Study Questions: Chapter 11
1. What are some potential threats to freedom of the press?
One threat would be state regulation of the media. If the state is able to threaten to shut down, censor, or punish media outlets, the free discussion of public issues is imperilled. Without information and the capacity to talk about it, democracy could be stilted. Dependence of the media advertising could impel media outlets to cater to those doing the advertising, resulting in slanted news coverage or less information disclosure. Excessively concentrated ownership of media enterprises could limit the sources available to the public. (pp. 343–345)
2. What are the three major concerns related to industry structure of critics of Canadian newspapers?
Concentrated ownership limits the range of ideas, opinions, and information that reaches the public; conglomerates that include media and non-media interests may be reluctant to cover stories and interpret events in ways that would put the non-media interests in a bad light; concentrated ownership is said to produce a degree of uniformity in the partisan orientations of newspapers within the chain. (pp. 346–352)
3. What is the cumulative effect of commercial advertising?
Brooks and Ménard argue that commercial advertising conveys much more than the intended message. We are, in fact, urged to buy, period. Its effect is to create a high-consumption society comprised of consumers with a high-consumption mindset. It also creates stereotypes and images of the ideal individual. Brooks and Ménard identify some: the youthful, the slender, the muscular, the large-breasted, the materially successful, the extroverted, and the “cool.” Others are excluded from the advertiser’s message, such as the poor, visible minorities, and men and women who do not conform to the “ideal.” There are exceptions, of course, but by and large advertisers find it more profitable to appeal to conventional beliefs and prejudices and to very basic emotional needs and insecurities and fantasies. (pp. 350–351)
4. What is the influence of advertising on media content?
It has been argued that dependence on advertising may reduce the likelihood that powerful economic interests will be portrayed in a negative light. Brooks and Ménard produce evidence against this argument. But the authors suggest that, because the most lucrative advertising slots are associated with entertainment programming, news and public affairs shows may be marginalized, that is, relegated to off-peak viewing times or left to state-owned or viewer-supported broadcasters. (pp. 350–351)
5. What advantages do US magazine publishers have over Canadian magazine publishers?
The much larger American market enables US magazine publishers to produce a glossier product and pay better rates for articles at a lower cost than their small-market Canadian counterparts. (pp. 348, 356)
6. What is the CBC’s role with respect to Canadian content and what challenges does it face?
The CBC’s role, Brooks and Ménard say, is to show Canadians what is distinctive about their society and culture. Far more than other broadcasters, the CBC has Canadianized the airwaves, particularly in its dramatic programming and during prime time viewing hours. Its main challenge is the budget cuts that began in the 1970s. This makes it difficult to rely on Canadian programming because increased revenue is more likely to come from showing non-Canadian programs. (p. 358)
7. What makes television news distinct from newspapers or radio? How does it tend to depict reality?
The visual character of television lends itself to the personalization of reality—an emphasis on individuals and personalities rather than ideas and broad social forces. Reality is depicted, say Brooks and Ménard, as a constantly shifting pastiche of images, based on the assumption that the average viewer has a short attention span. Brooks and Ménard also say that television depends on a repertory of stereotypes. Recognizable images are preferred over unfamiliar or confusing images. Television also relies on confrontation because it involves action and because it allows for the presentation of news in a way that people can easily grasp. (pp. 359–360)
8. Which criteria help to impose predictability on the news?
The essential criterion has to do with influence. Those who are known to be influential or who occupy official positions of power are more likely to make the news than those who have no influence. In addition, all news organizations operate within a budget. Generally, it is cost-effective to concentrate resources where news is most likely to happen (e.g., Parliament Hill). (p. 361)
9. What were the findings made by Cooper and Miljan in their study of CBC radio and television coverage?
There were two main findings: first, English-Canadian journalists tend to be more left-of-centre than the general public, and secondly, the left-leaning tendency of journalists affects the way news stories are reported. (pp. 363–364)
10. How can opinion polls serve as disguised editorials?