Friday, December 16, 2011

To What Extent Does it Make Sense to Think of Britain’s Political System as Outdated in the Context of Sophisticated New Technology Use and Creative Direct Action by Pressure Groups Such as Occupy London Stock Exchange? (Essay)

To understand whether Britain’s political system represents the rights and interests of the vast majority of people, it is necessary to analyse the technology available, how pressure groups influence debate and how the media frame public opinion. Adam Curtis’ documentary series The Power of Nightmares: “Baby it’s Cold Outside” (2004) claims that in the past, politicians offered us dreams of a better world. When this optimistic vision failed, people lost faith in ideologies. Today’s politicians are seen as managers of public life, instead of delivering dreams they promise to protect us from nightmares. Threats like the war on terror, that Curtis claims is an imagined threat, an illusion created and played out through the media. Such a view marks out a decline in trust in democratic politics, which in the last decade have become increasingly trivialised, with political consultants attempting to shape the public attitude. The Big Society aims to provide a platform to communicate, but pressure groups have emerged with similar intentions to engage communities into public discussions. These assemblies allow people to voice their ideas for a better future through collaborative production. Declaring it’s time for citizens to represent themselves. The revolution might not be televised but misrepresentation through the media seems inevitable.

In the book The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1989), Jürgen Habermas argues that in the twentieth century the critical concept of public opinion has been replaced by mass public, manipulated by commercial and party political interest groups (Outhwaite, 1996: 25). This decline of the public sphere thesis underplays the potential for social movements and mediated publics.  Especially when we consider that technological advances are ‘ altering the way we are born, we live, we learn, we work, we produce, we consume, we dream, we fight, or we die’ (Castells, 2000: 31). Providing access to broader opinions, access to non-mainstream and localised political material, and offering greater interactivity than other media. The rise of communications media has overcome barriers and ‘made the boundaries of all social spaces more permeable’ (Meyrowitz, 1994: 67). Rather than being overwhelmed or distracted, ‘emergent publics’ (Angus, 2001: 55) have become more focused on relevance and collaborative production. Wikipedia being the most famous example, the non-profit organisation has thousands of volunteers contributing to articles around the world with collective action and shared responsibility. The ‘people’s encyclopedia’ has become one of the largest and most popular websites on the Internet (Alexa, 2011). Hans Magnus Enzensberger emphasises the capacity of an individual to be an active contributor to his or her own condition, unlike in ‘marches, columns, parades’ in which people are simply ‘pushed to and fro’; the mobilised persons would be ‘as free as dancers, as aware as football players, as surprising as guerrillas’ (Hands, 2011: 50). Enzensberger details the capacity to create multidirectional communication, disseminating knowledge and information on a scale and time-frame that was impossible before the emergence of the Internet.  In recent years digital activism has come to widespread attention, the power of communications, networks and mobile technology, demonstrates the sheer power of cumulative connections (Hands, 2011: 3).  The Internet has become a key resource for activism, allowing groups to raise awareness in issues that might oppose the mainstream. WikiLeaks are an organisation that takes this further by publishing and commenting on leaked documents.  Designed to protect whistle-blowers, journalists and activists who have sensitive materials to communicate to the public (WikiLeaks, 2011). The organisation has been applauded and condemned for its approach to releasing information to the public, but despite the mixed reaction, there’s no denying that people coming together can make a difference. Since the publications of CableGate, WikiLeaks has faced an unprecedented global financial blockade by major finance companies including Mastercard, Visa and PayPal (Wikipedia).

People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people – V for Vendetta (2006).

The first step is admitting there’s a problem, and then collectively, people can work towards finding a solution. Fight Club (1999) could be interpreted as an example of how activist groups mobilise to challenge the mainstream. The narrator attends support groups, becomes increasingly disillusioned with consumer culture and through collaborative participation leads to the collapse of several financial buildings. The Anonymous Group parallel Fight Club, they are a large, decentralized group of individuals who share common interests. Members don’t talk about their involvement and they conceal their identities. The imagery of the "suit without a head" represents leaderless organization and anonymity. When appearing in public the Internet-based group use the Guy Fawkes mask popularised by V for Vendetta (2006) for ‘collective identification and simultaneous anonymity’ (The BBC, 2011). The group became well known in 2008, launching an online campaign against the Church of Scientology. Through a denial of service attack, they caused the website to crash and then manipulated Google search results to ensure that the Church of Scientology are the first hit whenever anyone enters the search string "dangerous cult" (The Telegraph, 2008). They have been responsible for similar attacks and highlight the collective potential for Internet ‘hacktivism’ (Sharp, 2010). Coordinating and organising through communications media for political purposes.

Another people-powered movement that utilises the Internet are Occupy Wall Street and the other occupations around the world ( Organized through a non-binding consensus based collective decision making tool known as a "people's assembly". They are fighting back against major banks and multinational corporations, who they believe are responsible for the ‘economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations’. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to fight back against ‘the richest 1% of people that are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future’. The concept behind the ‘We Are the 99 Percent’ slogan began on Tumblr (Weinstein, 2011), a microblogging platform that allows users to share various media. Its creator had no clue that it would go viral and become a touchstone for a protest movement soon to spread across the world ( Facebook was used to launch the Occupy London campaign on 15th October, the objective to reclaim space close to the London Stock Exchange. The movement use communications media to raise awareness, thus bypassing authorities, with Twitter being used effectively to group conversation and promote ideas.  The mainstream media have been inconsistent with their coverage and increasingly people have turned to photography and video-sharing services to obtain information. YouTube and Flickr have been particularly popular, providing images of heavy handed police tactics and the solidarity between protesters. This method of documentary is a media output where the technology, the aesthetic, the social and the political intersect. The visual text has played an important role in shaping the story and asserting factuality.  Walter Benjamin believes ‘that ideas are structured as images, and that what is at stake is therefore a praxis that can operate with images – a politics of images, not a figurative or metaphorical politics’ (Weigel, 1996, p. 10).

The media are actively involved in constituting the social world. By making images and information available to individuals located in distant locales, the media shape and influence the course of events and, indeed, create events that would not have existed in their absence (Thompson, 1995: 117).

The Internet offers many ways of connecting cultural-political content in a variety of forms and styles to audiences (Collins, 2006: 353). The problem is misrepresentation and the role the media play in shaping the public opinion. In Stuart Hall’s (1980) theory, the assumption is that any society’s dominant ideas will be encoded into its media messages. Let’s consider youth audiences, as unemployment continues to rise, university fees have trebled and there’s the perception that young people lack interest in politics. Such influence becomes particularly problematic for young people when certain media accounts, especially newspapers contain a bias towards negative content. The findings from this paper claim that it’s a long known criminological fact that a small number of young people tend to commit a disproportionately high number of offences, and that positive contributions to society by young people tend to be both overlooked and overshadowed. In Stan Cohen’s Folk Devils and Moral Panics (2002) emergent groups are referred to as a ‘threat to societal values and interests’, which are ‘presented in a stylized and stereotypical fashion by the mass media’. In response to the UK riots in 2011, The Guardian report that David Cameron blamed absent fathers and poor school discipline, whilst on the other hand Ed Miliband blamed MPs & bankers for culture of irresponsibility. Irresponsibility acknowledged by pressure groups and the opposition leader but ignored by the Prime Minister. Youth is a problematic category but the media defining them as the ‘broken society’ is also problematic. The Conservative Party’s white knight, the Big Society needs to replicate the grass roots revolution that was influential for Barack Obama. Without the Internet, Barack Obama wouldn’t have won the Democratic Primary, and would not have been elected President (Hands, 2011). Obama opened up a dialogue with people through new technology. This needs to happen in Britain otherwise the Big Society will be seen as just an imagined community. The government needs to do more to engage with wider communities, create opportunities and educate disillusioned groups. The media have an important role because they have the potential to influence the public but issues of trust, party allegiance and alternative sources have led to the fragmentation of collective values.

