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Who Controls the New Media?

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, Eduqas, WJEC

Last updated 25 Aug 2018

One important debate about the new media is the question of who controls it.

For neophiliacs, the new media is democratic and bottom up. It is the public who are in control of it. A more negative take on a similar perspective is that really nobody is in control of it: it is anarchic and full of “fake news” and potential dangers.

Andrew Keen (2007) argues that the new media’s democracy makes it. The apparently uncensored freedom of new media – and particularly of the internet – can be seen as full of opportunity or danger or indeed a bit of both. Postmodern sociologists would recognise this contradiction at the heart of the internet

However, some would question just how free the new media really is. In fact, it is – in much the same way as the old media – dominated by a relatively small number of large corporations.

A company like Google, for instance, acts as a gatekeeper, as most online media content is accessed through its search engine.

Similarly, while YouTube and Facebook and similar sites are made up of user-generated content these platforms are owned by large corporations (indeed YouTube is also owned by Google) and while it is practically impossible for them to control and censor all that content, the content is used to generate advertising revenue and to gather data so that advertising can be appropriately focused.

As such, cultural pessimists would suggest that there is really the worst of both worlds: there is a largely unregulated repository of content, much of which is misleading, offensive or both, which exists as by-products of marketing organisations.

All of this does further question the accuracy of some of the key features of new media previously mentioned. If user power, accessibility and interactivity are overstated, how new is new media really?

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