The Circuit of Mass Communication: Media Strategies, Representation and Audience Reception in the AIDS Crisis
The Circuit of Mass Communication moves beyond the narrow focus of recent work in media and cultural studies to examine the whole process of interaction between the media and the social world. Rejecting approaches that focus only on production, discourse, or audience reception, this new volume examines promotional strategies, government advertising, media production, representation, and audience responses as well as broader impacts on policy, culture, and society. Using a detailed analysis of the struggle over representation during the AIDS crisis, the authors reveal the power of media to influence public opinion and the complex interaction between media coverage audience responses, and contemporary power relations. Based on extensive empirical research, this book offers a range of challenging insights on media power, active audiences, and moral panics ...
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- Chapter 1: Introduction
- Chapter 2: The AIDS Public Education Campaign, 1986–90
- Chapter 3: News Variations
- Chapter 4: AIDS and Television News
- Chapter 5: AIDS on Television: Form, Fact and Fiction
- Chapter 6: Sourcing AIDS News
- Chapter 7: Producing AIDS News
- Chapter 8: Media Impact on Public Beliefs about AIDS
- Chapter 9: Resisting the Message: The Extent and Limits of Media Influence
- Chapter 10: AIDS, the Policy Process and Moral Panics
- Chapter 11: Conclusion
© David Miller, Jenny Kitzinger, Kevin Williams and Peter Beharrell, 1998
First published 1998
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without permission in writing from the Publishers.
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ISBN 0 8039 7702 6
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Typeset by Mayhew Typesetting, Rhayader, Powys Printed in Great Britain by The Cromwell Press Ltd, Trowbridge, Wiltshire
This book has had a prolonged gestation period and is the product of a long-term collaborative, but not always smooth and harmonious, commitment to its eventual delivery! Some journalists are fond of remarking on the widely differing pace of academic and journalistic production. This book is certainly testament to that, but we hope that it will be of some value in understanding the interaction between the world of the media and the world of AIDS.
Our first duty of thanks is to those people who participated in the research. This book would not have been possible without the help of focus group participants, and the activists, health educators, civil servants, public relations, advertising and market research personnel who spoke to us. Thanks also to the journalists, producers, editors, and press and broadcasting management. Many of these not only agreed to be interviewed but also helped with contacts, documents or other guidance. Thanks especially to those living with HIV and those who talked openly to us when it might have been safer for them not to do so.
The bulk of the research on which this book is based was funded by the ESRC as part of its AIDS research programme. Our thanks are due to the ESRC, and to the programme director Mildred Blaxter. Thanks also to the original grantholders on the project - Mick Bloor, Sally Macintyre, Greg Philo and John Eldridge. Indeed the research has greatly benefited from the support of these and other colleagues in the MRC Medical Sociology Unit and the Glasgow Media Group, especially Lesley Henderson and Jacquie Reilly.
Thank you to Joanne Yuill for her efficiency and humour. Thanks to Middlesex University students, Linda Steele, Michael Foley, Lesley Parker, Rick Holliman, Dawn Rowley. Thanks to Frank Mosson for his valiant efforts in coding data, to Donna Main for her work on non-news representations of AIDS and for allowing us to quote from her interview with Roy Battersby. A special acknowledgement to Lorna Brown who was the secretary on the AIDS project. Lorna, thank you for your patience and your answering belief in the eventual appearance of this book.
Lastly thanks to Emma Miller, Caitlin Miller, Lewis Miller, Diana Mutimer, Sarah Tanburn, Clare Hudson and Ellon McGregor.DM, JK, KW, PB[Page viii]
Appendix: A Note on Method and Sample[Page 228]Promotional Strategies and Media Production
Our analysis of the production of the government campaign on AIDS, of promotional strategies, of journalistic and fiction production is based on 106 interviews and many more conversations and exchanges. Our interviewees were chosen to reflect the wide range of occupational, professional and political groupings involved in constructing health education materials, factual and fictional coverage (some interviewees were involved in more than one area). These comprised administrative civil servants, medical officials and information officers from the Department of Health and Social Security/Department of Health, Central Office of Information and the Northern Ireland Department of Health and Social Services; health education personnel (including public relations and advertising professionals) in the Health Education Authority, Health Promotion Authority of Wales and Health Education Board for Scotland. We also spoke to advertisers and market researchers (from companies involved in the campaign); members of non-government organisations and pressure groups (including moral right groups, professional groups such as the BMA, voluntary organisations such as Terrence Higgins Trust, and activist groups such as OutRage!) as well as clinicians dealing with AIDS. Finally, the study included interviews with a wide range of journalists and television personnel (concentrating on the specialist journalists who cover AIDS as part of their brief, but also examining the perspectives of news editors, sub-editors, script editors, TV producers, directors and executives). Only two of the people we approached refused to be interviewed. We also obtained press releases together with internal, unpublished and confidential documentation from some of these organisations and a variety of other sources.Media Content
The sample of press and television coverage on which Chapters 3 and 4 are based was composed of two samples of all press coverage of HIV and AIDS in British national daily and Sunday newspapers between 1 November 1986 and 31 March 1987, a total of 17 months including 1,736 items and between 1 November 1988 and 31 August 1991, a total of 34 months including 4,147 items. We also examined Scottish press reporting (in the Scotsman, the Glasgow Herald, the Daily Record and the Glasgow Evening Times) between 1 November 1988 and 30 April 1990.
We examined television news coverage (the early evening and main nightly news programmes on each of the four channels) from 1 October 1986 to 30 April 1990, a period totalling 3 years 7 months including 317 bulletins. Our sample includes the early evening and main nightly news programmes on each of the four channels (ITN News at 5.45, BBC1 Six O'clock News, Channel Four News, BBC1 Nine O'clock News, ITN News at Ten and BBC2 Newsnight).
The analysis of non-news programmes in Chapter 5 was based on the archival records of the broadcasters, from which we calculated the number and form of non-news programmes on AIDS between 1983 and 1990. We then built up an archive of more than 70% of these programmes from which we chose a small representative sample of programme forms for more detailed analysis.[Page 229]Audience Reception Analysis
The aim of our audience research was to explore what people bring to their understandings of mass media messages and how social interaction may mediate such understandings. We therefore elected to study pre-existing groups (those who already lived, worked or socialised together) rather than drawing individuals together for the purposes of the research. We used the technique of focus group discussion. We conducted discussions with 52 groups (351 individuals).[Page 230]Table A.1 The range of people who participated in the study
Since we wished to explore the diversity of possible audience understandings of AIDS media messages, we selected a range of audience ‘types’. Some groups were chosen because they might be expected to have particular perspectives on AIDS (e.g. doctors, male prostitutes, lesbians); others because, as a group, they were not necessarily expected to have any particular interest in AIDS (e.g. women living on a Scottish housing estate, civil engineers working in a London office and people attending a club for retired people). See Table A.1 for a description of the groups.
Research participants were requested to join in a tape-recorded focused discussion, to fill in three separate questionnaires, and to complete a series of group exercises. The main exercise was ‘the script writing exercise’, a technique in which group members used a set of photographs to construct a TV news bulletin about AIDS (see Kitzinger, 1993a). Most of the groups also played ‘the card game’, during which they debated a set of statements about ‘who is at risk from HIV’, taken from the British Social Attitudes Survey (Brook, 1988). Half the groups also completed ‘the advertisement exercise’, in which they were presented with an advertisement in a step-by-step manner, and asked to reconstruct and comment on the message.
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