IRD 1009

Module guide


Communications, Freedom, Democracy



Lecture/Seminar: 1pm - 3pm Fridays F.31`


Tutor: Graham McBeath - Cottesbroke 313




Seminar Timetable + Readings




Who is the Tutor?

What is Media Studies?                                     

Lectures and Seminars

Module Structure/Lecture Plan

Assessed Work

Books to buy/Further Reading

Miscellaneous points of information

How to do the explication exercise





Graham McBeath, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, appointed in 1993. Studied and taught at University of Keele, London School of Economics, Oxford University.  Dislikes fashion and popular culture. Researches: Early history of the BBC; phenomenology, cybernetics; Anarchism and Libertarianism; complexity and post-cyborgs. Favourite theorists: Adorno, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Hayek, Husserl. Likes: archery, cooking/food, 20th century avant-garde classical music and jazz.


E-mail address: 01604-892481




Methods of transmitting information from one point to another have existed for as long as animate beings. It is perhaps only in recent times that humans have caught up with animals in terms of efficiency of communication (think of bats, dolphins, whales). Humans have passed from the media of cries and marks on stones and in caves to parallel computing and 4G/wireless mobiles. But the actual study of media, its producers, consumers and technologies is of more recent origin.

Communications studies despite much press criticism (ironic isn’t it) is hugely popular as an academic subject across the world. Much of its origins lie in the teaching of journalism in the US universities in the 1930s, and the widening boundaries of English literature and of Sociology in post-war Britain.

America, because it has a far less intellectually elitist culture than Britain and because it values highly the democratic idea of a strong press as a check upon the power of the establishment, has been less dismissive of a media studies which critically analyses the making and character of mass culture. The political and economic establishment in Britain, on the other hand, has often viewed the questioning of the agents and agencies of public power (which is part of what communications studies does) as tantamount to left-wing trouble-making. (The same can be said of sociology). After all, what starts out as academic analysis may get translated into popular or radical criticism of powerful institutions – which is usually not welcome.  Secondly, in Britain, historically speaking, universities are thought of as places of high culture, and thus the study of popular cultural forms celebrated in mass communications and media is deemed unworthy of them. All in all then, the antagonism to communications and media studies demonstrates resentment and cultural resistance by the very power elite networks (press, politicians, media moguls, cultural arbiters) which are subject to scrutiny by media studies.

Communications studies in Britain as an arm of politics and a critical sociology expanded greatly in the sixties with the creation of a series of new universities (Sussex, Kent, Lancaster, Essex etc.), the rise of the `New Left’ and neo-marxism, and a clamour for inter-disciplinary analysis. Marxisms’ attempts to explain all human activity in terms of the failings and injustices of capitalist society eventually led it to explain how media systems had the power to dupe the masses into adopting beliefs favourable to capitalist ideology. Such analysis was on the lips of `New Left’ intellectuals lecturing in the new universities. So it was that the study of media became linked to academic politics and sociology and left-wing thought critical of the interdependency between media, political, and economic power. During the late sixties and early seventies, the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) directed by Stuart Hall led the world in the development of a neo-marxist analysis of media and culture influenced by the work of Antonio Gramsci and Louis Althusser.

The singular focus of such marxist accounts upon media forces dominating and determining the audiences’ views and values, by the end of the seventies gave way to a more complex account of the effects of the media. It became clear that audiences were not simply dupes of media messages, and that they re-interpreted them in line with their own interests and experience. This shift away from simplistic marxist approach led communications studies to a plurality of viewpoints from which to analyse the media, notably from the side of the producers (owners, policy, institutions, capitalists), the consumers (audiences, individuals, effects), and the technology (from analogue to digital).






Seminars will link to the previous week’s lecture e.g. week 2 seminar will relate to the lecture and reading in week 1.


It is crucial that you attend all lectures and seminars – those that miss significant numbers of sessions will find it very difficult to pass the module.


What is the purpose of a lecture?                                                            


A lecture: 

Introduces the main themes of the topic

Addresses the important debates within an intellectual discipline

Discusses the major writers and their contributions to a debate

Evaluates and develops lines of criticism of significant texts

Opens up the lecturers’ views for students to criticise

Is not an objective, neutral description of `the facts’

Does not tell you all you need to know about a topic (i.e. reading is imperative!)



What is the purpose of a seminar?


A seminar: 

Explores further the themes of a lecture

Requires participation by each student

Is based on wide reading including the set text

Develops argument and debate about the issues

Stresses the importance of criticism of what you have read

Clarifies what is often quite difficult material

Is interactive between students, and students/tutor

Works by thinking and talking




The seminar schedule and readings are as follows:


Autumn Term 2017




6th Oct 2017


Sem 1

Thinking about Communication

13th Oct


Sem 2

Consumer Power and the Media

20th Oct


Sem 3

Freedom to Communicate: Inner filters: the limits of language as mediation

27th Oct


Sem 4

Further reflections on Power and the Media: Media: Institutional/Producers Power

3rd Nov


Sem 5

Scannell on PSB and extract from David Hendy on PSB

10th Nov


Sem 6

Regulating communications systems and Policy

17th Nov


Sem 7

Presentation seminar

24th Nov


Sem 8

What is media policy?

1st Dec


Sem 9

Communications Models

8th Dec


Sem 10

Newspaper History pre-1945 and Graham’s notes

15th Dec


Sem 11

Group Presentations only





Spring Term 2018




12th Jan, 2017


Sem 12

Newspapers since 1945

19th Jan


Sem 13

The Culture of Watching TV

26th Jan


Sem 14

Reading Stuart Hall’s Encoding/Decoding

2nd Feb


Sem 15

Semiotic Theory (a), (b – extract from Barthes’ classic – have a go at it - important) &  Doing Semiotics

9th Feb


Sem 16

‘Media Hot and Cool - McLuhan

16th Feb


Sem 17

Media and Ideology, see my long note on Ideology

23rd Feb


Sem 18

Preparation for explication analysis

2nd March


Sem 19

Material Culture and Media

9th March


Sem 20

Reinterpreting the Internet

16th March


Sem 21

Ad-blocking materials;  more general stuff,  Curran's Reinterpreting the Internet

23rd March



Exam preparation











The module aims to provide a general introduction to the study of media. We recognise that reading for a degree is a way of academic life very different to that of schools and FE colleges, much of it resting upon independent reading by yourself. To this end, we have tried to devise a course which develops depth and breadth of study, encourages you to read a range of material, and lays a solid foundation for later work.


