01 g322 section b general introduction

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AS Media Studies Study Notes Unit G322 Section B Audiences and Institutions The Film Industry Part 1 General Introduction 1

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  • AS Media Studies Study Notes Unit G322 Section B Audiences and Institutions The Film Industry Part 1 General Introduction 1
  • General Introduction Preparing for the exam The specification says For the exam you should be prepared to understand and write about the processes of film production, distribution, marketing and exchange as they relate to contemporary media institutions. The nature of audience consumption and the relationships between audiences and institutions. In addition, you need to know about: the issues raised by media ownership in contemporary media practice; the importance of cross media convergence and synergy in production, distribution and marketing; the new technologies that have been introduced in recent years at the levels of production, distribution, marketing and exchange; the significance of proliferation in hardware and content for institutions and audiences; the importance of technological convergence for institutions and audiences; the issues raised in the targeting of national and British audiences by international or global institutions; the ways in which your own experiences of media consumption illustrate wider patterns and trends of audience behaviour. 2
  • General Guidance What do you need to do to prepare for Section B of the exam? Undertake case studies of the film industry considering their production, distribution and consumption? You are looking at institutional processes and audience consumption. There should be some focus on YOUR experience of being a consumer of film yourself. Case Studies - what do they need to include? These need to involve the study of a specific studio or production company within the contemporary film industry that targets a British audience. These can be based in the US (Hollywood), in Britain (Film4, BBC Films), or part of World Cinema (Bollywood). They need to include the study of a studios patterns of production, distribution, exhibition and consumption by audiences. This should also be accompanied by study of how contemporary films are distributed (digital cinemas, DVD, HD-DVD, downloads, etc.) and how this has changed the production, marketing and consumption of films. What do you need to know for Section B of the exam? You need to have a good up-to-date knowledge of the key issues involved in production, marketing, distribution and consumption of films. You need to be able to refer to actual examples to support your points. You also need practice at the format of the examination in order to hone your skills. How long should you spend on the section B question? You should spend 45 minutes on your section B question. What sort of questions will be asked in Section B? You will be expected to answer the question using examples from your case studies to support points made in the answer. The questions might ask students to consider some or all of the following: How is the film industry making use of advantages in digital technology? How do film audiences consume/receive a particular text? How and why are changes in the consumption and production of films happening? To what extent are film audiences the agents, beneficiaries or victims of changes in production, distribution or exhibition? What are the methods of distribution/exhibition for the film industry? 3
  • The exam questions will resemble these in format: What impact has digital technology had on institutions in the media industry that you have studied? How does the institution you have studied attempt to target the audience for its product? Discuss the claim that all media institutions will become fully digital or decline with reference to the media industry you have studied. How has your institution responded to the pace of change within the media industry you have studied? Describe the various strategies used by your institution to secure its survival in the contemporary marketplace. How has the institution you have studied attempted to target its audience across different media, platforms and markets? Specimen exam question Discuss the issues raised by institutions need to target specific audiences within a media industry which you have studied. Possible essay plan: By institutions the question is asking for you to write about a particular studio/production or distribution company specifically. By specific audience the question is asking you to write about a cross section of the potential film going audience you might like to think of the typical target audience for most mainstream films. And naturally, you are focussing on the film industry. You will be marked on your ability to illustrate changing patterns of production, distribution, exchange and consumption through relevant case study examples and your own experiences. You should cover the following in your response to the question: How different production practices (ways of making films) allow films to be constructed for specific audiences. Various distribution and marketing strategies that raise audience awareness of specific films or genres of films. The use of new technology to enable (more accurate?) targeting of specific audiences. Different audience strategies (ways of connecting with an audience) that help or challenge film industry practices. You will be given credit for your knowledge and understanding, illustrated through case study material, in any of these areas; there is no requirement that they should all be covered equally. Examiners will be prepared to allow points, examples and arguments that have not been considered if they are relevant and justified. 4
