on the other hand, were created entirely by the company sponsoring the show; advertisers were totally in charge of the radio station’s content. The content became advertising. Radio set the precedent for television, in that the same companies that controlled radio early on went on to control television.

Soon thereafter, television inherited the structure of radio. In the ’40’s, during the rise of television, RCA also held a monopoly on all television sets sold. By 1945-1955, advertising had taken over all of television. Television was organized around the premise of selling things. The entire television industry was creating a political atmosphere of suspicion and fear. Senator Joseph McCarthy, the founder of McCarthyism, which was based on the fear of Communism, and the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee, began to question people involved in television about their beliefs and associations.

What affected television in its early stages?

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Politics (McCarthyism / HUAC).

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Blacklists: From almost the inception of television, many writers, directors, and actors were considered to be pro-Communist and/or un-American.

Certain topics were totally off-limits at the time for television, particularly issues of race relations in the 1960’s. Overall, networks were not happy with the political situation for television in the 1960’s, both in terms of the blacklists, and of the fact that when every show had one sponsor, that sponsor controlled the entire program. Networks preferred to control the program, by way of moving to multiple sponsors/advertisers, where networks would retain control of the show, and advertisers would buy time in between the programming.

In the 1950’s, networks decided to eliminate the practice of sponsors controlling the shows with a move to spot selling, or advertisements between programs, as we know it today. What caused the move to spot selling?

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Discovery of fraud in the quiz shows on television. Quiz shows were extremely popular at the time, and were liked by the networks, the sponsors, and the viewers alike. It turned out, however, that quiz shows were largely fixed. Charles Van Doren on “21” became a huge star due to his repeated wins, until it came out that the whole thing had been fixed. In the case of “The $64,000 Question,” the owner of Revlon was personally hand-selecting the winners and losers on the show.

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It was becoming financially difficult for just one advertiser to support an entire show.

Around this same time came the inception of ratings to measure a show’s popularity. Ratings, quite simply, measure the number of people watching a show. To understand why ratings are so important, it’s crucial to understand how the television industry works, through three questions, and their respective answers:

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Who owns television? [The networks]

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What is sold on television? [Viewer’s time, not television shows]

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Who are the customers of television? [Advertisers, not viewers]

This might be a counterintuitive concept for some. The networks, which own television, areHistory of the Media – Old Television the buyers of shows, not the sellers. On the other hand, they sell our eyeballs, so to speak, to advertisers. Networks want the maximum possible profit from buying and selling time, both viewers’ time, and advertisers’ time.

The primary measure of television ratings, which determine the price of that time being bought and sold, is AC Nielsen, an independent company which provides information as to who watches what on television. Currently, about 4,000 households are used to represent the national viewing of television. In the 1980’s, only 1,200 households were used. Some households have an electronic device installed on th
eir television which tracks what they watch, while others keep a diary of viewing habits.

There are two measures for determining a show’s audience. One is the rating, and the other is the share.

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Rating: Percentage of total homes with televisions tuned into a particular show.

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Share: Percentage of those watching television at a particular time who are tuned into a particular show.

The share is always greater than the rating. Ratings are more important for advertisers, and share is more important to the networks.

Example:

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Total households with televisions: 150 million

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Total households watching television at 8pm on Monday nights: 90 million

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Total households watching American Idol at 8pm on Monday nights: 45 million

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Therefore: Rating: 30, Share: 50

It’s important to note how many factors can skew the results. Shows cost producers much more than the networks typically pay them for those shows. The way for producers to make money is by getting the networks to renew the show, in order to have a shot at making money from syndication on other channels, also knows as reruns. That is the case when individual stations (say for example, the Miami affiliate of ABC wants to carry Seinfeld), buy the rights to a show from the producers of that show. Shows that last only one season, for the most part, lose millions of dollars. One of the most important factors in whether shows will be renewed or not is their rating.

This brings us to how ratings can be skewed. For example, if a show has a 20 share, and it needs a 25 share to be renewed for another season, what might the producers do? In principle, they need to convince another 5% of the people watching television when their show is on to watch their show; this is no simple task, as that involves convincing millions of people. However, since the ratings are based on those 4,000 Nielsen households, that means that they could convince just 200 Nielsen households to watch their show, which would increase the share from 20 to 25. This is why Nielsen households must be kept totally secret from the networks. When the Nielsen households have leaked to the networks, one way which they got people to watch their show was by offering viewers a small sum of money for filling out a survey about a commercial which they were told would play only during a particular show. Since they had to watch that channel while their show was on, this would boost the share.

Once ratings are determined, advertising prices are set by two factors:

* The size of the audience.

* The demographics (income, age, gender, occupation, etc) of the audience.

In short, the job of television programs is to collect our time as a product, which they then sell to advertisers. Programs have to support the advertising, delivering viewers in the best possible state of mind for buying when the time for the commercials comes, which brings us to the Golden Age of Television.

The 1950’s are considered the “Golden Age of Television.” During this time, something called the “Anthology Series,” where different actors each week took part in a show gained History of the Media – I Love Lucypopularity across the board…that is, with everyone except for advertisers. The anthology series format was not right for advertisers, as it covered topics which involved psychological confrontations which did not leave the viewers in the proper state of mind for buying the products shown to them between program segments. The subject matter of the anthology series was of the type that undermined the ads, almost making them seem fraudulent.

