The media industry is a powerful force in today’s world, ‘news’ is never quite what it seems, and youngsters should have better awareness of how it works by dipping into the BBC’s Bitesize on Media Studies, a free online resource that helps children in secondary education study for a GCSE in the subject. A key point this resource makes is that ‘organisations in the media industry produce content with the aim of making money from our consumption’. It also makes the point that media producers are always seeking to grab our attention and to influence the way we think, our opinions, and the way we live our lives. Content, which we now tend to consume individually using computers, tablets, and smartphones, includes news which often triggers instantaneous, ill-considered, social media outcries.
There’s always been a love-hate relationship between the media and businesses, governments, and politicians. This latter group use the media when it suits them, and the media often challenges this group when it’s commercially attractive to do so. During his career, the Badger had some training and subsequent experience interfacing with the media, and he learned that there’s always a hunt for an angle and a story in every interaction. The Badger often giggles when consuming today’s news because it’s easy to see what he was taught in media training played out by others.
ITV’s recent report about Amazon destroying unsold stock in one of its UK warehouses and sending things to landfill generated a giggle. Their report was quickly repeated in, for example, the USA and Australia. The Badger’s giggle was because Amazon’s response to ITV’s report, which rather predictably involved undercover filming and an ex-Amazon employee, was robust and played with a straight bat. It’s doing nothing illegal. Its policy and priority is to resell, donate, recycle, or send items to energy recovery, and it says it’s untrue that unused stock is sent to landfill. Who do you believe? ITV, after all, is a commercial organisation with commercial motives, and the instant global spread of their story is likely to have generated income.
The Badger found himself wondering whether ITV – just another commercial organisation seeking profits for shareholders – is a valid scrutineer. He then giggled at the thought of the situation being reversed with Amazon doing undercover filming and investigations within ITV. It would be fun to see not only social media predictably explode with ill-considered outrage, but also Amazon use the result to produce content distributable to consumers through its own services. More seriously, however, given the pervasiveness of the media in every facet of life in our digital world, perhaps it’s time to make how the media industry really works a mandatory part of the educational curriculum. Our youngsters might then learn never to take the media content they consume at face value.