Climate Change in the Media

The ongoing debate of climate change often comes with mixed opinions. It has been hailed as ‘the biggest challenge to mankind in human history’ but has also been labelled ‘the biggest swindle’. This confusion stems from what Bud Ward considers as the main challenge for global media, through the ‘false balance’ that is present in the media. These notions, as well as the ‘voice for the voiceless’ are two concepts that regularly surface in relation to debates about global crises such as climate change.

The notion of a ‘false balance’ within the media is a superficial balance, which can be a form of informational bias – through the telling of ‘both’ sides of the story. This has allowed climate change sceptics to have their views greatly amplified and has brought to light the debate of balance vs. objectivity. Generally, the media is expected to provide a balanced coverage in order for the public to make an informed opinion about societal issues, yet in the debate of climate change, it is possible that objectivity would work better, with the presence of a remarkable lag between what climate scientists believe and what the general public believes.

In a YouTube video released by ‘earthhorizonpro, titled ‘A Burning Question’, Professor Justin Lewis addresses the contradicting ideas in the media in relation to climate change. He states that even though the science has become more and more settled, public opinion has become more vague, resulting in support for climate change research dropping. The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change claims that 95% of climate scientists believe global warming is happening, whilst a BBC Poll found that only 26% of the British public believe that climate change is happening as a result of human activity.

What we can draw from these statistics is that television shows like I Can Change Your Mind About Climate‘ do not present a realistic view of the climate change ‘debate’. A number of scientists were vocal in response to the ABC saying that the show, despite having the best intentions, was unhelpful and distorted where the scientific research was at.

The ‘voice for the voiceless’ approach involves amplifying the voices of the ‘voiceless’ and telling untold stories of climate change. The people of small island states such as Kiribati, an island nation in the central tropical Pacific Ocean, have done the least to cause climate change, yet are affected most severely by it.

In order to reduce carbon emissions and reduce climate change, the general public need to be fully informed so that they can make sound decisions. With the work of groups such as the Pacific Calling Partnership and the United Nations, the false balance in the media can be rectified and allow the voices and actions of local people to be recognised in order to move forward. These voices are important in humanising the issue of climate change, so that it is relatable for audiences – who can then take action.

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The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of Global Media

I’ll admit it, I heard about Miley Cyrus’s performance before I heard about the recent tragedies of the ongoing conflict in Syria. In my defence, I was one of 5,612,990 people that were discussing Miley’s actions the day after the VMA’s. According to data collected by Outbrain, American’s were 12 times more interested in Miley Cyrus than the Syrian conflict, even though news sources posted 2.4 articles about Syria to every 1 about Miley.

Miley twerking her way into the news bulletin brings us to the question of this week’s lecture – who counts in global media and what is considered newsworthy by old and new media? In order to be recognised in the global media, you must be considered newsworthy, and in order to be considered newsworthy, you must possess numerous features. These include; cultural proximity, relevance, rarity, continuity, elite references, composition, personalisation and negativity.

Before dissecting the values, or lack of, that exist in the media, we must consider the fact that news providers are in fact businesses with a specific agenda – to sell their stories. News corporations make daily sacrifices that may not align with their ethical guidelines in order to survive in the ever-competitive market. These sacrifices, including the lack of complete journalistic coverage of events, explain why foreign news is losing its place in mainstream media.

Peter Lee-Wright (2012) examines this concept in News Values: An Assessment of News Priorities Through a Comparative Analysis of Arab Spring Anniversary Coverage. In this text, Lee-Wright discusses the recent emergence of Arab media, which has begun to challenge the narrow propensities of the Western media.  With reference to the post-2011 era, Lee-Wright states that the phenomenal events of the Arab Spring have brought the values and objectives of newsmakers into question. However, despite this landmark event appearing to halt the steady descent of foreign news, he maintains that the coverage was a ‘blip’ in contrast to the widespread coverage of other major foreign events.

Lee-Wright reviews the importance of broadcast news operations linking the major issues of the Arab Spring anniversary with a comparison of coverage, across a variety of platforms.  He also reiterates that the mainstream media possesses a continuing focus on a ‘protest paradigm’ and the depiction of foreign news through a ‘Western filter’. He reports that the reduction in meaningful and in-depth foreign news coverage is a direct result of budget restraints. The dwindling public interest in foreign news has lead to news producers having to search for local angles on global issues in order to appeal to the audience. This often results in a diminished importance of an event, often through relating it to a minor local issue.

