“In our media-saturated age, it’s vital that young people can evaluate competing sources of information, and communicate effectively within a fast-changing digital environment. They need critical knowledge of media texts, audiences and digital culture, and of the complex political economy and technology which underpin them.”
Professor Sonia Livingstone, OBE.
Media Studies is designed to promote broader and deeper analytical and evaluative exploration of the media’s role in society, culture, politics, and the economy. You will develop independent and critical thinking towards a wide range of issues, debates and theoretical perspectives in contemporary media, historical media, and within wider society. Media Studies is a vital tool necessary to understanding the media’s significance and its power.
At A Level, our key concepts are known as the ‘Theoretical Framework’. We use this framework to deconstruct media texts, aiming to uncover messages, meanings and ideologies whilst considering how and why the producers of a text have created these meanings.
The ‘Theoretical Framework’ consists of the following:
- Media Language: How the media, through their forms, codes, conventions, and techniques, communicate messages, meanings, viewpoints, and ideologies.
- Representation: How the media portray different events, issues, individuals, and social groups.
- Audiences: How media forms target, reach and address audiences, how audiences interpret and respond to them, and how members of audiences become producers themselves.
- Media Industries: How the media industries’ processes of production, distribution and circulation affect media forms and platforms.
You will also study a wide range of theoretical approaches and perspectives to inform and support your analysis and critical evaluation of media products, their messages, and processes. The media theories directly relate to each of the four aspects of the ‘theoretical framework’ – The following video provides you with an example of a media theory and how we can apply it in relation to media texts:
Much like your GCSE in English, exploring contextual factors are also integral to Media Studies – The types of contextual factors that we explore are:
Historical Context: This relates to when a media product was made and the impact that has had on the construction of the text and its content. It can also refer to the time period of the audience and how that might influence their responses to the text.
Social & Cultural Context: This relates to what society’s values and ideologies are, and how they impact the text or how audiences might respond to the text. Cultural context explores where the text was made and the impact that has on its construction and content.
Political Context: This relates to political parties, viewpoints, laws or changing political attitudes and issues, and how they impact the construction of the text and its content.
Economic Context: This relates to economic issues like funding, budget, ownership, and regulatory practices, and how these factors impact the production and distribution of media texts. This often links back to whether the text is driven by profit and power or other reasons, such as communicating a wider social and political message.
Media Studies will help you to develop valuable transferable skills across your studies, such as critical thinking, analysis, research, planning, skills of enquiry and evaluation, debating, practical skills, creativity, time management, and essay writing skills.
Additionally, this course also enables you to develop a range of more specific skills required for analysing, critically evaluating, and creating media products.
In analysing and critically evaluating media products, you will:
- Analyse critically and evaluatively compare how media products, including products outside the commercial mainstream, construct and communicate meanings through the interaction of media language and audience response.
- Use and reflect critically upon a range of complex theories of media studies and use specialist subject-specific terminology appropriately in a developed way.
- Debate critically, key questions relating to the social, cultural, political, and economic role of the media through discursive writing.
In creating media products, you will:
- Apply knowledge and understanding of media language, representation, media industries and audiences to a cross-media production.
- Apply knowledge and understanding of the digitally convergent nature of contemporary media.
- Use media language across media forms to express and communicate meaning to an intended audience.
- Develop industry-standard practices when creating print, online and audio-visual products.
What is taught
In Year 12, you will spend the initial weeks familiarising yourself with the theoretical framework and analytical skills as most students won’t have done Media Studies for GCSE. Once we have built the foundations for the course, we then move onto using those skills to study and analyse a range of set texts and unseen texts for Component 1 in relation to the following media forms and industries:
- Music Videos
- Film Posters
- Print Advertisements
- Audio-Visual Advertisements
- Video Games
As we reach March, you will be introduced to your coursework briefs – From this point, lessons will be split between finishing the Component 1 examination content and beginning your Non-Examination Assessment (coursework). For the coursework (worth 30% of your overall qualification), you will choose between the ‘Magazine’ brief, where will you produce magazine pages and an accompanying website for a new magazine, or the ‘Music Marketing’ brief where you will produce a music video and accompanying pages from a magazine to promote a musician or band. In preparation for the production of these final assessment pieces, you will complete research, planning and pre-production materials in a coursework folder which will take you up to the summer holiday, where you will start producing your first product in response to the brief requirements.
