Community Attitudes and Changing Audiences: Integrating Australia’s Multicultural Diversity in Media Policy

By Virginia Anne Nightingale and Tim Dwyer.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

One of the recurring enigmas in research about cultural values and community attitudes concerns the tendency of research participants to take a more conservative position on social issues and the media than they apply to themselves. This was demonstrated in the study of children’s beliefs about media harm (UWS/ABA 2000) where children routinely assumed that children younger than them, or children of the opposite gender, or both, were likely to be the ones in need of protection from harmful media content. As Baker and others have noted, a similar phenomenon occurs in the legal discourse on community attitudes and the ‘third-person effect’.
These trends offer contradictory scenarios for the future relevance of the third-person effect and molar concepts like ‘community attitudes’. Firstly, the segmenting impact of advertiser demand increases the likelihood that some community groups may be increasingly unaware of the attitudes and values of other audience segments (Turow 1997). Secondly the impact of convergence on broadcasters is creating a climate for the development of ‘enhanced media’ where different sections of the mass audience are attracted by event programming. It is suggested that this leads to a simplification of what community attitudes are imagined to be, and that the attitudes promoted as ‘communal’ in such mainstream media events (Roscoe 2001) are likely to be increasingly media-driven (cf. Big Brother 4). Diversity is located at the margins of the media event, safely contained in blogs and chat rooms. And lastly the increased use of the Internet and the experience of interactivity suggests that while people increasingly engage with diverse identities online, this may increase their sensitivity to the possibility that others may be affected by media coverage in ways that they are not (thereby intensifying the third person effect).

Keywords: Media, Convergence, Cultural Values

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp.81-92. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 603.093KB).

Dr. Virginia Anne Nightingale

University of Western Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Virginia Nightingale is Chief Investigator for an ARC Discovery Project, The Power of the Image: Affect, Audience and Disturbing Imagery (2006 – 2008), with Associate Professor Anna Gibbs. The Discovery grant extends work initiated in a collaboration in 1999 with the Australian Broadcasting Authority on the Media Harm Project (Monograph 10, UWS and ABA, 2000) with 10 to 15 year olds. Other research focused on young people and the media has included a study of western Sydney children and advertising (8 – 15 year olds), the Australian component of an international investigation of Global Disney (young adults), an investigation of young adults’ memories of childhood TV viewing, and a Prix Jeunesse project, led by Professor J.D Halloran (Leicester University, 1980) on the link between national stereotypes and the media (12- 15 year olds). In addition to her commitment to qualitative and ethnographic research, Virginia has a detailed understanding of audience measurement and audience development. She also writes on new media and research methods.

Tim Dwyer

Lecturer, Media Policy and Research, University of Western Sydney, NSW, Australia

Dr. Tim Dwyer is Lecturer in Media Policy and Research, at the University of Western Sydney. He is a co-author of Content, Consolidation and Clout: How will Regional Australia be Affected by Changes to Media Ownership? with Derek Wilding, Helen Wilson, and Simon Curtis, published by the Communications Law Centre, 2006, and is co-editor with Virginia Nightingale of New Media Worlds: Challenges for Convergence, Oxford University Press, 2007. He is currently writing Media Convergence, to be published by Open University Press.

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