The Internet has become an important political platform, national borders have become much less important and there’s growing organisational complexity in contemporary life. Global economic problems dictate the news and pressure groups have raised even more questions about trust and accountability. People are engaging with different, rather than shared, forms of media output (Washbourne, 2010) and the concern is that they ‘will engage with such different ideas that they will no longer desire to say anything to each other’. People spend an increased amount of time consuming mass media, but with so much information available it’s difficult to find accurate representation. This fragmentation has led to declining television audiences, and forced programme makers to redesign political broadcasts into entertainment packages. Rather than sustained and serious analysis, news and current affairs programmes are shorter, there’s an enhanced role for the reporter who often becomes part of the story, stories are provided with a good-versus-evil orientation and celebrities are used as key ingredients of the programmes. This model has been criticised, and rightly so, because although there’s potential for the content to reach a greater audience the content seems to be in the best interests of the media in much the same way as globalisation. To increase profit through commercialisation, benefiting from larger markets and generating the highest possible return in a ‘competitive climate’. The decline of the public sphere is evident, primarily because the media have too much control and powerful organisation control the information broadcast.

It appears that the political system is outdated; globalisation and commercialisation have made it more difficult to be represented properly through the current model. The mainstream media manipulate the news and are able to shape the public opinion to ensure profit maximisation and market control. The Internet provides a gateway to access and distribute information, and through collaborative production each person can participate, make a proposal, raise questions, express their opinion and have a consensus regarding the outcome. This empowers individuals and collectively groups can challenge dominant views. Pressure groups have emerged and shown that it’s possible to use various forms of media to show the world that people can make a difference. Unfortunately we have also seen that the Internet can be used to censor material and makes it harder not easier for people to be interested. To resolve the problem, the government need to engage audiences and fulfil promises, the blame culture needs to change before we’re able to move forward. This won’t happen overnight but rather through evolution than revolution.

Word count: 2025

Angus, I. (2001) Emergent Publics: an essay on social movements and democracy. Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing.
Beaumon, Claudine. [Internet] Hackers wage web war on Scientologists < > [Accessed 15th December 2011]

Bruce Bimber (1990) Karl Marx and the Three Faces of Technological Determinism. Social Studies of Science. Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd. Vol. 20, No. 2 (May, 1990), pp. 333-351
Blumer, H. (1969) Symbolic Interaction: Perspective and Method. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Hands, Josh. (2011) @ is for Activism. London: Pluto Press.
Occupy Wall Street. (2011) About. < > [Accessed 15th December 2011]
Outhwaite, William. (1996) The Habermas Reader. MA: Polity Press. p. 25.
Sharp, Adam. (2010) A Brief History of Anonymous Hacktivism < > [Accessed 15th December 2011]
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Street, J. (1997) Politics and Popular Culture. Cambridge: Polity. p. 60.
Waites, Rosie. [Internet] V for Vendetta masks: Who's behind them? < > [Accessed 15th December 2011]
Weigel, Sigrid. (1996). Body-and Image-Space. Re-reading Walter Benjamin. London: Routledge. p. 4.
Weinstein, Adam. (2011) "We Are the 99 Percent" Creators Revealed. < > [Accessed 15th December 2011]
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Wikipedia. [Internet] < > [Accessed 15th December 2011]

Monday, December 12, 2011

To What Extent has the Rise of Communications Media Affected Patterns of Social Interaction? (Essay)

Symbolic interactionism (Blumer, 1969: 2) can be used to explore how individuals act and evaluate meanings, how meaning is generated through social interaction and how meaning is interpreted according to encounters. In 1968, Andy Warhol predicted that “In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.” In the age of reality television and video-sharing websites, it could be argued that has been achieved. Anything, or anyone, has the potential to become a viral phenomenon, and ordinary people can become celebrities overnight. The rise of communications media has overcome barriers and ‘made the boundaries of all social spaces more permeable’ (Meyrowitz, 1994: 67). Through social networks individuals identify with each other and communicate on mass, sharing information and experiences. These connections extend social interaction rituals, allowing celebrities and public figures to become more accessible, thus creating an ‘illusion of intimacy’ (Horton and Wohl, 2004: 375). The ability to connect and interact with anyone online has provided more freedom, but this virtual ‘self’ influences both online and real-life ‘performances’. We act differently; more confident and aggressive online which seems to compensate for the restrains we might feel in real life. As these ‘personas’ become more and more connected and entangled, there’s potential for it to become less easy to separate them. The derivative of Andy Warhol’s prediction could be that in the future, everyone will eventually become obscure for fifteen minutes.

In order to understand how advances in communications media influence social interaction, it is necessary to analyse ‘the dynamic relations between producers, texts, technologies and interpretive audiences’ (Laughey, 2007: 78). Technology is changing the world; telecommunications have progressed from the early use of visual signals and audio messages to email, social networks and video-sharing services. The capacity and demand to exchange information in ‘real-time’, across significant distances is growing at an exponential rate. Real-time is when individuals respond to actions as they’re published, the exact time an action becomes visible being equal to the time it takes to ‘select, check, suspend, regroup and transform the meaning’ (Blumer, 1969: 5). The huge volume of this information produced means that there’s more emphasis on relevance, validity and first impressions. Erving Goffman’s self-presentation thesis can be used to explore the techniques deployed by individuals and groups to perform an expression of themselves to others. Goffman’s theories are mostly concerned with face-to-face encounters, but they can be applied to mediated forms of interaction. His model for understanding social interaction is the theatrical stage with individuals performing roles. The word person, in its first meaning, is a mask (Park, 1950: 249). The mask being a metaphor that everyone is basically playing a role; and it’s in these roles that we know each other and ourselves. At one extreme Pinocchio (1940), attempts to present himself in a light that is favourable to him when confronted about school attendance. He projects the claim that he’s telling the truth, but the impression he gives off doesn’t convince those present. If you feign the truth then your nose will grow. At the other extreme, we find the performance in The Invention of Lying (2009) to be cynical, deluding others for ‘self-interest’ but the expression is believed as an absolute truth and the ‘audience’ don’t question the validity of the performance. These are extreme examples, but indicate that obtaining fact lies beyond the time and place, such factors as the knowledge possessed about the individual need to be considered.

Society is organised on the principle that any individual who possesses certain social characteristics has a moral right to expect that others will value and treat him [/her] in an appropriate way. Connected with this principle is a second, namely that an individual who implicitly or explicitly signifies that he has certain social characteristics ought in fact to be what he claims he is (Goffman, 1959: 24).

Web-based social networks have made it possible for individuals to maintain social connections, share interests, activities and control expressions of themselves online through self-presentation techniques. William Shakespeare’s phrase “All the world’s a stage”, could have been referring to today’s Internet driven era. Facebook has become the largest theatrical stage, where individuals perform to their social connections, providing updates, sharing music, photos and videos. Goffman divides these ‘stage-managed regions’ of self-representation into two parts: ’front’ and ‘back’. On Facebook, individuals attempt to accurately represent themselves, the ‘front’ region through pictures, status updates and shared personal information. Consciously omitting flaws and presenting themselves how they would like to be received. The ‘back’ region emerges through tagged photos and regrettable actions that might create an unfavourable opinion. Facebook provides extensive privacy controls to protect individuals and options are available to remove any unwanted items from the timeline. Positioned as the essential form of interaction for our generation, the LA Times reported recently that ‘Facebook had passed 800 million users’, if the social network was a country, it would be the third largest in the world. Stretching across continents and bringing people together, new media technologies have no boundaries. Individuals from different backgrounds are able to interact with each other in real-time and inhabit the same social spaces.

People are no longer defined by physical boundaries or places (where we are) but rather networks of information and knowledge (what we know) – facilitated by new media technologies that have no sense of place (Laughey, 2007: 85).