People would rather read about the ‘Loser of the Week’, whilst remaining blissfully unaware of major conflicts that are occurring all over the world. Unfortunately, we can never escape celebrity gossip. In the words of Jay-Z, “somewhere in America, Miley Cyrus is still twerking”.

Conversion of Comedy

I am a massive fan of British television, and what I hate most in the world is when American’s try to ‘re-create’ their shows whenever they are out of ideas.

The television shows ‘Fawlty Towers, ‘The Inbetweeners’, ‘IT Crowd, ‘Skins’ and ‘Top Gear’ are among those that Americans have attempted to re-create. They even tried three times with ‘Fawlty Towers’, with each attempt as bad as the previous one.

There is a lot of logic behind ‘translating’ a comedy series. The process of translation involves taking a popular television show and making it relatable to a national audience through culturally specific character types, recognisable actors and cultural references. However, more often than not, these adaptations are un-successful. This post will look into the foundations of comedy and how TV shows can get lost in translation.

Comedy is something out of the norm. It depends on the breaking of the basic rules of language and behaviour, with laughter being the indication of successful recognition of this break.  In order to recognise this break, we need to be aware of the rules. However, certain acts can be recognised as humorous in all cultures. An example of this is ‘Man Getting Hit By Football’ from ‘The Simpsons‘. A man being hit in the groin by a football is typically a universally humorous occurrence.

This discussion brings us to Kath & Kim, a sitcom that ran in Australia from 2002-2007. Kath and Kim was a huge hit in Australia and many overseas countries, including Great Britain. Unfortunately, this was not the case for the team who remade ‘The Office’, when they attempted to recreate Kath and Kim for an American audience. The main problem with US network television is that it is extremely parochial. They found a formula that works and have stuck to it, which is why anything remotely different to this formula fails.

The most significant reason for the failure of the American adaptation was due to the casting. Sue Turnbull states that, “what has been seriously lost in translation is the role and place of irony: in this case, the gap between how a character imagines him/herself to be and how they appear to the audience.” This is apparent in the character of Kim. In the Australian version, Kim is played by middle-aged actress Gina Riley, who sees herself as an in-shape, well-dressed ‘hornbag’, yet the audience sees her in a very different light – and therein lays the irony.  In the American version, the actress playing Kim was a slim, attractive woman who pushed her stomach out to seem fat. The American version failed to grasp the concept of irony behind the character, therefore failing to appeal to the audience.

The success or failure of a television show is dependent on a variety of culturally specific factors, including: current affairs, political concerns and cultural history. With the emergence of globalisation, sharing of television is occurring more frequently, therefore allowing the show to reach a global audience. With an increasing understanding between cultures, television shows are becoming more inter-cultural, therefore appealing to a larger audience.

Tried, Tested, and Transnational

The evolution of film has seen a paradigm shift from what was formally known as World Cinema, to what is now known as Transnational Cinema. Films were previously sorted into various national boxes, which resulted in censorship boundaries restricting films to one nation. However, with the emergence of national film industries, this changed drastically. A national literature is ‘secure behind the Great Wall of the native language, but films from the outset were primed to invade foreign screens’ (Dudley, 2004) – and they did exactly that!

The topic of World Cinema can be directly linked to that of World Music. With American, Asian and Australian music and films being excluded from the World Cinema and Music genre, we are basically left with films that do not belong anywhere else. However, with the end of the Cold War in 1991, the European Union being formed, new technologies emerging and filmmakers becoming increasingly itinerant, there was a major shift in the film industry that resulted in the hybridization of local content to achieve globalization.

It appears that India, or Bollywood as it is commonly known, has the best chance of challenging Hollywood’s dominance of the film industry. There is an increasing demand for Indian, as well as Asian films on a global scale. Many modern day films are actually adaptations of Asian films and Indian culture.

Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs is an adaptation of City on Fire, Scorcese’s The Departed bears striking similarities to Internal Affairs, and Lucas’ epic space opera Star Wars was heavily influenced by 1958 classic The Hidden Fortress.

Shaefer and Karan (2010) discuss this issue in relation to James Cameron’s science fiction hit Avatar. Although Cameron incorporated Native-American and ancient Hindu concepts in his film, he was respectful enough to fully acknowledge the cultural origins of the film.

Many films are adaptations of Asian or Indian films, which bodes the question of whether it is borrowing, or if it is plagiarism? The transnational film industry is rich, diverse, and allows for culturally hybrid films. Although many films do tread a fine line between adaptations and plagiarism, this does provide scope for cultural interaction and recognition of overseas film industries.

