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.

Examples for Students:

Example 1: News Corporation
News Corporation is an example of a large, multi-national media company. Owned by Rupert Murdoch, News Corporation began as a newspaper publisher and now has interests in television, movies and the internet. It owns the Fox TV networks, Times Newspapers, Twentieth Century Fox and Star TV. See if you can find out which other companies and brand names are owned by News Corporation. How do these companies connect with each other? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the media being run by such large corporations?

Example 2: Big Brother
The ‘reality show’ Big Brother is an example of a TV format that has been sold around the world. The format was invented by a TV company in the Netherlands, and versions have since been shown in more than 40 countries. Big Brother has also led to many other‘reality shows’ in which real people are set challenges and can be ‘voted out’ by the audience. See if you can find further examples of such programmes. How do shows like this use other media, like the press and the internet? Are these shows ‘interactive’, and do they give power to the viewer, as some people claim?

Example 3: GAP (Global Action Project)
GAP is a small organisation that works with young people to make videotapes and
television programmes. It is based in New York City, but has worked with young people in many countries, including Guatemala, Ireland and Israel. It does not run for profit, and it is funded by charities and foundations. See if you can find out about the productions it has made, and where they have been shown. Are there production companies like this in your own country? What are the difficulties faced by organisations like this? Why aren’t they featured more on mainstream TV?

Key Questions

Looking at media institutions means looking at:

Professional practices. Who makes media texts? Who does what, and how do they work together?

Technologies. What technologies are used to produce and distribute meida texts? What difference do they make to the product?

The industry. Who owns the companies that buy and sell media? How do they make a profit?

Connections between media. How do companies sell the same products across different media?

Regulation. Who controls the production and distribution of media? Are there laws about this, and how effective are they?

Circulation and distribution. How do texts reach their audiences? How much choice and control do audiences have?

Access and participation. Whose voices are heard in the media? Whose are excluded, and why?

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