Joshua Meyrowitz (1985) draws on Goffman’s notion of front and backstage behaviour, analysing electronic media and ‘how media can affect social situations and the social networks with which individuals identify.’ These media environments enable participants to share knowledge, regardless of literacy skills and develop interpersonal relationships. These are maintained without ever meeting in person, with information exchanged without a face-to-face encounter, which includes facial movements, gestures, and tone of voice. Increasingly television and electronic media, especially social networks and video-sharing services like YouTube, have led to public figures becoming more accessible and backstage behaviour being witnessed by millions. Kanye West has been involved in several high profile controversies. The Washington Post reported on the benefit concert for Hurricane Katrina, where he criticised George W. Bush claiming that he didn’t “care about black people.” The visual text is more significant than the opinion because those involved appear uncomfortable, displaying uncharacteristic behaviour. There have also been several incidents at music award ceremonies, where the rappers public performances have led to widespread criticism. Russell Brand, Jonathan Ross, Andy Gray and Jeremy Clarkson are other notable celebrities that have caused outrage in recent years. Politicians have also been exposed to high profile controversies, George W. Bush had a gaffe-prone leadership and Gordon Brown was caught on microphone describing a voter as a "bigoted woman". Britney Spears being the most controversial, with her breakdown being played out through the media. Meyrowitz suggests that a new type of behaviour has evolved, referring to this as ‘middle-region,’ which forces media personalities to be more accountable for their actions. Video-sharing websites though provide an alternative, creating Internet celebrities that are ordinary people whose backstage region can gain them widespread recognition. These ordinary people come from different backgrounds, achieve Internet fame and receive significant publicity. Social interaction around these video-sharing services produces interesting results, providing amateurs the means to gain exposure, respond to popular issues and reach an audience. YouTube comments have admittedly established a bad reputation for the value that they contribute to the videos, but essentially the only reading should be achieved through the visual text.

YouTube has become the go-to website for finding topical and obscure streaming video clips, but everyday experiences also indicate how fleeting such access can be. Viewers and academics have quickly come to treat the site as an informal archive of television texts (Hilderbrand, 2007: 48).

John B. Thompson argues that media ‘help to maintain and renew our sense of identity, tradition and belonging’. YouTube rather than displacing corporate media, the video-sharing service recirculates footage, childhood memories and nostalgia. Another example is the challenges that face traditional print media, as advertising revenue and online distribution have changed how media is being consumed. The main threat will be its ability to understand, implement and embrace new interactive tools. The web still has ‘pages’, renewing existing news reading practices, and online distribution has the potential to reach further, provide more revenue and protect the environment. Thompson refers to ‘everyday encounters with media, especially television,’ as ‘mediated quasi-interactions’, which has the effect of bringing global events and issues close to home. Thompson was concerned with the process of interaction between media producers and audiences, and ‘the degree of reciprocity and interpersonal specificity’ (Thompson, 1995a: 84), that is available through other forms of interaction. The Internet has changed that because instantaneous exchanges, through which audiences can feed back their opinion, have become the norm. Twitter trending topics and hashtags are a contemporary example whereby conversation, grouped around syntax, contributes to interaction between media producers and audiences. The micro blogging service incorporates many of the concepts considered, bringing distant actions into everyday interaction with others.

The media are actively involved in constituting the social world. By making images and information available to individuals located in distant locales, the media shape and influence the course of events and, indeed, create events that would not have existed in their absence (Thompson, 1995: 117).

These dynamic relationships are complex, Goffman’s Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1990) is mostly concerned with face-to-face interaction and how information is conveyed through conduct and appearance. Attempting to recreate a representation of ‘self’ online isn’t straight forward; Facebook encourages exchanges between friends and reproducing ‘real-life’ relationships. The relationship status is the most significant because it has become a passive-aggressive way to validate the ‘real-life’ connection and confirm that the person is exclusively involved with their partner. There’s so much emphasis on this in popular culture that the relationship is only considered official when displayed on the profile. Goffman refers to this as ‘hyper-ritualised mediated self-representation’, where media reproduce, artificially, what we learn about ourselves through face-to-face interactions (Laughey, 2007: 84). This can expand opportunities, but ‘online fronts’ can also be used to mislead and misrepresent. These advances are significant but ‘an alternative to, rather than accentuation of, face-to-face interaction’. Thus, the self-representation theory then can be interpreted as being ideological. Meyrowitz’s theory of placelessness, claims that media technologies make information and knowledge more accessible, they provide the shared domain but language and signification is presumed rather than asserted. The absence of technological, educational and social exclusion from Meyrowitz’s argument could be compared to The Matrix (1999) where knowledge is uploaded directly into the mind. This concept works in a simulated reality but fails to represent authenticity. Thompson’s theory of mediated quasi-interaction does maintain and renew, adapting to the ‘material and cultural conditions’. Audiences contribute to the dissemination of media messages, but also play an important role in the distribution. Thus an extension of his theory could be mediated quasi-production.

The Internet has extended communities, created subcultures and provided companies with more reach to maintain audiences. These technologies have also exposed the focus on popularity, numbers and selfishness. Search engines provide the most popular results, follower counts and comments are layered across web pages and advertisers create this idealistic way of life. Thus ‘serve as a common resource for judging the adequacy of self and others’ (Glassner, 1990: 215). Let’s consider the advantages that communications media offers children, these include access to educational materials and communication tools, but as well as expanding opportunities they’re being exposed to situations beyond their years. The ability to connect and interact with anyone online has provided more freedom, but technology has led to misrepresentation, increased backlash and enabled protest groups to become more organised. During the UK riots in 2011, rioters coordinated through the BlackBerry Messenger system, built into BlackBerry handsets and free to use (The Guardian, 2011) causing widespread disruption.  The Occupy Movement, which is an international protest movement, have used social media to raise awareness and bypass authorities. These acts are seen as deviance and often referred to as ‘criminal activity’. Howard S. Becker considers this to be a social construction, a ‘consequence of the application by others of rules and sanctions to an offender’ (Becker, 1991: 9). This could be interpreted as there being no right or wrong anymore, and that there's only popular opinion. Becker’s labelling theory provides an insight into the interaction between mainstream and deviant cultures but, often these groups find that it’s difficult to be represented correctly when they’re labelled as villains. The media contribute to maintaining and renewing this objective view, and this misrepresentation means that groups become disenchanted. Protests are inevitable, especially when people come together to act collective for a greater purpose. The Internet provides a greater reach to be heard, although being relevant is difficult when there are so many opinions competing for attention.

It appears that the rise of communications media has not only affected social interaction but shaped society. Real-time conversations across significant distances are the norm, access to information, education, news and other data is instantaneous. Technology creates possibilities, providing the ability to build and maintain virtual relationships. Progress has been made but more problems have gained visibility and self-representation has taken on added importance. Goffman’s model for understanding everyday social interactions is the theatrical stage and through communications media, individuals attempt to accurately represent themselves and inhabit the same social spaces.  People are no longer defined by physical places, and networks of information have arisen where collectively knowledge is shared and the meaning is interpreted. Social construction can be used to stereotype through the mass media, although popular opinion appears to challenge media institutions. The patterns of social interaction are changing all the time, perhaps that’s always been the case but more acknowledged through communications media. What’s certain is that through the Internet we have a gateway to infinite possibilities.

Ball, James. and Brown, Symeon. (2011) Why BlackBerry Messenger was rioters' communication method of choice. The Guardian. [Internet] < > [Accessed 9th December]

Blumer, H. (1969) Symbolic Interaction: Perspective and Method. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Glassner, B. (1990) Fit for postmodern selfhood, in H. S. Becker and M. M. McCall (eds) Symbolic Interaction and Cultural Studies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 215 – 43.

Goffman, E. (1990) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Hilderbrand, Lucas. (2007) YouTube: Where Cultural Memory and Copyright Converge. Film Quarterly. University of California Press. Vol. 61, No. 1. p. 48

Laughey, Dan. (2007) Key Themes in Media Theory. New York: Open University Press.
Meyrowitz, J. (1994) Medium theory, in D. Crowley and D. Mitchell (eds) Communication Theory Today. Cambridge: Polity. pp. 50 – 77.

Moraes, Lisa de. (2005) "Kanye West's Torrent of Criticism, Live on NBC". The Washington Post. [Internet] < > [Accessed 08 December, 2011]

Olivarez-Giles, Nathan. (2011) Facebook F8: Redesigning and hitting 800 million users. [Internet] < > [Accessed 08 December, 2011]

Park, Robert, Edgar. (1950) Race and Culture. Glencoe, Illinois: The Free Press. p. 249.
Thompson, J. B. (1995) The Media and Modernity: A Social Theory of the Media. Cambridge: Polity. p. 117.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Don't Tell Anyone

The old school bingo community don't like them, they are old, angry, influential and ruthless. The Underground Rebel Bingo Club returned to Leeds under the guise School of Etiquette last night. After living in Ibiza for the summer, they have teamed up with Red Stag by Jim Bean to tour the United Kingdom. I have attended a few meetings, participants aren't referring to themselves as comrades, instead they're armed with a pen and paper and leaving their mark on each other. Literally! The Cockpit being the preferred venue this time, providing a raised stage for the hosts to conduct proceedings. Red Stag were on hand to assist with the build up, distributing more pens and placards to attendees. At this stage many people were already covered with ink; various names, slogans and profanity were visible everywhere. Don't tell mother!