  • Mark Scheme To get a top mark (level 4 out of 50) you need to do the following: 1. Explanation/analysis/argument (16-20 marks) Shows excellent understanding of the task Excellent knowledge and understanding of institutional/audience practices factual knowledge is relevant and accurate A clear and developed argument, substantiated by detailed reference to case study material Clearly relevant to set question 2. Use of examples (16-20 marks) Offers frequent evidence from case study material award marks to reflect the range and appropriateness of examples Offers a full range of examples from case study and own experience Offers examples which are clearly relevant to the set question 3. Use of terminology (8-10 marks) Use of terminology is relevant and accurate 4. Expression and coherence of argument Complex issues have been expressed clearly and fluently using a style of writing appropriate to the complex subject matter. Sentences and paragraphs, consistently relevant, have been well structured, using appropriate technical terminology. There may be few, if any, errors of spelling, punctuation and grammar. 5
  • Introduction Anticipated for almost as long as the second coming, the digital media era is finally upon us and that much misused word 'convergence' has become meaningful. From Rupert Murdoch's deal to buy MySpace to the selling of YouTube for more than a billion dollars after 18 months of trading, we are slap back in the middle of the second dot.com boom. Don't even mention Google, whose founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, must be crossing off the days till it's time to become full time philanthropists and cancel third world debt. (Gibson 2007) Media Studies is all about the contemporary, so while it is useful to have a sense of the history of the film industry in Britain (so we know how successful the industry is at present relative to other time periods) we are really much more concerned with how films are currently being produced and distributed and how this is changing. The key agent of change is convergence. This is because it makes little sense these days to talk about the film industry without referring to other media industries like internet distribution. The word institution refers to the companies and organisations that provide media content films - whether for profit or as a public service. This involves an understanding of media as business, the relationship between film producers, distributors and exhibitors and the public or audience. You need to be concerned with how film companies producing and distributing material operate within a context of ownership, convergence, technologies and globalisation. And you need to be very interested in how things are changing. You can't be expected to feel the pace of change as you will have grown up with online media as the norm, but for this part of your studies you need to acquire a sense of how rapidly institutions and audiences are being transformed by digital technology: The question that needs to be answered is: do new media forms produce both distinctively different content and 'audiences' when compared with their predecessors? The answer to this question is a qualified yes. (Marshall 2004) 6
  • Convergence Convergence describes two phenomena: First, technologies coming together, for example, a mobile phone you can use as a still and moving image camera, download and watch moving images on, use as an MP3 player and recorder and access the internet with. Second, media industries are diversifying so they produce and distribute across several mediafor example, a newspaper with an online version and audio podcasts or the coming together of videogames with films e.g. Quantum of Solace (2008). We no longer live in a media world where television, videogames, films, newspapers, radio, magazines and music exist separately. For this reason it is essential that you study the impact of convergence on the film industry - the focus here is on the contemporary nature of film production, distribution and exhibition. Extracts from Why Does Convergence Matter? UK Film Council January 2008 If, by convergence, we mean the trend for different technologies for the delivery of content to start to resemble one another, what will this mean for us? For example, television sets will increasingly resemble computers while computers will increasingly resemble televisions; both will be used to download moving films from the internet, and eventually the distinction between the separate technologies are likely to be erased. Convergence has already led to the development of video-on-demand, which can be delivered by a variety of different devices. But technological convergence itself is only a means to an end; what is also being changed is both the economics and culture of the moving image, including film. The debate about the impact of convergence has important consequences not just for the film industry but for the way in which we all reflect ourselves to ourselves and to others. Why is convergence important for consumers, and the economy as a whole? For consumers, convergence helps to ensure greater price transparency as regards watching films in different media and makes accessing those films more convenient. Convergence also presents us with the potential to choose from and access a far wider and more diverse range of films in different media. For the UK economy convergence represents an opportunity to build on its competitive strengths internationally in respect of creative talent and content creation and thereby to enhance growth and productivity and to develop skills. For the film industry it presents opportunities to reach wider audiences. But it also presents large challenges in respect of 7
