You need to have knowledge and understanding of these six topics:
OWNERSHIP Ways in which ownership of a media institution can affect or influence the content and distribution of its media texts.
MARKETING The way institutions can affect the marketing of media texts.
AUDIENCES The significance of media ownership to the way audiences receive texts.
TECHNOLOGY The importance of new technologies on media ownership and audiences.
PUBLIC SERVICE The cultural and financial differences between public service institutions and commercial institutions.
REGULATION the regulation of media institutions.

Use the anagram ‘AT PROM’ to help remember what’s important in Institutions. Anagrams are great for aide-memoirs. If you can’t work one out for yourself, use an internet based anagram server like this one to help you:
Brief Definition

A Media Institution is an established and regulated organisation that owns, and produces many different media products, systems, and texts.

Media institutions tend to be large global corporations such as broadcasting companies, newspaper and magazine publishers, film production companies, music and publishing companies, and some governments.

In writing about media institutions it is best to avoid making generalised comments such as ‘they influence everything we watch’ or ‘they make enormous profits’. Try to be more specific and quote actual examples.

Media production is a market place where media products are bought and sold. Some products are more successful than others, and make money for everyone involved including the institution.

Some institutions may seek to have some influence over their products, and use them to gain political favours. Totalitarian governments always take over television and radio stations as a way of controlling the flow of information to people.

For example, the news of the uprising by monks in Burma in September 2007 was ruthlessly suppressed by the Burmese government. Only a few websites and mobile phone pictures were able to get the news to the rest of the world. This does not happen in western democracies were a free press underpins the concept of a working democratic system of government.

A popular misconception is that all media is owned by a few wealthy influential tycoons who are trying to take over the world with stealth and dirty tricks using James Bond style tactics to achieve political power. In fact the media in the west is carefully regulated, and media tycoons have less and less power over an articulate and well informed audience in the modern, competitive, multi-channel, digital environment.

This does not mean that global media institutions are able to do what they like or can contravene the law. The possible excesses of commercial media corporations are controlled by regulation. In the UK broadcasting is controlled by OFCOM and the film industry by the British Board of Film Classification

In pairs research the ownership and marketing of a recent film. There may be more than one institution who owns the rights to the film.

These details can be found on the poster of the film, its website and via film databases such as the Internet Movie Database Find out:
Who is the production company? It may be a British company like Working Title or a US studio – Warner Bros. This is the company that actually produced the film.
Who is the distributor? This is the company who market the film and arrange for it to be shown in cinemas worldwide.
Which other companies are involved?Companies like Panasonic or Coca Cola may have invested in the film and have their name associated it.

There are three main types of ownership of media institutions: Commercial, Public Serviceand Governmental.

Commercial companies exist to make profits for their shareholders, and do so by producing media products that people want and are willing to pay for.

In the UK broadcasting companies such as ITV orSKY make programmes and broadcast them, raising money to pay for them through advertising around the programmes. The content, style and amount of advertising is regulated by Ofcom.

Newspapers are commercial enterprises owned by a variety of commercial institutions. The Times is owned by the global company News International which also owns Sky television. They are less regulated than broadcasters but must still obey the laws of the land such as libel (they cannot tell destructive lies about a person), and contempt of court (they cannot report certain things that happen in courts especially to do with children).

In the UK Channel 4 is only government owned broadcasting channel. It is owned by the UK government, but run as an independent, self supporting (through advertising), entrepreneurial organisation with no government involvement.

The BBC is the only entirelyPublic Servicemedia organisation in the UK, although the three other terrestrial TV channels (ITV,Five, and C4) do have to have some elements of public service broadcasting including screening regular news bulletins.

The BBC is funded by the Licence Fee. This a compulsory levy which every household with a television has to pay. Some people erroneously think that the BBC is a government organisation.

It is entirely independent and has no links whatsoever with the government. It was set up by Royal charter to serve the British public. Replacing the BBC Governors in 2007, the BBC Trust is now the body that oversees the BBC on behalf of licence fee payers. The BBC carries no advertising, and has one of the most visited websites in the world:

Marketing is a large area with many strands. At one level marketing is about companies knowing all about their customers, their competitors and where their products fit in the market place. The car maker BMW needs to know who buys its cars and why and who their competitors are – Mercedes, and what is different about BMW cars that will make customers buy them and not Mercedes. Marketing is how they find out all these things.

From a media perspective marketing is vital not only for selling a film or a magazine, but also for placing advertisements in television schedules so that the company has the best exposure to the most suitable audiences (see Mediaedu Audience). The company will pay more for the advertisement to be scheduled for suitable ‘target’ audiences.

