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Lisa Fitzgibbon

Lisa Fitzgibbon is a veteran of folk music; fronting the Power Folk band for many years, but now she wants to focus on making Something Beautifulas the musical director of her new global fusion band Moonshee.

With my band, The Lisa Fitzgibbon Quartet/Quintet/Trio/whatever the line-up, I’ve been working with my fiddle player, Jane Griffiths for 15 years now, so we’re so ingrained. My bass player is her husband, and his brother is the guitarist, and they’ve been playing together their whole lives. They can do what they want on-stage because they are so in tune with each other. We’ve done tours, productions, gigs, we’ve played on the back of trucks, we’ve played on main stage festivals and the little clubs and bars. Was I bored of it? Maybe. If you eat pie all day, you get bored of pie. You want to change the palette a little bit.

I quite like the contrast of the responsibility from Moonshee to my other projects. I like that I’m not the person at the front, I’m in the engine room. I spend my energy on the band and I let the girls, Amy McAllister and Rachel Button, front Moonshee. It’s quite liberating. Mitel Purohit (sitar) and Jonathan Mayer (tabla) are the sound of the band and Joelle Barker (percussion) had a relationship with the record label and we thought it’d be nice to mix her in. It’s been a natural process.

It’s a fusion of the English/ Irish and a bit of Indian folk. The concept is east meets west storytelling that’s been handed down by generation, whether it’s the story, or the music or the style of playing. It definitely comes from an English and Irish folk perspective and its specifically fused with the rhythms and in some respects the harmonies of the Indian sound. Moonshee is still a relatively new project, it’s only a year old but the potential is definitely there. It’s like a cricket team or a football team; you’ve got to play the game to find out each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s going to be nice to see that unravel in a more natural way.

Jonathan came up with the name; it has a mystical side to what we do. A Moonshee is a mystical storytelling entity with Hindu and Arabic origins, it has a feminine slant to it and the band is primarily female, which is quite good fun. We don’t have a big enough profile yet to get a call from Amnesty International or play for Oxfam. We’re not really a political sect, more a unite-through-music global band. The point of it is to make something beautiful. To make music as beautiful as possible. That’s what I’d like to achieve.

I still do my own Lisa Fitzgibbon stuff, and I have other writing projects on, I still have my students and run a gardening business with my husband. As creatures, as human beings we need a lot of entertaining. I’m the kind of person who needs to have several things going on or I just get bored. I’m happy with Moonshee and I’ve got a couple of other projects on, so I’m pretty busy really. You have to have your hands in many pies don’t you?

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This essay was written for my Global Media and Communication module, handed in 9/12/11, with a final mark of 63%.

Introduction

The existing media system operating in the Czech Republic is representative of the strides forward the country has taken since the shadowed past of pre-Velvet Revolution and Velvet Divorce, in 1989 and 1993 respectively. Politically, the country has a Presidential system and a Prime Minister-led Parliament. This is a clear indicator of the country’s determination to be an autonomous state since the fall of communism. The President that oversees the government is a political hangover of the communist regime; a leader with powers to overrule. The media system is a combination of a public broadcaster, mainly funded by the government, and a free system built on private ownership. This promotes competition, an attribute of capitalism in the United States of America that the general public wanted to recreate. This case study looks at how the Authoritarian theory as promulgated by Siebert, Peterson and Schramm in 1956 still influences aspects of the Czech print media system after the country tried so hard to remove itself from Soviet rule.

 

The Czech press and its governance

In 2001 the Czech Republic was the first country of the former Soviet occupied states to review their original media policy. After the fall of communism in 1989, media legislation proved such a low priority in comparison to the creation of a new government that the press simply began a form of self-regulation (Gulyás 2003: 85). When the country divorced from the Slovak Republic in 1993, the Press Act created was largely similar to the framework still in use today, one that promoted freedom with no regulation regarding foreign ownership. The state amended the original Press Act, managed by the Ministry of Culture, in 2000. It still clearly denotes the freedom of the press in Section 4. This entire section is summed up in one line of text: “The content of a periodical lies with the editor” (Klaus et. al. 2000)

Major restrictions include regulation on defamation. This is covered in Section 10. It states that if “communications containing factual allegations which touches the honour, dignity or privacy of certain individuals”, the affected can ask for a repeal or a response from the editor to be printed within 30 days. This section has caused the most controversy.

The general public tends to be of the opinion that attaching legislation to regulate the press largely devalues what the country fought for during the demise of Soviet power. Regulation goes precisely against the societal beliefs of what the free press should be. There was public outrage in 1994 when a journalist, Zdenek Svavorky, was arrested and jailed for four months when he described the President, Vaclav Havel as a “traitor” (Wachtal 1996).

