Contemporary Media Regulation exam questions
How effectively can contemporary media be regulated?
To what extent is contemporary media regulation more or less effective than in previous times?
Evaluate arguments for and against stronger regulation of the media
How far do changes to the regulation of media reflect broader social changes?
Discuss the need for media regulation
To what extent can the media be regulated in the digital age?
As you can see, though there is some variation between questions, you should not have a shock when you turn up for the exam! Two of the previous questions refer to 'effectiveness' - in other words, does regulation work? A third asks something very similar- 'to what extent can it be regulated?' and two of them ask you to look at the arguments around regulation- why do people believe it is needed and 'for and against'.
One way or another, this summer's questions should be in similar territory. Even if you get something which appears to go off at a tangent- like the question of how far it 'reflects social changes', you should be able to adapt your response based on the material you have studied.
If we look at the bullet points in the Specification, which defines what should be studied, we should be able to see what kinds of question can come up:
• What is the nature of contemporary media regulation compared with previous practices? (Past v Present)
• What are the arguments for and against specific forms of contemporary media regulation? (what do people say- note this is not asking for your opinion, but for you to weigh up the arguments of others!)
• How effective are regulatory practices? (does it work?)
• What are the wider social issues relating to media regulation? (put regulation in the wider context of society)
So we can see, all those areas have come up already and will come up again! As you have a choice of two questions, there should be nothing to panic about regarding what might come up!
This part of the exam asks you to do three more specific things, whatever topic you answer on:
1. You MUST refer to at least TWO different media
2. You MUST refer to past, present and future (with the emphasis on the present- contemporary examples from the past five years)
3. refer to critical/theoretical positions
For regulation, this should be perfectly possible. For point 1 You could choose to write about:
The regulation of advertising
Computer / video game classification,
The regulation of online media, social networking and virtual worlds
Contemporary broadcasting (TV and/or Radio)
Any two of these compared and contrasted, with some knowledge of what the rules are, who does the regulating, how it works and what the arguments are with close reference to specific examples will give you most of what you need! It will then just be a matter of answering the specific question. BUT make sure you do refer to TWO! It doesn't need to be absolutely balanced, but if you only refer to one medium, like film, it will cost you a lot of marks. I'd say go for an answer which is between 60-40 and 50-50 balanced between reference to your two media. If you write about three media, then either one third on each or 40% each on two, 20% on the third will give you time and space to do a good job.
For point 2, the main danger is spending too much time writing about the past, which many candidates have a tendency to do; the topic is CONTEMPORARY Media regulation, which means NOW, so that is where your emphasis should be. If you write about online media or newspapers, that should be easy to do, as there are some fantastic case studies around this year! But even writing about film should be possible with recent examples. If you don't know any, go to the BBFC student site for some tips! The BBFC even has an app for your phone now...
The tricky bit to get to the top of the mark range is FUTURE media, but that need not be a big deal. Just makes sure you say something about where the evidence is pointing for the future- I'd suggest, for example, that as we become more 'digital' it is harder to control what people do online so a key thing for the future is education so that audiences understand the implications of what they may access and what they can say. I'll give an example of this later, referring to Twitter.
Finally for point 3, you need some relevant writers/critics/theorists to reference in relation to your examples and answer. Don't just write the history of media effects, hypodermic syringe theories or all that stuff, but reference people who are relevant to the argument you are making. So, for example, if you are talking about anxieties about children's media consumption in the digital era, the research by Tanya Byron and Sonia Livingstone's EU Kids online project would be particularly relevant.
Current Case study: Twitter
The row this week over the Ryan Giggs case is a perfect example of the problem of regulation in the digital age. As you may know, a number of celebrities have taken out injunctions against newspapers, preventing them from printing stories about them (usually to do with some kind of sexual indiscretions/extra-marital relationships. These injunctions have an additional clause which turns them into what is known as 'superinjunctions' in that not only can the newspapers (or broadcasters) not report about the celebrity's affair, but they can't even mention that there is an injunction at all.
Sometimes, newspapers or broadcasters in other territories might decide to report the case as the injunction does not apply overseas. In such instances, it is not that hard, via google, to find out the details, but there may still only be a limited number of people who bother to do this; social media have of course changed all this, as it is very easy for messages to spread on a site like facebook. Twitter, with its instant messaging and hashtags, has taken this considerably further.
On 8 May, a twitter user set up a false account and posted details of six alleged superinjunctions. It was covered on BBC News and it only took me a quick search on twitter via #superinjunction to find them, by which stage lots of people had been re-tweeting them. One of the six made headlines with a denial, but the other five have, as far as I am aware, remained quiet. The Sun made several attempts to get the superinjunction for one of the celebrities overturned (the footballer) as his name was being repeated across social media quite a bit yet newspapers were not allowed to print it; the footballer then took out a writ against twitter to get the name of the person who tweeted the information. Last week, this led to massive retweeting of his name and it spread so much that it was even being chanted by Man City supporters on sunday. Finally an MP took advantage of what is known as parliamentary privilege (freedom from prosecution if done inside Parliament) to name Ryan Giggs, so the newspapers could then report it.
This case shows how impossible it is to control social media in the way that mass media can be regulated; if a newspaper faces an injunction and breaks it, then the editor or owner could go to prison or the paper face a massive fine (hardly worth it for a story about a footballer and a Big Brother contestant, though maybe if it's a major state secret or political scandal). On Twitter, once one person tweets, it is possible, as in this case, that thousands more will follow. So how do you catch the first one and do you prosecute everyone? There are a lot of interesting articles around in the papers and and online about this at the moment, so I would expect to see some good answers in the exam!
here's a couple of links for now:
Good article on claims that the internet is like the Wild west
Guardian writer asking for screening of all twitter messages !
Peter Preston on the legal implications
and also an hilarious tale of a twitter spoof by Graham linehan about Bin Laden's TV viewing and how quickly people believe it
finally if you want one of your mates to appear in the media with a superinjunction, try this (it's just for fun)