IMPORTANT: If you feel you are struggling at first, DON’T PANIC! Make sure you make the effort to persevere with reading and make full use of seminars to clarify points. If you want something explained, ASK. Stick with it, keep turning up and things will gradually become clearer over time. In particular, the material in term two is likely to shed further light on some of the theory covered in term one.



TERM ONE: (2017)


6th  Oct wk 1  - Intro to module - What is it to Communicate? Do we ever Communicate? - Seminar 1 – discussion of the nature of communication and society

This session will discuss how we can use insights from, say, sociology, psychology, politics, economics, cultural and literary studies, history et al. to illuminate explanations of communicational media. The stages from raw information to socio-cultural outcomes, using inter-disciplinary approaches, provide us with models for explaining media processes.

Seminar reading: Thinking about Communication




13th Oct  wk2 - Lecture: Freedom, Power, and the media (1) (consumption) + Seminar 2: How do freedom and communication relate?

… there is us lot – the listeners, the viewers, the readers. How are we affected by the media? Primarily through our direct experience, or secondarily by our peers and the media itself discussing and interpreting the media with us and for us? How autonomous are we? Do we really think for ourselves in some pure way or are we always experiencing media which has been ‘pre-digested’ by the media-saturated world in which we have been brought up?


Seminar Reading: Consumer Power and the Media

McQuail/Windahl (2nd ed. 1993) Communications Models, Longman.





20th Oct  wk 3 - Freedom to Speak? The internalised limits of saying what one wishes and the external tyranny of social opinion

here we will evaluate what restricts us saying what we wish to - we learn language via the culture we are brought up in and perhaps that sets the limits of what we can say. Equally, with J S Mill (1851 - Essay On Liberty), we often restrict what we say to conform to social expectations and values




27th Oct     wk 4 - Lecture: Freedom, Power, and the Media (2) (production) + Seminar 3 : Media & Institutional/Producers Power

We all know the minor celebrities on the screen whether actors or newsreaders, but what is behind them? Who are the real movers and shakers? Who wields power in the media and how do they do it? Is it about individuals or about media structures and organisational culture?


Seminar Reading: Media: Institutional/Producers Power

McQuail, (4th ed.) McQuail’s Mass Communication Theory, chps. 15&16.

Alassutari, P. (1999) Rethinking the Media Audience.

Dickinson et al. (1998) Approaches to Audiences. Chp. 16-18.




3rd Nov      wk 5 - Lecture: Democracy of Communications: Public Service Broadcasting, the Public Sphere, and Popular Culture + Seminar 4: Public Service Broadcasting

The BBC started in 1922 as a private company (made up of wireless manufacturers) which became a public corporation in 1927. Across this period wireless became immensely popular with ‘listeners-in’ including many who made their own wireless sets. Thus there was an avid wireless culture in Britain that formed the basis for public discussion of individual programmes, newspaper comment, and listeners letters to the BBC. Its' aim was to open up the sphere of ideas and knowledge for all and not just the upper and middle classes. At least since Matthew Arnold’s celebrated essay, Culture and Anarchy (1870) there has been a keen debate about the function of the media in creating a common Public Sphere of information that is shared by all members of society. The aim here was to create a public sphere in which all citizens could think about and reflect on and discuss with fellow citizens the ways of politics, society, arts, economics, culture and so forth. In some ways this takes us near to the ancient greek idea of democracy as well as to the concept of the Public Sphere as made famous by the german thinker, Jurgen Habermas.


Seminar Reading: Scannell on PSB and extract from David Hendy on PSB

Briggs, A History of Broadcasting in the UK vol 1, Introduction

Crisell, Understanding Radio, chp. 1, 3, 9-10.

Scannell, Radio, Television, Everyday Life, chp. 2, 6.

Scannell, Social History of Broadcasting, chps. 13, 16.




10th November, wk 6 - Democracy of Technologies: , Freedom, and Power in the Multi-platform, multi-channel age + Seminar 5: Do we need PSB, the BBC, ITV...

November 15th 1998 DTV started in the UK; only a few years before that the Internet in the form of the World Wide Web opened up for public use and not just for researchers and the military. Even in the early 80s there were straws in the wind in the form of satellite TV that pointed in the direction of TV-on-demand thereby pointing away from a top-down model of the public being given what was good for them by BBC and ITV. As a technological revolution gathered pace so did its adoption by the public. Increasingly their ability to use a massively convergent structure - the on-line computer as well as ever more powerful mobile phones had an astonishing set of effects on media behaviours by consumers, on business models, on the press as an industry producing paper papers, on the telecommunications industry...and more. What does this do to the traditional idea of mass communications as bringing a nation, a people together?




Week 7      17th November -  research/preparation for presentations seminar




24th November: wk 8 - Politics, Policy and Regulation + Seminar 6: What should we be allowed to know; what should we not be allowed to see?

Once we have got our heads around what the notions of policy and regulations might encompass, we perhaps we need to examine how these function in regard of mass communications. Different governments, parties, groups in society have widely varying views of what the proper role, function, purpose, as well as content of media should be. This is a battleground that has especially changed since the mid-1980s onwards. The Public Sphere idea of media has been in retreat and the populist idea - as being there primarily to entertain - has advanced. This has implications for 'de-regulation' of the commercial sector and the attempts to narrow the range and power of the Public Service Broadcaster.