The current political leaders have long had a widely publicised loathing of journalists, which has in many cases been duly reciprocated. If the level of detest is so high then why don’t the political leaders impose more restrictions on the media?

There would be, without doubt, absolute disgust on behalf of the public should stricter legislation be introduced, but I would argue another reason: The government tolerates the way the media system operates because it is ultimately the decision of Czech leaders to provide a ‘free’ press. Allowing the public to express their views in a newspaper can in itself be seen as a form of regulation.  Adorno and Horkheimer explain; “there is the agreement of all executive authorities, not to produce or sanction anything that in any way differs from their own rules, their own ideas about consumers, or above all themselves” (1944: 122).

The Czech government supports a system that is intended to allow private ownership and public body broadcasters to work in unison. This bicameral approach is represented in practice in all sectors of the media apart from the newspaper industry.

According to Metykova and Cisařová the current mixture of journalists is divided between those working before the fall of communism and those who came in to the profession following the Velvet Revolution and Divorce. These two types of journalist have opposing ideologies on what their role is in society.

 – Pre 1989

The journalists that survived the cold war reported a huge cultural change in their country. Despite this experience they seem to have developed a hangover of the journalism practices drummed into them by their previous leaders. The job they fulfilled was one that spoke for the government and provided information and structure to the daily order. “The ‘old’ generation identify themselves as the bearers of (arguably idealized) professional standards and professional integrity and pride”. (Metykova &Cisařová 2009: 733)

 – Post 1989

The modern journalist, or at least those who began working after the fall of communism, are far more aggressive in their attempts to undermine the government at any opportunity. The general feeling amongst them is that they now have the freedom to speak out against the government so they will. (Sparks 1998:  162)

The political leaders tend to take these criticisms personally; consequently they have let their feeling for journalists be known. In an interview with Forbes magazine in 1994, the Prime Minister, Vaclav Klaus stated, “journalists are the biggest enemies of mankind” (Gulyás, 2003: 87).

We can take a clear element of distaste shared between the two sides from this quote but Sparks argues that Klaus and other politicians later developed a collaborative relationship with many media outputs, especially TV Nova. The leading commercial Czech television station used these links with politicians to lobby for and achieve changes to media legislation. In exchange for this, the media diluted their hostility toward the country’s leaders (2000: 43). Therefore, as is the case under the authoritarian model, the government achieves support from the press without formal regulation.

Newspapers are under private ownership and must abide by the Press Act. This Act now falls under the terms of the Competition Law of the European Commission, as does the regulation of the rest of the media. The Competition Law says that it regulates “(i) cartels, (ii) abuse of a dominant position and (iii) merger control” (Hoffman 2005: 4). The Antimonopoly Office ensures that the terms of the legislation are followed by taking in to account the specific roles of each publication and investigating media convergences. The media is seen as a vital role in Czech culture, which is “viewed as a ticket to the future”. (Jehlička 2008)

 

Other theories the Czech press may fit into

Some may argue that 4 Theories of the Press is the Bible of media theory but many modern theorists have started to lose faith. There are already suggestions of a fifth, Development theory that applies to peripheral countries, as well as modern combinations of the original four.

Sparks (1998) concludes that the 4 Theories of the Press is a completely useless tool to benchmark the Czech media system against. This is true to an extent.

The Soviet-Communist system is obsolete as the current system was set up to directly oppose the purpose of a Soviet press.

With the press being free, perhaps the Libertarian theory offers a connection, yet the Czech Republic definitely maintains a solid government.

The Social-Responsibility theory does reflect elements of the Czech system. The Czech Press Act gives the impression of a free press, but its official legislation in Section 10 regarding defamation, and the jail sentence of Svavorky, proves otherwise. The media ownership also negotiates too many underhand deals with the government in order to influence freedom and legislation for this theory to fully apply to the Czech system. The media moguls Vladimír Železný and Ronald Lauder of TV Nova have proven that the Czech media owners are savvy enough to persuade the government to work in their favour, indicating self-interest rather than social-responsibility. The press doesn’t have a Czech media tycoon, as German or Swiss publishers own the majority of papers. Právo is the only Czech-owned newspaper. It is the second biggest broadsheet and not strong enough in power to broker deals with the government similar to it’s broadcast colleagues. In the absence of such deals, print journalists have no reason to dilute their antagonism towards the government. Notions of social-responsibility certainly do not encourage them to present a balanced view.

The Czech media system is a complex mix of journalistic practices from the old regime, the new revolutionists, the media moguls and the stubborn governance.

