It very often that a person turns on a television to watch programmes without really analysing the characters they see in the shows. As viewers, we mostly ingest what we see as pure entertainment. So is not always obvious to us about how certain groups of people are being portrayed in the media, what sort of messages are being implied, or the ramifications that arise from the various representations we see. To conclude how important media representation is to viewers, we have to first understand what media representation is, what is being represented, and how it impacts society and how we perceive what or whom that is represented. In this essay I will focus primarily on the media representation in television and its examples.
According to Long and Wall (2009), a definition of media representation is “to describe, or depict something; to call it up in the mind by description, portrayal or imagination. To represent also means to symbolise, to stand for, to be a specimen of or to substitute for” (p.79). In my opinion, television is one of the more impactful media form in representation. Television shows are capable of describing and depicting sceneries and people visually, and special emphasis on sound effects and such help make the scenes more vivid. So it is probably the media format that which communicates to us most straightforwardly. And by doing so, the television easily offers a sneak peak into the lives of various people living across the world, or the beautiful landscapes of exotic lands, of historical events and even political ideologies. It is an information provider for anyone who watches the television, so understandably, viewers may feel very knowledgeable as they can access all sorts of information through many different channels just by clicking on the remote control.
It is also important to note that the people, ideas, and events that are captured on television are not mere occurrences, but a thorough and complex process of decision making within the producers of the industry. There could be an agenda that motivates what and how something is represented in the media. This is in line with Hall’s (1997) intentional approach to representation, that it is concerned with the view of the creator or the producer.
I come from Singapore, a country where the government owns the media. Major television networks are controlled by Mediacorp, which is owned by Temasek Holdings, a government-invested firm. So one can strongly argue that the media industry in Singapore is indirectly publicly-owned. Local news channels place greater emphasis on the People’s Action Party (PAP) which is the ruling party in Singapore. There are special programmes like the ‘National Day Rally’ in which the Prime Minister goes on live television to address the citizens about various issues concerning the nation. Up until recently in 2007, opposition leaders were never invited on the show. The highlight on all politics related television shows are heavily focused on the ruling party, there are few coverage on opposition parties. Moreover, the Films Act in Singapore banned the distribution and release of ‘party political films’, which includes advertisements or documentaries of any political parties. There is evidently, a lack of media representation of the different political ideology in Singapore. It is not uncommon for Singaporeans to have little to zero knowledge about the different parties and what they stand for.
This is very unlike in the UK, where political parties are given sufficient airtime on television. There are shows like the Prime Minister’s Questions on BBC Parliament that which viewers can see MPs from various parties engaging in some sort of debate with the Prime Minister. This give viewers a look at how capable (or incapable) some party members are, therefore,...