  • rights, windows and financing models, most particularly for independently-produced British films. How does the UK compare internationally? The UK is very well placed to seize the opportunities presented by convergence provided it addresses the challenges identified listed below. A rapid transition to the next generation of broadband access networks is critical if we are to remain competitive with other economies such as those of Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore which have invested very significant resources in advanced broadband networks. In Hong Kong speeds of 1GB are already available, while the highest speed on general offer in the UK at the moment is 50Mbs. If we want to take advantage of convergence what are the key challenges and opportunities it presents for the future? The UK Film Council believes that, going forward, there will be substantial challenges for public policy around convergence with respect to film. There have already been tensions around some core issues relating to new media such as Internet Piracy. There has already been a great deal of debate trying to describe the likely impact of convergence upon the creative industries. On one side some existing and powerful institutions have adopted, at least until recently, a largely defensive approach to the emergence of digital media, apparently in the belief that the status quo would prevail largely untouched and that existing business models would remain fit for purpose. On the other, some commentators have claimed that the impact of digital media will sweep away all our present assumptions about the way in which the creative industries, and film in particular, operate and that in a brave new world of digital abundance the industry will eventually cease to exist as we know it. These positions are mirrored, for example, in elements of the debate around copyright theft and online copyright infringement. Some powerful interests have behaved at times as if the only way to fight piracy is through protection and more extreme forms of enforcement. Some others have behaved as if access to any form of intellectual property at any time for free is a human right. The ability to create and distribute content in a much larger variety of ways will accelerate the segmentation of the film sector such that there will be many more different business and cultural models, each based on different sets of aims and objectives. Just as the audiences ability to choose between different ways of consuming product is greatly enhanced by digital technology (e.g. the emergence of iPlayer), so too is the ability of institutions to create different ways to make films and to disseminate them to audiences. The UK Film Council is clear that the history of technological innovation in the film industry, from the arrival of sound in the 1930s to the advent of widescreen in the 1950s, offers real benefits to audiences but can also turn against public policy and the individual. 8
  • For example, the market power of the major operator of pay-television in the UK BSkyB created a situation in which a series arrangements with the Hollywood studios worked to the disadvantage of smaller independent suppliers and was thereby detrimental to audience choice. Some independent suppliers reported that they were either unable to sell films directly to BSkyB, despite those films having achieved commercial success, or that they received prices which were not equitable with those achieved by the studios on a like-for-like basis. The UK Film Council has consistently argued that film theft and online copyright infringement represent a major threat to all elements of the UK film industry and to film culture. Some 5% of UK adults have downloaded a film and/or a TV show and the quantity of titles illegally downloaded has risen to an average of between 7-15 per year. The very rapid take-up of broadband in the UK could increase copyright infringement by means of file-sharing. Q1. Why is convergence both a blessing and a curse for the UK film industry? 9
  • Audience Audience is a huge area of Media Studies with many variants and competing approaches, so it is important to be precise about our focus which is on the relationship between audience and institution. For this part of your course you are more concerned with audience theory, as you will be exploring the ways that audiences are created/constructed for different films. You will need to analyse the more complex nature of new media audiences and how digital media distribution and consumption has allowed consumers to become producers or at least interactors, and thus far more active users of media. This is more difficult than simply saying 'the film industry targets teenagers. The new media erodes the boundary between producer and audience: Conventional research methods are replacedor at least supplementedby new methods which recognise and make use of people's own creativity, and brush aside the outmoded notions of 'receiver' audiences and elite 'producers'. (Gauntlett 2007a) Audience Fragmentation This phrase is used to describe the ways in which people engage with media, and it shows how the idea of audience is in the digital era is changing. The ways in which convergence, user-created content and social networking have transformed the audience are often thought about in terms of audience fragmentation. This means that the internet - rolling