Media’s New Born: Call it Alternative ! (Week 3)

I have read an article on alternative media entitled; The “Alternative Media” Challenges Officialdom’s Views, which you can find at: What caught my eye is that the author claims that mainstream media is under threat and challenge, and that threat is “alternative media”. Very welcoming for a new born!

The reason they have been called alternative, is because they are seen as a second option or a substitute. And the definition of substitute lies in replacing, giving place or changing something by something else, usually if the former is not satisfying and convenient. People, readers and media consumers think that media is failing to tell people the truth and is more or less working to deceive them. Let’s take the social networks for instance; Twitter or Facebook display or create news stories and try as much as possible to share them with the populace, which can sometimes, or most of the time create a direct passive understanding of these news stories. That is to say, social networks are another type of alternative media that challenge the system.

 Critiquing “mainstream” vs. “alternative” media is pursuing a dead-end paradigm, and analyzing media in general is a complex endeavor. Media has many forms and structural dynamics and quite often they overlap. There is print vs. radio vs. TV vs. internet, all of which use different mechanisms to tell a story. And within each there are also various dynamics. There is news vs. commentary vs. entertainment. While it is true that the general public has been somewhat dumbed down, they are also quite aware. Those who love the tabloids don’t pretend they are something they are not. People know the tabloids are sensationalized trash, they just happen to enjoy them. 

A mainstream media institution (public or private) most often aims to maximize profit or sells an elite audience to advertisers for its main source of revenue. It is virtually always structured in accord with and to help reinforce society’s defining hierarchical social relationships, and is generally controlled by and controlling of other major social institutions, particularly corporations.

In contrast, an alternative media institution (to the extent possible given its circumstances) doesn’t try to maximize profits, doesn’t primarily sell audience to advertisers for revenues (and so seeks broad and non-elite audience), is structured to subvert society’s defining hierarchical social relationships, and is structurally profoundly different from and as independent of other major social institutions, particularly corporations, as it can be. An alternative media institution sees itself as part of a project to establish new ways of organizing media and social activity and it is committed to furthering these as a whole, and not just its own preservation.

Old Fashion, New Trend: Radio

As a mass communication tool, radio has a great importance for informing people in an accurate way. In comparison with newspaper, most people think that radio is much more credible. The reason for this, with radio, people can listen speeches by hearing speaker’s own voice; this characteristic of radio makes it more credible medium than newspaper. In addition, with radio, news and events could be broadcasted more quickly. Given the fact that a radio channel can sustain it streaming constantly, people can hear about flash news as they happen. These aspects of radio makes it valuable and indispensable medium in the eyes of both audiences’ and publishers’.

Most of the people may think that the internet and the television pushes radio out of audiences’ area of interest. In some ways it is true, because with the developing technology, people can access to the internet no matter where they are. Connecting to the internet became so easy that, when people wish to hear about the latest events, the first place which they look is the internet. However, many people still go on to listen to radio while they drive, cook or work. According to some researches, which were conducted in Turkey, people see radio “as a friend” and 71% of the participants said they listen to radio regularly. In my opinion, the reason that makes radio so popular among audience, is that they can get along with their work while they are listening to radio. According to me this is the most remarkable characteristic of radio; anyone could not be able to  cook, drive or work while s/he is watching television or reading newspaper but, they can do all of these activities while they are listening to radio. That’s to say, radio is still one of the most preferred media among people. Houses without television or the internet connection can keep up with the latest events with radio, instantly. So far, I can summarize radio as a cheap, instant, credible and widespread medium.

Developing technology give people chance to establish their own local radio stations. Hence, people who does not have sufficient funds to establish a television channel can establish a radio station. No doubt that establishing and sustaining a radio station is cheaper than a television channel. For example, in Turkey there are 1087 radio channels and 258 TV channels. However, thanks to the party in power, many radio stations and TV channels are experiencing some problems; their streams are being paused or their channels are being closed. In this sense, the internet comes forward leaving radio behind; because it is hard to monitor and follow the sources of digital publications in contrast with radio or television. Shortly, the internet gives more independence in a strict political environment compared to other types of media.

In conclusion, although the radio can be considered as “old” compared to the newly delevoped technologies, many people still go on to listen to it. With the emergence of television, radio became a little bit disfavored; however, it is one of the indispensable media even in today.




Alternative Media

First of all, in order to discuss about alternative media, it is needed to indicate why this type of media are categorized as “alternative”. Name on it, alternative media are the ones which do not belong to mainstream. In this sense we may ask, what is mainstream media and why people need this alternative media concept?

Mainstream media are accepted as they serve to general interests of a society, mainly. However, mainstream media can be used as a manipulative instrument to direct people accordingly to the purposes and intentions of those who have the media tools. Fuchs (2010) points out that “Content and form of traditional media are ideological. Content is strictly defined by what is considered as popular and sellable. The drive for profit can result in a lack of quality, complexity, and sophistication (as e.g. yellow journalism that simplifies reality and is focused on singular examples, emotionalism, and sensationalism)” (p:179).
This shows us that media owners can pick up the news or arrange and edit them accordingly to their intentions and change people’s mind as they want. At this stage, audience could be considered as passive, because they do not take place in choosing their agendas actively; they just take what is given to. On the contrary, alternative media provide space for people to express their ideas in an active way. Not only to express but also to choose what they wish to hear and be informed about.

In my opinion, mainstream media have started to lose importance; correspondingly, alternative media have started to become a major tool to keep up with the latest events. As indicated above, thanks to alternative media tools, people are now able to discuss about the latest events and trends free from mainstream control mechanism. Certainly, developing communication technologies play an important role in this stage; thanks to these technologies, people are now able to contact with each other no matter how far they are (time and space compression). That brings us to the “Global village” concept which was conceptualized by McLuhan. As we know, there is a huge transformation in communication technology. Almost everyone has a smartphone, and these devices provide people chance to stay in contact with each other. These technologies goes hand in hand with software technologies. The last decade, social media become so popular that there are 1 billion of social media users estimated; in other words, there is a huge network of users has been established around the world. Thus, there are no more spatial distance between people. These people share their ideas and opinions for a particular issue with the others just in a second. I can say that, communication technologies allowed Habermas’s “public sphere” concept worldwide. The reason for this, people are so connected to each other that they can discuss about the events without leaving their homes; they are no longer have to meet phisically like it was used to be so in the past.