1st Dec - wk. 9 - Lecture: Modelling the Communications Process  + Seminar 7: ‘Communications Models’

Modelling the communications process has been around for at least the last 60 years. The most famous model is that of Claude Shannon’s linear model (1948) of sender (production) – medium – receiver (consumption). But since then, various theorists have added features such as feedback, psychological, cultural and social forces, and in our non-linear times – multiple interactive senders, receivers and media. Are we the authors of our own meanings? Do we have intentions to mean something?


Seminar Reading: Communications Models

Curran, J. and Seaton, J.  Power without Responsibility,  Routledge.

Tunstall, J, Newspaper Power, Oxford University Press.

Downing et al, Questioning the Media, Sage, chp 5.

Eldridge et al, The Mass Media and Power in Modern Britain, Oxford, chp. 3.

McQuail, McQuail's Mass Communication Theory, Sage, chp. 9

McQuail, McQuail's Reader in Mass Communication Theory, Sage, chp. 22-25

Tunstall, J, Media Moguls, Routledge.



8th Dec - Wk 10 - Lecture: Newspaper History  + Seminar: 'Newspaper History

What counts as news and as newspapers is more clearly formatted than it was in the 17th and 18th centuries. News and newspapers then have a history which as this lecture will suggest, was marked out by viciousness of party politics and the demands for censorship on information to protect the interests of the ruling classes over the ruled. It will be seen that this gradually ceased as the conditions for a mass media emerged in the 19th century (transport, higher literacy, better printing presses). During the war, the media and newspapers in particular were controlled by the government. Though these restrictions were lifted after the war (in accord with the idea of free press) they were subject to an inquiry (Royal Commission on the Press 1947) and later to a regulatory ‘Press Council’. Selling a newspaper fell under legal restrictions to avoid too much concentration of the press in the hands of one person/company. There were more newspapers and they grew fatter. Editors became more powerful and the power of the owners shrank The power of the unions was challenged by new technology and in 1987 the ‘Wapping Revolution’ saw the defeat of the unions and the rise of computerization in the industry. In the last few years the broadsheets have gone tabloid in format, but regulation has weakened.



Seminar Reading: Graham’s History of the Press in Britain from 1600 – 2000.

Franklin, Newszak and News Media, chps 4-5

Curran/Seaton, Power without Responsibility, chps. 1-7

Koss, Rise and Fall of Political Press in Britain, Prologue

Snoddy, Good, the Bad, and the Unacceptable, chp.6

Tunstall, Newspaper Power, chps. 2-3, 5, 8.

Chippindale &Horrie, Stuck it up your Punter (informative and amusing).



wk 11 - 15th Dec: Group Presentations.

TERM TWO. (2018)


12th Jan, wk 1 - Lecture: Newspaper History pt 2: from Wapping to today.

What counts as news and as newspapers is more clearly formatted than it was in the 17th and 18th centuries. After the war, selling a newspaper fell under legal restrictions to avoid too much concentration of the press in the hands of one person/company. There were more newspapers and they grew fatter. Editors became more powerful and the power of the owners shrank The power of the unions was challenged by new technology and in 1987 the ‘Wapping Revolution’ saw the defeat of the unions and the rise of computerization in the industry. In the last few years the broadsheets have gone tabloid in format, but regulation has weakened. Equally we may have seen the rise of new Press Barons exercising influence over public opinion and those in political power disproportionate to the needs of a flourishing democracy. Further, it may be thaat the press are riding the challenge of social media better than many have suggested.


Seminar Reading: Graham’s History of the Press in Britain from 1600 – 2000.

Franklin, Newszak and News Media, chps 4-5

Curran/Seaton, Power without Responsibility, chps. 1-7

Koss, Rise and Fall of Political Press in Britain, Prologue

Snoddy, Good, the Bad, and the Unacceptable, chp.6

Tunstall, Newspaper Power, chps. 2-3, 5, 8.

Chippindale &Horrie, Stuck it up your Punter (informative and amusing).




19th Jan:   wk 2: Lecture: Rise of TV – Post-war democracy: social mobility and the persistence of Class + Seminar 11  + a few notes on class/culture

Ever since TV and radio emerged, many commentators and social scientists has see viewing as well as representations as defined by social class. This lecture will explore the structure of class from the post-war period when the traditional working class was seen as the most numerous percentage of the population to a social structure today that is  avoiding  class identity. The question is given the latter, can we make sense of class analysis in relation to contemporary media?

Seminar Reading on The Culture of Watching TV




wk 3: 26th Jan: Presentations




2nd Feb  wk. 4     Semiology: media as signs and meanings + Seminar 13 : ‘Semiotic Theory’

Semiology – the study of signs - is one of the most widely used methods in the study of media content. It is concerned with identifying and decoding the various ‘signs’ (eg. sounds, images, words, colours etc) which make up, for example, adverts, newspaper articles, or magazine covers. Often, semioticians have focused on the ways in which the signs which make up media texts function to reinforce dominant ideas – thus linking ‘semiotics’ to ‘ideology’.

Seminar Reading: Semiotic Theory (a), (b )– extract from Barthes’ classic – have a go at it - important) &  Doing Semiotics




16th Feb: wk 6    Media & Ideology - media as manipulation  + Seminar 14 :  Media and Ideology

To what extent are we manipulated by the media? Developing the theme of ‘control’, this lecture examines some neo-Marxist theorists, whose analysis of society suggests that media and popular cultural products induce mindless conformity and superficial mass culture, blinding the population to the exploitation and alienation which it is actually subject to.


Seminar Reading on Media, Critical Theory, and Ideology:

McQuail, Mass Communication Theory, p.49 & pp.76-8 & pp.95-7

Marcuse, One Dimensional Man, chp. 1

Adorno, The Culture Industry (ed : J. Bernstein)

Strinati , An Introduction to Theories of Popular Culture,

Kellner, Critical Theory, Marxism and Modernity, pp130-145 & chp. 8

Adorno, ‘Prologue to Television’ & ‘Television as Ideology’, in Critical Models.




23rd Feb wk 7     Doing the Explication - advice tutorial




2nd March: wk 8 University closed due to weather.




