According to Collins English Dictionary, “The mainstream media refers to conventional newspapers, television and other news sources that most people know about and regard as reliable.” This type of media reaches masses of people and is argued to be the most influential as it uses the traditional and most commonly used media to reach its audiences. Mainstream media is usually created by large conglomerates, raising concern that this concentration of media ownership, forms bias viewpoints presented to news consumers of a mass audience. If a message wants to be sent out to reach most of the population, they would use mass media as this method. Newman says “Mainstream media content is the lifeblood of topical social media conversations in the UK- providing the vast majority of news links that are shared. News organisations may not always be the first to publish the news, but their agenda’s and discussions continue to shape conversations around major stories.” In contrast to Mass media, Radical media or Alternative media are ways of communicating and sending a message with an agenda, usually political, social or counter-capitalist. It advocates “progressive content, reformist culture and democratic process of production and distribution. In 1984 John Downing introduced the term ‘radical media’. He conducted a study on rebellious communication and concluded that “racial media is typically small-scale, generally underfunded, sometimes largely unnoticed at least initially, on occasion the target of great anger or fear of ridicule from on high, or even within the general public, or both.” Furthermore, Silverstone also added that “Alternative media has created new spaces for alternative voices that provide the focus both for specific community interests as well as for the contrary and the subversive”.
There are some similarities and differences when it comes to Mainstream and Radical media. Radical media generally act outside of mainstream so they are not controlled by media institutions and conglomerates, whereas mainstream media is much more institutionalised and do not have much flexibility. Another difference is their ideological and behavioural practises. Radical media are a lot more focused on social movements and creating a big impact, whereas mainstream media do not prioritise this and would rather concentrate on stories which benefit and affect a mass audience. Whilst mainstream mass media are more likely to represent corporate and government interests, alternative media tend to be “non-commercial and entice the interests of more niche markets like the poor, political, ethnic minorities and LGBTQ identities.” In this essay, I will seek to examine and critique the differences of radical media compared to mass media and to discuss the impact that radical media is having on the public and in the media.
Radical media can be in a variety of different forms of media like TV, film, radio and print. Firstly, I will explore radical media in radio. Radio used to be the best first option for radical media (until social media became a big success) and has been an extremely popular choice for radical media due to it being easy to use, it has a low cost to maintain and near ubiquity which can be broadcast from pirate radio. As pirate alternative radios didn’t have as much power or influence compared to the big commercial radios, a company was set up in 1975, and was introduced as the National Federation of community broadcasters. This company would “represent and defend the interests of US alternative radios that serve a community. Not surprisingly, many unlicensed or pirate alternative radios emerged in the 1980s and 1990s.” For alternative television and film, it is produced outside of the mainstream television and film industries and features narratives and style that isn’t really accepted in what the mainstream produces. Access to recording technology is a lot more accessible now than ever before and due to the internet becoming popular; it has allowed increased opportunities for worldwide participation in the production, consumption and exchange of alternative video. Before, it was difficult for alternative video content to reach a global spectrum due to the lack of funds compared to mass video content but due to the internet now being a free source, it’s a lot easier. A platform which allows alternative media to reach these global scales is YouTube. YouTube was founded in February 2005 and is a video-sharing website, which allows users to record a video of anything they want and then upload it onto their platform for anyone to access and watch. YouTube is now one of the biggest cooperation’s in this century and it can be argued to be a part of mass media as it is a big institution but because of the content that is shared on this platform, it’s still part of alternative media. A user could upload a video talking about a taboo topic and the video can be accessed by millions.
With the internet being as accessible as ever and technology becoming more affordable, radical media has continued to grow at a rapid pace during the past decade. Due to the nature of the Internet, it’s encouraged a change to conventional media environments that used to be controlled by large and powerful media conglomerates, while allowing independent, smaller companies to connect with the public as well. For example, it’s not just businesses that use Twitter and Facebook to promote themselves. Anyone can have an account and express their voices and opinions which can sway others to think this way too. However, conglomerates will still have the edge financially to broadcast wider across platforms than radical media ever can due to having more ‘followers’. An example of using the internet for radical use is the Civil riots in the Arab Spring. During this protest, “social media was used to communicate, organise and connect with one another to stand against government repressions.” According to an article online “The protests were kick-started by a Facebook campaign run by the opposition ‘April 6 Youth Movement’ which generated tens of thousands of positive responses to the call to ally against government policies.”
Like always, there are social, political and economic influences that affect radical media. Socially, it can go largely unnoticed since the mass audiences follow mainstream media over radial media. Also, there is the fear of being controversial and it could create a moral panic. “Social movements are defined as networks of informal interactions between a plurality of individuals, groups and/or organisations, engaged in political or cultural conflicts, on the basis of shared collective identities.” Politically, there is a tendency to be more democratic than mass media and as such try to have an ‘open’ approach to collect range of opinion without conforming to political bias imposed on by the mainstream media. Media bias is extremely common in mainstream media, not so much radical as they’re more about giving niche opinions and not conforming to the typical opinions of the public. Media bias can have a different effect depending on how audiences process the information given to them by the media. According to Bray and Kreps “If the audience is aware of the media bias and filters it from the information, distortions in reporting are unlikely to have large effects on voter beliefs.” However, an alternative theory by DeMarzo, Vayanos and Zwiebel suggests that media bias does persuade voters. “This may occur because voters do not sufficiently account for bias in the media.” When media is produced outside the mainstream, it lacks finances usually gained in institutions via PSB or through advertising revenue, therefore it needs to raise funds often. Many radical media channels ask for donations from viewers to continue producing content like the user ‘CGreene34’ does on YouTube. Even though they are using a mass media website like YouTube, creating videos to put on the website, lets them earn a commission and therefore allows them to carry on creating videos and therefore express their controversial views. There were both mainstream media coverage and radical media coverage for the Manchester Terror Attack Bombing which happened on the 22nd May 2017 and killed 22 people and injured 116. The popular TV channels and newspapers all based their coverage on informing people about what had happened. BBC News did a website article on ‘What We Know’ about the bombing with all the current facts, statistics and pictures. Not many of them talked about the religion of the suicide bomber or talked about his background. As the BBC are government funded, they have extremely strict guidelines to follow. They can’t be one sided or be shown to be choosing a side. The Sun created a similar article but focused more on the victims and their backgrounds. There were some alternative websites who created articles about the Manchester bombing but they gave out similar information like the BBC. However, an article from The Advocate (who are very centred around the LGBTQ community and politics) created an article called ‘Three more arrests made after Manchester bombing; London tourist sites step up security). This headline was made to create a moral panic and get people talking about what’s happened. They concentrated more on who the bomber was, his background and families’ background.