I contributed to several faces with moustaches and masterpieces before the performers took to the stage and the event started. The introduction, as usual, was built around the theme but attention soon switched to the main agenda for the evening. The first prize offered was the Panda, with the task being to complete one line on the bingo card. I listened intently to everything from the stage and marked down the numbers. I was optimistic but this was short lived as I was soon waving goodbye, outfoxed panda'd again.. The next objective was to complete two lines for the chance to win a giant Piano keyboard. I continued marking down the numbers announced, eagerly informing my friend how many I had remaining until..


I'm sure I wasn't loud enough but it soon filtered through the crowd anyway. I climbed onto the stage and embraced the guy, staring out into the faces and waiting to hear the outcome. I seriously need a party trick, been asked that several times recently but that doesn't matter anymore because I'm a WINNER! And, I have a giant Piano keyboard!! This definitely increased my popularity, something about having a keyboard draped over you that makes people want to poke you and have their photo taken. Recommend it. Like I recommend attending Rebel Bingo! All that was missing was Vladimir Putin, there at the exit to compare his latest trophies. The other prizes were a Kigu, Customised Umbrella and an iPod Dock, Vladimir would have been proud. The objective now is to replicate Tom Hanks, Big (1988) and become an Internet phenomenon...

Friday, November 04, 2011

Occupy Lennon (Essay)

Inspired by photographic messages from the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, I wanted to acquire first-hand knowledge of documentary through hands-on experience. The natural impulse of anyone who sees a photograph of an individual in pain or in need is to reach out and help. Robert Capa , the legendary photographer always understood, he famously declared, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” He recognised that only by recording individual gestures and facial expressions could he convey a sense of actuality (Whelan, 2005, p. 12). On October 15th the Occupy movement, which had been protesting in New York for the past month, arrived in the UK with a march on the London Stock Exchange. I attended the demonstration, with the objective to observe, record and apply the basis of Walter Benjamin’s concept of Aktualität, the theory of thinking and acting in images (Weigel, 1996, p. 4). This study will explore the basic idea of dialectical materialism, and whether art, in the age of mechanical reproduction, can be employed for revolutionary potential. Roland Barthes’ theory of semiotics is of particular salience in reading the photograph, not as an image but as a text.

The photographic paradox ‘establishes a relation of immediacy to the material of the social or the symbolic. This is not materialism avant la lettre, but a re-reading­ of the material.’ The most important problem facing the semiology of images, is whether the ‘copy’ can produce true systems of signs and not just a construction of symbols. Barthes declares that ‘naturally, signification is only possible to the extent that there is a stock of signs, the beginning of code’ (Barthes, 1977, p. 34). The connotation of the photograph is produced through a modification of the reality, created by artificially bringing the main characters together. The obvious signifiers are the gesture shown by the man and the boy, the V sign, which has various connotations of “peace” and “defiance”, which are dependent on the cultural context and presentation; and the Guy Fawkes mask from the film V for Vendetta (2006) which has become an icon of popular culture. This political sign of the times provides a collective identification and simultaneous anonymity, an emblem for anti-establishment groups against corporate greed. The Anonymous group use the mask as a symbol of radical transparency online, becoming popular during their campaign against the Scientology movement and more recently as a display of solidarity against corporate greed.

[The mask] is worn by an enigmatic lone anarchist who, in the graphic novel on which it is based, uses Fawkes as a role model in his quest to end the rule of a fictional fascist party in the UK. Early in the book V destroys the Houses of Parliament by blowing it up, something Fawkes had planned and failed to do in 1605 (BBC, 2011).

 The pose of the subjects, which isn’t natural, and the mask, prepares the reading and how it’s received by the viewer. Without knowledge of the Occupy movement, the evidence indicates a protest; the crowd; the banners; the Guy Fawkes mask; and the hand gesture, which was adopted by the 1960s counterculture movement as a sign for peace (Wikipedia, 2011). When considering the historical formation, parallels can be drawn with the French Revolution (1789 – 1799), a period of radical social and political upheaval which corroborate and constitute elements of signification with the contemporary demonstrations. Even further back to the 16th Century, on the site where the photograph was taken, the fourth St Paul's, known when architectural history arose in the 19th century as Old St Paul's also encountered political demonstrations. Crowds were drawn to the northeast corner of the Churchyard, St Paul's Cross, where open-air preaching took place. It was there in the Cross Yard in 1549 that radical Protestant preachers incited a mob to destroy many of the cathedral's interior decorations (Wikipedia, 2011). Seen in this context, we can understand that the image is a statement about corporate greed. That ‘Formerly, the image illustrated the text; today, the text loads the image, burdening it with culture, a moral, an imagination (Barthes, 1977, p. 26). For Walter Benjamin, art must be evaluated both in terms of its depiction of the social reality of class antagonisms and in terms of its technique and position within the literary production relations of a given era. The photograph doesn’t depict class structure, other than the assumption that the protesters are the working class and are protesting for the best interests of the 99%. Members of the Anonymous group are regarded as the ‘disenfranchised youth who fall somewhere between the mid-to-lower income bracket’ (Colter, 2011). Instead the images deconstruct the stereotype that all protesters are students, as the man and the boy are not included in this bracket. We also have to consider the mechanical reproduction, especially through contemporary media. The resolution of the photograph isn’t high quality, captured using an iPhone and hasn’t been treated to enhance the detail. Potentially the photograph could have been uploaded to the Internet immediately through the devices 3G connection. In the background, a woman is taking a photograph of the man and the boy, which occurred frequently as many photographers who had attended the demonstration to document the events, were interested in his enthusiasm. Through contemporary media, anything has the potential to go viral; anyone can become a political activist and assist in launching a political campaign, especially when broadcasting through social media channels. This was the eventual outcome for the boy, as he was featured on the Ten O’Clock News that evening.

Objectively, reproduction of any work of art is lacking its presence in time and space, the environmental setting, framing and lighting aren’t the same but the meanings can be discovered by profound thought and analysis. If I hadn’t indicated that the photograph was constructed, would the receiver have presumed that the man and boy were related? The boy in the photograph has a broken arm; on the cast the name ‘Kes’ is visible. This relates to the film Kes (1969), which focuses on 15-year old Billy Casper, who has little hope in life and is bullied (IMDB). The tagline for the film is ‘They beat him. They deprived him. They ridiculed him. They broke his heart. But they couldn’t break his spirit.’ In relation to the other signs, this takes on added significance, especially given the political symbolism. The boy’s name in the photograph is Lennon, named after the English musician and singer-songwriter John Lennon, one of the founding members of The Beatles and an active revolutionary when he was alive.  These examples imply contemporary documentary photography, whereby photographers work converges more with social science, like anthropologists they justify their relations to the people they photograph. Documentary photography is tied, historically, to both exploration and social reform. Both are evident in the photograph.

..a picture, to represent an object, must be a symbol for it, stand for it, refer to it… almost anything can stand for anything else… [it] depends not upon imitation or illusion or information, but inculcation. (Goodman, 1968:5, 38)

In viewing a photographic image we engage in a complex reading process which relate to our own expectations and the assumptions we make as to the subject itself. I chose the documentary theoretical approach because I believe the message is formed by a true source of emission and the point of reception is neither ‘natural’ nor ‘artificial’ but historical or cultural. I agree with Walter Benjamin, ‘that ideas are structured as images, and that what is at stake is therefore a praxis that can operate with images – a politics of images, not a figurative or metaphorical politics’ (Weigel, 1996, p. 10). Howard S. Becker refers to documentary photography as being ‘used to expose evil and promote change, ‘supposed to dig deep, ‘play an active role in social change, be socially responsible, worry about its effects on society in which its work is distributed.

