Documentary script

Posted: October 20, 2011 in New Media

Hello bloggers! My group and I have finally finished our video documentary and it will be uploaded very soon (just making some final touches). Today’s post will include the general script of what we’ve said in our video just so you can absorb all the juicy info and follow along. We’ve covered what we thought were the most important aspects that correlate to the theory of Gatekeeping (our main focus), such as the agenda-Setting theory (and its various forms) as well as capitalism. Nani, Eileen and I have divided up what we were going to cover and I’ve written who says what in the script so without a further ado!



The decentralization of ownership on the internet is an outlet for audience members to be heard and break down the barriers created by “gatekeepers.”  Most of the content we see in new media, with some exceptions, is highly constructed. Some major examples of highly constructed media content are television, movies, and the news. – This leads to the question, what is a gatekeeper and what are they doing? According to gatekeeping theorist David Manning White, “A gatekeeper is a person that controls the access to media publication, or broadcast and determines what gains according to the identity or character of the media outlet for which they work.”  Simply, a gate keeper shifts, selects and filters information that they see suitable to convey to the general public and to preserve a certain image. For example, the wall street journal chooses to focus on business and financial news using facts and figures to pursue their audience, whereas tabloids on the other hand focus on the personal lives of celebrities and like to use lots of imagery and advertising to get readers interested. If all information posted in the public sphere is edited, is this taking away from some of the basic rights we have?

Freedom of Expression:In Canada, we live in a democratic society, and we all get basic rights and freedoms, one of them being the freedom of expression.  The fundamental principles for having a clause like this is a) to guarantee personal self-assurance, (b) a way of revealing the truth, (c) to allow participation in political affairs and decision making from the people, and finally (d) and to preserve the balance between stability and change in society and   (constitutional law). The freedom of expression is the only way to preserve a democratic society. That being said, self-expression is highly valued and gatekeeping would be frowned upon because it hinders public participation and the public audience is not being informed as citizens but as consumers and spectators. In the new age of new media and the internet, the consumer is the producer and in control of the content. This premise is called the decentralization of ownership. One may believe that due to the vast space and anonymity on the internet, these barriers would be broken down. All the content online is monitored both by government agencies and even by the common users.

Control and surveillance/ Access of Information:The government has constant surveillance on media content, because of legal policies dealing with content regulating commissions such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC).

This leads to the importance of access of information and freedom of information. Access to information is the principle where government owned information is gathered and produced for use of the public. The freedom of information is data that is produced that belongs to the public as it is their right to know. Despite constitutional law enforcing the freedom to express oneself, there are many public outlets that have control over what information is released and chooses to censor said information. Different countries have different outlooks on these principles. Countries that choose to deny access to information have a fear of ‘libel’ which is simply defamation or slander. There is still a watchful eye on one of the largest database known to man, known as search engines which include Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. Any question anyone has, they simply say “Just Google it” to find the answer.

They all have millions upon millions of categorical databases with all types of search results for users. Despite the fact that there are literally billions of pages of content on search engines such as Google, there are still restrictions. Besides the fact that the sheer volume of results cannot all be reached by all viewers governments act as gatekeepers.  For example, China, Turkey, and Thailand, has denied access to Google and the affiliated company YouTube for the fear of libel. Google’s gatekeeper, Nicole Wong – Deputy General Counsel of Google, has grand control and influence on the world of online expression. She has the power to censor content that by Google standards is unacceptable, or is unacceptable in other countries. In 2007, the Turkish government decided to prohibit access to YouTube to all Turkish internet users because there were offensive videos that insulted the first president of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk ( founder of the Republic of Turkey), which is a criminal offense. They blocked access via a process called I.P. Blocking.

That being said, YouTube gives off a false sense of social freedom. The flagging option is for viewers that find an uploaded video has sexually explicit, offensive, or other inappropriate content. That in itself is a form of self-regulation.  After a video is flagged, the YouTube chain of command will either choose to keep it online or delete it if it does not comply with YouTube licensing standards.



Mass Communication plays an important role in our society; its purpose is to inform the public about current and past events. Mass communication is defined as the process whereby professional communicators use technological devices to share messages over great distances to influence large audiences. Within this process, the media, which can be a newspaper, a book and television, takes control of the information we see or hear. In part the media then uses gatekeeping and agenda setting to “control our access to news, information, and entertainment.”

So recapping back, gatekeeping is a series of checkpoints that the news has to go through before it gets to the public. Through this process many people have to decide whether or not the news is to be seen or heard. And after gatekeeping, comes agenda setting.

