For this assignment I am required to look at the screened news bulletin extracts and produce a detailed analysis of them, I must also interlace one of the news concepts within it. The concept that I have decided upon is ‘news values’. I am going to discuss how and why each of the news stories was chosen. I will touch on various points which I feel are relevant to the choice of headline and subsequent stories. I will discuss the news values according to Galtung and Ruge’s specific list devised in1965 and apply them to the selected news stories. I am going to begin by discussing the BBC news bulletin followed by the others. I am going to at firstly, the Israeli bombing, and I will also discuss the stories which follow this headline as each of them differ greatly between each of the bulletins. I will question why each of the stories have been chosen and discuss why they have been placed in that specific order. The order of the stories gives an insight into each of the separate channels news values and I will deliberate over why I feel they have such news values
News values exist to determine which news should be broadcast. If a story is important, but not relevant the media can manipulate the story and include words, images and people who will help them relate to the story. “Another thing that makes stories memorable is the vivid verbal or visual imagery” (Sparks et al, 2000: 221)
For example by showing striking images or doing vox-pops, can engage the audience and help them understand more, as people are more likely to pay attention to important issues if they are “presented to them engagingly” (Sparks et al, 2000: 227)
The screened news broadcasts consist of three separate bulletins from the same day.
One from each BBC, ITV and C4. I will begin with the story which features as a headline in each of these bulletins. The story of a bomb blast which occurred in Israel. This fits in with five of Galtung & Ruge’s ideas of typical news values, primarily, consonance. This event is something that is not rare in Israel and therefore meets our preconceived ideas about this particular country. However, though it is not a rare event it still comes as unexpected to us. It is also meaningful to the audience, as there is a symbolic relevance to us because ‘ordinary people’ like ourselves have been killed in a terrorist attack.
“Showing the personal side of public events may be the most effective way to make people understand the impact of those events. Personal narratives, with clear structures, moral point and vivid imagery are memorable” (Sparks et al, 2000: 217)
Also, although this is not a rare event in Israel, it is still unexpected, so we get the shock element which draws in the audience. Lastly this is a very negative story which is another prime factor about whether a news story is broadcast. Another element which is evident in the headline story throughout the channels is the presence of shocking images. This is imperative as “for television, the existence of a striking image will actually determine whether a story is used or not.” (Sparks et al, 2000: 221). This draws up the question of whether this story would even have been used if these pictures were not present. I believe this would not have been the case however as a lot more of the news values are present within this story.
I would like to touch on the next story which appears in both the ITV and C4 news programmes but not in the BBC. This is another bomb blast story, however this time in Moscow. Although this is the second story on the agenda it is practically the same as the headline story however all shown are several striking images and a brief statement about what happened. I feel that this story was only included in the bulletin because in relation to what Sparks says above, there is the presence of striking images which gives this story more importance. Its probable that as this was a breaking news story, the BBC didn’t included it as they just didn’t know about it in time to include it.
O’ Sullivan states “That far from being spontaneous reactions to random events, news is selected” shaped and structured according to a range of ideological conventions, institutional practices and assumptions about the audience” (O’ Sullivan et al, 1997: 250). Showing us that despite how it may seem it is impossible for the mass media to report every single piece of news which is going on in the world today. Therefore if they cannot get to a story on time or at all they just won’t talk about it and as “there is no alternative to the mass media for knowing about the world outside our immediate surroundings” (Sparks et al, 2000: 211) we just don’t get to hear about it. Thus meaning “If stories are not placed on the agenda by the media the audience cannot discuss them” (Sparks et al, 2000: 224). If the media don’t tell us, how do we know?
C4 on the other hand go into great depth with the Moscow story incorporating it with the Israeli bombing and the ‘War on Terror’ in America. This doesn’t give each story a sense of importance over the other. The bombing stories each include similar news values as I discussed earlier in the BBC bulletin. The ‘War on Terror’ is something that unites everyone together throughout the world who is against terror as well as being related to both of these stories.