If our reading is satisfactory, the photograph analysed offers us three messages: a linguistic message, a coded iconic message, and a non-coded iconic message. The linguistic message can be readily separated from the other two, but since the latter share the same (iconic) substance, to what extent have we the right to separate them?! ( Barthes, 1977, p. 36)

Howard S. Becker, is one of the founders of the visual sociology movement, in his essay on Visual Sociology, he outlines the three social constructions whose meanings arise in the contexts, organisational and historical worlds of photographic work. In his essay on Visual Sociology he describes how to read a documentary picture using the other social constructions; photojournalism and visual sociology. Taking a photojournalism approach; set on the front page of a newspaper, the photograph would have definitely provoked a reaction. However, the mainstream media would be reluctant to portray a photograph that was politically coded with the intention to promote change. Admittedly a photograph was featured on the Ten O’Clock News that evening but the image had been framed, the signifier of the man wearing the mask wasn’t visible and neither was the hand gesture. To support this, Becker implies that ‘newspapers seldom print photographs of anonymous people,’ and that it’s unlikely that the picture would have appeared in the daily newspaper, ‘because it (the photograph) is grainy [and] not in sharp focus.’ The only instance this would be excused is ‘during an expose of political corruption’ and more recently to provide contemporary examples, those photographs that depict a criminal act or celebrity scandal. The visual sociology approach would want to know much more about what we were seeing. Who the people were, what they were actually doing and more importantly what I was telling them about the image. This appears much more invasive than the photojournalist approach, but Becker goes on to state that the visual sociology social construction is correctly based on the assumption that photographs are easily manipulated. Although, they would not construct the meanings and neither would they see the problems associated with social science data.

To conclude, the photograph that I chose was a contemporary documentary photograph that I took during the Occupy London demonstration. The photograph was part of an amateur series that attempted to document the events at St. Paul’s Cathedral. The objective was to explore and raise awareness through photography, the subjects used were children, primarily to conflict with the stereotype that protesters are students and to highlight that this is their future too. I understood that there would be various political banners, signifiers and connotations displayed around the London Stock Exchange and that photographs would be coded with various meanings and historical context. I expected that there would be minimal mainstream press exposure of events and wanted to formulate my own opinion. I have applied a basic grasp of dialectical materialism to this study, which is essentially a prerequisite in understanding the doctrine of Marxism. These connected notions surrounding truth, history and validation, assisted in the construction of the texts epistemology.

Word count: 1,835


Barthes, Roland. (1977). Image Music Text. Translated by Stephen Heath. London: Fontana Press. pp. 16 – 22, 34.
Becker, Howard. (1995). Visual Sociology, Documentary Photography, and Photojournalism: It’s (Almost) All a Matter of Context. pp. 84 – 86. 
Colter, Aaron. (2011). 'V for Vendetta' Inspires Anonymous, Creator David Lloyd Responds. [Internet] < > [Accessed 04 November, 2011]
Goodman, N. (1968). The Languages of Art. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill. p. 38
Weigel, Sigrid. (1996). Body-and Image-Space. Re-reading Walter Benjamin. London: Routledge. p. 4.
Whelan, Richard. (1996). Robert Capa: Photographs. Aperture. p. 12
Wikipedia. (2011) Counterculture of the 1960s. [Internet] < > [Accessed 04 November 2011]
Wikipedia. (2011) St Paul’s Cathedral. [Internet] <'s_Cathedral > [Accessed 04 November 2011]
Internet Movie Database. (1969) Kes (film). [Internet] < > [Accessed 04 November 2011]

Friday, May 06, 2011

How Fully And Completely Does Radio 1 Provide Access To Culture, Music And Ideas Specified In Its Service Remit?

Radio 1’s service remit is ‘to entertain and engage a broad range of young listeners with a distinctive mix of contemporary music and speech. It should reflect the lives and interests of 15-29 year olds but also embrace others who share similar tastes. It should offer a range of new music, support emerging artists - especially those from the UK - and provide a platform for live music. News, documentaries and advice campaigns should cover areas of relevance to young adults’ (BBC Service remit, 2010, [Internet]). This study will explore the commitments and editorial priorities across Radio 1 and examine how the station aims to deliver the requirements of the service remit. The programme policy provides an extensive overview of the target audience, key challenges facing the station that they aim to cover, and the commitment to what is broadcast, will form the basis of  this study. Consideration of how well the BBC serves younger audiences will be supported by the BBC Trust service review, which examines how well these services are performing against the terms of their service licenses.

Radio 1 reaches a large number of young people, described by the BBC Trust as having an important part of the BBC’s overall offering to young people. The service review, using listening data from RAJAR, 2008 (Younger Audiences, 2009, p. 49), states that the station reaches a considerably higher number of 15 – 29 year olds than any other radio station. The number were the BBC’s second largest service for this age group across television, radio and online, behind only BBC One. Although the review does acknowledge that many ‘listen without specifically choosing, or wanting, to listen, for example in places they do not have control of the radio such as in the workplace or in cars’ (Younger Audiences, 2009, p. 50). Radio 1 has still successfully built a strong and recognised brand throughout the country but things weren’t always that way. Pete Tong referred to the station in the early nineties as being “very uncool,” and even though he was a really big name in the south-east, the rest of the country didn’t really know who he was. He also stated that when performing he felt that “it was very much like sneaking into these clubs with a Radio 1 tee-shirt underneath, and slowly but surely over a number of years revealing more and more of the logo” (Garfield, 1998, p. 104). That’s no longer the case but Radio 1’s reach to young people has fallen slightly in recent years, particularly at the lower end of its target age group. The fall however is in line with a more general decline in listening to radio among young people. This is attributed to audiences being able to access content through a range of different media, mass consumption through MP3 players and online services, and the diversity of the audience. 

This has understandably attracted the attention of the Service Review, while they do not believe that any radio station can restrict listening only to its stated target audience, they do expect Radio 1 to focus on serving 15-29 year olds, rather than older listeners. The wording of the service remit currently states that the station should ‘embrace others who share similar tastes,’ this has been identified as open to interpretation by stakeholders. They construe the meaning could be that the station is being encouraged to target an older audience, especially as Radio 1’s mean listening age is 29 and the median listening age is 28 (Younger Audiences, 2009, p. 50). The review states that it will track the stations performance against imposed measures and if changes aren’t reflected then they will ensure to take further action.

Andy Partiff, controller at BBC Radio 1, states in the service remit that it’s his ambition for the station ‘to be a leading voice of young UK culture, delivering a high-quality and distinctive service’ (BBC Service remit, 2010, [Internet]). Newsbeat being used as an example already shaped to ‘offer a level of news provision designed specifically for our young audiences’ which he claims ‘the rest of the market is unable to sustain’. The remit identifies key challenges, outlining areas to improve the appeal of the station to the target audience. These indicate the responsibility Radio 1 has to ensure that it constantly evolves to attract the next generation of young listeners. Sunday evenings were to be extended to include a new ‘teen zone’ which would include the Chart Show, ‘acting as a bridge for younger teens’ to ease them into Radio 1. The Sunday afternoon slot, originally hosted by Jo Whiley, has recently been taken over by Huw Stephens. His show In Huw's music we trust, which introduces ‘undiscovered, unsigned and under the radar music,’ has been a feature since the beginning of April. The Welsh presenter maintains a ‘busy diary DJing and compering at gigs, clubs and festivals, his shows have been broadcast at South by South West in Texas, Sonar in Barcelona and Green Man in Crickhowell. He has also travelled to Reykjavik, New Zealand, Nashville, Los Angeles and Manchester to seek out and reflect the new music in these places’ (Profile, 2011). Tom Deacon has also joined Radio 1, following the commitment outlined for him to present a companion radio programme to his BBC Switch online show. He hosts the Sunday night slot on BBC Radio 1 from 7pm, following the Chart Show. Fearne Cotton and Greg James weekday daytime programmes introduced last autumn have been the subject of ongoing development, to ensure that they focus on serving 15-29 year olds. Radio 1 ensures a commitment to continue to work to identify potential new presenting talent for the future, fulfilling this pledge with comedian and broadcaster Tom Deacon joining the station.