This brought up the question of what to network executives actually want shows to do? The answer is not to watch a program that makes them feel good, makes them laugh, or excites them, but rather to watch the television for a set amount of time. With so many new shows being proposed, standards began to be intentionally, or unintentionally, laid out for what shows could and couldn’t do. Risks could only be taken at the beginning and/or end of shows. Laugh tracks were conceived to tell the audience when to laugh. Programs began being tested with audiences prior to being put on television and/or radio. Show writers now had to write shows that would test well.

Naturally, this caused many of the same elements and themes to appear in all shows. This was the beginning of recombinant television culture, where the same elements are endlessly repeated, recombined, and mixed.

This same culture is what perpetuated the idea that people watch television, not specific shows. While people certainly choose to watch certain shows instead of others, people less commonly choose to watch television instead of other things. People watch television. Regardless of what was on, television viewing rates were extremely stable.

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Media Server – 5 Simple Steps to Convert Your Old PC Into a Media Streamer

Yesterday while hanging out in my attic among all the old stuff I come across my old PC. This computer has been laying there for the last for at least a couple years. Thinking of discarding it properly I started searching for articles on disposal on the internet. While searching for couple of minutes I found a site suggesting the idea of converting an old PC into a media server. Having some bucks to spare and some free time on my hands I decided to go for it.

Just What is a Media Server?

First thing first I am sure some of you are wondering like I initially was, just what is a Media Server. A Media Server is a PC system designed to receive and record TV programs, play back video and handle the digital music and photo libraries available in its storage through a Television unit connected to it. The main components are a robust storage system with ample hard drive space and processing power and Random Access Memory sufficient enough to deliver seamless playback of HD content.

1. Check the performance of your old pc:

Analyzing the old PC, I figured out that it has a 2.4 GHz Pentium IV processor with 256 MB of RAM. While checking the minimum specifications I found that it may struggle when trying to play the HD 1080 videos so I decided to go for a RAM upgrade to 1 GB and stick to the same processor in order to save some bucks in case I also needed to upgrade the hard drive.

2. Check storage; examine hard drive capacity and speed:

The storage capacity of the old PC is about 40 GB IDE drive; which is much less as compared to the latest media servers. Generally for a media server you should have a capacity of 500gb to have enough space to hold the equivalent of 100s of DVDs. Speed of the hard drives is also a consideration. Luckily both of these problems can be corrected with a raid hard drive array.

RAID vs Single Hard drive:

The RAID array consists of more than one hard drives embedded as a single unit for high capacity and speed than the single hard drive with an external backup. Depending on how the RAID array is configured you can also configure the array for back up security. This is an added benefit as no data would be lost in the event of a hard drive crash.

3. Think about purchasing a Digital TV tuner Card:

A digital TV tuner card is a basic component of media server used to receive and record video content from the local cable or satellite system to the local hard drive. This card is very useful as it will allow to input TV into your PC and record your favorite shows. With several companies charging fees as high $6 per DVR box per month, the one time cost of a TV tuner card could save you quite a bit of money in the long run.

4. Choosing software for you media server:

Windows XP Media Center Edition is a great choice of software for a media server; having a beautiful graphic interface and easy configuration, it is however a bit expensive. If you are strapped for cash Linux based operating systems might be a good choice as they are totally free and have My the server purpose; but they can be hard to configure.

5. Connecting Server to the TV:

The last step involved in this project is establishing a connection between the PC and the TV. You now have to make the decision on whether to connect the media server through a wired or wireless connection. Wireless systems can be more convenient and will allow you to access your media server from throughout your house. Furthermore in terms of the placement of the wireless systems the server can be hidden out of view. The drawback to wireless systems is that they can be expensive. If only a single TV unit is present then simply running a wire from the server to the TV may be better both in terms of cost and speed of setup.

The Best Roku Media Sources

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Roku is a streaming media player that plays video, music, and other media. Roku connects your TV to an amazing amount of content with no computer required. All you need is a high-speed Internet connection. Roku can be set-up in as little as 5 minutes and is simple to use. Also, because it streams the media directly from the Internet to your TV, there is no need to wait for downloads. Your favorite media is available instantly.

There are many Roku Media options available. The most popular media providers include Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Video On Demand. All three of these options provide access to your favorite movies and television programs in high-definition.

Netflix currently has an unlimited streaming subscription option for only $7.99 per month. The Netflix library contains nearly every movie or television show available on DVD. However, the portion of the Netflix library available for streaming is smaller. Most new releases are not available for streaming with Netflix. Also, a Netflix subscription does not give you access to current season TV shows.

Hulu Plus is a very popular service video streaming service. It offers a subscription for $7.99, the same price as the Netflix streaming only subscription. Hulu Plus offers current and prior season TV shows from most networks. It also offers a large selection of movies, although many new release premium movies are not available.

Amazon Video On Demand has a different pricing model than Netflix or Hulu Plus. Amazon Video On Demand does not have a monthly fee. Instead, you pay to purchase or rent movies and TV shows. TV shows and movies can be rented for as little as 99 cents. Amazon Video On Demand offers nearly any movie or TV show that is available on DVD. It also offers current season TV shows.

The best Roku media source for you depends on what content you want the most. To cover the most options with the least cost, many people chose to purchase a monthly Netflix subscription and then supplement this with an occasional Amazon Video On Demand purchase. This way, you get most of your favorite content for $7.99 per month. Then, if there is a must watch TV show or new release movie that is not included in the Netflix library, it can still be purchased from Amazon Video On Demand.

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