The next story which appears in the BBC is about Royal mail. This story however comes a lot further down on the agenda in ITV news and is not apparent in the C4 news, showing that each consider different news values to be more important as “news values themselves derive from the two prime determinants of news making; perceptions of the audience and the availability of materials” (O’ Sullivan et al, 1997: 250). Each channel will decide upon the order of stories according to their audiences as “knowledge gaps among people of different educational levels, largely depends on the type of issues covered in the media” (Sparks et al, 2000: 191. For example the BBC’s aim is to cater for everyone and therefore have to include certain stories so there is something for everyone. Whereas ITV broadcasts what the majority wants, meaning they have to broadcast stories that will appeal to the most people first, with subsequent stories following. C4 will differ once again as their aim is to provide something different to the audience and taking into account the type of people that watch, will follow a different set of news values.
The Royal Mail story employs a number of Galter and Ruge’s news values as it is relevant to the audience. It affects everybody who uses the postal system. It has reference to persons who are affected; members of the general public. They are included via vox-pops. Using these relates the audience to the story even more as it involves people similar to them. This isn’t an ‘event’ as such, but rather a slow ongoing subject, which according to Galter & Ruge is an aspect which would make it less likely to be broadcast. This could be one of the reasons why this story isn’t as talked about on ITV and is not featured at all in the C4 news.
The subsequent story involves the doctors who worked with Harold Shipman. They are being accused of misconduct as they failed to see what Shipman was up to. I believe this story features in the news as it is related to the big news story about Harold Shipman from several years back. Therefore a lot of people would be interested in this story. It is also quite unexpected as nothing like this was mentioned at the time of the event. It has a symbolic relevance to the audience as these people who are being accused have standing in the community and are people who the public trust; it relates them to the people who were affected by Harold Shipman. Additionally, this story is negative as something unpleasant is happening to somebody else. This story can also be covered relevantly easily therefore giving it extra news value, against a story that is hard to get information on.
On both the other bulletins on ITV and C4, the next story is very different. It is about a scientist who claims he can clone human DNA. This is relevant to the audience as it is something that could affect everyone in the future. Sparks states “relevant news consists of stories that are memorable and that take on a life of their own outside the immediate context of the newspaper or television broadcast” (Sparks et al, 2000: 216). This story is a very controversial one which could prompt many discussions and arguments amongst people. It is also quite a gripping story making it quite important in accordance to news values as “news audience generally prefer lively dramatic human interest stories over news about political and economic issues” (Sparks et al, 2000: 211). The choice of story here once again accentuates that ITV and C4 can show stories which appeal to the majority whereas BBC has to show something for everyone,
The remaining stories which are featured at the end of each of the bulletins is as always the sports and entertainment news or the ‘soft news’. This is always shown last as it not deemed as being equally important as ‘hard news’. The reason that it features in the bulletins at all however is because “news that would be dismissed as gossip by critics may be perceived as useful information by audiences” (Sparks et al, 2000: 219. These stories appeal to a lot of people as they are more ‘interesting’. “News can and should be pleasurable; conversations that viewers and readers have about news stories serve to bind people together and give them common topics of conversation” (Sparks et al, 2000: 223. As these stories appeal to members of popular culture, it is perceived as being unimportant.
“The fear of tabloidized political coverage is often based on the assumption that it is bad for people if they are attracted by personalities and avoid the ‘hard stuff’ of politics” (Sparks et al, 2000: 191)
In conclusion to my analysis of these news broadcasts I feel that each of the channels follows Galtung and Ruges list of news values, but not strictly, as they also consider other factors, mainly the audience. Certain aspects, such as age, race, sex, or educational background of their viewers could effect what they may find interesting or important. Therefore they order the stories in different ways in relation to what they presume the audience will find more important or interesting.
Although the headlines of each of the segments is the same, the following stories vary quite a lot. The order in which they go shows the values of the audience. All of the channels place the biggest story with the biggest shock factor first, then they put the ones most relevant, interesting and shocking in an order that appeals to their audience. Last comes the ones deemed as unimportant; sport and celebrities stories. Although these are assumed to be inconsequential, the majority of the audience find these the most interesting, and will often discuss them with friends and family as they are easier to understand. Although a story’s placing in the news is determined for us, we are able to decide upon its importance for ourselves and are able to find out more information on the subject if we have found it to be more important than the news has classed it as being.
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Eldridge, J (1994) Getting the Message: News, Truth and Power. Routledge: London
Harper, P. (1991) Sociology in Action: Investigating the Media Harper Collins: London
O’ Sullivan et al. (1997) The Media Studies Reader. Hodder: London
Sparks et al. (2000) Tabloid Tales: Global Debates Over Media Standards. Rowman & Littlefield: Oxford