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Understanding the Media

Understanding the Media

Third Edition
Additional resources:

December 2013 | 352 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
This is a lucid and lively introduction to key concepts and developments in media and media studies. The new edition, with updated case studies and a good range of online reading, is a valuable resource for both students and lecturers.
- Chindu Sreedharan, Bournemouth University

"Has expanded the possibilities of what a textbook can be. Incisive questions framed through accessible and detailed examples provide a platform for a wealth of different activities that engage readers in the critical study of media."
- Dr Daniel Ashton
, Bath Spa University

"Accessibly written and very well-structured, the book will be one of those you go back to time and time again throughout your studies. In addition it also offers that much-needed, little-found extra in a textbook: critical engagement with media and society. A joy for those of us teaching the subject.
- Joke Hermes
, University of Amsterdam

How much of our media experience is shaped by the profit motive of media conglomerates? How much freedom and power do we have as members of an increasingly fragmented media audience? How do the media influence what we understand about friendship, globalization and even our own selves?

This book teaches students how to ask critical questions of the media, and gives them the analytical tools to answer those questions. By gaining a rich understanding of how the media play a role in society, both in giving pleasures and creating power relationships, students are encouraged to become critical thinkers. Understanding the Media:
  • Teaches the theoretical foundations and key concepts students need to get started on their own media studies
  • Brings concepts to life with examples and case studies on everything from Harry Potter and Big Brother to the Occupy movement
  • Shows the ‘how to’ with guided exercises and improves essay writing with a guide to the research literature
  • Helps students take learning further with guided free online readings
This is an essential guide to the how and why of understanding the media, perfect for students in media studies, sociology, cultural studies and communication studies.

Companion Website now available! Visit for a range of student and lecturer resources.
Introduction: Asking Awkward Questions

Chapter 1: Understanding the Media

Defining the Media

The Media in a Social Context

Asking Questions about U2

Asking Questions? Which Questions?

The Importance of Theory and Method


Chapter 2: Media Histories, Media Power

Media Histories

Changing Media Histories: an Irish Example

A Contested Field

Media and Power

Power and Media Content

Power and the Media Industries

Power and Media Audiences

Towards a (More) Critical Media Studies

Model of Media Analysis: Production, Content and Reception


Chapter 3: Media Globalization

What is Globalisation?

The Latest Brand of Colonialism?

Theories of Globalisation

Media Globalisation


Chapter 4: Media Ownership: Concentration, Conglomeration and Regulation

Why Should We be Bothered about Media Ownership?

Media Ownership

Conglomeration, Concentration and Content

Vertical and Horizontal Integration

The Political Economy Perspective

'Follow the money...'

Jurgen Habermas and the Public Sphere

Media and Regulation

Models of Media Regulation

So, Do We Need Media Regulation?


Chapter 5: Media Professionals and Media Production

Production Research

Two Traditions

Theoretical Underpinnings of Production Research

Methodological Basis

Hall's Encoding/ Decoding Model

Ethnographic Research on Media Production and Media Professionals

Inside Prime Time by Todd Gitlin


Chapter 6: Media, Ideology and Discourse

What Precisely is Meant by the Term Ideology?

Defining Ideology

Ideology as Dominant Ideology

Discourse and Ideology

It's All in the Discourse?


Chapter 7: Media 'Re-presentations' in an Unequal World

Representation/ Re-representation and 'Reality'

What is Content Analysis?

Media Re-representations in a Divided World: Four Approaches Outlined

Media Re-presentations of Social Class

Media Coverage of the Underclass: Stories about Welfare

The Happy Poor: Representations in Fictional Media Content

Media Representations of Ethnicity: a Discourse Analysis Approach

Media Representations of Gender and Sexuality


Chapter 8: Media Audiences and Reception

Themes and Tensions: Competing Theoretical and Methodological Approaches in Audience Research

Power to the People? Three Phases in Reception Research

Reception Analysis and the 'Ethnographic Turn'

Qualitative Audience Research: Three Examples

Audiences, Fans and Participatory Cultures


Chapter 9: New Media, Social Media
Introduction: New Media and Social Media - Empowering Audiences, But Who is Holding the Tiger's Tail?

Will the Revolution be Digitalized?

The Promise and the Reality of the Internet

We are All 'Produsers' Now, are We? Audiences and New Media


Chapter 10: Conclusion: The 'How' and 'Why' of Media Analysis
Introduction: This is Not a Methods Chapter...

A Step-by-Step Approach to Doing Media Research

How to Usefully Engage with Existing Research

Doing Production, Content and Reception Research

Keep on Asking Awkward Questions...

Conclusion: The 'How' and 'Why' of Media Analysis



Click for online resources

For Students:

  • Chapter toolkits
  • Further reading and discussion points
  • Case studies
  • Online resources and links

For Lecturers:

  • Tutorial exercises
  • Sample exam/assessment questions

As with the previous two editions, this will prove to be an essential course book for students. Introduces students to key theoretical concepts and encourages critical thinking about the role of the media within society.

Ms Lesley Albon
Department of Media, Chester University
February 21, 2014

This is easily the best textbook of its kind, Apart from dealing thoroughly with the subject matter, the author's own research competence shines through. It positions better students for solid research in the field of mass communications.

Dr Michael Breen
Media & Communication, Univ of Limerick, Mary Immaculate Coll
February 20, 2014

Very helpfull to enlighten students on how media - indeed- work.

Dr Sonia Nelson
Dept of Mass Communication, Sultan Qaboos University
February 5, 2014

Although I have recommended it for Honours (4th level BA) I am prescribing it as essential reading for my MA and PhD students (aproximately 10 students). It is excellent.

Professor Beschara Karam
Department of Communicatin Science, University of South Africa
February 4, 2014

Fascinating and up-to-date text with hands on examples for students.

Dr Ayoade Amuda
Humanities, University of South Wales
February 3, 2014

A great text for students of journalism and communication studies. I have added this text to the reading list for my forthcoming MA course, and am certain it will be enjoyed for its refreshing writing style, clear structure and attention to detail. Happy to see new cases such as the Leveson Inquiry included.

Mrs Line Thomsen
Inst for Information & Media Studies, Aarhus University
January 15, 2014

Very useful book which explores how the media influences and impacts on our day to day lives....used in conjunction with a crime in the media module it widens and expands a students understanding of the power processes in play within our very powerful media consortium.

Applied Social Science (Carlisle), University of Cumbria
January 12, 2014

The book has a critical approach that I would like to see in textbooks. Especially in the last chapter it encourages the readers to think and engage in analysis and producing articles.

Management and Vocational School, Fatih University
December 26, 2013

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter One: Understanding the Media

For instructors

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