Media Studies

Intent Statement

The media plays a central role in contemporary society and culture. It shapes our perceptions of the world through the representations, viewpoints and messages it communicates. The media provides us with ways to interact with one another, it facilitates forms of cultural expression and it promotes participation in many aspects of society. Studying the media not only helps us communicate in all sorts of ways; it also enables us to understand how we are being communicated with.

Media industries employ huge numbers of people worldwide and operate as commercial industries on a global scale. It is likely that our students will witness a continued growth in the use and importance of different types of media as technology changes and develops. Media Studies offers young people opportunities to engage with contemporary and relevant texts that help them to define their place within the world. Through this study, students will understand the foundations of the how media texts are constructed, enabling them to question and explore aspects of the media that may seem familiar and straightforward from their existing experience in a critical way.

Our focus in this course is on the effective communication of knowledge, whilst offering opportunities for students to debate important questions about issues in the media through the use of a theoretical framework. We also aim to recognise the fundamental relationship between theoretical understanding and practical work, providing learners with exciting opportunities to develop media production skills. Students apply and develop their knowledge and understanding of language and representation in relation to media forms and products, and become creators of meaning themselves. Furthermore, they are offered a choice of briefs and forms within which to work, enabling them to explore and pursue their own media interests.

The study of a range of rich and stimulating media products is central to students’ learning, working from the product outwards to develop appreciation and understanding of the media and its context. Students draw on their existing experience, but they also extend their appreciation and critical understanding through the study of products with which they may be less familiar. The content of our curriculum also reflects the need for students to gain a secure contextual and cultural knowledge base. We focus predominantly on contemporary media, although this is contextualised and enhanced through the exploration of significant products from different historical periods. Media Studies allows students to examine historical, social, political and economic contexts that operate within the media. Studying relevant contexts enhances and deepens students understanding of the media, as they explore key influences on the products studied.

Through studying both established and evolving media forms, learners gain a true awareness of the role of the media in society and culture, both in the past and today.

The GCSE Media Studies course starts with a framework for exploring and creating products. This provides a foundation for all of the composites and will help students analyse and create media texts in a more critical way. The theoretical framework is divided into four inter-related areas:

  • Media language: How the media communicates meanings through their forms and codes and conventions
  • Representation: How the media portray events, issues, individuals and social groups
  • Media Industries: How the media industries’ processes of production, distribution and circulation affect media forms and platforms
  • Audiences: How media forms target, reach and address audiences; how audiences interpret and respond to them; and how audience members become producers themselves.

Students are then encouraged to apply these key concepts to a range of media products, starting with print texts, and then moving on to audio visual texts once they have gained some confidence in identifying and analysing features and representations. We start by looking at Pride and GQ magazines, exploring how media language is used to construct representations of race and gender, and introducing students to representation theories such as Laura Mulvey’s male gaze and Alvarado’s theory of race. Students will also begin developing practical production skills, using their developing schema of magazine codes and conventions to create an appropriate media product.

Skills of analysis are built on further when we move on to analysing Luther as an example of TV crime dramas. Luther both exemplifies and subverts typical representations in both its use of media language, genre conventions and representation of social groups, and so serves as a good foundation before later analysis of representation in advertising. Students then compare Luther to The Sweeney, exploring the evolution of the crime genre, and providing opportunities to link to theories such as Steve Neale’s theory of genre repetition and difference.

We then move on to advertising and marketing, where students explore a range of texts, both historical and contemporary. Students are now expected to consider the historical and cultural contexts of the texts we are studying and how this has informed the design and representations constructed. For example, we compare the film marketing posters for the James Bond films The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) and Spectre (2015), considering how each poster reflects societal viewpoints of their time. Time is spent developing their understanding of gender roles, significant news events and conventions of action films in the 1970s in particular.

With hopefully an enhanced ability to consider context in conjunction with media language and representation, the course progresses to exploring the promotion of music artists. We consider the evolving context of the music industry, particularly in relation to technologies, and explore how both contemporary and historical artists have used music videos to construct star personas, narratives and representations to market themselves.

Students should now be equipped with good understanding of how media language can be used to construct a range of media texts and shape representations, and some will be able to consider audience responses and cultural context too. This more developed schema should now enable students to successfully approach the non-exam assessment, which requires students to respond to a choice of set briefs. Students need to independently research, plan and produce a media text, exploring codes and conventions of existing texts, and applying their knowledge and understanding of the theoretical framework. This should be evident in their Statement of Aims, wherein they will outline what they will do and why, referencing media theories and all 4 key concepts.

At the beginning of Year 11, students progress onto creating the production itself. This gives students the opportunity to demonstrate both practical skills and also the schema they have developed through the previous composites. Successful students will also embed their knowledge of all 4 of the key concepts through these productions – media language, awareness of audience, the ability to represent social groups, and an understanding of media industries.

Students then move on to the final, most challenging composites: radio industry and newspapers. These two composites are harder, as students need to not only study the set products in depth for media language and audiences, but also need to understand their wider contextual position in terms of media industries. Radio and newspapers tend to be the industries students are least familiar with, but hopefully through their now more developed schema, will be able to place and understand these texts much more easily.

