For over 20 years, the Glasgow University Media Group has been contributing in the academic and public debate on television impartiality. Despite the retention of its original name, the group's composition has, unavoidably, changed since the 1970s. This, combined with the shifting political and media landscape and the developments in mass communication research throughout the past two decades, has affected the group's work to the extent that one might question the element of continuity between the group's earlier output and the more recent publications, Seeing and Believing (1990) and Getting the Message (1993). As some of the earlier work of the group is no longer readily available, this reader is quite timely.
It brings together key pieces of the work of the group written over the past 21 years. The first volume includes readings from the influential and controversial Bad News (1976), More Bad News (1980), Really Bad News (1982), War and Peace News (1985), and constitutes a fairly representative and comprehensive introduction to the group's early work and, especially, to the main arguments and theoretical and methodological concerns of its members. It substantiates the group's central argument that news is not the neutral and natural phenomenon that it is assumed to be but a manufactured product embodying and reifying a perspective on the world favourable to the interests of hegemonic social groups. It also demonstrates the group's strategy of identifying and documenting the systematic employment in television news of particular inferential frameworks to make sense of events in preference to other available frameworks. The group's methodological/ analytical concerns and proposed solutions are outlined, with chapter six offering a good example of its analysis of news talk. The approach to the analysis of visuals is very interesting. One very significant contribution of the group has been its interest in examining visual rules governing interviewing or the presentation of news presenters, correspondents, reporters and those interviewed, and its attempt to develop analytical tools to study visual language employed in television news by drawing upon C. Pierce's classification of images and by opting for the "shot" as their unit of analysis in case studies.
Volume two includes material from case studies from the 1970s to the 1990s, focusing on industrial, economic, political and war news coverage. The chapter "Audience beliefs and the 1984/85 miners' strike", which is supposed to offer an insight into Greg Philo's interesting study, Seeing and Believing, and to address issues of audience reception of television news output is disappointingly short, unfocused and uncomfortably included in a section on industrial and economic reporting. "Making good news", from War and Peace News, returns to the initial concern with identifying and documenting the systematic employment in television news of particular inferential frameworks at the expense of other alternatives. David Miller's work on the Northern Ireland broadcasting ban offers a detailed overview of information control techniques and policies in Northern Ireland. This, and the also detailed overview of British media coverage of the Gulf war are examples of the more recent work of group members and seem to be more descriptive than analytical. Volume two ends with an interesting section on politics and the media which examines the relationship of television to the ascendancy of the New Right and related phenomena.
The reader will make a representative sample of the group's work accessible to a new generation of readers interested in media studies and will hopefully reinvigorate academic debate on theoretical and methodological issues raised by the group's work which are still far from resolved.
Roza Tsagarousianou is lecturer in communication and information studies, University of Westminster.
Glasgow Media Group Reader Volume Two
Editor - Greg Philo
ISBN - 0 415 13036 0 and 13037 9
Publisher - Routledge
Price - £45.00 and £14.99
Pages - 241