9th March:  wk 9, Stuart Hall’s encoding/decoding process  + Seminar 12 : ‘Stuart Hall’s Encoding/Decoding’

Neo-Marxist theories have often been accused of being too deterministic in that they assume media texts effect all members of the audience in the same way (ie. they rely on a ‘hypodermic syringe’ model of the media). Stuart Hall argues that different members of the audience may interpret messages in different ways and, as a result, they might not all be equally manipulated... 

Seminar Reading on: Reading Stuart Hall’s Encoding/Decoding

Key text: Stuart Hall, ‘Encoding and Decoding’, in Hall, Hobson (eds) Culture, Media, Language.



16th March: wk 10 Lecture -  Technological Determinism, Marshall McLuhan and Material Culture + Seminar 15: In the Global Village with Marshall McLuhan

Technological determinism – that technology shapes (determines) our culture locally and globally is an influential theory that was made popular by the Canadian literary scholar and 60s intellectual guru, Marshall McLuhan. This basic theory has become a renewed force in media analysis since the emergence of the internet and the information society. To use perhaps McLuhan’s most famous slogan – we live in a global village as space and time are condensed by instantaneous communications systems.


Useful or entertaining things are invented, become liked, and then absorbed in daily life to the point where they are barely noticed so much are they part of the ‘taken-for-granted’ world. This lecture looks at how material things e.g. TVs, wirelesses, washing machines become part of a domestic culture


Seminar Reading: ‘Media Hot and Cool

McLuhan, M. (1964) Understanding Media, Intro, & chps. 1-2.

Gordon, (1998) Marshall  McLuhan, chps. 9-10

Miller, J. (1967) McLuhan. Fontana.

Stevenson, N. (1998) Understanding Media Cultures, chp. 4, Sage.

Winston,  Media, Technology and Society, chps. 1 & 4.



23rd March: wk 11 The Emergence of the Internet and the WWW as democratic or anti-democratic? Seminar 19

At the beginning of the publicly available internet there was a lot of excitement about the Net being an uncontrollable democratic digital space. Since the late 1990s this seemed increasingly rather over-blown. States, Government as well as corporations has more and more extensively used it as a system for mass surveillance, political and economic advantage, and marketing. being on-line versus off-line has created a digital divide; weak techno-infrastructure has ensured that access is limited here and not there...and so on. So is the net a revolution in democracy?





Term three: Summer Term

16th April 2017 -  Structured Revision Sessions covering all topics.










Assignment 1

Group Presentation



weighting - 20%


Autumn term, 2017, 19th December.

Assignment 2

1000 word Explication


weighting - 20%


19th March 2018

Assignment 3

2 Hour Exam


weighting - 60%


May 2018 - to be finalised



All work will be marked within 3 weeks of submission.

Work must be submitted to Turnitin



Resubmission of Coursework.

If you do not do assessed work on time, there will be penalties imposed for late submissions i.e. max mark of: D-

If you do not get work done on time, come to see me in my office in the first instance.

If you fail, or fail to hand-in, a piece of coursework you must re-submit it


You need to achieve a mark of D- or above to pass each item of assessment.

When you re-sit an assignment your grade is capped at D-.


Re-sit timetable 20175-18

Re-sit deadline

If submission date on or before 28th February

20th April, 2018

If submission date after 28th February

8th July 2018



Note: if things are really wrong e.g. illness, serious home problems etc such that you fail or cannot submit work/do exams, you can apply to the University to be given mitigating circumstances but you must demonstrate cause. You may then be offered a first sit i.e. a chance to do the exam/assessment at a later date, or to do the work/exam again without penalty – as if you were doing it for the first time.








This assignment requires you, as part of a group of 4-6 people to present a comparative analysis of POLTICAL Reporting using 2 different newspapers or TV channels.


Timing-wise, you should average at 3 minutes per person – e.g. if your presentation involves 6 people, it should last approximately 18 minutes. Sift out unnecessary waffle and get to the point!!


So as to avoid last minute panics, get organised well in advance of this. That means you need to start getting into groups and sorting out who is doing early.. Do not say you weren’t warned!


We want you to demonstrate how political explanations are constructed by newspapers or television. In other words, we want you to analyse the articles, identify and compare the techniques and the factors by which they each tell the story and the effect of these techniques upon the overall meaning conveyed to the reader.


Here are some more detailed guidelines: 


You will not find any shortage of possible items to use for this assignment. However, it will be to your advantage to collect a number of potential articles over a period of one or two weeks in order to give yourselves maximum choice. Do not make your decision on what articles to use on the basis of personal interest in the story.



Consider how the media give an account of the political 'event' they are covering. How do they explain it - what factors do they use and how do they relate them into a story.




The most important thing, perhaps, is presenting it to your group in an interesting, engaging and clearly understandable fashion. Notably, you will need to find an effective way of showing the audience the article so they can follow your analysis. Another valuable tip is that in most cases, those who present by talking from notes, demonstrating points visually and establishing eye contact with the audience come across as more engaging and convincing than those who read monotone fashion with their eyes down.


Assessment criteria:

Plausibility, sophistication & thoroughness of analysis

Ability to relate analysis to theoretical debates and discussions covered on IRD 1009

Effectiveness of presentation skills & use of visual aids

Evidence of group cohesion and overall coherence of the presentation



Your mark is largely determined by the overall quality of the group presentation, but also takes into account individual contributions.


Each group will be given a joint overall mark, but individual contributions will be marked up to 3 per cent above or below this as appropriate. For example, if your group is given a joint mark of C+ your individual marks may range from C to B- if the assessor deems the quality of your individual performances to have significantly varied in quality… It is the individual marks which will be recorded and carried forward... So work as group, not as a collection of desperate individuals who get together at the last minute!




Explication Text Assignment:


You can do this one




 you can do this one



How to do it:


Explication must be 800 words long


First: READ THE TEXT carefully& take notes identifying the key points and arguments.