In the latter stages of Year 12, we will move onto Component 2 and use the knowledge and understanding that we have developed to begin to ‘critically evaluate’ media texts and theoretical perspectives instead of just ‘analysing’ texts and ‘applying’ theories. In particular, we will study and compare a historical, mainstream magazine and a contemporary, alternative magazine with a more holistic approach to the theoretical framework.
In Year 13, the focus becomes less on studying a wide range of media texts/forms and more on deconstructing fewer texts with greater depth to make perceptive arguments, reach substantiated judgements and draw conclusions about media issues, demonstrating a critical and evaluative mindset. Here, we engage in critical debate about advanced theoretical approaches and theories to support critical exploration and reflection, analysis and debate. Through studying media products holistically and with greater scrutiny, in relation to all areas of the theoretical framework, we will engage with the dynamic relationships between media products, their messages, media industries and audiences, in response to television products and online products, including non-mainstream and non-English language texts, that are produced for minority groups.
The coursework will also continue into Year 13, as you start to produce your second product before final submission in Term 2, where you are able to make final improvements based on feedback. This will coincide with UCAS applications for university or apprenticeships where you can use your production work and coursework portfolio to exemplify your design and practical skills at interviews.
Academic Literacy in Media Studies
Media Studies’ intrinsic connection to English Language and Literature, not only means it complements both A Level options, but naturally enables the subject to encourage and support academic literacy. You will continue to explore linguistic techniques from GCSE when analysing the language, audio, and visual elements of media texts – it is also common for students who study either of the English options at A Level to draw on the skills, terminology, and knowledge that they continue to develop at this level as well.
You will be encouraged to conduct wider reading using the reading list from a range of academic writers and theorists which enhance your own vocabulary and writing styles through consistent exposure to articulate expression of complex and abstract ideas. The ability to comprehend, explain, and evaluate these ideas and use interrelated academic terminology within class discussions and examination responses will all help to enhance your academic literacy. As you get to the latter stages of the course, you will construct responses to 30 mark questions often requiring skills related to comparing and critically evaluating media texts and theoretical perspectives; this requires a high level of academic literacy, not only to comprehend the question and complexity of ideas within texts and theories, but to also explore and express your answers with articulate integrity.
Students are encouraged to extend their interest in Media Studies by…
- Listening to The Media Show on Radio 4, MediaMagazine podcast and The Media Podcast – or finding other Media-related podcasts.
- Watching films, documentaries & TV series from the ‘Recommended Viewing List’.
- Reading MediaMagazine.
- Reading texts from the ‘Recommended Reading List’.
- Visiting Media-related YouTube channels, such as the Media Insider and Mrs Fisher YouTube channels.
- Contacting a media company to see enquire about work experience opportunities.
- Visiting a Media-related guest lecture or event within school or at a university, college, or alternative venues like the BFI.
- Reading interesting Media-related articles on theverge.com.
To develop and enhance your ‘Cultural Capital’ in Media Studies you will be encouraged to engage in reading, listening to, and watching a wide range of texts that not only directly relate to the specification, but also move beyond the boundaries of the curriculum – This includes non-English language films and TV shows, and texts produced outside of the UK. This will enable you to engage in dialogue with fellow peers and academics to discuss, review and debate, demonstrating your cultural (and countercultural) capital in a plethora of media from across time periods and cultures. You will also be able to draw holistic parallels between the subjects that you are interested in and study, seeing the ‘bigger picture’ and drawing on interconnected ideas that can be brought to class discussions across subjects, like Media Studies and Sociology.
Our study of a range of historical and contemporary contextual factors that influence media texts and societal views will highlight issues and debates that span across eras and cultures – encouraging an activist approach for potential future social and cultural reform. We also explore a range of cultural values, ideologies and beliefs to be able to critically evaluate our own values and ideologies in relation to the communities that we are part of, both locally and globally, whilst reflecting on our own contributions to society and acceptance of other cultures based on shared and contrasting attitudes and beliefs.
Enrichment opportunities are offered through trips, like the BFI Media Conference at the British Film Institute, and guest speakers from the British Board of Film Classification, introducing you to the experiences of aspirational figures and practices in media industries that you may wish to pursue career opportunities in – this form of networking is vital when looking for work experience or seeking advice for how to establish yourself within media industries and institutions that you are interested in. There may also be opportunities for you to engage in work experience and enter competitions that enable you to build a strong portfolio and CV of accolades and experience that would help to get you onto to university and apprenticeship courses – The media industry often looks for two or three years’ worth of industry experience before entering junior roles and these early enrichment opportunities can make a positive contribution towards getting your ‘foot in the door’ and making a name for yourself.