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Liveblogging NCMR11: Media Reform through Media Education session at the National Conference on Media Reform

jpozners Icon Posted by Jennifer L Pozner

April 8th, 2011

Hey folks, I’m going to be be posting quite regularly in the next two days from the National Conference on Media Reform (NCMR11). I’ll be doing a book reading for Reality Bites Back Saturday at 10:30am, and I’ll be co-facilitating with Chica Luna and Sister Outsider cofounder Sofia Quintero, titled, “Keeping It Unreal: Decoding Gender, Race and Reality TV–A Media Literacy Workshop” at 2-3:30pm.

What follows is a liveblog from the ACME session at NCMR. I’ll try to transcribe as closely as possible to the presenters’ comments. Any mistakes are mine, not the presenters.

Bob McCannon from ACME, the Action Coalition on Media Education: To provide corporate-free media education to motivated teachers at an affordable price, and the reason for that is that most of the other media education has been sponsored by major corporations. And when you get a media education kit on the enviroment from Exon, thre’s just a whole bunch of things it doesn’t mention. And when someone has been paid a ton of $ to do a media education at Channel One schools, that media education curricula is not going to talk about Budweiser’s attempt to target children, the nutritional benefits of a Big Mac, it’s going to be corporate curricula. That’s the way most of the sponsored media ed curricular are today. Consumer Reports did a wonderful report on sponsored media ed…

So we sponsor affordable, effective, corporate-free emedia education. We don’t take any money from big media, we don’t take any money from big corporate.

11,000 Channel One schools around the country, and kids are forced to watch advertising in school –

Principles of Analysis are also principles of production. If you can spot symbols, you can use symbols when you make media, to make your media more powerful.

Media have identifiable characteristics. Sometimes they have a cool meaning. Recorded this just before I came here: [shows a clip of a weatherman promo here the network talks about him as “He comes across as very knowledgeable without getting complicated.” and talks about how media help to dumb the culture down, but with media literacy tools you can ] Neil Postman used to say we’re going to sharpen their crap-detectors. “Knee-jerk, yes/right, you’re with us or against us, kind of thinking — you are a Fox or an MSNBC person and by G-d there’s no middle…” — well, guess what, there’s a middle… for most of the issues we face, there isn’t an easy answer. There isn’t a Glenn Beck answer, and there isn’t a Keith Olbermann answer. There are only better questions. Media education is about getting kids and adults to start asking more questions.

All media are propaganda. The most powerful propaganda I know is when a 17-year-old asks mom & dad for the car keys on Saturday night. They use these techniques.

The more entertaining something is, the more effective it is.

Average lifespan of an average tv ad: 6 weeks.
Average ad: $1,000,000 for a 30 second ad
How many movies cost $2mill per minute to make? Not many. What does that tell you about what you’re looking at about TV ads? The most powerful communications devices we can create as a species. There’s 24 fields per second in a TV ad, and every one of those is scrutinized.

Now, what is the purpose of the advertiser? [Bob quotes major advertising consultant to Dupont, etc.: “absolutely crucial to understand the reptilian button…”]

Appealing to the reptilian brain is the opposite of what schools want to do. But if you want to do media education, use [the same tools that advertisers use].

Let’s say you want to talk about just how disgusting mpdern political campaigns are. You could get up in front of people and go on in a monotone for 20 minutes, and what would they be doing after that 20 minutes? [snooze] What you want to do is something like this? [shows clip of Dana Carvey making fun of anti-Barbara Boxer and anti-Carly Fiorina ads on Jimmy Kimmel]

I’ll leave you with one thought. Kevin Roberts, CEO of Satchi & Satchi [sp?] one of the most famous advertising guys in the world. He’s famous for saying that “through reptilian techniques, we create loyalty beyond reason.” Your objective in creating media reformers is to media educate them. Nobody becomes a reformer without being educated. Whatever your issue is, whether it’s women’s rights, peace, etc., media reform is going to be necessary for that movement. So, let me leave you with this: if you want to create loyalty TO reason, not loyalty BEYOND reason, become an effective media educator.

Amanda Schaffer from Urban and Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College. We do a lot of work on sustainable, good food… I’m going to talk about three examples in the context of challenges we face with food issues in our work.