entertainment news and internet gossip sites, films downloaded in various ways - 'breaks up' the potential audience group for any particular film. Theres less point in the UK distributors of Quantum of Solace paying for an expensive TV ad during Coronation Street if they know that fewer members of their target audience will be watching. On the other hand, Csigo (2007) sees this trend as a duality working in two ways convergence leads to the traditional mass audience fragmenting into smaller niche audiences but also falling together in other ways by becoming more intimate members of smaller group. In other words there are less big-budget, blockbusters now, and more films aimed at promoting a cult audience. In this new climate the film industry is desperately trying to provide 360-degree branding for their films - to surround us with them across all the various converged media forms that we come into contact with. Csigo suggests that media institutions like the film industry are no longer interested in keeping the audience together, but in triggering engagement. Converging media can lead to both control by the film industry - as the various film companies get bigger and bigger and control more and more of the industry but also resistance by the consumers, who now get to produce their own films and upload them onto YouTube. For the film industry this imposes key changes: the media world changes from a 'value chain' where films are made and distributed to audiences - to a social network - a complex system where producers and audiences are mixed up think about how the music industry 10
  • colonised MySpace or how big companies have populated the Internet. Another way of describing this is the shift from 'push media' (where producers push films at us and we receive and consume them passively) to 'pull media' (whereby we decide what we want to do with the media and access it in ways that suit us). This new media world in comparison to the old media world is: ... richer, more diverse and immeasurably more complex because of the number of producers, the quantity of the interactions between them and their products, the speed with which people in this space can communicate with one another and the pace of development made possible by ubiquitous networking. {Source: http://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/about/discussion/blogging.html last accessed September 2007} Q2. How has the Internet allowed filmmakers to find and attract audiences in different ways? 11
  • Corporate Intrusion into Cyberspace It is important to contextualise some of the new digital media activities that have made convergence possible and in fact accelerated it. During the 1990s, the shift to digital transmission of all forms of data has increased at an accelerated pace. This shift to computer language has already redefined the music industry and will overtake film, radio, and television production and distribution. In the future virtually all forms of data and information will be produced and stored in interchangeable digital bits. (Herman and McChesney 1997) When previously 'do-it-yourself media institutions like YouTube and MySpace were purchased by big media players (News Corporation bought MySpace; Google bought YouTube), immediately the relaxed approach to copyright ceased and the sites became more visibly 'corporate'. For example, much illegally posted material has been removed from YouTube and MySpace is now using the Gracenote software made famous by iTunes to clear copyright and intellectual property at the point of download. If it seems strange that the big corporations are keen to either take over or form partnerships with websites that threaten them by distributing material for free, then consider this. UK only internet advertising generates around 2 billion a year - more than 50 per cent of the money made from TV ads. This figure has increased greatly in the course of 2007. Why? More UK homes are now equipped with broadband. This results in an increase in time spent online compared to other media (such as TV) and this has in turn created a huge increase in money invested in online advertsa fairly simple equation. Currently, Google alone 'clean up' around 45 per cent of all the revenue from online ads in the UK about 1 billion. How is the Internet changing things? Web 2.0 describes a new phase of the internet, which allows us to create material, distribute it to one another (and thus share it) and perhaps move closer to the democratic spirit of the internet that its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, had in mind. [There is] a growing trend in media away from established institutions and 'expert' content, towards user-generated content and the power of virtual communities. You can't have failed to come across the story of how The Blair Witch Project used viral marketing or how the Arctic Monkeys used MySpace to take over the world. Even though the latter is not strictly true, MySpace did help to generate a tremendous amount of interest in the band amongst users, illustrating the power new media has to reach audiences. It also demonstrates why traditional media institutions feel threatened by new media: if they don't keep up they might die. Why else did News Corp buy MySpace, or MTV offer screen time to user-created content, or The Guardian set up so many blogs and talk boards to encourage audience participation? (Luhrs 2007) There is clearly a need to look at film production, distribution and consumption in new ways. 12
