Take a minute to pause and think over all the media messages presented to you. It could be a song, a movie, news report or even an advertisement jingle. Who are represented in these various media messages? Or rather who aren’t included? Further, what do the messages intend to express? Often, the dominant groups in most societies are overrepresented while the minority groups are underrepresented. As such, dominant groups are the set of people who are in majority and claim the most privileges while minority groups are in fewer numbers and thus are underprivileged.
There are various ethnic, racial and cultural sets of people who form different diaspora, nationally or even globally. And media collectively needs to be as diverse as possible when it comes to its representation. Representation in the media is the way messages present age, gender, ethnicity, social issues, regional and national identity and events to the audiences. Media messages thus have the ability to shape and inform the audiences’ understanding and knowledge on important subjects. When it comes to representation in media, there are various aspects to consider such as construction, stereotypes, ideology, selection, anchorage, etc. Construction is the way in which a media message is put together.
For example in a television programme, it includes choice and editing of camera angles. In newspapers it includes selections of images and writing as well as the page layouts. Meanwhile, stereotypes are unfair categorisations of an individual or groups of people based on basic characteristics that tend to get inflated. Ideology represents the beliefs and ideas supported by media producers who are at the centre of the production of media messages. As such, the ideology of a director of a documentary may shape the way the movie is presented. It could unwittingly or blatantly purport a certain ideology that the audience might passively consume.
Selection refers to the ways media messages are selected. For example, newspapers may favour certain facts over the rest to alter the angle of their stories. Lastly, anchorage refers to the words that are paired with images to bolster the pictures with specific meanings. It can be seen in headlines and captions in newspapers. In film posters and adverts, this could mean taglines. These aspects altogether form a coherent whole when it comes to media representation and how it is acknowledged.
Media is ubiquitous which is why it exerts a strong influence and has the ability to form, change and shape the opinion of the masses worldwide. It was Thomas Carlyle who first termed media as the fourth pillar of democracy. However, on unfortunate cases, this pillar of democracy is misused to support tyrannical governments and leaders. Time and again media has been used to circulate propaganda throughout world history.
Thankfully in most democratic nations today, media is an extremely significant aspect to disseminate news and information and represent the minority groups. Democratic governments further allocate seats for marginalised individuals in official positions while institutions and organisations reserve seats and positions for citizens belonging to the minority groups.
Race, gender, ethnicity, nationality and culture are societal aspects that must be represented fairly and objectively in the media. When each individual has a voice that is heard equally, the society and the nation is vested with a socioeconomic rise in stature.