Disney and the BBC - Media institutions often determine what way the audience interprets the meaning.

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Media institutions often determine what way the audience interprets the meaning. The domination of big institutions like Disney and the BBC in their respective markets is often met with resentment from their competitors. The BBC has clashed often with governments over what is acceptable broadcasting most recently over Andrew Gilligan’s claim that the government ‘sexed up’ the dossier presented to the house of commons as a vindication for war.

Disney is one of the biggest media corporations in the world. It’s estimated value is put at $23 billion. Disney does not make this fortune solely from characters like Donald, Mickey and Goofy but from the diverse range of markets it has entered into. Disney is however expected both by consumers and Disney shareholders to stand for the traditional family values, which are seen in Disney films. Disney’s business interests include Miramax films as well as other film houses and television stations like ABC the Disney ideals have to stay separate from association with these other companies as many of them directly clash with Disney. Miramax is best known for producing films like Quentin Tarantino’s 2003 gore fest ‘Kill Bill’. Disney’s family values mean that films like ‘Kill Bill’ would never be made with an attachment for Disney. It makes good business sense to keep their distance from such movies even though they are directly responsible for them. The sense of familiarity that people have with Disney’s values mean that Disney corporation could never bring all their interest in under one Disney banner. One of the main reasons Michael Eisner lost his job to George Mitchell as the head of Disney is that people within the firm felt that too much diversification had taken place and that Disney’s place in the heart of the families was at stake if it continued. Eisner in his later days did attempt to move back towards more family orientated entertainment and completed the purchase of Jim Henson’s world famous Muppets in order to give them a new set of characters who symbolise these traditional family values but for the Disney shareholders it was too little too late.

Hollywood is the largest single filmmaking institution in the world. Its core values are at the centre of many a film worldwide. It’s also the single biggest investor in films worldwide and has the largest say in what films are successful and what films aren’t. Hollywood controls the distribution of films through multiplexes and traditionally uses this power to look after it’s own interests. British film has benefited and suffered from the involvement of Hollywood in the production, making and distribution of movies. Working Title films is one of the largest production companies in Britain but most of the finance comes from American sources and many of their films either take on a very American perspective or live up to preconceived American ideas about Englishness. Working Title’s last big smash hit was the romantic comedy ‘Love Actually’ which received a certain amount of criticism for offering what was seen as a picture postcard view of what it means to be British in the 21st century. No one expected the film, which was a light and slushy romantic comedy to offer a deep insight into the trials and tribulation of Britain in the new millennium but many were disappointed by how it played up to American preconceptions. One of the stars of ‘Love Actually’ is the man who has benefited most by playing up to preconceptions of what it is to be British, Hugh Grant. Hugh Grant’s has appeared in many of working title films as the upper class, bumbling, shy and loveable Englishman in films like ‘4 weddings and a funeral.’ ‘Notting Hill’ and most recently the aforementioned ‘Love Actually’.  These films (coincidentally all written by the same man Richard Curtis) all portray the stereotypical English values that American moviegoers lap up. They use big name American stars and British actors and actresses famous in America, which increases the likelihood of an American distribution company willing to take a risk on it. ‘Notting Hill’ was criticised for not showing the true cultural diversity of that part of London but cultural diversity does not need to be shown in simple films like this. Grants bumbling Englishman in ‘Notting Hill’ meets and falls in love with a famous American actress played by Julia Roberts. Both Grant and Roberts are big name stars with a bankable box office presence, which means the film would be more likely to appeal than if two unknown quantities were to appear. This rule of having a bankable box office presence applies to many movies e.g. Sophia Coppola’s sleeper hit ‘Lost in Translation’ had the bankable presence of Bill Murray in a cast of relative unknown quantities. Working Title have also Americanised a lot of what were originally British stories they made Nick Hornby’s ‘High Fidelity’ as a Chicago version of Hornby’s novel which was set in London and by doing so they changed to tone and style of the story.

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The BBC is an institution that has a stated aim to inform, educate and entertain an aim established by Lord Reith at the foundation of the corporation. The BBC although strictly speaking independent of all outside pressures in it’s programming is in reality very reliant on the government to renew the licence fee and to increase the fee when the need arrives. The BBC has been under fire for becoming too commercial and not living up to Lord Reith’s mission statement in recent times. Programmes like ‘Fame Academy’ are seen as an attempt by the corporation to copy successful ...

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