Media and class messages. Media is another primary institution

Media and class messages. Media is another primary institution

socializing us about what it means to be owning class, middle class, and working class (Leistyna, 2009). Two key elements of this institution in relation to class messaging are the consolidation of media ownership (control by fewer and fewer entities and therefore more homogeneous messaging) and the class representations that circulate through media. In other words, who is in the position to control the messages, what are those messages, and how do they serve the interests of those who control them?

Media consolidation is an issue around the globe. As multinational corporations have bought up other companies, there are fewer and fewer corporations owning more and more of the news and entertainment that we consume. As of 2012, 90% of media outlets (print, radio, TV, Internet) were owned by six corporations (Van Esler, 2016). These are:

Comcast (NBC, MSNBC, Universal Pictures, Dreamworks, Hulu) Walt Disney (Disney theme parks, Disney Channels, ESPN, Marvel, Touchstone) NewsCorp (Fox News, National Geographic, Wall Street Journal, HarperCollins) Viacom (BET, MTV, CMT, Spike, Paramount Pictures, Time Warner (CNN, HBO, DC Comics) CBS (MTV, Simon & Schuster, VH1)

Once we understand that media consolidation necessarily limits the range of perspectives available to us, we need to examine how media represents class. To do so, try a brief thought experiment:

As you read your favorite magazines and gossip blogs, read reviews of films you plan to see, watch videos of your favorite pop songs, concerts, and endorsements from superstars, consider how those forms of representation are classed. For example, consider work. What work is presented? Who is doing what kinds of work




(paid work as well as unpaid work) and how do they seem to feel about it?

How are speech and accents classed? Which accents and speech patterns are considered “low class”? Which are “sophisticated” or “romantic” or “threatening”?

Who wears business suits and who wears other uniforms? How do people move? How are various movements classed? How do race and gender inform how we understand class embodiment?

How is food classed? Who eats organic? What does farm-to-table mean? What about alcohol? Which beers are “high class” and which are associated with “low class”? What kind of leisure activities do the various classes engage in? Who goes to the symphony? Who sky dives? Who goes to monster truck shows and watches the WWE?

All of these cues are telling us what it means to be working, middle, or owning class. Now consider what class the people who generate these images—the writers and directors—most likely occupy. In other words, who is in the position to represent class? While media messages may not deliberately set out to teach about class, how the various class groups are represented (or absent altogether) is a critical part of our class socialization.

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