What type of institution would finance and distribute your film?
Institutions are (according to Key Concepts in Communication by O’Sullivan, Fis
ke, Hartley & Saunders 1983)
“Those enduring regulatory and organising structures of any society, which constrain and control individuals and individuality… the term more precisely refers to the underlying principles and values according to which many social and cultural practices are organised and co-ordinated.”
‘School’ is a major institution, as is ‘home’, and if you are thinking purely theoretically, you can consider things such as ‘knowledge’ or ‘language’ to be institutions, containing as they do a whole set of rules and codes which ‘constrain and control’ our lives.
In Media Studies, we are most concerned with the institutions responsible for producing media texts.
The Press (Newspapers and magazines)
The Broadcaster Organisations (TV and radio)
The Internet (The World Wide Web)
The Music Industry
Therefore we can refer to “The Press” or “TV” and have a general awareness of the values and codes of a) what is produced and b) the producers. For instance, we think of journalists, regardless of politics and rightly or wrongly, as sharing the same set of values as their newspapers. We know what a newspaper is and how it behaves. We see ‘Newspapers’ as something bigger than, and probably more authoritative/powerful than us as individuals.
However, as global patterns of ownership change, so does the concept of Institution. Media ownership is now concentrated in the hands of a few companies worldwide, and these companies own examples of many different media. So, it is true to say that the ‘Institutional Values’ of, say, Disney, are reflected in a number of different media companies that they own (e.g. Marvel Studios, the Discovery Channel), which can therefore be grouped together and considered as part of the same institution (the Disney Corporation).
Basically, understanding institution is about understanding
- who produces media texts
- what their set of codes and values is
- and their relationship to us as individuals