Fantasy differs from reality. Media can create fantasties that seem better than real life. [shows Pepsi ad — showing Simon Doonan talking about a “skinny can: long, luxurious skinny can…” juxtaposed with skinny models and spike heeled shoes in the Pepsi logo… “products like this are very democratic. Anybody can get Pepsi in the skinny can.”] That’s the fantasty, this is the reality. Drinking one or more cans of soda per day increases the chance of obesity by more than 20%. [then shows Colbert clip on PepsiCo re “snackify beverages and drinkify snacks as the next frontier… it’s for anyone who loves nature’s bounty, but also non-recyclable waste.”] So, we realize now that Pepsi might have a bit of an image problem with regards to wholesome food. I want you to think about the media literacy principle “Emotional transfer is the key” with the next ad. [shows clip of farmers, and bicyclists having a potluck around slow food, local food movement, and doing indy media to do it — so Pepsi Refresh grant funded the ad about the local food movement… “Every time you drink Pepsi you support Pepsi Refresh project… Pepsi refreshes the world.”] Once the emotion has been created, it automatically transfers to the product in your subconscious mind, without regard to logic or your conscious mind. Pepsi spokesperson said to the NYT, “this was not a philanthropy effort…” [Shiv Singh — google for the direct quote about how this wasn’t about philanthropy, it was about branding.] “When you drink Pepsi, you get more voting power” (re. Pepsi Refresh campaign)

$22K: average price of 1 Pepsi Refresh project (some less: bike slow food project just got $5,000)
1.3mil: Total Pepsi Refresh budget
billions in advertising budget in general for all Pepsi products.

Shows a letter from Netroots Nation asking people to vote every day for their org in the Pepsi Refresh contest.

Studying media should involved studying contexts (of social, political, economic contexts for all ads).
[Shows a clip of an ad with cute kids and earnest teachers talking about how kids/families should shop at Tesco so that they will donate some of the proceeds to their school. Very emotional, and shows Tesco to be a good corporate citizen, but of course Tesco is an extremely problematic company, comparatively to WalMart and Starbucks.] Ends with a fantastic satirical video about Tesco taking over Denmark. On YouTube, you can find it as “Tesco v. Denmark.”

Adam Kenner and Cheryl Rivera from NY:

Adam does a funny bit about how to create effective Powerpoint presentations (by showing the opposite… put together slides, read them, rely on links to websites that won’t load, etc.)

Cheryl presents case study on Disney’s Product Is People.
Most important thing when preparing media literacy presentations: what is your story? What is the untold story? We are passionate about Disney. My daughter was 8-years-old and watched Disney channel. I thought that was safe. Well, when she started talking back rudely, I started to pay attention to what she was watching. Where are the commercials on Disney channel? There are no ads for Pepsi, etc. — they advertise Disney on Disney. This repetition is taken to the extreme on Disney channel. There’s a very successful formula that Disney’s used since 2004, they take a young, pre-adolescent girl, innocent looking, blond, wholesome, we find out early on in the show that she can sing. (: Aly Michalka) We hear her singing. Soon therafter, we start seeing quick change in the girls. They start to become hypersexualized. Clothes, bikinis, sultry tones in videos, dark, brooding, etc. Then same example of Ashley Tisdale, innocent, childlike, etc., High School Musical, the largest Disney event in history. Repetition. Then, quickly, she becomes hypersexualized again.

Adam talks about Ashley Tisdale trying to launch a pop career, in the Britney Spears mode. Completely different lyrics on Tisdale’s album than during the Disney-mandated High School Musical tour.

Target audience of the Disney audience is 6-11. [I think she said age 6 - 11, though it could be a different range]
Uses another example, Vanessa Hudgens. Shy, shrinking violent girl in High School Musical. Then shows a picture of Hudgens naked on the Internet with strategically-placed Mickey Mouse ears.

Hannah Montana: among viewers age 6 - 14, most-watched show after American Idol.

Shows a clip of a Disney PSA about how kids should “question everything… ask how, why, how come?” (everything except Disney!)
Miley Cyrus. Does this work? Of course it does.

Adam: talks about the transition between Hannah and Miley. Then Miley’s naked-at-16-year-old Vanity Fair cover happened. And inside, sexualized picture of her laying down with her dad. Talks about how kids get uncomfortable saying that. Then shows the Miley pornified bird video — Hannah Montana show is still on Disney at that time. 6 - 11 audience. Released by Hollywood Records, owned by Disney. Then her 18th bday, shows her doing drugs on TMZ.

Billboard, Beijing, China, 2008. Kid, maybe 9 or 10, in pigtails and bra and panties on a billboard with Disney puppets.

2010: 3.9 BILLION profit.

Disney hires Kelly Pena, “the kid whisperer,” to appeal to boys. “When I wear this shirt I feel like I’m going to an R-rated movie.”

Girls of color are treated very differently on Disney channel. Raven Simone: comedic character. When she’s in public she’s glamourous, but not sexualized. Sheetah Girls, portrayed as strong-willed. Sister Sister (ABC) from 90s.

New crop of shows from this season: Bella Thorne, 13, sexualized already.

Pretty Little Liars, ABC Family Channel. “Never trust a pretty girl with an ugly secret.” #1 series launch on record. Pilot episode, girl walks into a bar, makes out with him in a bathroom, turns out he’s her English teacher. [Note from Jenn: And then they have a relationship, portrayed entirely as romantic, not as an abuse of power.]

Adam: The idea that news is a separate piece of media, not advertising, is false…

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