A sportswear company like Nike will want to advertise during a major sporting event like theWorld Cup. It wants an audience of interested potential customers and as a global company wants a very large audience so the World Cup is ideal. But rival German company Adidasalso want that same audience. This is where the broadcaster can make a profit, but not as large as you might think. The broadcaster will have had to pay a very large fee for the rights to the World Cup so it needs hefty advertising revenue to recoup its original costs. Media finances are not easy.

So marketing is important to the broadcaster to make sure it stays in business, and to commercial companies who need exposure for their products. Also marketing helps media institutions to sell their own media products e.g. films, newspapers, magazines, music and all types of ‘content’.

Many media institutions are involved with the marketing of their products.

The way films are marketed is vital to the success of the film. A proportion of the budget of a film is spent on marketing. This is not the same as television where very little is spent on marketing a particular programme. Many TV programmes can only afford a simple press launch and a DVD sent to newspaper reviewers which they may or may not watch.

A major blockbuster film such as the recentDisney Pixar owned animation Ratatouille has millions of dollars spent on marketing a film about a rat!

Cinemas have full colour cardboard cut-outs of the main rat character making him very approachable, friendly and cheeky. He entices us to want to watch him.

The newspapers have been full of jokey stories about ‘the rat that can cook’ and some of the voice over stars have been on hand to give interviews.

The Hollywood publicity machine has targeted all media outlets with information about this film as they know that the more it is talked about the more people will go and see it. The box office returns tell us that they have been successful, or is the success of the film due to other factors – such as it’s a pretty good, witty, well made film?
The Marketing Mix

There is a formula for marketing which has proved successful over a long time. It is called the4 Ps – Product, Price, Place, Promotion.
Students should also look at direct advertising e.g. magazine, billboard, TV etc and Indirect advertising e.g. feature article about a product, film review, celebrity endorsement etc.

This activity can be done in pairs or singly. Go into the field i.e. high street and research marketing promotions by large multinational companies such asOrange, Vodaphone, a car company, Sony, Apple,Nike, and Nintendo.

Find an example of direct advertising, indirect advertising, promotion (competition etc) and television marketing.

Discuss the role of the media institutions in the marketing.


Media institutions have various ways of getting their message and their products across to audiences. They can broadcast their message – this means aiming at a mass audiencethrough a mass medium such as television or radio. They can go for narrowcasting, which means targeting a specific audience. This term is important in the current digital era because it refers to fragmented audiences.

With so many television and radio channels to choose from, an audience for any one channel will be much less than when there were only 3 TV channels. The audience becomes broken in to sections (fragmented) and the institutions must find which sections will find their products appealing.

Music radio is firmly fragmented along the lines of taste and musical genre e.g. Radio 1 is pop, Radio 2middle of the road, Radio 3 classical etc.

Many stations seek to broaden their audience base by moving gingerly into other genres e.g. Radio 3 has jazz on Fridays. In the evenings on Radio 2 there are many specialist shows for an even more fragmented audience e.g. folk music and cinema organ music.

The BBC, the institution responsible for these stations, is trying to satisfy a large and diverse audience with many different musical tastes. It believes that as everyone pays the Licence Fee then as many people as possible in the UK should find something they like on BBC radio stations. Narrow casting is more attractive to institutions with a huge variety of digital radio stations now available on the internet.

Large media institutions aim for global reach. This means aiming for a global audience in many countries.

An example would be News Corporation (the parent institution that owns Sky and The Sun newspaper) which reaches into Asia, Africa, Australia and the US, with a variety of products aimed at the specific audiences in those countries.

Research a global media company and its ‘reach’ - how many countries and how many products does the French company Vivendi reach.

Vivendi is a leader in media and telecommunications, music, interactive games, television, film, fixed and mobile telecommunications.

The impact of digital technology has had a marked effect on media institutions. What they have realised is that it is no longer viable to be just a film producer or television broadcaster. Institutions must be involved in the the production of content, and distribution of that content on many different digital platforms.

A platform is a technical system for distributing media content. These range from mobile phone to podcasts to cinema with the internet as being the most far reaching. The coming together of these technologies is known as convergence. This basically means all types of video, audio and print can be accessed in one place.

It is interesting that it is a Public Service Broadcaster - the BBC – who is at the forefront of convergence. Its television programme making departments are providing content such as podcasts for its interactive website, offering a way of watching many of its programmes after broadcast via a BBC player known as the BBC iPlayer.

The 21st century audience is no longer reliant on television schedules to watch its favourite programmes. It can download them to watch whenever it is convenient as a form of podcast. Already BBC radio has a ‘listen again’ facility for listening to programmes that have already been broadcast on a computer, and some of these can be downloaded as podcasts.

Access to media content has never been easier. Television programmes from all channels can be easily recorded and stored on hard disc with a PVR – Personal Video Recorder – some broadcast companies have their own PVRs such as Sky Plus.