The point of this piece of work is to get you to combine analytical reading with a `thick’ reflective analysis of what you have read. With this sort of work you cannot just state what someone has written, rather you need to draw out the implications of the piece – if they are correct in their analysis, what does it say about the nature of society, or the power of the media etc., and does their account of such matters stand up?


Explication essays:

Require you to read very carefully the chosen text

Obliges line by line understanding of the text’s meaning and its context

Necessitate a clear analysis of what the text is about

And a clear exposition of your criticisms of the text’s claims


Criteria for the Explication:

1) Context: when, where, why, and by whom was the piece written? If a piece was written in the 18th or 19th century, the cultural and moral values common then were very different to today’s. You need to recognise this, as it helps explain why someone thinks as they do. Again if the piece was written for a french or a german audience, the focus, style and assumptions driving the piece will tend to be tailored to their outlook and interests. This kind of thing needs to be noted. If the piece is written by a right or left-wing politician this will help to explain why they say what they say. Equally a piece might be written because it is topical, eg., say - on media coverage of  popular protest (over sex offenders or petrol prices). Set up the context.


2) Analysis of the argument: What is the main point of the piece? Emphasise, and quote if you wish, the arguments and evidence which lead to the main conclusion. You need to bring out the flow of the argument. It is not enough to put into your own words what the author has written. Don’t merely paraphrase. Discuss in detail the structure of the argument.


3) Criticism: in the light of his own and other evidence, and of logical reasoning, is the authors’ argument sustainable?  Use counter-evidence based on your research to dispute the argument of the piece, and to show that its conclusions and claims do not hold. Do the authors’ conclusions follow from the evidence? Identify the weaknesses of the piece AND indicate how it could be improved.



a) read the piece line by line and attempt to grasp the overall argument. Identify where the article is coming from - what overall point it is arguing; do not just grasp what the piece is about, eg if it is about media power or bias in newspapers - you should he able to pick out what the author's 'take' is.. Does s/he think bias a good thing; a bad thing? Inevitable? Where's the author coming from on the topic of the piece? You need to make sure you tell us about this.


b) having got the 'hang of the piece' , tell us about the context - why it has been written - what are the issues that surround the piece. For instance, a piece about sex and violence on TV is not there just because it is of purely scientific interest; it's there because there are public issues about the effects of S&V on TV; does it harm the kiddies etc.? Let's face it, S&V is always an issue of interest.


And there may be more scientific reasons as well. Perhaps there is an article, or someone of influence has said something that draws conclusions which the piece we want you to explicate, is attempting to attack or defend.


Perhaps it is a wide-ranging piece about media and its cultural impact across the centuries. It is therefore contributing to the debate about human values and the cultural harm that, say, TV or the Internet do for society and/or individuals, as opposed to, say, the cultural good that books and great paintings do. This would be the surrounding debate wouldn't it?


So, tell us about the contextual issues surrounding the piece you are analysing.


AND THEN having done that...

c) take a set of notes identifying the main points (rather than any old point of information) and arguments that lead to the conclusion the author draws. If the piece is on bias, an author may discuss bias in different kinds of reporting based on a study of newspapers. Thus they build up the data which leads to the conclusion - s/he marshalls the evidence. Recognise i) what and ii) how the evidence is marshalled. In your explication you need to tell us in what way - by the processes involved - the author does all this. So, take us through the main arguments. Link them to the various kinds of evidence that has been used by the author.











First you read around the topic of the piece to gather evidence over and above the authors stuff; talk to us about this for further useful reading.




TO CRITICISE: You want to pick holes in the author's arguments.

To do this you have to find either A) a flaw in the authors reasoning - that a conclusion does not follow from the evidence OR B) there is a pile of evidence around which leaves open to question, the validity of the authors evidence.


For instance if the author has interviewed 200 people about their views on pornography and reports that 95% say it is appalling, dangerous, and morally wicked, you might begin to wonder who he talked to. If you find out that he only talked to people over 60 who lived in Tunbridge Wells or were religious fundamentalists, you might think that his sample was not a fair sample. Thus your criticism would be that the interview sample was unrepresentative in terms both of age and variety of primary moral values. Crudely put, the criticism is that the author had 'fixed the jury'.


Equally, the author may be tempted from his results to INFER that a huge majority of the population at large held anti-pornography views. Of course the conclusion may be true ANYWAY, but that does not mean that the conclusion can be INFERRED (drawn) from the authors data, precisely because his data sample is so unrepresentative that it does not allow one to go from the particular data to the generalised conclusion.


C) A THIRD WAY OF CRITICISING is to draw attention to the things that are left out. Now obviously, an author cannot say everything; but it may be that there are such glaring omissions, that they deserve comment.


For instance if an author is tracing the history of media only in terms of progression from simple speech to electronic media, you might want to argue that, even in the late 20th century many societies do not possess TV or have very restricted use of them, and thus depend far more than others on oral traditions (stories) or performance (dance/plays) for entertainment and information. Thus your criticism would be that the author should not just have traced media development in terms of a single line of media development and progress, but should have recognised that there are various rates of media development throughout the world.








Media studies being something of an inter-disciplinary study area has spawned a huge publishing industry. The books on the subject probably run to hundreds of thousands.


McQuail, D.   McQuail’s Mass Communication Theory, London: Sage.

Try to get hold of this by the end of the first week of term.



We would strongly recommend that you get hold of:

Curran, J. and Seaton, J.  Power without ResponsibilityRoutledge.


As well as being important for IRD1009 these texts will be invaluable for all students on media courses throughout their three years.




In addition to the compulsory and highly recommended texts, you would be well advised also to get hold of as many of the following as possible:


O'Sullivan & Jewkes, The Media Studies Reader, Arnold.

Crisell, A. Understanding RadioRoutledge.

Crisell, A. An Introduction to the History of BroadcastingRoutledge.

McQuail, D. and Windahl, S. Communication Models.  Longman publ.

Roy Greeslade. Press Gang.


Please bear in mind that the books mentioned here will be useful throughout the course – whether they are specifically given as reading for particular lectures or not. 