Curtin’s Capital Collaboration

When discussing the term ‘Media Capital’, I immediately think about the United States of America. At this point in time, I am watching Suits, Breaking Bad, Workaholics, Blue Mountain State and Community. This leads to my inevitable assumption that the media is a one-way, dialogic flow from the U.S.

After this week’s lecture and reading, my vague opinion on this matter has changed dramatically.  A point that resonates with me is that: “media capitals are described as places where things come together and, consequently, where the generation and circulation of new mass culture forms become possible” (Curtin, 2003). With the impact of globalisation and hybridisation, media capitals have emerged, creating a central hub where different cultures interact to form the modern day media.

The clash of civilizations is an idea that was initially proposed by Samuel Huntington in 1993. He divided the world into seven different civilizations, which focused on boundaries and containers rather than complex patterns of flow. With the convergence of technology and the emergence of media capitals, this theory was somewhat dismissed.

The recent economic growth of China and India has led to the emergence of local media capitals. Sukhmani Khorana’s theory of ‘Communication Movement’ states that economic growth directly coincides with the purchase of televisions, resulting in the demand for new and original entertainment. This growth can be seen in relation to Hong Kong Television, which has seen the city become a media capital. This is as a result of the shift from film to Television and the emergence of Crime Dramas and Cantopop. Curtin states “the city’s fortune as a media capital rests not only on its centrality, but also on its marginality”. While Hong Kong television is very culturally specific, it also holds many features of Western Culture, which has resulted in an increased interest in international markets.

With Bollywood virtually doubling Hollywood’s film production rate and Nollywood continuously rising, it is clear that there is a major battle between India, Nigeria and China to nab America’s place as the world’s leading media capital. This could be a positive change in the continuing push to break the boundaries of the media, in order to disrupt the conventional structures of domination and result in new patterns of flow.

Local, Global and the Vocal

Established within Bronx communities during the 1970’s in New York City, hip-hop includes a broad range of artistic forms that originated as a specific street subculture. In its most basic form, hip-hop is represented by four main elements. Deejaying, Emceeing, Breaking and Graffiti Art. Despite boasting contrasting methods of execution, they unite in their common association to the societal ills that birthed the culture.

April K. Henderson’s article The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip hop and globalisation of black culture explores hip-hop – both as a culture and as a commodity. She provides an insight into the implications of hip-hop globally and locally, with reference to several MC’s from the Pacific, Australia and Canada as case studies, with a focus on one significant diasporic node, Aotearoa New Zealand.

Henderson refers to reductive stereotypes in relation to Samoan physicality and how they continue to effect Samoan communities in the U.S. With their accents marking them as foreign, young Samoans living in multi-ethnic neighbourhoods earn status and respect through dance or sport.

Stereotypes are ever-present in the hip-hop world. As Macklemore discusses in his hit song ‘Otherside’, most artists feel the need to rap about events of their lives that have not in fact occurred in order to gain respect. He states that ‘violence, drugs and sex sells, so we try to sound like someone else’. An example of this is seen in the life of Rick Ross. The ex correctional facility officer, come rapper, puts on the persona of having been a major player his whole life, and promotes the image of drug dealing in each of his songs.

Lecturer, Annalise Friend states that contemporary hip-hop artists outside the U.S. use notions of cultural authenticity, being truly ‘hip-hop’, or representing a particular local community.

This is supported in the further reading by Tony Mitchell, Doin’ damage in my native language: The use of “resistance vernaculars’, where he discusses Maori resistance and sovereignty. Mitchell makes reference to local hip-hop artist Hapeta and his twenty track album that was written entirely in Maori.
With the use of a ‘minor language’, spoken by only 8% of New Zealand’s population, this supports Friend’s argument that artists outside the U.S. are more culturally authentic through representing their local community. In this context, the choice of ‘resistance vernaculars’ is an act of cultural preservation of ethic autonomy, therefore overriding any global or commercial concerns.

Mitchell then provides a stark contrast with reference to Swedish hip-hop crew Loop-Troop who contribute to the continuing dominance of the English language and American culture in the formation of global hip-hop.

There is a lot of contention surrounding ownership and identity in the hip-hop community. In spite of that, there is still a diverse popular culture present on a global scale. It is clear that hip-hop discusses cultural and social issues, whilst incorporating a modern sense of identity and connectedness within the Maori community.