How to teach Institution

Media texts don’t just appear from nowhere. They take time – and sometimes a lot of money – to produce. Some are made by individuals working alone, just for themselves or their family and friends. However, most of the media texts we consume are produced and distributed by groups of people, often working for large corporations. Media are big business: the most popular movies and TV shows make large profits. Media are also global in scale: the same movies, records and TV formats are available in countries around the world.

Most media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power. Much of the world’s media were developed as money-making enterprises and continue to operate today as commercial businesses. Newspapers and magazines lay out their pages with ads first; the space remaining is devoted to news. Likewise, commercials are part and parcel of most TV watching.

What many people do not know is that what's really being sold through commercial media is not just the advertised products to the audience -- but also the audience to the advertisers! The real purpose of the programs on television, or the articles in a magazine, is to create an audience (and put them in a receptive mood) so that the network or publisher can sell time or space to sponsors to advertise products-- usually in a way that entices us to want what we really don’t need! Sponsors pay for the time based on the number of people the producers predict will be watching. And they get a refund if the number of actual viewers or readers turns out to be lower than promised.

But the issue of message motivation has changed dramatically since the Internet became an international platform through which groups and organizations-- even individuals-- can attempt to persuade others to a particular point of view. The Internet provides numerous reasons for users of all ages to be able to interpret rhetorical devices, verify sources and distinguish legitimate online sources from bogus, hate or ‘hoax’ websites. And with democracy at stake almost everywhere around the world, citizens in every country need to be equipped with the ability to determine both economic and ideological “spin.”

Read a summary of the
Key Questions
and some Examples for Students

Source: © 2003 Center for Media Literacy / Literacy for the 21st Century / Orientation & Overview
Buckingham, David: Questioning the Media: A Guide for Students.

Images: Kronen Zeitung, Vienna
Walt Disney Pictures Logo
Orf Zentrum Künigelberg, Vienna
Bertelsmann/ Virgin Times Square New YOrk
Okto - community television Vienna
Paramount Pictures