MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT MANAGEMENT ISSUES: BALANCING TALENT, BUSINESS GOALS AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY Francisco J. Pérez-Latre
3. Why is it unique: a unique business environment 9
5. Media as part of large corporations. Threat or opportunity? 16
6. Media and entertainment companies as wonderful settings in media-driven societies 26
7. Some contemporary challenges for quality media and entertainment. 29
7.1 Poor credibility 29
7.2 Short-term orientation: lying about circulation 31
7.3 Short-term orientation: dropping news and political coverage 33
7.4 Short-term orientation: selling sex, provocation and the quest for edgy content. 39
7.5 Lack of audience knowledge and understanding, 50
7.6 Understanding audiences: protecting children and adolescents. 51
7.7 Lack of creativity in film and broadcasting 65
7.8 Lack of creativity in advertising 72
8. Industries in transition. 73
8.1 The paradigm shift in advertising. 74
8.2 Change in the publishing industry 95
8.3 Change in television: from broadcasting to narrowcasting 117
8.4 Change in radio: satellite technology changes the scene. 137
9. What is media quality? 143
10. Balancing talent, business goals and social responsibility: four challenges four a business with cultural impact. 146
11. References 154
This is an account of some of the major issues faced by media and entertainment management companies. It is also the product of a reflection on the media and entertainment landscape in the United States in the beginning of the 21st Century. Issues are described as they unfolded in the United States. But the American media landscape is very influential in the world at large. Therefore we cannot say that what developed in the US has no influence in other parts of the world.
Besides, most major media and entertainment issues are truly global. That is one of the reasons why I am hopeful that a variety of audiences interested in media and entertainment will enjoy the analysis of most issues portrayed here. Media and entertainment companies are very influential in today’s world. They deal with really high stakes. In the following pages you will understand how in this industry there is a unique interplay of talent and creativity; need for business acumen and social responsibility. Such may be the defining traits of this industry, which make it relevant and fascinating.
Media and entertainment companies are excellent venues for personal growth of the men and women that work in them and the audiences that, sometimes ardently, follow them. Of course, there is wrongdoing in the media and entertainment scene. But it is always easier to criticize than to build a healthy media culture through powerful, well-managed media brands. Just thinking in how media have broadened our world experience is really a learning exercise. I will try to point into positive developments and explain that wrongdoing here is closely related with lack of quality work. Of course, media managers and companies have crucial responsibilities in the contemporary world but we will help them more pointing to excellence models than talking about how dangerous media are.
The media and entertainment field includes a broad range of different industries related to what audiences do in their leisure time. Besides work and sleep, media and entertainment consumption accounts for the largest part of audience time usage. That is why it might be useful to define which industries we cover while we talk about such an important field. It is a field heavily influenced by technological change, regulation and uncertainty. It includes the publishing, broadcasting industry, film, music, advertising, sports, online and the videogame industry (which is already larger than the film industry).
In the following lines we will look at the impact of these industries as a whole. It is true that each of them has its own set of characteristics. But audiences are using most of them at the same time and their impact in popular culture occurs across media platforms.
It is significant to talk about this in a media management setting for a reason: media companies have to be managed balancing talent, creativity, business acumen and social responsibility. Business understanding here only goes so far: talent appreciation and social responsibility are always part of the equation. Media management needs to consider the role of social responsibility, which makes this industry unique. And media responsibility is not about negatives: it is about building something, taking into consideration the above mentioned specifics of the media and entertainment industries.
Besides, media managers need to be aware of the uniqueness of their product. Media is now a common language for many actors in society and its influence goes well beyond media outlets: it is a driving force in society, culture and politics. That is an aspect that probably should not be overlooked.
2. Why it is unique: understanding the language of media. One desiring to influence culture must know the language of the media. Such a language has become a common currency that goes beyond media practitioners and affects every single actor in the social and cultural scene. Media, with its inexorable technological development, shape attitudes and beliefs and helps to make the ideas broadcast by social actors more consistent, in an environment heavily influenced by instant communication and speed.
Genuine comprehension of the language implies a profound change in attitudes and perceptions by all those participating in social dialogue. Principals include the immediacy of news, the inescapability of transparency, and the importance of headlines. Nobody will read the body of the article if the headline doesn’t grab him. First paragraphs are also instrumental: media need summaries. Those who want to communicate and influence culture have a need to work according to this unique language that asks for precision, newsworthiness, currency and the capacity for synthesis. Somehow, knowledge of this language is a part of the rhetoric training that is needed in the beginning of the century.
Iconic symbols are another important aspect of media language. Iconic expressions find their way into popular culture, allowing firms and institutions to advance their values and influence the “framing” of persons and organizations alike. In advertising, for example, such symbols give origin to such powerful icons as the brands (Holt, 2004).
The remarkable days that followed the death of John Paul II provide an historic example of how news has the capacity to produce a “cycle” with a life of its own. If the event remains newsworthy for a protracted period, it ascends into the realm of historic events, provoking reactions and even instant actions from audiences globally. In the case of John Paul II, a real “globalization of astonishment” occurred. But in other cases the news cycle could be negative. Organizations must be prepared for a worst-case scenario involving a bad news cycle. It is not sufficient, but rather detrimental to an institution’s image to just ignore the situation. One must respond to it. Frequently, ignoring the situation gives the appearance of covering up, which only worsens one’s public image. . Institutions can ready themselves for this contingency by developing a profound situation analysis capacity that will allow a correct assessment of their situation and thereby avert a crisis and develop a winning strategy.
