Pills, thrills & lots of snogging

The concept of the public sphere, as developed by Jürgen Habermas, is the space in which citizen’s discuss public concerns separate from the state. Alan McKee expands on this idea, stating that the public sphere is a metaphor for the virtual space where people can interact, and that it is a concept that has been hugely theorised in relation to the media. He addresses five common criticisms against the mediated public sphere; that the media is too trivialised, too commercialised, too fragmented, that it relies too much on spectacle and that it caused citizens to become too apathetic about important public issues.

These criticisms are highlighted in popular British reality TV show, The Only Way is Essex (TOWIE). It shows real people in modified situations, saying unscripted lines but in a structured way.” Having recently returned from England, I experienced the full effect of this. Every Thursday night there was a new ‘star’ from TOWIE gracing the streets of Windsor. Girls smashed on the fake tan, slipped on their best pair of Nike’s and layered on the make-up, in the hope of stealing a kiss from Joey Essex or Mario Falcone.

Although the show may seem controversial in some aspects, it brings to light some serious societal issues that need to be addressed in the public sphere. Issues of gender, sexual identity, sexual behaviour and equality are all prevalent.

Phil Redmond, creator of Brookside and Grange Hill disagrees, stating that, “There’s no counter-balance of the actual problems facing actual people, there’s nothing. It’s like they simply don’t exist.” Drinking over-priced champagne in lavish clubs, they seem to ignore the issues the country currently face. There is no mention of the ‘broken society’ riddled with unemployment, welfare dependency and educational failure.

This raises the question, do reality TV shows such as TOWIE, Made in Chelsea and Geordie Shore contribute to the ‘mediated public sphere’, or do they simply brush societal issues under the rug?





“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one” A.J.Liebling.

The concentration of media ownership in Australia is increasing, resulting in a lack of diversity in the information that is reaching the public.  The main problem with this is that each media corporation has an agenda, and they are able to filter this into the news, therefore distorting the information that influences the audience.

Why then, does it matter who controls the media? As Elizabeth Hart states in her article Media Ownership, it is because “whoever owns the media owns the message”. As much as we tell ourselves that the news is a source of objective fact and that we are being provided with an unbiased view of current affairs, this is not the case. There is always going to be an element of subjective opinion in the news.

The two major players in the media today are Fairfax and NewsCorp. Together, they own more than 50% of Australia’s newspapers, making the Australian media the most concentrated in the world.

John Fairfax Holdings owns the majority of the countries major newspapers, such as The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, as well as leading Internet sites.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation owns a number of Australia’s leading cable TV programs such as Fox Sports, as well as several capital city newspapers (The Courier Mail and The Daily Telegraph).

Even as I gather this information, I am questioning its quality. Today’s society is so concerned about the credibility of sources as a result of the emergence of the Internet and the absence of gatekeepers, that they forget that the so called ‘credible’ sources we are provided with are no better. The publisher is the supposed ‘guarantor of quality’; meaning that they control what is being put in the papers. Therefore, a very biased and subjective viewpoint is being portrayed through our media, with a great majority of the population remaining blissfully unaware.

Media ownership matters because of control. Diversity of opinion is useful because it represents everyone’s situation. It allows you to form your own opinions on major issues as opposed to being spoon fed the opinion of the egomaniacal bigots that control our media.

‘Just Do It’


A picture is worth a thousand words. This phrase, as cliché as it is, refers to the notion that an image can convey a complex idea. A picture has the ability to do many things, including; evoke emotion, change a person’s perspective on an issue, and, in the world of advertising, sell something.

Gaining a deeper understanding of an image involves the use of semiotics, the science of signs, which allows the audience to decipher an image in order to understand its meaning. This image denotes a man, painted in white, with a red cross splashed down and across his head and naked torso. Seems quite simple doesn’t it?

The connotations in the image, however, are not as straightforward. People interpret images differently, based on their knowledge of the subject and ideological position. This image could be interpreted in two different ways, depending on the audience and their viewpoint. The first, more innocent interpretation would see English footballer, Wayne Rooney, with the Cross of St. George painted on his chest, suggesting he is passionate and patriotic towards his country.