As a national network based in London, Radio 1 must fulfil the requirement to ensure that it equally serves audiences across the UK. The live music schedule is important, covering a range of music events from across the country as well as weekly ‘opt-out’ programmes for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Radio 1 also locates its own live event, Radio 1’s Big Weekend, outside London, choosing Preston, Dundee, Maidstone and Swindon in previous years (Younger Audiences, 2009, p. 64).  With many organisations covering live music, most recently the Coachella festival streamed through YouTube, the station needs to ensure that it remains distinct, offers depth and provides a range of coverage. A strong reputation has been built for supporting a wide range of new music relevant to young audiences, although the Service Review identified that ‘Radio 1’s reach to ethnic minorities has fallen significantly over recent years’ (Younger Audiences, 2009, p. 54). This reflects the broader trends in listening to any radio among ethnic minorities, and can be partly explained by the launch of 1Xtra and Asian Network in 2002, greater competition from niche commercial radio stations in urban areas and because the station reflects ‘trends in popular music tastes which in recent years have tended towards indie’. Despite these factors, the remit states that it should ‘engage a broad range of young listeners’ and this includes white, black and minority ethnic listeners. The Service Review were concerned that this disparity could become more pronounced and will monitor listeners closely. 

The speech show The Surgery with Aled (formerly known as the Sunday Surgery) has been allocated an earlier timeslot and briefed to become more journalistic in its approach of relevant topical issues. Documentaries and volunteering initiatives were to be introduced such as the experimental ‘The Art of Noise’ and campaigns were devised to include travel and relationships but have also covered the effects of alcohol consumption, mental health and bullying. BBC’s management aims to increase campaign impact, and have the support of the Service Review who approve of presenters being used to deliver messages to the audience (Younger Audiences, 2009, p. 61). DJ’s have an important role; the station broadcasts significantly more speech than most music radio stations with the vast majority designed to entertain the audience. An analysis of presenter speech (Younger Audiences, 2009, p. 60) suggests that this speech does serve the purpose of stimulating culture and creativity, although given the strong brand recognition the Service Review believe that the station could be more ambitious.

The key challenges outline not only the need to support emerging music and speech but also improve the online interactive and visual experiences of Radio 1 as so to ‘keep pace with audience expectations’ (BBC Service remit, 2010, [Internet]). It’s acknowledged that younger audiences are technologically efficient and that the station needs to meet the changing habits of listeners. For this capturing key moments visually, filming a selection of Live Lounge sessions and other significant programme features are seen as fulfilling the requirement. There will be improvements to the Official UK Chart online presence, and updates to the Greg James's show were outlined to celebrate UK chart history and culture. Building on the Access All Areas experiment in 2009 which demonstrated how the audience participated and interacted with the network. The station has explored ways in which users can personalise how the Radio 1 homepage appears to them, becoming more streamlined and providing the listener access to additional features including video, podcasts, games and social media content. The popularity of social networks is the ability to connect with others, and demonstrated by new and regular audience members extending the listening experience and interacting with their favourite presenters. Allowing the audience to be part of the show gives them the chance to enhance the whole experience. The internet being core to this convergence and becoming more than just ‘pictures of DJ’s, interviews with performers or places for listener chats’ (Chignell, 2009, p.124). It has become the gateway for listeners to access their favourite shows either on-demand or from a live stream.

To conclude, Radio 1 does provide significant access to culture, music and ideas specified in its service remit, although audience diversity, listener participation, brand association and technological advancements have an impact on the overall reach. Radio listening has declined over recent years and the format faces many fresh challenges, but Radio 1 continues to stay relevant and able to accommodate new technologies and methods to engage with listeners. A combination of the key challenges outlined in the service remit, the service review and controller ambition, indicate the long-term commitment to improve the station and recruit new listeners at the younger end of the target audience. Representing the UK’s nations, regions and communities is essential to achieving this vision and reinforced with the presenters, speech shows and supporting a wide range of new music relevant to young audiences. There will be challenges ahead but Radio 1 still has an important role and is heading in the right direction to achieve its objectives.

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Chignell, Hugh. (2009) Key Concepts in Radio Studies. London: Sage. p.124.

Garfield, Simon. (1998) The Nation’s Favourite. London: Faber and Faber Ltd. p. 104 

Huw Stephens Profile. BBC. [Internet] < > [accessed 5 May 2011]

Service Review. Younger audiences: BBC Three, Radio 1 and 1Xtra. BBC Trust. [Internet] < >   [accessed 5 May 2011] 

Statements of Programme Policy. Radio 1 Programme Policy 2010/2011. BBC [Internet] < > [accessed 5 May 2011]

Friday, April 15, 2011

Radio Policy (Essay)

This paper is a collaboration for Radio Studies -
UK radio policies are an important piece of broadcast radio legislation. It outlines the philosophy of what radio stations should be and gives each station a chance to express its needs to target its particular audience. Policies also distinguish what is broadcast and administers the stations conditions which should be met within the broadcasting year. This report will explore a range of BBC Radio policies and detail OFCOM UK’S policy when applied to two particular stations. It will then look in detail at the accuracy of the policies and point out any modifications that could be introduced in future policies. Where relevant, key scholars who have contributed to theory within the medium of radio will be included to justify and give understanding to the discussions. 

BBC Radio 1’s policy statement gives us an extensive overview of its target audience, key challenges facing them they aim to cover and its commitments to what is broadcast between the years stated. This part will briefly look at this policy and state these claims written in the ‘Radio 1 Programme Policy for 2010/2011’.
The Service Remit aims to appeal to a target audience of 15-29 year olds and also look to bring in ‘a broad range of young listeners’ through a mix of contemporary music such as pop, R’n’B and alternative music. Emerging types of new contemporary music such as Dubstep, Electro, Techno and House may also be included as well as new artists from the UK. Speech radio which will be relevant to young adults will be included with areas such as campaigns, news and documentaries being covered. 

Andy Partiff, who is the controller at BBC Radio 1, also writes his vision for the service in 2010/2011. He gives a brief description of Radio 1’s history, its original aim and how he aims to keep it succeeding in 2010 and beyond. He aims for Radio 1 to be a ‘leading voice of young UK culture. Sunday evenings will be a key day in which a new ‘teen zone’ will be established providing young teens to ease into Radio 1. Using features such Newsbeat and The Chart Show it is specifically designed for young audiences which he claims ‘the rest of the market can not sustain’. He also expresses the need to improve the online and interactive experiences of Radio 1 as so to ‘keep pace with audience expectations’.  

Radio 1 set Key Challenges which they aim to incorporate into their broadcasting over the course of the year stated. Their first challenge is to ensure a constant evolution to generate more young listeners to listen to Radio 1. This will be done by extending Sundays ‘teen zone’ (as mentioned in the above paragraph). New presenter Tom Deacon will be introduced to Sunday evenings and weekly daytime shows such as Fearne Cottons show will be developed further. Their second challenge is to give speech show ‘The Surgery’ an earlier timeslot and become more journalistic in its approach of relevant topical issues. Coverage of the General Election and UK unemployment will have larger news coverage as it is relevant to young audiences. New documentaries and campaigns will be introduced such as ‘The Art of Noise’ and volunteering initiatives involving travel and relationships. 

The third challenge will be to improve interactive services as meet young peoples ‘changing habits’ such as broadband and mobile internet. They aim to capture more visual moments in radio such as Live Lounge sessions. The UK Chart will be improved after the launch of the new midweek chart update. Audience participation will continue to be blossom with features such as personalisation of the Radio 1 homepage. They also aim to publish segments of shows online and look to ‘syndicate material to third party sales’. Their final challenge is to equally serve audiences across the UK. This will include coverage of Radio 1’s Big Weekend in North Wales in which the station will work alongside BBC Cymru Wales to broadcast the event in Welsh. A range of live shows in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales will have coverage on Radio 1 such as Rockness and Wakestock. 

Other programming highlights included coverage of the FIFA World Cup 2010 and how their audience followed the event in the UK and Big Weekends 10th anniversary coverage which was celebrated with ‘ambitious interactive coverage’. 