  • Web 2.0 is a positive, democratic development for ordinary people who find themselves with relatively cheap, instant access to film production and distribution even a camera phone or webcam, combined with a broadband connection can make you an overnight sensation on YouTube - but we need to take a 'reality check' with regard to two issues. 1. The most popular web 2.0 sites are owned by huge companies so every moment of democratic 'We Media' social networking makes money for the big corporations the same ones that were making billions from the web first time round are now getting even richer. 2. Consider these statistics from (2007): Only 0.16 % of YouTube visitors upload video 0.2 % of Flickr visitors upload photos Wikipedia, the most web 2.0 site imaginable given that the online encyclopaedia is written by its readers, only gets edited/expanded by 4.59 % of users. These figures make it clear that most of us are still just using the web to read, watch, play and listen and not to produce (create) and distribute (upload) which is how we were using 'old media'. Has anything really changed? YouTube YouTube is possibly the most revolutionary example of this new approach using new media. For many people it has become the first port of call when seeking video material, and along with MySpace, it enables amateur film-makers and musicians to distribute their material to a vast audience. A feature that is especially useful to media students is the way that users can post comments on a video. YouTube, like Flickr and Del.icio.us, offers social tagging, which means that the users categorise and classify the content (as opposed to this being done by the website or through software). YouTube is an interesting mix of DIY uploads, with some notable examples of ordinary people achieving global recognition for their videos but it has also created a recent moral panic. The uploading of videos made by teenage gang members brandishing guns is causing serious concern in the aftermath of fatal shootings of children across the country, and the perhaps less serious 'happy slappy' culture was made possible by YouTube. However, much of YouTube consists of uploads of existing commercial material, music videos, film trailers etc which effectively act as free or 'below the line' advertising for film and music distribution companies. 13
  • MySpace Most MySpace users are between 16 and 25, which, considered alongside the staggering number of profiles in existence, helps us realise why Rupert Murdoch wanted to buy the site. This age group is one that advertisers are always desperate to reach, as they are the major audience for a host of entertainmentrelated products and services. MySpace has become a hub for a variety of commercial enterprise, much of it the independent distribution of music by bands without a record deal. It is now possible to sell music via Paypal through MySpace, so we currently have the ironic state of play whereby small bands and independent film makers can use a website owned by News Corporation (the most major of all the major media institutions) to bypass the mainstream music and film industries. MySpace now has its own music label, and many existing bands with long established recording contracts now release some of their music on the site. The content published on MySpace by its users varies from personal diary entries and discussions about the latest film or television episode, to the publication of original creative works such as digital photography and artwork or poetry. Of particular interest to News Corporation is that prior to its purchase, the top four discussion areas on MySpace were for content owned by NewsCorp itself: Family Guy, The OC, The Simpsons and Napoleon Dynamite. Whatever the fate of MySpace, it's clear that media companies (both new entrants and established players) are starting to see the value of user-generated content and the advertising revenue that can be made from it. Murdoch may be right in his view that the 'MySpace generation' wants to consume and produce media on their own terms, but if he has his way it will still be the one god-like figure from above who will be the one to profit. (O'Hear 2006) However, that was four years ago, and things move fast online: MySpace halves UK audience MySpace has halved its UK audience within the last 12 monthsDaily Telegraph - 22 Jul 2010 The new figures reveal that MySpaces audience numbers dropped by 49 per cent over the last year, falling from 6.5 million visitors in May 2009, to just 3.3 million in May 2010. The news comes hot on the heels of the sites major rival, Facebook, hitting 500 million registered users. MySpace, founded in 2003, at its peak had more than 100 million registered members, but its audience has been declining since the rise of Facebook in 2008. The latest set of data also revealed that nine out of ten of the 38.2 million UK internet users over the age of 15 used social media in May 2010. Twitter was found to have 4.3 million 14
  • users in the UK but unlike MySpace, has grown its audience by 62 per cent over the last 12 months. Facebook is used by 30.4 million people in the UK, which worked out as 79 per cent of the countrys online population. MySpaces decline is in spite of a revamp of the sites functionality and renewed focus on music and entertainment content. The site also launched MySpace Music in May 2010, a new streaming and subscription service, which has faced stiff competition from the likes of Spotify. The site, which was bought by Rupert Murdochs News Corp for $580 million (351 million) in 2005, has also lost two chiefs executives in the last six months. Q3. Summarise how you think sites like YouTube, Spotify and Facebook are good for film audiences. What do they let us do, that we couldnt before? 15