Anyone desirous of having an influence on contemporary thought and opinion must have a good understanding of the different “screens” that rule so many lives. Contemporary citizens have at their disposal computer screens, consoles, cell phones, PDAs, etc. Screens, with their ability to broadcast instant information and their potential for human interaction bring with them new opportunities for relationships among persons. There arise new possibilities for audience participation that are increasingly active and open new avenues for social mobilization on behalf of social causes. . Using these new technologies, civil society can become a bigger participant in the social dialogue, without strong ties to the value system that permeates the largest news organizations.
Currently media languages in the different platforms tend to integration. Thus those who promote a movie (film) think at the same time of selling its soundtrack (music), advertising it in web pages (Internet) and through TV commercials (advertising and television broadcasting). Finally, they might launch a videogame with the movie theme (gaming). All these platforms influence the different audiences and publicize values that lead to a certain world view and give meaning to specific decisions that people make about their lifestyle. The media-generated popular culture, using all the different “screens and platforms” has a unique capacity to produce trends.
Effectively using the language of media requires not only knowledge of its rules but also a deep understanding of one’s perceived identity, frequently achieved through research.
The language of media is very much part of contemporary language, which allows people to communicate in such a way that understanding among people can be better achieved and messages can be culturally relevant. For its quality as a lingua franca for different institutions and causes, media language certainly goes beyond the media itself. Influencing culture is a task that requires understanding of media rules and also attention to message form. In this light, they should be briefer (speed being a salient characteristic of contemporary media landscapes), more original and segmented to their different target audiences.
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation describes eloquently the changing face of media that need to be properly understood: “not only is everything constantly changing, but the pace of change is accelerating as well. Media devices are simultaneously becoming bigger and smaller, portable and more built-in. New homes come complete with special nooks for over-sized TV screens and home entertainment centers, while new cars come with personal TV screens in the back of each seat. The amount of media a person used to consume in a month can be downloaded in minutes and carried in a device the size of a lipstick tube. Today we get movies on cell phones, TVs in cars and radio through the Internet. Media technologies themselves are morphing and merging, forming an ever expanding presence throughout our daily environment. Cell phones alone have grown to include video game platforms, e-mail devices, digital cameras and Internet connections” (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2005, 4).
New possibilities for participation appear for audiences that are increasingly active and have new ways to achieve social mobilization for different causes. The campaign for Howard Dean has illustrated just that, prompting some authors to say that the Internet is transforming American life by evenly distributing power. The Dean campaign is done in the assumption that the revolution will not be televised and that the Internet can help to overthrow even political regimes .
The impressive birth and development of blogs is another telling example of how this audience is not passive anymore. Web logs have played a crucial role in some recent media stories like the “60 minutes” report on Bush´s National Guard Service and were everywhere in the recent U.S. election campaign. Blogs raise also concerns, though. They are unchecked and might easily be in the hands of radicals. Still, their presence shows how active an audience can be and how they can influence mainstream media coverage.
Posner considers blogs as “the latest, and perhaps gravest, challenge to the journalistic establishment”. Journalism accuses bloggers of having lowered standards. But their real concern is less high-minded –it is the threat that bloggers, who are mostly amateurs, pose to professional journalists and their principal employers, the conventional media (…) Having no advertisers (though this is changing) he has no reason to pull his punches. And not needing a large circulation to cover costs, he can target a segment of the reading public much narrower than a newspaper or a television news channel could aim for. He may even be able to pry that segment away from the conventional media. Blogs pick off the mainstream media’s customers one by one, as it were” (Posner, 2005).
The “blogosphere” is continuing to grow. Blog trackers have told in a recent report (BBC News Online, August 2, 2005) that the number of blogs stands at 14.2 million, up from 7.8 million. The number of blogs is doubling every five months: one blog is created in the world every second. Blogs come in many different shapes and forms, for professional and personal use. They have been used as campaign sites, personal diaries, art projects, online magazines and places for community networking. Blogs have played a part in highlighting issues not covered by journalists. They have also proved to be a valuable channel for journalists in countries without other publishing means.
Audiences are becoming part of media events; with bystanders playing a significant role in reporting through online pictures immediately what happened in the tsunami in South East Asia or more recently in the blasts in London in July 7, 2005. News organizations are not the only providers of news.
NY1 has introduced “The Call”, a television newscast to be programmed exclusively by viewers. The news channel is providing web users a tool just like the one producers of the channel use to program their newscasts: a computer-generated rundown of all the stories available for that night’s broadcast.
The Internet in general and blogs in particular “have become magnets for advice, opinion and personal observations sent in by individuals to media web sites and on personal blogs” (The New York Times, August 31, 2005). The tragic hurricane Katrina has been another example of what the Internet and bloggers do typically in response to major news events. When flooding stopped presses and broadcasts, journalists and citizens turned to the Web. The Times-Picayune, whose daily circulation is 270,000, put out only an electronic edition in August 30, when the newspapers had to be evacuated.
The Internet is a very decentralized communications network and “can become more resilient than traditional media when natural disasters occur (…) phone calls to the New Orleans region met only busy signals, and the occasional communications from New Orleans to other parts of the country tended to be sent from the private e-mail accounts of editors and reporters (The New York Times, August 31, 2005).
Using these new technologies, civil society can become a participant in the social dialogue, without strong ties with the value system that permeates the largest news organizations. Thus technological development goes against those who think -more negatively- that over consumption of media is eroding our sense of community, provoking an interpersonal divide.