Radio 1 has also committed to the BBC certain conditions such as broadcasting 40% of music based in the UK in daytime hours (Mon-Fri 6am-7pm and Sat-Sun 8am-2pm) and 60 hours of specialist music in the week such as cutting edge music and certain genres. They commit 45% of music in the daytime to be new music released in physical form (excluding download release) and 10% use of eligible hours for independent producers. They aim to broadcast 40 new documentaries and at least to major social action campaigns. Finally, they will 200 hours of ‘original opt-outs’ for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to reflect the nations, regions and communities in the UK. 

For BBC Radio 2, the key challenges outlined distinguish how Radio 2 wishes to carry on being distinguished as a mixed music and speech station aimed for over 35s.  The radio policy for 2010/2011 perceives the necessary steps the BBC needs to take in order to remain as a popular radio station for the mature listener. 

BBC Radio 2 will predominantly focus on broadening its audience’s musical taste through an increased broadcasting of original music. Live music will continue to be a focal point for Radio 2 with more original live music being broadcasted.  The BBC Electric Proms have become entirely associated with Radio 2 since 2010; which will reinforce the stations dedication to live music. Popular culture and tradition will continue to be displayed, with a showcase of British comedy heritage.  Radio 2 in 2011 will be about continuing traditions and embracing the new; this will be seen with opportunities for new writers, artists and performers. Traditional live music will be broadcasted with indigenous musical styles such as brass and folk; this will appeal to the more traditionalist and mature listener. The vast size of Radio 2’s audience will be utilized to create a sense of British public value. Multigenerational listening will be a focus for Radio 2 in the coming year with more of a push to appeal to the over 50s as well as the middle aged audience.

The key challenges for Radio 2 in 2011 are to compensate the absence of Terry Wogan with Chris Evans and Simon Mayo in the drive-time slot. Without Terry Wogan the radio station faces challenges in maintaining his same following in the same drive-time slot that he DJ’d on. BBC Radio 2 will need to carefully oversee the tone, content and style of that slot. Another prominent challenge Radio 2 has proposed for 2011 is increasing the diversity of programs on offer. There will be a focus on content that focuses on cultural and social benefits during daytime broadcasting. In the evening Jeremy Vine’s show will include themes from various documentaries and a new comedy output will be broadcasted on Steven Wright’s show which will also be during the evening. 

Multiple new comedy series on Radio 2 will encourage the targeted broader audience. This will be visible through the various styles and comedians available. Appearances from Ronnie Corbett, Michael McIntyre, Peter Sellers and Bob Monkhouse will maintain the comic variety that Radio 2 has been so distinguished with.  Collaborations with BBC Comedy, BBC Scotland will be part of the production to pinpoint ‘Radio 2’s New Stand Up of the Year’. A two-part comedy showcase will also be presented by Craig Charles to correlate with black history month. This program will uncover the best of black British stand up. 

Overall Radio 2 has promised to become a more culturally and socially diverse station with programs suited for any listener above the target age of 30. Radio 2 will keep with traditions by carrying on religious programs, documentaries and live music sets. Radio 2 will carry on focussing on programs that promote British heritage but also an increased insight into global events. 

Regarding BBC Radio 4’s policy, it provides an insight into what the BBC is aiming to achieve and bring to its audience using this station. It highlights the main content of the station, what the schedule will be derived of and what the combination of these shows and scheduling will bring to its audience.
The service remit highlights the content and target audience of the station. Radio 4 is a primarily speech driven station with a commitment to providing a mixture of news, current affairs and a variety of radio shows ranging from drama, factual and comedy. The target audience of the station is those ‘seeking intelligent programs’ that cover a wide range of genres and, as ever with the BBC, maintain it’s overarching policy to inform, educate and entertain.

The main aims and objectives of the station are furthered highlighted by Radio 4’s controller, Mark Damazer. He gives a brief overview of the ‘uniquely eclectic schedule’ that contains a variety of factual programs, drama, comedy and debate. He also highlights the main news feature to be covered by the station for the time period 2010/11 which is the General Election. He aims to maintain the stations position as the ‘home of radio drama’ and ‘destination for the best comedy’. The inclusion of young, new writers and comedians shows Radio 4’s conscious decision to usher in the new breed of talented individuals that will help the station evolve and maintain pace with any rival radio station. This is even further mentioned when the controller emphasizes how the station will ‘evolve technologically as well as editorially’. Coverage of the Edinburgh festival and Glastonbury will also help discover emerging and up and coming acts in these fields of work.

In an attempt to address some of the targets in the above paragraph, Radio 4 has its own set of key challenges. The coverage of the general election is the main priority for the station and a wide variety of shows will attempt to provide varying views and opinions on what’s going on in the political sector. From programs providing a satirical and ‘sideways’ view on the election such as ‘The Heckler’ and ‘The Vote Now Show’ to a more factual, statistic based account of the voting process in ‘More Or Less’; Radio 4 is challenging itself to be the primary provider in news regarding the election. Another challenge they wish to accomplish is the ‘maintenance and growth of their interactive services’. They aim to achieve this by providing a website to run alongside its ‘History Of The World’ show, which will help the listener garner a better idea of the programs content by ‘showcasing all the objects in the series and making the programs available permanently as podcasts’. A further challenge the station is attempting to meet is a development of relations with BBC television. This hopes to be achieved with the co-commissioning of an ‘Eighties drama season and the Torchwood series‘.

Other programming highlights include a wide variety of new factual, drama and comedy shows aimed at a wide audience in attempt to satisfy the target audience’s needs. Programs such as ‘Democracy On Trial’ will help the listeners gather a better idea of the country as a democratic state, which ties into the general election that Radio 4 will be extensively covering. In an attempt to further widen the reach of the station, Radio 4 ‘will continue to produce dramatisations of the best modern children's literature’.

Radio 4 is committed to ‘sustaining citizenship and civil society’ by providing 2,500 hours of news and current affairs programs. In an attempt to provide stimulation creatively and culturally, there will be a combined 780 hours of original drama and comedy. Maintaining the BBC’s inform, educate, entertain mantra there will also be 200 hours of documentaries and 200 hours of religious programming.
Heart 100.7, strive to be fun, interesting, informative and entertaining. Although admit online that they don't always get it right. Each local commercial radio station in the UK has requirements in respect of its music and local content, such as news, speech levels etc. These requirements are set out in the station "Format", a document issued by Ofcom, the UK’s radio regulator. Heart Radio has a copy of this Public File, which contains details of the elements that Ofcom regulate, such as music, local news, etc. This approach is intended to give the listener a better understanding of the expected output from Heart and what they are doing for the local community. 

Heart West Midlands note online that any complaints made are logged onto the system on submission with details being passed onto the relevant department. They aim to deal with complaints immediately and will respond to acknowledge receipt of the complaint as soon as it is received by the relevant department. If under any circumstances a solution to the complaint cannot be agreed, a further complaint can be made with OFCOM.
If listeners hear something they're not happy with, or feel that something isn't fair, they are advised to send Heart West Midlands their comments. There they will be considered by senior programme management and action is taken where appropriate through the presenters and producers involved with the specific broadcast. Overall complaint levels and recurring themes are discussed weekly at senior management meetings. With a commitment to respond where a substantive issue is raised.

Section 314 of the Communications Act 2003 defines 'local material' as material which is of particular interest to those living or working within (or within part of) the area or locality for which the service is provided or to particular communities living or working within that area or locality (or a part of it). It can be delivered in a number of ways (local news, local information, comment, outside broadcasts, what's-on, travel news, interviews, charity involvement, weather, airplay for local musicians, local arts and culture, sport coverage, phone-ins, listener interactivity etc.).The balance of the different elements of local material outlined is for each station to determine for itself. But, where a station is required to broadcast local material it should include at least some of these elements.

All radio is made for an audience, for the mass of listeners who, largely on their own, receive or consume the radio message (Chignell, 2009, p. 63). The technological and cultural environment is changing faster than ever, and the objective of this report is to explore and investigate the philosophy of UK radio policy and it’s realisation in a representative range of stations. Analysing the key challenges which are outlined within the programme policy, which include interactive services, ensuring the stations adapt to meet the changing habits of listeners; the growth of broadband which continues to fuel increased demand for visual content; the social media policy outlined by the corporation’s responsible; and ensuring that stations evolve to engage younger audiences, support a wide range of new music, broadcasting and cultural excellence. The Canadian theorist Marshall McLuhan (1911 – 1980) who’s infamous aphorism "the medium is the message" (Levinson, P. 1999, p. 35) places emphasis on the impact that changes in the communication media have on individuals and their awareness of the world around them (Chignell, 2009, p. 79). Considering McLuhan’s writing and ideas, this report will explore the view that as radio stations evolve they fundamentally alter our perception of the world and how we interact. 

