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The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2006) defines Media Event as an occasion or happening, either spontaneous or planned, whose occurrence is widely scrambled for by mass media organizations, and whose coverage in television news and newspapers, in both print and Internet editions, attracts huge numbers of audience. Media theorists like Dayan, Katz, and Roche puts emphasis on this term in order to challenge its construct, extend its usefulness, expand its theoretical basis and application, and examine media events in a far larger and richer context. However, the naturalist of media events has been eroded over time. The mainstream corporate media in the United States currently prefer to develop their news and information in the form of media spectacles. Spectacles, here, mean media connotations that are consistently out of the ordinary, which most media organizations use as their special media events (Kellner, 2009). These events are often characterized by aesthesia, competition, and drama such as the Olympics or the Oscars. Perhaps the best political examples of media spectacles that have gone down the history lane include the Clinton sex and impeachment scandal, the death of Princess Diana, the 9/11 terror attacks, and, the recent meltdown of the global financial system (Kellner, 2009).
What Do Media Events Do?
Media events have the potential to bring the global community together through telling of stories that are of global interest. These stories are, in one way or another, influential to the rapidly changing ways of life of communities around the world. Indeed, despite being a new television genre, live broadcasts of "historic" events have become, in effect, world rituals--high holidays of mass communication. Like Daniel Dayan and Elihu Katz (2009) portrayed in their works, these media events have the potential for transforming societies as they transfix viewers around the globe.
The authors provide us with captivating examples of media events that were the high holidays of mass communication. Among these events are the Anwar el-Sadat's journey to Jerusalem, Prince Charles’ wedding to Lady Diana, and the funeral of John F. Kennedy among others. These examples revealed how media events can be ‘worshiped’ and create a following that is fit to unite the entire world. These media events turn the television into an icon that is faithfully followed by the global community, and, at the same time, gives it the power to declare special occasions linked to the events such as holidays, and to integrate and reorganize societies across the world. Indeed, Dayan and Katz (1992) recognize the [power of these media events and categorize them in to three categories: contest, conquest, and coronation, all of which are iconic in nature.
Insights of Media Events in Relation to People’s Everyday Experiences and Practices, and in Globalization
Media events that often generate the following of the global community are just but daily experiences of certain people. A terror attack that makes headlines throughout the world is a result of a routine practice by the terror networks. Additionally, events like a visit by the members of the royal family to a remote country or location maybe routine but it will make headlines around the globe and transfix the global community. Ironically, these events impact of the daily lives of the people who are transfixed on their televisions watching them. They acquire insights from these media events in terms of the aesthesia, glamour, and organizations, and they use them to plan and organize their own cultural events. Although these people are not there when these events are happening, the effects these events create in their lives a makes them feel like they were right in the middle of these events when they happened.
This phenomenon is incorporated by Dayan and Katz (1992) in their anthropological framework of media events. They explore the phenomenon of "not being there, " claiming that the living-room celebration of media events is a unique form of ceremonial experience, different from--but as powerful as--the experience of "being there." They look at the element of tension generated by the unpredictable, live unfolding of an event. And they discuss the roles of broadcast narrative, interpretation, and commentary as well as the preplanning of publicity and advertising. This book adds an unexpected dimension to studies of journalism and broadcasting. Students, scholars, and practitioners in mass communication will find it required reading, and it will spark interest in the fields of sociology, anthropology, and political science, as well.
Media Spectacles and Global Media Events
In their theories and works, Dayan and Katz (1992) incorporate the notion of media spectacle in their definition and explanation of a “media event”. Media event, according to these theorists, referred to politicians’ use of live, televised, preplanned events, such as the Olympic Games, in the celebration of events in their lives or organization of social events. However, the recent happenings in the world have led Katz and Liebes (2010) to revise the original Dayan and Katz analysis. As opposed to the ceremonial contests, conquests, and coronations that characterized Dayan and Katz’s analysis in the first 50 years of Television, the new definition of Media event is characterized by the recent disruptive events “such as Disaster, Terror and War” (Katz & Liebes, 2010). These spectacular events are currently used by regimes the world over to make their grip on power stronger.
Indeed, Kellner (2009) reveals that Bush/Cheney administration manufactured a media spectacle in its “war on terror” to portray a strong regime. Keller, however, points out that the spectacle in Iraq war got out of got out of control and became a highly disruptive terrain of struggle. The stories of the Iraq war captivated and transfixed the whole world, bringing the entire globe together to witness the “wrath” of the powerful Bush administration. The coverage of these events throughout the world, however, generated different perceptions of the USA and its intentions in the world. As such, though the events caused untold suffering in the world at large because of the destructions and loss of lives, the global coverage enabled the international; community to come in with a result that the majority of local lives have been made better.
Media Events as Rituals
It is strange, even phenomenal just how media can impact on social life of people around the globe. The ritualization of media events is perhaps best demonstrated from the very beginning of television. In his reaction to Britain's 'inventor' of television, John Logie Baird, Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald thanked him for a 'wonderful miracle' that had 'put something in his room, which would never let him forget how strange the world was - and how unknown' the world had been (Couldry, 2003). Indeed, media events are a good place to start applying the theory of media rituals. It is this reasoning that triggers Dayan and Katz to make media events there main subject in the classic book Media Events: The Live Broadcasting of History (1992), which poses more clearly than anywhere else, the advantages and the difficulties of a study of media rituals. It does so not through general cultural commentary or textual analysis, but through one of the most systematic attempts to date to bring anthropological theory to bear on media (Couldry, 2003).