The A level Media Studies course starts with a similar framework for exploring and creating products. This provides a more in-depth foundation than the GCSE for all of the composites and will help students analyse and create media texts in a more critical way, increasingly combining textual analysis with media theory and contextual understanding.

Students then begin to apply these key concepts to a range of media products, starting with print and audio-visual advertising and marketing products. These first texts provide opportunities to identify and analyse a arrange of features and representations. In these texts, media language is used to construct representations of both race and gender, and so students are challenged to explore theoretical perspectives, such as Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity and Gilroy’s theories surrounding post-colonialism. Two of the texts are also historical, and so students will learn about changes in cultural and social context, and how these have influenced both representations and narratology. Students will also begin developing practical production skills, using their developing schema of advertising codes and conventions to create an appropriate media product.

Skills of analysis are then built on further when we move on to studying the film industry, with a focus on comparing how mainstream and independent films are marketed very differently. Black Panther (2018) is a in many ways a typical Hollywood text but which both exemplifies and subverts typical representations in its use of media language, genre conventions and representation of social groups in its marketing. By contrast, I, Daniel Blake (2016) is in many ways highly conventional as a British, independent social realist film, and students will develop their schema to understand how political ideologies are evident in both texts’ marketing strategies.

It then makes sense to further develop students’ knowledge of media industries by moving on to the video games industry. This industry is often one that students are already familiar with, but they need to understand its historical context and how ownership, advances in technology and large franchises influence the industry today. By analysing specific games, students are also expected to explore in depth the appeal of games to audiences, and how their responses to games may vary, referencing theories such as Stuart Hall’s reception theory and Gauntlett’s theories of identity.

Students have now studied a range of text forms and industries, and are now able to apply both textual analysis skills and understanding of cultural and political context to the study of the music industry, including the analysis of two very different music artists. In a similar format to the film industry, students will analyse music videos for a mainstream music artist and compare this to a niche artist. Students will need to understand the construction of star personas and how this can be used to convey political and social messages within texts. Niche artists, particularly in the indie genre, tend to focus more on narrative in their videos, and this is explored in some detail. Students are encouraged to think about how they would market an artist of their own creation, in order to expand their schema here.

With hopefully an enhanced ability to consider context in conjunction with media language and representation, the course progresses to exploring the radio industry. We consider the evolving context of the radio industry, particularly in relation to digital technologies, and explore how regulation and media industries can be both liberating and constricting to creativity. In contrast to the gaming industry, radio is frequently a text form and industry which students are less familiar with, so their understanding of the difference between commercial and public service broadcasters is essential here.

We then move onto studying the magazine industry in depth, now applying all 4 areas of the theoretical framework, which they should now be quite confident with. This topic is much more challenging, as we analyse both contemporary and historical magazine texts. Students need to understand how and why representations have changed over time, as well as understanding changes to the distribution and circulation of magazine products. Similar to the film industry, students will look at both mainstream/ conglomerate-produced texts, as well as small, niche publications. The influence of political, cultural and social contexts will also be studied.

Students should now be equipped with good understanding of how media language can be used to construct a range of media texts and shape representations, and some will be able to consider audience responses and cultural context too. This more developed schema should now enable students to successfully approach the non-exam assessment, which requires students to respond to a choice of set briefs. Students need to independently research, plan and produce a cross-media production, exploring codes and conventions of existing texts, and applying their knowledge and understanding of the theoretical framework. This should be evident in their Statement of Aims, wherein they will outline what they will do and why, referencing media theories and all 4 key concepts.

At the beginning of Year 13, students progress to creating the production itself. This gives students the opportunity to demonstrate both practical skills and also the schema they have developed through the previous composites. Successful students will also embed their knowledge of all 4 of the key concepts through these productions – media language, awareness of audience, the ability to represent social groups, and an understanding of media industries.

Students then move on to the final, most challenging composites: television in the global age, media in the online age and newspapers. These three composites are harder, as students need to not only study the set products in depth for media language and audiences, but also need to understand their wider contextual position in terms of media industries. Television, for example, explores both historical and non-English language texts as part of its knowledge. Online media is very familiar to students, but they may not be aware of the extent to which representations are constructed and audiences therefore manipulated. Newspapers tend to be one of the industries students are least familiar with, but hopefully through their now more developed schema, students will be able to place and understand these texts much more easily, and understand how and why news stories and personalities are represented deliberately.

Through studying both established and evolving media forms, learners gain a true awareness of the role of the media in society and culture, both in the past and today. Media Studies is a demanding A-level that requires learners to think critically, apply analytical frameworks and develop their creativity. These skills can be utilised in a wide range of university courses and jobs, including – but not limited to – journalism, website and graphic design, marketing, fashion and photography, and TV and radio production roles. For students wishing to pursue their interest in the subject further, most universities offer an extensive choice of Media and Film related courses, and there are an increasing number of media apprenticeships, such as those offered by the BBC and Sky Academy.

KS4 High-Level Plan

KS4 MTP 1

KS4 MTP 2

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