British histories of radio have referred frequently to the relationship between radio and the experience of feeling a part of a wider group (Chignell, 2009, p. 82). To elaborate on this notion, radio scholars have studied Benedict Anderson’s work, where he suggested the ‘act of reading the national newspaper was a mass ceremony,’ crucial to the ‘imagined community’ concept. This echoes the radio experience where listeners tune in by the tens of thousands. Professor of English literature, Walter Ong, shared a major interest in exploring this transition and observed:  

 …the spoken word forms human beings into close-knit groups. When a speaker is addressing an audience the members of the audience normally become a unity, with themselves and with the speaker (Ong, 1982, p. 74).

Modern radio programming offers an evolution of this unity, with the audience given the opportunity to actively engage with presenters and programmes to generate original content. Providing more than just a desire to educate and inform, popular entertainment and the Key Challenges enhance the overall listening experience. 

In an attempt to determine what the future holds for radio, first understanding the communication infrastructure should help to provide an indication of what to expect. All the UK's national radio stations and many local services will stop broadcasting on analogue by the end of 2015, according to ambitious switch-off targets unveiled by the government (Plunkett, 2009, [Internet]). The report dubbed Digital Britain is an action plan drawn up to embrace new media. New media is the term associated with the emergence of digital, networked information and communication technologies. There’s the novelty aspect with interpreting how new, new media is, but there’s no denying how important these frameworks and technologies have become in engaging the audience. Through the module, concepts such as ‘liveness’ and ‘co-presence’ have been frequently discussed, and the shared experience of radio listening has been enhanced significantly with new media.

In the past few years, the philosophy of UK radio policy has been slowly moving towards a more interactive experience for the audience. We have come to a time in which policies are incorporating ways to broaden the radio experience within the realms of social networking and the Internet. The idea of convergence has become the flagship route to expanding the readership of the medium of radio.

Presenters are able to engage with the audience more than ever through these interactive technologies, coupled with advances in mobile telephony that reinforce the listening experience as both individual and portable (Chignell, 2009, p. 64). Through a combination of these technologies, every listener has the ability to interact through various mediums of communication. Extending beyond the popular radio phone-in, listeners can express their approval through retweets, commenting on stories and using the widely adopted Like button which features across many popular new media sites. Interaction through new technologies provokes a desired ‘unpredictable and spontaneous quality,’ and with increasing numbers using new media, Chignell’s claim that ‘the quality of liveness is communicated largely through the medium of speech’ (Chignell, 2009, p. 89) could be brought into question.  Even whilst typing, evidence of this popularity emerges via Radio 1, providing the background ambience, when the presenter interrupts the track fade out to direct listeners to both Twitter and Facebook. The insights from these services provide metrics around the available content, and details on the audience such as age, sex and class profile which are hugely important to the radio stations.

With social networking, radio has been given a chance to look to its presenters to help shows gain a new audience who may not have been reachable before. Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook have become the place for new and regular audience members to find out about their favourite presenters and also speak to them. An example of this is BBC Radio 5 Lives own Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo. They use their Twitter page (@wittertainment) to talk about upcoming shows and share photos of themselves with their guests. It also gives the audience a chance to post questions to the presenters live on air instead of the usual formats such as text and email. Allowing the audience to be part of the show through social networking gives them the chance to enhance the whole experience. Instead of waiting for a whole week to listen to their favourite show or presenter, they can follow what they do over the whole week and converse with them. 

The internet is key to this convergence and has become more than just ‘pictures of DJ’s, interviews with performers or places for listener chats’ (Chignell, 2009 p.124). It has become the gateway for many new listeners to access their favourite shows either on-demand or from a live stream. A noticeable example of this is via the BBC Radio 1’s official channel on the video sharing website YouTube. Producers take excerpts from live shows, live performances, interviews and documentaries that were all previously broadcast live on radio. This is helping Radio 1 achieve their challenge of capturing more key moments visually and segmenting these on to video sharing websites such as YouTube. This form of convergence can also be applied to BBC Radio 2 who themselves have an official channel on YouTube. 

Television also has a role to play in radio’s philosophy as they have slowly intertwined and have come to rely on each other. Specifically, the broadcasting of live music festivals has found its home on both television and radio. Over the years radio presenters have become the face of these events on both formats. An example of this is former Radio 1 presenter Jo Whiley. She is regularly allocated to presenting the Glastonbury and Reading/Leeds Festivals on television channel BBC Three and also replays her favourite bits of the Festival on her shows on Radio 1. It can be noted that the coverage of these festivals help Radio 1 achieve the challenge to ‘showcase the best of our specialist shows across the UK’ (BBC Radio 1 Policy).  

It’s easy to get carried away with recent developments in technology, but as Chignell notes ‘economics of radio production have led to an increase in pre-recorded DJ speech on commercial radio stations’ (Chignell, 2009, p.89).  With the growth of broadband and technological advances, pre-recorded links can easily be stored on software for later transmission to dupe the listener. Here are some of the dangers:

Practically, if used without regulatory control, at the extremes automation could enable a whole radio station to broadcast without any presenters or technical operators at all, or to appear to have the same presenter broadcasting 24 hours a day. While non-stop music sequences have always been an option, common sense would suggest that listeners might quickly rumble the presenter who appears to be permanently ‘on air’ and never sleep (Starkey, 2004, p. 100).

Ofcom; or Office of Communications, is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries. Their statutory duty is the interests of citizens and consumers, promoting fair competition and protecting against harmful or offensive material (Wikipedia, 2011, [Internet]). Unfortunately Ofcom weren’t able to prevent Radio 1 DJs Chris Moyles and Comedy Dave broadcasting their radio show continuously for 52 hours. Although both DJs were allowed a five-minute break every hour, showers and the occasional brief power nap (Guardian, 2011 [Internet]). This reinforces the debate surrounding the ‘illusion of liveness’, because the show was broadcast continuously even though the presenters took breaks, showers and were permitted sleep allowance. Chignell explores the perception of liveness:

In a sense liveness is both an illusion, an artificially created sense of spontaneity and being here now, but also a reflection of the fact that the radio broadcaster exists in the same temporal world that we do. Not only the time of day but also the same point in the week and in the year (Chignell, 2009, p.89).  

To conclude, it’s clear that everyone who’s involved in the creation of radio, needs to respect the expectations of the listener. From the key challenges it emerges that stations have identified areas to improve, ways to extend the listening experience and methods to reach a wider audience. Through mobile telephony, new media and Digital Britain there is the evolving technologies and a strategic vision, set out by the government to ensure that the country is a pioneer of the global digital economy. Engaging with the audience remains core to the radio ‘format’, young people are the most ‘lucrative and easy-to-please audience niche’ (Chignell, 2009, p. 64) and also the most likely to engage with the radio station through various mediums of communication. The established modes of address go beyond listening to the voice of the radio presenter; the perception of a one-sided conversation is dismissed through new media, television and celebrity. Aspects such as interactivity and convergence are just two ways in which this can be achieved. Radio has become more than just the on air experience but also an off air one. The philosophy of radio looks to the future and continues to keep up with the leading mediums which ensure that it has a long term future in the UK. 

Co-presence is not an accidental by-product of radio, it is a defining characteristic and vital ingredient in the success of the medium and therefore one which is actively fostered (Chignell, 2009, p. 76).

Radio still faces many fresh challenges including, technological advances, MP3 players, infrastructure limitations, on-demand content, streaming services, the emergence of cloud computing technology. Emerging from this policy is the view that the radio ‘format’ continues to display incredible adaptability and is capable of evolving to stay relevant and able to accommodate new technologies and methods to engage with the listeners. Collaboration on radio policy has provided a renewed respect and appreciation for radio and the various elements that construct an engaging and intimate experience.

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