What’s the newest must-see movie? What is the popular pharmaceutical? It’s because of the media, that we think this way. We are all free to think what we want to think about the latest movie, but the fact that we are even talking about the movie is because the media have told us it is important. The idea behind the agenda-setting theory is that the media are good at telling us what to think about. A plane crashes or there is a disaster in another country. We all have feelings about it even though it does not affect our lives at all. The media has set the agenda by the choices the gatekeepers have made.

Agenda-setting theory is an effects approach that shows how news media influence the agenda of public issues around which political campaigns and other matters of public interest are established. It considers what stories are newsworthy and decides how much space and salience (issues of importance) to give them. It was first developed by Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw in their Chapel Hill study in 1968. Shaw and McCombs found that the main effect of news media through agenda-setting was telling people not what to think, but what to think about. McCombs and Shaw use politics as a major example of agenda-setting. This type of media coverage happens every day in the United States and other places where television and news are large determiners of what is considered as important source of information (according to the cultivation theory by George Gerbner). Political debates and presidential news has always flooded the headlines and newscasts and this happens because the media leads us to believe it is important. A quote from McCombs and Shaw sum this up, “We judge as important what the media judge as important.”

The reason politics is a big topic of interest is b/c the media deems it important and people tend to attribute importance according to media exposure. The government has more power on issues like this than any other organization. The government obviously sees politics as important and of course the major broadcasters will as well and that flows down to the local nightly news. The media sets the agenda and the public reinforces it by paying attention to it.

Nothing gets put on the political agenda without the approval of corporate media. Some of the biggest media corporations include the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, NBC, CBS and Fox News. The corporate media act as ‘gatekeepers’ of information and make choices and control what to report and what not to, they are selective in reporting the news. The term “gatekeeper” describes someone who performs strategic filtering actions that limit or refine people’s access to information or education. Sometimes this is a good thing, and a public service. For example, TV programmers act as gatekeepers, striving to bring content to the small screen that viewers will find entertaining or informative.

What the public know and care about at any given time is mostly a by-product of media-gatekeeping. News media decides what events to admit through media ‘gates’ on ground of ‘newsworthiness’. This is relative to a sub-component to agenda-setting theory called agenda cutting. Since the press is selective when reporting the news, most of reality is not covered in the media and as a result, people do not regard such stories as important or even realize they exist, especially when they have no direct contact with the event or story in question. For example: There was a perceptible difference between the coverage on the tsunami that hit South-East Asia in December 2004 and the earthquake that hit Pakistan in October 2005. The tsunami received far more extensive coverage in all countries analyzed in both television and print media which in turn affected people’s behaviour in terms of private donations. Public were not aware of the need for help in the earthquake effected region of Pakistan. In Germany, for example, the tsunami received 666 reports in the three TV channels in comparison to 66 on the earthquake. These 666 reports contributed to private donations amounting to $USD178 million while only $USD8 million has been collected for the earthquake so far.

The corporate media also follow what is called agenda surfing (another sub-component to agenda-setting theory). It means that the media tends to follow trends and thus surfs on the wave of topics originally mentioned in the opinion-leading media. Tracking all of the articles in opinion-media thus enables prediction of the stories that are going to be covered by the media in general in the near future, as well as prediction of the stories that are dying out. The Agenda Surfing effect can help you to place the right stories in the right media at the right time. An example would be the highlighted features of violence. They do a great job of keeping the public informed about who died when and what new drug is being abused on the streets. Most of the time on shows such as Nightline and 20/20, you the audience, watch stories of abused spouses and kids growing up on the streets because of their drug addicted mother. The media does such a good job to get people to see these topics as important. I think that too much violence and distress is portrayed in the media. Can’t we ever have one newscast without seeing a crime committed or someone dying? The media does this because the topics are tragic and gives the audience something to talk about after watching. The media has the power to portray violence and heartbreak in our society to a volume more than the actual rate. They see this like the way they do because the media always plays crime stories on the news. As you can see agenda-setting function plays a large part in the lives of the submissive audience. The media can shape the perceptions of an audience so much that they think the crime rate is higher than it actually is.

The two basic assumptions that underlie most research on agenda-setting are that the press and the media do not reflect reality; they filter and shape it, and the media concentrate on a few issues and subjects that leads the public to perceive those issues as more important than other issues. Hey if someone that is national known is telling you something, then it must be worth listening to.

In order to perform effectively, a gatekeeper must be in a position to control key aspects of mass communication. Gatekeepers control the flow and feel of information in order to promote an agenda.