Amazon can be found at:

Also always look at their secondhand & discounted offers, but remember these will not carry  the free postage and packing that Amazon itself offers. P+P for used/discounted offers is £2.80 per book and £1.26 per CD.



Various newspapers have Media Review sections, but perhaps the best is to be found in Monday’s Guardian in the G2 pull out section. Curiously, the FT – the Financial Times is very good for media stories. You can also find the Media Guardian online at

nb: you should register (free) with Media Guardian to access it.

The tabloids, while interesting as objects of study, tend to be of little value as providers of information and discussion or as stimulators of critical thought and reflection.

 It is expected that you will keep up with current affairs and news on radio, TV, and via a broadsheet newspaper. Be Informed.







It is an absolute requirement that you are able to use the Internet especially e-mail and the W3


We do expect that you will type your essays. Make sure you can word-process.


Keep mobile phones turned off and Do not text each other in lectures/seminars etc.


Learn to use the University library, and do take the opportunity to browse and familiarise yourselves with the media and related books there.


Never trust academic authority. Always question, think, research and challenge.


For university policy on plagiarism please go to the university website . BUT…it’s simple – don’t plagiarise!





Appendix 1





All items with a star (*) cannot be changed without approval.




Tick applicable:

Blending Learning (standard)

Distance Learning


Work Based Learning


Trimester module

Semester module




Stand Alone Module


EXPECTED LENGTH OF MODULE (please specify in days, weeks or months)

24 weeks


September 2014




July 2014



If more than one session please supply further start and end dates here








Any Additional Information














All items with a star (*) cannot be changed without approval.




Social Sciences




Social Sciences


Communication, Freedom and Democracy






Soc 1009



Graham B McBeath



Tick applicable:

If off site please specify location

On Site (UoN)


Off Site



Additional Site















This module has supplementary regulations                    
This module has no supplementary regulations                 X



On reflection, it is increasingly difficult for humans to see themselves as anything else but agents of information communicating in network despite our humanist presuppositions. With this in mind, the modules wishes to explore the variety of ways in which from earliest times to today, humans have not merely transmitted signals in an attempt to communicate, but have in so doing transformed whole cultures and disseminated variable global orderings of culture, politics and society.


OVERALL AIM(S) FOR THE MODULE* (Max 2 bullet points)

*To broaden and deepen an appreciation of the centrality of media communications in the negotiation of our individual as well as collective lives.

*To recognise the impact of  institutions of power and control and the public sphere.



On successful completion of the module students will be able to:


Knowledge and Understanding


a)         Demonstrate awareness of varying approaches to media theory and analysis.


b)         Understand the complexities of the relationship between media and society.


c)         Recognise, different analytical approaches to information flow via multiple platforms.


Subject - specific Skills


d)         Relate different kinds of media theory to practical examples.


e)         Explain the difference between production, text and audience centred  theories.


f)          Demonstrate skills in media analysis at a basic level.


Key Skills


g)         Utilise a variety of knowledge resources.


h)         Convey ideas and arguments in both written and oral form.


i)          Plan and deliver work as part of a team.




This module provides students with a comprehensive introduction to the study of communications and its media as it has shaped and reponded to power and politics and the increasingly wder networks. However, emphasis is placed upon classic forms such as radio, television, newspapers and magazines as well as on 'new media'.  The intention is to provide a good starting point from which students can develop critical thinking rooted in an interaction of personal experience, reflection linked to the development of  ever widening social and political horizons of understanding. Herewith we can trace a re-negotiation of the meaning of democracy and accountability.



* Substantial support is offered especially near to submission of assessed work. Tutors are available for face to face consultation as well as by email.

* All information relating to the module not least the Module Guide, readings, lecture notes, and regularly updated articles/commentary is placed on the web.


Tick the way the form in which the module is delivered

This module is delivered in a face to face form

This module is delivered in a guided tutor form


This module is delivered in a guided learning materials form

This module is delivered in a guided peers form


This module is delivered in a self-directed/independent form


Tick who the module is delivered to

This module is delivered to a lone student


This module is delivered to students with mentor(s)


This module is delivered to student cohort(s) taught by UN staff

This module is delivered to student cohort(s) taught by non-UN staff




The module will place emphasis of students grasping the under-girding inter-connectivity of multiple media platforms and their capacity for both translation as well as distortion. It necessitates an appreciation that this both creates innovation as well as the potential for conflict in a world that itself often responds only in anticipation of the next thing that is communicated. As such the teaching and learning and in particular, assessment will be aimed at getting students to show how ever renewing forms of transmission and encoding have local and global impacts.

Teaching, learning + assessment activities

Study hours

All contact hours: (total)
(please list contact hours separately below)


24 x 1 Hr Lectures                                                                              



24 x 1 Hr Seminars                                                                              





Independent study hours (total)
(please list guided independent study items below):

24 x 3hrs preparation






Assessment Hours (with detail) ¼ of the module
(this will be included with independent study hours)

Exam - 30 hrs

Presentation - 10 hrs

Explication - 10 hrs















Assessment Items                                                             Units    Weighting      Learning Outcomes

EX1- 2 hour Examination                                                      3               60          a,b,c,d,e,g,h

PS1- 1 x Presentation                                                           1               20          a,b,c,d,e,f,h,i

PS2- 1 x Explication                                                             1               20          a,b,c,d,e,g,h




1.         Ability to identify key arguments and information from the text

2.         Evidence of understanding of the arguments of the text

3.         Ability to compare and criticise arguments.

4.         Link the explication text to widening socio-cultural concerns

5.         Structure and clarity of expression


Group Presentation

1.         Ability to analyse the topic at hand rawing on identified theoretical perspectives

2.          Show some graps of linkage between technology, and the local and the global

3.         Structure of presentation, and coherence of group

4.         Effective presentation and delivery skills



1.         Relevance to Question

2.         Evidence of Reading and Research

3.         Structure of Argument and Clarity of Expression

4.         Awareness of Theoretical Debate

5.         Independent Thinking and Originality




Version: 1

Date of approval:  


Indicative Reading List:


Thussu, D K, (2008) International Communication: A Reader , Routledge.Artz, L. and Kamalipour, Y. (eds.) (2003) The Globalisation of Corporate Media Hegemony, Albany: State University of New York Press.


