Work Related Blog from a while back #2

Shadows of Liberty is a 2012 documentary tracing the expansion of corporatism in the American media. Some may describe myself and Jess as the most “politically active” in the office (some might say “ridiculously cynical”). In any case, it seemed like an interesting and enlightening documentary and debate to go to on a surprisingly sunny Thursday afternoon.

Shadows of Liberty addresses several broad reaching themes, weaving examples from recent history – FBI whistleblowing, the super mergers of the late 90’s and 2000’s, the dubious morality of Dateline “To Catch a Predator” and the various corporation backed rulings of the FCC – with the overall assertion that the “free” press is anything but. Held at the LSE, the debate was obviously going to attract a certain type of audience, and the overriding atmosphere in the room was definitely that of liberal outrage. This was tempered slightly by the straight talking Charlie Beckett of POLIS, who offered a more mainstream look at the changes in corporate involvement in the media (cue a highly passionate debate about the virtues of American cable chat shows) to counter the poetic ramblings of the aristocratic -looking director Jean-Phillipe Tremblay.

Ridiculously incendiary comments from some student attendees lurking at the back of the room rather deflated the shell-shocked atmosphere after the film had been shown, and all in all I found the “documentary” to be too much hyperbole and too little substance. At several points we rolled our eyes at the leading questioning and the inductive arguments presented throughout the film to back up the points being made, and I’m pretty sure Tremblay wouldn’t be allowed within 10 feet of a Discovery presentation. However, it did address some interesting subject areas, especially interesting in the light of the on-going Levenson enquiry. The impact of corporate culture on the free press will surely have a massive impact on all our lives (if it doesn’t, it should), and questions about the morality of corporation sponsorship and patronage of the free press and the arts must be something that we all think about, as individuals, but also in our line of work. To what extent should our knowledge about corporate activity affect the nature of projects we take on; how far should segment readership demographics be relied on to present attitudinal and lifestyle typologies when we know exactly how much money is spent on pushing a tabloid agenda? Probably not questions that we can address in the day to day of our research work, and not issues that were dealt with satisfactorily in the documentary, but food for thought, none the less.

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About daniverrall
Researcher. Rower. Angry politico. I like shoes.

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