Media regulation is “the whole process of control or guidance, by established rules and procedures, applied by governments and other political and administrative authorities to all kinds of media activities.” Therefore, this means regulating radical media is proven to be very difficult as it’s not controlled by government nor can it be accessed by them. The internet is one of the biggest platforms for radical media to take place and there are issues surrounding its censorship which vary from country to country. “North Korea is the country which has the most control regarding the internet. All websites are under government control and only 4% of the population has internet”. Furthermore, “China has the most rigid censorship programme in the world. The government filters searches; block sites and erases inconvenient content.” This is one way of regulating radical media on the internet. “In 2013, Harvard political science professor Gary King led a study to determine what caused social media posts to be censored and he found that post mentioning the government were not more or less likely to be deleted if they were supportive or critical of the government. Posts mentioning collective action were more likely to be deleted than those that had not mentioned collective action.” Even though the government can’t stop people from posting on the internet, they can control who sees it. The internet is regulated as audiences need protection from unethical, unlawful and obscene content. As most people know, using the internet is not without risk, malicious opportunities are there to commit crime, through fraud, thwart the activities of others or cause other damage even inciting hatred or starting an event that may devastate. The types of content that is blocked includes; political views and those of human rights, freedom of speech, religion and minority rights. Also, social views and information that is perceived to offend or are quite taboo like sexuality, gambling or illegal drugs and alcohol are also blocked and banned. Even internet tools like e-mail, internet hosting, search translation and censorship or filtering methods are too. However, there are a few countries, for example, the UK, US and France who have no internet filtering by the government and there is no evidence to contradict this. There is a Paris-based non-government organisation called Reporters without Boarders that advocate freedom of press. In 2006, they published a list of ‘Enemies of the Internet’. The organisation classifies a country as an enemy when they censor news and information online and repress internet users.
If radical media was to be shown on mainstream platforms, there would be regulations they would have to follow. There would be no way round it. OFCOM, ASA and BBFC are all media regulation companies who make sure that film, TV shows and adverts are all following the rules and are creating suitable content for all audiences. OFCOM are the communications regulators for Television, radio, fixed line telecoms, mobile and broadband. Their aim is to “make sure that people in the UK get the best from their communications services and are protected from scams and sharp practices, while ensuring that competition can thrive.” If audiences are not happy with a radio show or television programme, they write a complaint to OFCOM who then look into the issue if they receive a certain amount of complaints. OFCOM do not what or listen to programmes before they’re broadcast. ASA are an advertising standards authority who “makes sure ads across UK media stick to the advertising rules and codes.” The codes set by the ASA are that adverts can’t show the selling of medical treatments, alcohol, cigarettes, charity donations or gambling. If a company breaks these codes, they will be investigated by the ASA and could be subject to a fine or an overturn of the advert. Finally, the BBFC are the British Board of Film Classification and are an organisation funded by the film industry. They are responsible for classifying films, videos and DVDs in the UK.
If you are not creating content for mainstream media, you are not necessarily going to follow advertising codes and legal and ethical frameworks, especially in the age of anonymity. However, as you are still creating content for a public audience there should still be moral obligations to consider like who can access the platform you’re broadcasting on etc. For example, you may not create a short film on drugs and sex and put it on YouTube where young audiences can access it. There may be an age restriction put on so under 16’s can’t watch it. The classification of censorship can be categorised into 5 different categories. The first category is ‘persuasive’ censorship. This is when “the majority of content is blocked.” Next is ‘substantial’ which is when “either some of the content is subject to a medium level of filtering or a large majority of content is subject to a high level of filtering.” Then, there is ‘selective’ where “a minority of specific sites are blocked.” Then ‘suspected’ where “it’s suspected, not confirmed, that websites are being blocked” and finally there is ‘no evidence’ which is “when there is no evidence of blocked websites, although other forms of controls may exist.”
In conclusion, radical media is extremely important as it allows audiences to view media with a different view point. We have found that mainstream media is controlled by governments or media conglomerates and usually have an agenda, whether that be social, political or economic; however, audiences can now interpret this information and interpret this in different ways. With the rise of the internet becoming accessible on a range of different platforms like mobile phones and tablets, radical media is more easily accessible and thus providing more of an impact. If audiences decide not to view mass media due to the set agenda’s they possess, they have the opportunity to view radical media. Whether an audience member wishes to view either radical media or mainstream media, it is solely their decision. Due to radical media now being around it means that audiences have this choice and they do not have to only view media run by conglomerates, meaning that radical media is in fact extremely important.