Bailey, O., Cammaerts, B. and Carpentier, N. (2007) Understanding Alternative Media, Maidenhead: Open University Press.


Branston, G. & Stafford, R.,2010.The Media Student’s Book.5thed. London: Routledge.


Curran, J. & Seaton, J., 2010. Power Without Responsibility: Press, Broadcasting and the Internet in Britain.7thed. London: Routledge.


Downing, J., with Ford, T. V., Gil, G. and Stein, L. (2001) Radical Media: Rebellious Communication and Social Movements, London: Sage.


Eagleton, T. (1991) Ideology: An Introduction, London: Verso.


Hall, S. (ed.) (1997) Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifiying Practices, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.


Hartley, J. 2005, Communication, Cultural and Media Studies: The Key Concepts (3rd ed) London and New York: Routledge.


Long, P. & Wall, T. 2009. Media Studies: Texts, Production and Context, Harlow: Pearson Education


Mody, B. (ed.) (2003) International and Development Communication: A 21st Century Perspective, 2nd Edition, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.


Roy, S. (2005) Globalisation, ICT and Developing Nations: Challenges in the Information Age, Sage.


Voltmer, K. (2009) The Media in Transitional Democracies, Cambridge: Polity. Wilkins, K. G. (ed.) (2000) Redeveloping Communication for Social Change: Theory, Practice and Power, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.


Watson, J. 2008, Media Communication: An Introduction to Theory and Process(3rd ed) Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.










Appendix 2


CAF Assessment Grades


These are the criteria required to achieve each classification at:

Level 5


An outstanding Distinction


Work which fulfils all the criteria of the grade below, but at an exceptional standard


A very strong Distinction


Work of distinguished quality which is based on a rigorous and detailed knowledge base, including major theories of the discipline(s) and awareness of the variety of ideas, contexts and frameworks and wider implications.  Work will demonstrate sustained ability to analyse, synthesise, evaluate and interpret concepts, principles and data within field of study in a considered manner, as well as to develop convincing arguments and judgements appropriate to the field of study/ assessment task.  There will be strong evidence of competence across a range of specialised skills using them to plan, develop and evaluate problem solving strategies, to challenge received opinion and develop own judgements. Clear evidence of capability to operate autonomously and self-evaluate in situations of varying complexity and predictability, but within defined guidelines will be demonstrated. Outputs will be communicated effectively, accurately and reliably.


A clear Distinction


Work of very good quality which displays most but not all of the criteria for the grade above.


A Distinction


Work of highly commendable quality which clearly fulfils the criteria for the grade below, but shows a greater degree of capability in relevant intellectual/subject/key skills.


A very strong Merit


Work of commendable quality based on a strong detailed knowledge base for the field of study, including an assured grasp of concepts, principles and major theories, together with effective deployment of skills relevant to the discipline and assessment task.  There will be evidence of considered analysis, synthesis, evaluation and application, and the ability to work effectively with minimum direction to meet defined objectives and develop own judgements.  There will be consistent evidence of capability in all relevant subject based and key skills, including the ability to self-evaluate and work autonomously with minimal direction to use effectively a range of techniques in situations of varying complexity and predictability.


A strong Merit


Work of good quality which contains most, but not all of the characteristics of the grade above.



A clear Merit




Work which clearly fulfils all the criteria of the grade below, but shows a greater degree of capability in relevant intellectual/subject/key skills.


A Merit


Work of sound quality based on a firm factual/ conceptual knowledge base for the field of study, including a good grasp of relevant theories, together with the ability to organise and communicate effectively.  The work may be rather standard and limited in its theoretical grasp, but will be mostly accurate and provide some evidence of the ability to analyse, synthesise, evaluate and apply standard methods/techniques, with minimal guidance. There will be no serious omissions or inaccuracies.  There will be good evidence of ability to take responsibility for own learning, some capability to challenge received opinion and form own judgements.  Evidence of the ability to operate with increased autonomy in situations of varying complexity and predictability, selecting and applying appropriate techniques will be demonstrated within limits. There will be competence in relevant key skills.


A very strong Pass


Work of capable quality which contains some of the characteristics of grade above.


A strong Pass


Work of satisfactory quality demonstrating a reliable knowledge base and evidence of developed key skills and/or subject based skills, but still containing limited evidence of analysis, synthesis, evaluation or application, or of appropriate detail or skill application.


A Pass


Work of broadly satisfactory quality covering adequately the factual and/or conceptual knowledge base of the field of study and some key theories, appropriately presented and organised, but is primarily descriptive or derivative, with only occasional evidence of analysis, synthesis, evaluation or application.  There may be some misunderstanding of key concepts/principles/theories and limitations in the ability to select relevant material or techniques and/or in communication or other relevant skills, so that the work may include some errors, omissions or irrelevancies.  There will be evidence of ability to operate with some autonomy in predictable contexts, but less evidence of ability to operate in more complex or unpredictable situations.  However, there will be evidence of ability to use a variety of standard techniques, and to meet threshold standards in relevant key skills.


A bare Pass


Work of bare pass standard demonstrating some familiarity with and grasp of a factual/conceptual and theoretical knowledge base for the field of study, together with evidence of some ability to employ specialist skills to solve problems within area of study, but only just meeting threshold standards in e.g. evaluation and interpretation of data and information, reasoning and soundness of judgment, communication, application, or quality of outputs. Work may be characterised by some significant errors, omissions, limitations or problems, but there will be sufficient evidence of development and competence to operate in varied contexts taking responsibility for the nature and quality of outputs.


A marginal Fail


Work which indicates some evidence of engagement with area of study in relation to acquisition of knowledge and understanding of concepts, principles and theories, and of specialist skills, but which is essentially misinterpreted, misapplied and/or contains some significant omission or misunderstanding, or otherwise just fails to meet threshold standards in e.g. communication, application or quality of outputs.


