Britain Democracy

The media lies – why we must teach our children media studies

12:11Ciaran McCormick

The 2017 general election was never going to be a fair fight. Seven years of incumbent Conservative government has stacked the odds in their favour in so many ways. Most people only remember a Labour government through the mist of time and distorted by lies about the deficit and the lack of spark and charisma in the current parties leadership.

However, this election has been shamefully unfair because of the actions of the media. People often criticise media studies because they deem it an irrelevant, soft subject but it actually teaches young people valuable skills that we desperately need. The media criticises it because it threatens their dominant chokehold on our political debate.

This election campaign, newspapers have run outrageous smear campaigns against Jeremy Corby, abandoning journalistic integrity to paint him as a terrorist and IRA fanatic. The complexity of his political beliefs and decades of social justice activism are inconvenient. Whilst the media cries out for politicians with integrity, a position that Corbyn embodies, he routinely claims the lowest expenses out of his fellow MPs.

The Manchester terrorist attack has been shamefully hijacked by the media. The Sun ran a headline of ‘BLOOD ON HIS HANDS’ criticising Jeremy Corbyn the morning after the attack. The juxtaposition between the bombing and this horrifying rhetoric is shocking on a day of national mourning.

Meanwhile, throughout the election campaign, people still share Britain First memes on Facebook and buy into lies against Muslims, immigrants and asylum seekers, which have been demonised by the media for many years. This has warped so many people’s opinions to the extent that it has inspired Brexit, one of the biggest threats to the wellbeing of the next generation in many decades.

However, people still buy into everything that dreadful newspapers and media organisations like The Sun, The Express, The Daily Mail and Fox News churn out. Corbynite policies are accepted as common sense in happier and more prosperous social democratic Scandinavian countries. Here they stoke the fires of outrage in our popular gutter press.

Media studies has been ridiculed in popular culture for as long as immigrants, refugees and left-wing British politicians. It is seen as a by-word for dumbed down education, soft subjects and entitled millenials. However, the actual subject is rigorous, surprisingly tough and more important than ever. Indeed, because its reputation precedes it, many kids pick it expecting an easy ride and end up shocked at what they have to do.


Media studies involves critically engaging with the media and politics. Students have to interrogate both the surface level meanings of our world and uncover the truths that are being obscured. They learn technical and creative skills, as they develop newspapers and conceive, film and edit short films of their own. People are always calling out for a more practical curriculum – these are career options.

The subject is relevant. It challenges our social norms and is relevant to contemporary issues. For example, it asks pupils to decode the meanings of advertising. In a capitalist society saturated with these corporate messages, this is an essential skill that will avoid our future generations becoming obese and materialistic.

If more people had studied media and learnt the critical thinking skills in its syllabus, then adults might be more astute. They wouldn’t take newspaper headlines at face value, they would look at the corporate interests of the owners. We wouldn’t have Brexit. People wouldn’t vote for a Conservative government that will ruin them because Corbyn didn’t wear a tie or is a terrorist. We might have more civilised attitudes towards some of the most vulnerable people in society such as the homeless, welfare claimants, refugees.

It is telling that it is the media that most commonly criticises media studies. They sense a threat, because if people start to wise up to their game, sensationalism will no longer shift copies. It is quite a left-wing subject, because it teaches people to critique and expose the status quo and power in society.

Media studies is not the only demonised subject. Practical subjects that teach our children practical skills like cooking have been slandered in education for decades. Film studies is ridiculed, yet it interrogates the industry and looks at the different readings and ideologies in our films. If more people studied that, then the bland dross of mainstream cinema wouldn’t reinforce the values of the powerful establishment. Communications and Culture, recently binned as a subject, helped students learn about and critique important ideologies such as feminism and post-colonialism.

Labour leaders since Tony Blair have not been given a chance. Blair was pally with Murdoch, which gave him a free pass and encouragement from the papers. Brown, Miliband and Corbyn have not been examined on the substance of their policies. The British people often agree with most of them. Instead, they have been painted as an aggressive economic lunatic, bacon-sandwich eating softie and a terrorist relic. If we were equipped with media literacy, we might have a better state of democracy in our country.

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