What you don’t know when looking at the ad, is that in late April, Rooney was carried off the field with a fractured metatarsal bone in his right foot. The initial prognosis was that he would definitely miss the group stages, if not the whole tournament – but Rooney ‘miraculously’ recovered to feature in all but one of England’s matches in the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. This piece of information is vital in how you interpret the image, highlighting the importance of knowledge about a subject when finding the meaning behind a text.

On the other hand, this image could have a very negative connotation. The blood stained chest, highlighted by the aggressive nature of the pose suggests a war like meaning. There is an echo too, of Christ’s crucifixion. Rooney’s arms are outstretched, as those of Christ on the cross. Through these two points, Nike was seen to have portrayed Rooney as part Woden, the Norse god of war, part the suffering but triumphant Christ. The ad was labeled as blasphemous and offensive by Christians because it ‘trivialized’ Christ’s sufferings.

This is a good example of, as the infamous Chip Shop Awards describe it, ‘creativity with no limits’. This provoked fierce condemnation from British journalists, religious groups and MP’s, but in the world of marketing and advertising, controversy creates cash, and this was definitely controversial!

Why always me?


The media is continuously being blamed for modern societal issues, such as the violent behaviours of today’s youth. It is often associated with the Media Effects Model, which is the notion that people’s consumption of the mass media can alter an individual’s behaviour. David Gauntlett, author of “Ten things wrong with the ‘effects model’“, thinks otherwise.

One of the most researched media effects is that of violence – specifically, the influence of violent media on children and young adults.
Gauntlett starts by explaining that, there is no clear evidence that the media has a direct effect on behaviour, therefore we should conclude that “they are simply not there to be found“.  He goes on to state that the effects model generally treats mass media viewers as weak and highly persuadable, highlighted by the fact that they are referred to as the ‘other people’, and that the effects model is often based on artificial studies and is not grounded in theory.


An example of the flaws in the effects model can be found in the case of Devin Moore. On June 7, 2003, Moore shot and killed two police officers and a dispatcher after being booked for committing grand theft auto. The controversy involving the crime’s relation to the Grand Theft Auto video game was revealed during an episode of 60 Minutes in March 2005. As a result of this crime, a multi-million dollar civil lawsuit was filed against the makers and marketers of the game, claiming that the game provoked the teenager’s actions. Attorney, Jack Thompson claimed that “The video game industry gave him a cranial menu that popped up in the blink of an eye, in that police station. And that menu offered him the split-second decision to kill the officers, shoot them in the head, flee in a police car, just as the game itself trained them to do”.

This problem can be described in two words. Cause and effect. All we need to do is recognise the fact that there are multiple causes that resulted in this crime.

Moral panics are not new – a century ago, people claimed that the radio was corrupting youth. As more problems within society arise, people want someone to blame. Before jumping to conclusions, we have to actually evaluate the problems with the media effects model and look at the other factors influencing behaviour.

Long Story Short


Hi, I’m Lachie. I am 19 years old and reside from the thriving metropolis that is Singleton. Before you judge, we do have the Southern Hemisphere’s largest sundile. That is kind of a big deal.

I have recently returned from Europe, where I worked and travelled for a year. Whilst working at St. George’s School, Windsor Castle, I travelled to some of the most incredible places in the world. Ate pizza in Italy, cycled through the Swiss Alps and even went snorkelling in Iceland. I could not have wished for a better year, but now it is back to reality and to further my education.

I am studying a Bachelor of Communication and Media Studies at the University of Wollongong in the hope of pursuing a career in the media and eventually landing my dream job as a sports journalist. I have always been fascinated by the media and am extremely passionate about sport, so it seemed quite obvious to me what I should be doing.

As a Gen Y kid, I have grown up with the older generations constantly referring to us as the ‘Internet Generation’ and criticising our ever increasing reliance on technology, yet I find myself clueless as I dive into the unknown that is WordPress and Twitter. In what will be a slow start, I am looking forward to this course and the opportunities that it may bring.

In the words or Porky Pig, that’s all folks! I look forward to meeting everyone in BCM110 and BCM112 and I hope you enjoyed my first ever blog post.