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As one goes further in the domain of cultural studies, one comes across questions on the politics of deriving meaning. In the ensuing discussions, there are aspects dealing with the hegemony of the dominant class and its efforts to reconstruct the reality in terms favorable to itself. In the backdrop of these areas, this paper attempts to understand the hegemonic model and its linkages to media’s role in agenda-setting. As a case, the role of media conglomerates in influencing media content is analyzed
Hegemony is a term derived from Marxian writings and given by a Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci. In Mussolini’s Italy, Gramsci provided a theory to explain why Italians didn’t oppose the regime. Through Marxism, Gramsci put forward the theory of hegemony that oppressive regimes stay in power using the tools of consent and coercion of which consent is more important and is emphasised through everyday life behaviors and practices.
For e.g. Corporations remain in power through people wearing designer clothes, dining at fast food cafeterias, retail shopping etc. while patriarchy remains in power through women adopting husband’s last name and “giving away” daughter in wedding.
The ruling class ensures its hegemony in the society through cultural and political consensus implemented by unions, political parties, schools, media, the church, and other voluntary associations. Gramsci talks about the process of “False Consciousness” which results in control and manipulation of society through creation of values and choices that must be followed. It is this process which explains how organisation of people, media and information controls thoughts and actions thus creating a state of domination through the creation of dominant ideologies.
HEGEMONY AND MEDIA’S AGENDA-SETTING ROLE
The media has an important role in this theory especially in context of ideology being at the centre of the struggle for minds and views. The role of the media is important within the theory of hegemony due to the power and influence it yields upon people.
Media acts as a vehicle for society to act in a consumerist way. In this case, media is the influencer as it informs and driving them towards the consumerist attitudes. It is this situation where the role of the media as an ideological tool comes to the fore as can be seen in people’s attempts to decode and read ads, features, sitcoms and any text having a latent meaning therefore leading media to take ideological control and leadership.
The concept forms the base of Todd Gitlin’s (1980) work and other cultural studies scholars in this context. While studying news media, Gitlin reached to the finding that a hegemonic control is secured when through dominant institutions; definitions upon the ruled are impressed through control of ideological space and limits on thinking. Gitlin emphasises the struggle between the media upholding dominant ideology, and groups against that ideology. The hegemonic ideology is reproduced in the media through journalistic practices that are a result of how the journalists are trained. Although when they make news decisions, ideology rarely figures consciously for journalists but inadvertently, they serve the ideological purposes of the political and economic elite by doing their jobs. As per Gitlin, by following these hegemonic values, the media remains free.
Gitlin contends that the corporate and political elites control media by bringing media professionals into their spheres. The ruling elites are dependent on the culture industry to advance their ideologies and limit the opposing ideologies. The media provides the ideological structure within which the dominant classes perpetuate the hegemony of the elites. But there is no direct involvement of the elite economic class in production and distribution of ideology as it is the media workers which do this within the culture industry.
Globally, large media conglomerates include, National Amusements, Viacom, CBS Corporation, Time Warner, News Corp, Bertelsmann AG, Sony, General Electric, Vivendi SA, The Walt Disney Company, Hearst Corporation, Organizações Globo and Lagardère Group. As of 2010, The Walt Disney Company is the world’s largest media conglomerate, with News Corporation, Time Warner and Viacom following closely
William Melody says that the greatest threat to freedom of expression is the possibility that private entrepreneurs tend to monopolise news media to gain economic efficiency and profit. The problem of media ownership and concentration is the fact that mass media industry can legitimise inequalities in wealth, power and privilege. When the flow of information and values through media is concentrated in the dominant class, it reproduces the structure of class inequalities benefiting them thus making media crucial for information, knowledge resulting in ideological propaganda.
A concentrated media market allows media owners a heightened influence on public opinion and lack of diversity in ideas, viewpoints and opinions. Cross-promotion of other parts of the business affects the impartiality of news and encourages a “sameness” of thinking between different mediums that are not in the public interest. Vested interests in other areas can also affect content e.g.: In the mid-1990s Murdoch and his publications supported the Labour Party in UK in return for allowing him to continue expanding his monopolist empire.
Local journalism is an area many feel is particularly at risk when large national or global companies buy small locally-owned businesses.
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