The development of the internet challenges the basic operation of capitalism and Gatekeepers. Gatekeepers, many of which are large corporations function under the ideals of private ownership. The internet presents quite a challenge to corporations because it is difficult to control. It is hard to predict to what extent and how the internet will affect gatekeepers in the long run, but currently it is not only challenging the idea of ownership (many aspects of the net are free, such as music, movies, chats, blogs, social networking sites) but also the way that people communicate.

Through the internet, people have gained a type of communicative freedom that was lost through other mediums like the television. The internet is harder to sensor and people have more of a voice, people can blog about politics, they can create Facebook groups, they can twitter their thoughts. The amateurs, everyday citizens, are able to produce and manipulate media. Traditional media mimic capitalistic ideas and most often American ideals like patriotism, consumption, the American Dream, compliance, and individualism (everyone for themselves) case in point television shows. Clearly not everyone is going to agree with the dominant ideas depicted through capitalism, which are advertised through the media. In the past, these people had little means of expressing conflicting ideals, but the internet provides them with a space to be heard.

The marketplace tells us that we have diversity of opinions or lots of free speech. However, this fallacy ignores the extent of censorship exercised by the government and corporations. Large corporations control the bulk of information and they propagate repetitive messages, popular ones being ‘buy now’. In fact, in terms of America, a mere five companies own 85% of media sources. Despite a diversity of opinions that exists within society, the media expresses few, in other words the majority of opinion expressed reflects the ideas and values promoted through capitalism. Unfortunately, we hear more about celebrities and consumption on traditional mediums like television. Gatekeepers prevent the expression of alternative views. How often did you hear people on television state things like the war in Afghanistan is wrong? How many times did you hear a news broadcaster question the reasons behind the war on terrorism? Did you ever see imagery of anti-war protests? Such ideas and protests existed but they were censored and hidden from the general population. The gatekeepers kept the information to themselves, to show alternative sides would be to show ideals that go against notions of capitalism and the way democracy operates.

Prior to the invention of the internet, it was nearly impossible to have people’s opinions heard. Currently people are occupying Wall Street, people are protesting about everything from corporate greed, 9/11, and pro-democracy. Groups like ‘Anonymous’ that call themselves “Hacktivists” are actively promoting and supporting the protests and are live streaming the proceedings. The majority of protests including Canadian protests about media control and corporate greed have being organized through social mediums such as Twitter and Facebook. Although information pertaining to protests can be seen on television, it receives far less coverage than on the online world. Protests are not set up on television; active audiences that want to see change are taking advantage of the freedom provided by the internet.

Interestingly, what we are now seeing is an interconnection between the amateur (the bloggers, the Twitters, and Facebook) users. The amateur (everyday citizens) are influence the news and what stories are covered in a more direct way. As said before, protests are not organized through television. This past weekend was an example modern method of communication and how they affect traditional gatekeepers. “The Occupation”, which is an anti capitalism rally, took place around the world Oct 15th, 2011. One of the basic messages of the protesters, who call themselves the 99%, is that 99% of the world is struggling, while 1% percent of the world becomes wealthier. Canadian cities participating included Toronto (who had the greatest turnout), Montreal, British Columbia, and Ottawa. Similar protests took place around the world; Italy also took place in the Occupy movement. The Occupy protests were largely organized over social networks, in particular Facebook. The internet enables people to learn about information that it often controlled via gate keeping and in the case of ‘the Occupation,’ strategize a plan that has spread globally, and is being spoken about on traditional mediums like the television and radio.

Time Magazine stated that the controversial website, WikiLeaks, could prove to be just an important of a source for promoting freedom of journalism as the freedom of information act. WikiLeaks, which believes in free press, free speech, is known for leaking sensitive government documents to the public, stating that the public has the right to know, releasing what founder Julian Assange calls‘censored injustices’. Similar to thousands of people around the world, Assange participated in the London England protests about corporate greed and the continuing gap that exists between the rich and poor.

Through WikiLeaks, other classified information has been leaked from anonymous sources who believe that the news provided is important for the public to know. Without the internet, WikiLeaks would not exist and reach the global population that it has. Despite the gatekeepers that exist within the internet, WikiLeaks has more than made a name for itself. It functions in an open matter, free information, which is something that conflicts with the privatized values associated with corporate and government gatekeepers.

The future of gatekeeping within the world of the internet is unknown. However, it will be interesting to watch the future developments that occur in a space that gatekeepers are unable to control.


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