Martin Barker (with Julian Petley)
Among the central arguments of this book is this: that the dull endlessness of debates about media 'effects' could be broken with relative ease. If only journalists, policy-makers, politicians and pundits could be shifted from their deference and devotion to American-style social psychological research, and persuaded to give a hearing to some of the findings of British and continental European (and indeed, in some cases, American) media/ cultural studies work on audiences, how different their perspective would be!
That they won't do so isn't because they have read the research and found it wanting-I have yet to meet a journalist with even a passing understanding of audience research from the media/cultural studies tradition. That they won't is at least partly down to the strong tradition of denigrating media and cultural studies in the UK. And although there is not the hard data to prove it, most of us within the field sense that the tempo of those attacks has increased considerably in recent years-now including, for instance, reporters doing 'inside jobs' on particular courses and publishing their 'irrefutable proofs' of the stupidity and harm of what people like me do. The parodic version of these attacks is that all we do is to 'teach our students to deconstruct Neighbours and then expect them to go off and get jobs as TV producers and film directors'. The background claim is that we are the site of serious damage to British culture.
What is it with this hostility to our tradition? I ask this question in all seriousness. If we cannot answer the question, how will we know how to defend our subject area and its achievements effectively? At this moment, a new cloud is hanging over our field, a 'passing' proposal by Secretary of State Chris Smith that perhaps the Government might reinvest more wisely the money it is currently 'wasting' on media and cultural studies courses. More recently, Chris Woodhead, at the time head of the Schools Inspectorate, agreed with a 'profound scepticism' about whether media studies courses teach students anything worthwhile. How will we best reply to this, if we