A Fail


Work that falls well short of the threshold standards in relation to one or more area of knowledge, intellectual, subject based or key skills. It may address the assessment task to some extent, or include evidence of successful engagement with some of the subject matter, but such satisfactory characteristics will be clearly outweighed by major deficiencies across remaining areas.


A comprehensive



Work of poor quality which is based on only minimal understanding, application or effort. It will offer only very limited evidence of familiarity with knowledge or skills appropriate to the field of study or task and/or demonstrate inadequate capability in key skills essential to the task concerned.


Non-submission/Nil attempt


Nothing presented.





Appendix 3

For more detailed information on the Harvard System of Referencing – including the citation of internet sources – or for a Quick Guide.



Appendix 4



The University unequivocally condemns plagiarism, which it considers to be comparable to falsifying data and cheating in an examination, and warns students that the Senate looks gravely upon incidences of plagiarism and is empowered to recommend severe penalties where students are found guilty of plagiarism. (See Academic Misconduct)

Definition: The University considers plagiarism involves an intention to deceive and entails the submission for assessment of work which purports to be that of the student but is in fact wholly or substantially the work of another. Since it is difficult to establish such an intention to deceive except through practice the University defines plagiarism in the following way.

The University defines plagiarism as the incorporation by a student in work for assessment of material which is not their own in the sense that all or substantial part of the work has been copied without any attempt at attribution or has been incorporated as if it were the student's own when in fact it is wholly or substantially the work of another person.

For further details on the policy and procedures regarding suspected academic misconduct, see the

University's STUDENT CODE and information on Academic Misconduct.




Appendix 5


1)      In the table below, you will find some general statements about general aspects of the module. Please indicate how you 'rate' this module by ticking the box which best reflects your view of the course:



Key: A = Excellent; B = Very Good; C = Good; D = Satisfactory; E = Unsatisfactory



How do you rate:






Your overall level of satisfaction with the module






The organisation of lectures






The pitch of lectures






The delivery (pace, structure) of lectures






The teaching aids/materials used in lectures






The usefulness of module guides






The overall course content






Help and support from module tutors






Our response(s) to suggestions and problems






The organisation/structure of seminars






The size of seminar groups






The purpose of seminars






The range of activities in the seminars






The range of materials used in seminars






The availability of resources for the module








If your ratings included any Cs or Ds (or if you are happy in general, but have some specific suggestions), please explain in a few words why you were less than satisfied with this/these aspects of the course and what we could do to make improvements:









2)      Are there any aspects of the module which you particularly enjoyed (e.g. activities, teaching styles, etc.) and would like to see adopted more widely?









3)      How do you rate your experience on this module in comparison to your other subjects?



Key: A = Excellent; B = Very Good; C = Good; D = Satisfactory; E = Unsatisfactory



How do you rate:






Your overall level of satisfaction with the module






The organisation of lectures






The pitch of lectures






The delivery (pace, structure) of lectures






The teaching aids/materials used in lectures






The usefulness of module guides






The overall course content






Help and support from module tutors






Our response(s) to suggestions and problems






The organisation/structure of seminars






The size of seminar groups






The purpose of seminars






The range of activities in the seminars






The range of materials used in seminars






The availability of resources for the module








Please indicate in a few words what you think we could learn from your other subject(s) and what they could learn from us:














4)      Are there any parts or aspects of the module which you struggled or had difficulties with?















5)      Please evaluate your own performance and that of your colleagues on this module.









Are you happy with your own performance in this module?






Do you think you personally got the most out of this course?






Are you happy with the performance of your colleagues

in seminars and/or group work?








If you are not happy with your performance, please indicate what you think stops you from performing to your best ability:
















Study time

4 or more

2-4 hrs.

1-2 hrs.

up to 1 hr.

How many hours a week (on average) did you spend to prepare for this module?





Do you think you spend enough time preparing for this module?




If you spend less than two hours a week preparing for this module, please explain why you do not/cannot spend more time:
















All the


Most of

the time



Do you actively participate in seminar discussions?





Do you feel you are getting something out of seminar discussions?





Do you feel that your colleagues in seminars are adequately prepared?







Please indicate briefly your views on the recommended readings/sources:













If you feel that you and/or your colleagues do not participate as much as you/they could, please indicate what we could do to change this and what you could do to change this:














appendix 6


UMF Assessment regulations and resubmission dates


Please note the following important information regarding the submission of assessments:



The essay assignment should be submitted on NILE via the Submit Your Work button. Please follow the instructions that appear after you click on Submit Your Work.


Referral and Deferral

Referred assessments are those where a student is permitted to retake assessment for the module as a second attempt following initial failure (F+, F, F- or G). In these circumstances, the maximum grade is D-.


Deferred assessments are those where a student is permitted to take assessment for the module at a later opportunity, as a result of a decision by the mitigating circumstances panel. In these cases, there is no constraint on the grade.



Extensions are given at the discretion of tutors and evidence is likely to be required for requests.

Extensions must be requested at least two days before the assessment deadline and can only be given for a maximum of two weeks.


Late submission

Assessments submitted after the deadline, where an extension has been agreed, are subject to the following penalties:

-          Submitted within one week of the deadline – maximum grade of D-

-          Submitted later than one week of the deadline – referred (i.e. ‘failed’).


Referred assessments

Any item of assessment which has been referred either as graded below a D- on the first attempt, submitted more than one week after the deadline, or not submitted at all may be ‘replaced’ by an alternative assessment with new fixed deadlines (see below), but with a maximum grade of D-.


Deferred assessments

Any item of assessment which has been deferred may be ‘replaced’ by an alternative assessment with new deadlines (see below), with no constraint on the grade.


Assignment One: you will be required to do a presentation

Assignment Two: you will be required to re-do the explication


No extensions are available for referred or deferred assessments. Please note that these are the only opportunities to improve on a failed grade.