Such a hybrid of ambitious powers jockeying for position in this still young country can cause theorists to jump to conclusions when discussing which theory best describes its press.

With its private ownership, and the part control of broadcasting by the government it is the Authoritarian theory that still holds true. Despite Hitler’s control of the media, privately run newspapers faired rather well under Nazi rule. Alfred Hugenburg owned a successful paper that went largely uninterrupted in its choice of content (Sparks 1998: 40). It was taken over by the regime toward the end of WWII to ensure support for the cause but for the most part it was left to choose its own content. One thing the Authoritarian theory relies on is strict support for the government in power; the Czech press have very little belief in their leadership, but the theory should not be thrown out over such minor details. This lack of belief does not necessarily destroy the application of this theory. Adorno and Horkheimer argue that the emotion achieved after the consumption of culture remains the same, regardless of the political system. “Consumers appear as statistics on research organization charts and are divided by income groups into red, green and blue areas; the technique is that used for any type of propaganda.” (1944: 123).

 

 

 

Conclusion

Applying the arguably outdated Authoritarian theory to the press system of the Czech Republic is a questionable choice that will undoubtedly draw critics. That doesn’t mean it should be disregarded.

The Controlled Commodification theory has revitalised the concepts of self-regulation and state control. It is tough to argue without hesitance that the media system in China is entirely under control of the state, and the same can be said for self-regulation. The combined theory shows that both aspects have relevance (Weber & Lu 2007).

Just as Controlled Commodification developed from two ideas, for this reason I believe the Authoritarian theory may still be of use when analysing today’s Czech press. Although the theory cannot stand by itself when describing the current system, for reasons I have stated, its utility could combine with a second, or even third, theory after more specific examination. Due to the limitations of this article I am unable to expand much further than stating a prospective amalgamation with the Social-Responsibility theory.

Examples of the government looking after their own principles, and the media expressing their freedom demonstrate that it would be best to submit a Socially-Responsible Authoritarian media theory. As further research is needed of the two archaic systems, this is yet to be confirmed. What is clear from my study is that with the government’s attempts to control the broadcasting system, and the more relaxed attitude toward the newspaper industry, the Authoritarian theory should still be considered when describing the Czech Press.

 

References:

Adorno, T. Horkheimer, M. (1994) ‘The Culture Industry: Enlightenment As Mass Deception’ Dialectic of Enlightenment: 120 – 167, Norfolk: Lowe & Brydon Printers Ltd

Gulyás, Á. (2003) ‘Print Media in Post-Communist East Central Europe’, European Journal Of Communication (18) 1: 81

Hoffmann, T. Fucik, J. Institute of European Media Law (2005) ‘Chapter 3: Czech Republic’, Market Definitions in the Media Sector [online] available from <http://ec.europa.eu/competition/sectors/media/documents/&gt; [26 November 2011]

Jehlička, V. (2008) National Cultural Policy of the Czech Republic, Prague: Government of the Czech Republic

Klaus. Havel. Zeman. (2000) ‘Regulation No. 46/2000/Předpisy č. 46/2000’ Collection of Laws/Sbírka zákonů, [online] available from <http://www/sagit.cz.pages.sbirkatxt.asp?zdroj=sb00046&cd=76&typ=r&gt; [5 December 2011] (Translated via Google Translator)

Metyková, M. Císařová, L. (2009) ‘Changing journalistic practices in Eastern Europe’, Journalism, (10) 5: 719-736

Siebert, F.S. Peterson, T. Schramm, W. (1956) Four Theories of the Press, Urbana: University of Illinois

Sparks, C. (2000) ‘Media theory after the fall of European communism: Why the old models from East and West won’t do any more’, Curran, J., Park, M. De-Westernizing Media Studies, London: Routledge, 35-49

Sparks, C. Reading, A. (1998) Communism, Capitalism and the Mass Media. London: SAGE Publications

Wachtel, B. 1996, ‘Czech media: Democratic or anti-communist?’ Nieman Reports (50) 2: 51.

Weber, I. Lu, J. (2007) ‘Internet and self-regulation in China: the cultural logic of controlled commodification’ Media, Culture and Society (29) 5: 772-789

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As this term draws to a close our last Global Media lecture meant we weren’t learning about new theories or concepts and focused on looking at a number of programmes that discussed ones we’d learned in previous weeks.

The programme titled Hollow State produced in December 1996 looked at the information society developing in China at the time.

An interesting thought process is if the hollowness has increased or decreased over the years. Has culture and society caught up with the information society and developed with it? Or has it become more hollow as the information technology of today develops at such a rate that we are constantly behind the trend or latest revelation.

