Categories · Introduction to Communication and Media Studies

Can we fit the public sphere into the media?

Of course there is no physical public sphere, but hopefully my point in the heading is clear. Does the public’s collective opinion fit in with legacy media? Is it possible to have a public sphere as well as legacy media telling us what our opinion’s are?

The example raised in our lecture this week that tried to resolve this question was QandA and it’s apparent representation of the people through the audience interaction with the debate. The example also incorporated the use of Twitter and it’s ‘live feed’ displayed at the bottom of the screen during the debate. This may or may not give the audience at home the impression that the show and more specifically the tweets accurately represents the views and opinions of the public and therefore the ‘public sphere’ however this is incorrect. As discussed, the tweets that are shown on screen are moderated, not actually a live feed of the #qanda hashtag. It was also brought to light that the audience members, and even the questions the audience members ask are moderated by the producers. So what does this tell us? Well, the ABC is the television network hosting Q and A, and the ABC is owned by the government of Australia, so wouldn’t the show and it’s producers try to reflect the political views through the show? I mean it is a free outlet of opinions for them so why not try and leave the audience feeling that one side of the argument that your political party supports, won?

In a completely different example, I would like to introduce YouTube. A site dedicated to hosting user created content. Kind of like a tv network exists to host shows like Q and A but with 99% less content moderation. In fact the only content YouTube moderates is copyright infringement and illicit material. All comments, arguments, ‘flame wars’ and blatant verbal abuse are unfiltered and unmoderated. I would ask what kind of message this sends and if this kind of business model can be beneficial to the public sphere but the answer is evident in the facts. More content is uploaded every day than there is time for 5 million people to watch if they were watching for 24 straight hours. Good thing there are 1 BILLION users to watch all that content. Oh did I mention the 22,000+ years of content uploaded every day? (don’t check my math, I failed it in the HSC)

To conclude, which platform do you think is really more popular and provides more freedom for the public sphere to operate in? I can understand if you think YouTube still isn’t open enough with it’s graphic violence moderation, but in comparison to the evening news, I would say it wins the metaphorical battle between which gives a more detailed and un-opinionated perspective of an issue or issues for the public sphere to debate upon.


One thought on “Can we fit the public sphere into the media?

  1. I really like your YouTube example, especially how you have compared the level of concentrated media between Q&A and YouTube. However, when you say “the only content YouTube moderates is copyright infringement and illicit material”, it would be great to get specific details with what they moderate and who has this information. Also, it is true YouTube facilitate a site for users to post their ideas, BUT, also YouTube recommend videos for us to watch as they record what we previously have watched and they monitor this to guide us into what they think we will like. So, you could argue that YouTube monitor and steer us into a certain public sphere just as much as other media platforms.

    What I would recommend next time is to include some form of scholarly articles to support your examples, especially to highlight the comparison between YouTube and Q&A and the benefits or disadvantages of the two spheres. Also, to add some references to show you have done further research on the topic we had in our lecture and to take an angle you found interesting.

    I really enjoyed your blog and appreciated your various examples and how to clearly show different degrees of media ownership and stronger freedom in an open-minded public sphere. I have taken away some good points 🙂


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