It is already possible to watch TV programmes downloaded to a mobile phone. What is the next development?
Activity 1

Look into your crystal ball and see if you can guess the future of digital technology how will media institutions be distributing their texts and content in 20 years time. Set up a discussion group. How will you receive your TV programmes? What institutions will still be around in 20 years time – the BBC, Virgin Media, News International? Maybe you will work for one of these groups – what sort of thing might you be doing?
Activity 2

In the music business the sale of CDs has fallen to a new low threatening the CD format as a viable product – how should music be distributed? Look at it from the Point Of View (POV) of a musician wanting to make a living out of recorded music, and of an institution trying to market and make a profit out of selling music.
Public Service

In the ownership section we have looked at the BBC as the major institution in the UK providing Public Service Broadcasting (PSB). Other countries have their own version ofPSB.

The consensus among politicians and the public is that PSB upholds valuable standards in broadcasting, and provides audiences with a rich mix of advertising free programming. This is very popular with audiences.

The main discussion over PSB is how it is funded. The method of financing PSB in the UK is not popular with commercial media institutions. They think that having a large, guaranteed income via a non-negotiable tax (the Licence Fee) gives the BBC an unfair advantage over its commercial rivals. Some countries allow limited advertising on their PSB channels, and consequently have a lower licence fee.

Parliamentary committees have examined alternative ways of paying for PSB. The licence fee has always come out as the fairest and most effective way of funding PSB, and safeguarding high standards of broadcasting and related internet activity.

Commercial institutions try to combat the power of the BBC by becoming larger and creatingvertical integration. This is where an institution has shares or owns each part of the production and distribution process. For example: Warner Bros Entertainment calls itself a fully integrated broad based entertainment company which owns film studios and the means to distribute the films as well as some of the cinemas in which they are shown. Warner Brosin itself is part of an even bigger conglomerate called Time Warner which is a huge media conglomerate institution which uses horizontal Integration to consolidate its power and profits.

Horizontal Integration is where an organisation develops by buying up competitors in the same section of the market e.g. one music publisher buys out other smaller music publishers.Time Warner describes itself:

Time Warner Inc. is a leading media and entertainment company, whose businesses include interactive services, cable systems, filmed entertainment, television networks and publishing.

‘Whether measured by quality, popularity or financial results, our divisions are at the top of their categories. AOL, Time Inc., Time Warner Cable, Home Box Office, New Line Cinema, Turner Broadcasting System and Warner Bros. Entertainment maintain unrivalled reputations for creativity and excellence as they keep people informed, entertained and connected.

Our enterprise is more than a collection of great brands that are owned under one roof.Time Warner’s businesses strive to gain competitive advantage from opportunities for constructive collaboration.’

There are issues that you can discuss such as whether the size of ownership affects the product, and how a very large institution may become too distant from its artists and audiences. Some music artists, like George Michael, have taken their music company to court – is this to do with issues about institutions?

The rise of very large global institutions raises issue of ownership as decisions about the variety, quality and range of media products available to media audiences are controlled by a few large companies.

Research one large, global media organisation such as Walt Disney, Sony or Bertlesmannor Time Warner.

Research one smaller media organisation such as the BBC, Capital Radio Group, orChannel 4.

Discuss the differences between the two organisations.

The three main regulators of media in the UK are Ofcom, the BBFC and the BBC Trust, which acts as the regulatory body for the whole of the BBC.

1. Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications and wireless communications services.

It is responsible for applying adequate protection for audiences against offensive or harmful material, and for audiences against unfairness or the infringement of privacy.

2. The BBFC, the British Board of Film Classification is the independent regulator for the film and video industry in the UK.

This organisation is responsible for issuing the age certificates on films and videos.

3. The BBC Trust is the sovereign body of the BBC, and as such is its regulator. Its independent trustees act in the public interest and aim to ensure:(from the website)
that the BBC remains independent, resisting pressure and influence from any source
that the BBC’s management delivers public value by providing distinctive services of the highest quality to all the people and all the communities across the United Kingdom
that the BBC contributes to the standing of the United Kingdom in the world, to the economy and to British culture
that the BBC meets its mission to inform, educate and entertain with ambition and fulfils the public purposes laid down in its Royal Charter.

Regulators cover a wide variety of areas mainly to do with content of media texts for example Codes of Taste and Decency restrict the amount and type of adult content available on non-subscription television and radio. Also the used of swearing and violence on television is regulated.

Advertisements are regulated not just for content but, for example, for the way the advertisement is displayed, and at what time it can be broadcast. In 2007 Ofcom decided, after Parliamentary pressure, that advertisements for fast food cannot be broadcast during children’s television.