The programme brought to light some of the academic theorists we have seemingly studied over the past few weeks. This shows that the journalist making the programme will use the theorists when discussing certain developments and the latest news. It’s important to develop contacts with the people I study with currently as these may be the people I’m interviewing in a few years time.

Hollow State was particularly well made due to the different views it offered. It’s a good visual example of how to construct the essay due to be handed in next week. It presented the views opposing the programmes theory and gave examples of why it may be true, as well as the views the programme believed with examples.

 

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Hounslow industrial complex is a collection of s dull, grey buildings on the outskirts of London. Until you step inside.

Beyond the reception area is a giant open plan studio/office. The centre of the room is a gravitational field; all the hard work ends up here at some point. There is a circular desk with multi-dimensional cameras with the ability to pan and orbit around the central subject – Anna Jones. To the left of her desk is a set of couches, polar opposite sits a raised platform where the newsreader can stage interactive video-links on a 20-foot television rig.

The real work of the producers, directors, sound engineers, cameraman, live journalists, silent journalists, researchers, developers, editors, technical advisors and app makers – it all takes place within four walls. The runners pace back and forth between office spaces like comets from planet to planet in a solar system.

To avoid being caught by the 24-hour rolling live cameras there are walkways raised above the studio. These pedestrian zones lead to other filming nooks and editing crannies.  The runner will take one sheet of paper to one writer who will then transfer it on to an editor, forwarded on to the producer and then it will be displayed in front of the newsreader for the world to hear.

Sky News is a smoothly running, efficient operation “if one link in the chain broke the entire thing could fall apart”.

The Head of Foreign News Sarah Whitehead explains to Coventry University students that even the shift changeovers are effortless.

“I haven’t been here long so I’m not best at it yet, but the changeover happens at 6.30. These people have been in since 6.30 this morning and their replacement comes in at 6.20 runs them through the notes and emails and it keeps going.”

For a station that’s online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, creating a seamless transition is essential for the viewers who pay close attention.

“The only complaints we get are at 9 o’clock when some people are going home and there may be background noise, apart from that it’s a fairly quiet work environment. Everyone is aware it’s a live studio.”

Compared to the BBC studios, many of them pokey little buildings that have needed renovating for 20 years, Sky has the edge on style and efficiency – two things that come at a great price.

“It’s definitely a loss-leader, but all news is.”

Despite the ‘effortless’ and smooth exterior of the uninterrupted news network Whitehead acknowledges the level of effort required to complete this job, day-in, day out.

“It’s a big commitment, but this job is the best in the world. You need energy, you need to be passionate about news and you need to know what you want to do.”

Sky is the biggest private news rival to the BBC, and in the world. It is the current epitome of State Vs Private ownership. The Murdoch’s latest scandal has had literally no effect on the BSkyB Company – at least from a 24-hour news perspective. They are still competing.

When asked about the competition that drives the new Head of Foreign News “If it comes down to if we’ve got the story first, or if we’ve got to wait to get it right, we have to wait to get it right”. Unlike the publicly funded broadcaster, they are not afraid to spend money to make it right. “I’ve gone a bit over budget for this week, I’ve probably spent around £60,000” Whitehead said on a Wednesday.

From a personal and individual standpoint no journalist may harbour strong feelings about who gets to reveal a news story first “I’ve worked with Jon Williams (Head of BBC World Service) in the past, and he said how hard it is telling employees family’s that their dead, I’ve been there with him for a lot of it. When Alex Crawford broke the news of the fall of Tripoli she was with a huge convoy and probably safer than if a BBC employee left 20 minutes later.”

Despite ensuring safety above anything else, there’s no doubting the company’s competitive edge. Sky News chose to release an unconfirmed video of Saif Gaddafi being captured simply by noticing the plaster on his hand. It was a bold move but one that paid off.

“There were perhaps 5 stories of Gaddafi being caught before the real one leaked. We had seen a feed from Reuters that Reuters hadn’t even seen, we could only tell it was him because we zoomed in on his hand, he’s got that thing on his hand”

Sky News is the current media giant will the style and grace to rival of the BBC. Will it last as long though?

The BBC is a national institution, one that has the benefit of public funding, whether the public want to or not. It may not always look pretty but it has substance, standards and heart. Sky has the backing of advertisers and investors, just like many other private companies have before. Financial backing can disappear all too quickly with AOL/Time-Warner is an obvious example. Can the swanky smooth attraction of Sky survive? It all depends on whether you think looks can last.

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This week’s Global Media and Communication seminar focused on our next piece of work. The fact that I have barely begun my first piece of work is unsettling. This is the level of speed and efficiency you have to work at to develop at an MA level.

The second piece of coursework is a choice of six questions, of which we have to explore and write up the answer with of course references to the various theories and concepts behind Global Media.

One such question that caught my eye was the second that asks me to ‘Discuss the argument that media and communication have democratic value with reference to a specific political phenomenon or event of global interest, such as controversial occurrence or landmark election in a country of your choice’.

The bonus of this particular assignment is that is doesn’t have to be entirely written. There are a number of options available to how I wish to approach the execution of this. An idea I have had is to create a 10-minute podcast of the subject and write the additional 1000 word review. I could possibly write a 3000-word article and review but as my previous lecturers know my academic writing isn’t the best. I am more practical and I should embrace it given the opportunity, this type of product will also prove useful toward a portfolio down the line.

One of many books edited by John Mair inspired by his famed Coventry Conversations

With regards to the subject I may look at the answer in relation to The Arab Spring. This could be done as the podcast will need to be put together quite quickly and John Mair has already written a book about the Arab Spring and how the globalisation of media has affected its success. I will hopefully be able to include him in the podcast and maybe some other opinions to back up my points.

The rest of the essay was completed with the discussion of Conflict and Persuasive communication, in particular the roles of propaganda and how peace journalism is reported.

Whereas Propaganda is heavily planned, selective and can influence general opinion through emotion, Peace journalism focuses on the needs of ordinary people and with finding a solution to their problems.

For next weeks lecture I’ll look at a text titled ‘Embedding and the Geneva Convention’ in preparation, but will need to book some time with Genevieve, a colleague who I will be completing my presentation with next week.

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As part of my Global Media and Communciation module I’m looking at Global Communication – Theories, Stakeholders and Trends McPhail (2006).

Global Communication proves and interesting read

McPhail proves to be quite a controversial and potentially obnoxious writer is some respects. Certainly in the opening chapter ‘Global Communication’ the book takes on the viewpoint of the United States and how the media marketplace changed post-9/11. Quite often it is implied that the exact same changes in media systems and reporting practices were executed in the United Kingdom and the rest of mainland Europe.Whilst many practices may run parallel the countries discussed can be quite different.

Throughout chapters 1 and 2 there are some fine points made but the view that NWICO (New World Information and Communication Order) seems to be the only alternative to the free press systems that the US prefers needs further investigation. While NWICO’s values may indeed be outdated, there needs to be other theories explored as the current Westernised free press system may indeed be unfair to the ‘peripheral nations’.

There have been attempts to implement profitable mediums in less developed countries with little success, and a lot of this has been due to more traditional systems in place being unable to support the required change to perform at a high level. There are also such problems as some nations resisting these practices due to the current print press working as it is and there being strict rules against free opinion, particularly in countries that may still be ruled by dictatorship. In these cases Development Journalism is instilled as many of these countries believe they can ‘catch up’ to leading nations by doing so

.This may be a good point to explore. McPhail highlighted a quote by a US economist Walter Rostow “Moderizations occur when necessary conditions for change are established”. If a country doesn’t require or need to catch up to the modern technological advances that pervade Western media then why should they? These countries will slowly build their own media systems up to the point that they will be good and ready to take on a new challenge.

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My first sit down seminar with Fred Mudhai was rather an interesting one. We mainly discussed the course and the breakdown of it.

It seems I will be doing two assignments; a project essay and a group presentation.

The presentation will be about a country’s media policy and systems, I will cover one and my partner (as yet to be discovered) will study another. Then we shall come together to compare the two countries and put forward a presentation.

I am interested in 3 countries currently, the first being the UK: I have come to realise that although I am coping well and learning as I’m going I still don’t know a hell of a lot about the media policies of Britain. I am slowly getting through McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists (2007) as recommended by Marcos Young and I’m sure I will have a better understanding of common law and practices by the end of the year anyway.

So part of me thinks the US would be very interesting as I could see myself working in the US and I am generally interested in their media policies as some of it seems to be so much more heavily influenced by the government (or at least some of the major corps do), so I would enjoy that one quite a bit.

Another one I would take great interest in is the Czech Republic. I would be keen to study the change in journalistic freedoms this former Soviet occupied state has seen since the collapse of the Berlin Wall and I doubt there are too many people considering covering Central Europe.

A lot of my decision will be based who I am partnered up with. I will consider some more then get back to you. In the meantime I have LOTS of reading to do for this module and I’ll be writing about Global Communication – Theories, Stakeholders and Trends McPhail (2006) shortly. So don’t go anywhere, we’ll be back after this short commercial break.

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