Media Dissertation Topics
The aim of writing a dissertation or thesis is to create an original piece of research work on a clearly defined topic. However, writing a dissertation can be very difficult, especially if the student fails to have a concise research topic. Therefore, the first step to writing a successful dissertation is to identify the area that the student wants to research and then, after a little study of this area, form a clearly-defined topic. A concise research question is very important as it ensures that the dissertation is focused and flowing, and enables students to demonstrate how their research area is relevant. It is also important that the student chooses media dissertation topics that are of interest and bring new insight into the topic. However, the media dissertation topic should have enough literature for the student to form their unique argument, because a dissertation is not a PhD, and does not aim to change the field of research; rather, dissertations are focused on providing a different and unique viewpoint on the existing research and literature. The following article looks at a variety of different and relevant dissertation topics on media, including journalism, mass communication and music, and then identifies several good media dissertation topics and research questions to help the student to identify an area of interest, as well as how to form a good research question. Selecting media dissertation topics can be a challenging task, and therefore this article suggests a wide range of topics within the subject areas of freedom of expression, censorship, culture, communication, government monitoring and social networks.
Journalism and Privacy Dissertation Topics
Journalism and privacy have become very hot media-related dissertation topics, especially in the growing world of celebrities and in the developing era of everyone keeping up-to-date about happenings in the world. However, journalism has also brought the concern of privacy to the forefront, as questions are raised about privacy versus transparent journalism. Certain media dissertation topics consider how far a journalist can venture into an individual’s private life without breaching the individual’s fundamental right to privacy (Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights), and consider whether there are some different criteria applied for private individuals or popular celebrities. Some topics within journalism and privacy that you could cover within your media dissertation include:
• Although English law does not provide a specific law for privacy, does the common law system provide adequate protection of an individual’s private life from journalists?
• The European Convention of Human Rights has introduced the concept of proportionality; does the United Kingdom’s legal regulations and precedent adopt proportionality towards privacy of individuals and journalists?
• The case of Princess Diana has called into question the ethics of journalism and their invasion into the private life of the public. Should there be stricter regulations?
• The European Law of Human Rights has called for a specific law of privacy to protect individuals from journalists: Does the UK need to adopt this approach?
• A case law approach to Journalism and show-business: Do celebrities, by nature of their career, have a reduced right to privacy?
• The economics of journalism are very important. If there is a stricter approach to protecting the private life of the public, will journalists still be able to engage and maintain their readership?
• The legal case of Naomi Campbell in the UK has highlighted the issue of celebrities being afforded full privacy rights like other citizens. How can the right balance be achieved by journalists?
• Judges in the UK and the USA have argued that celebrities who court the media, by their personal actions and economic gains, should not use privacy laws when and as they wish. Discuss.
• Across Europe there are varying approaches by the courts to protecting privacy. With the European Court of Human Rights and the EU do we need one consistent approach?
• The case of Yahoo v Licra has brought into question the very strict protection of privacy in France. Does the French approach comply with the European Convention of Human rights under the principles of margin of appreciation?
• Data Protection and Journalism. How does the Data Protection Act 1998 influence the issue of peoples’ privacy in journalism?
• The UK currently has a privacy statute set out in the Human Rights Act 1998. However, does journalism operate in the public’s interest?
• Considering privacy in journalism, two major conducts are considered offensive – publication of private facts and intrusion. How can these conducts be regulated?
Journalism and Freedom of Expression Dissertation Topics
Journalism and the press offer a platform for various voices to be heard. However, the flipside of protecting the privacy of individuals is the important role of the media as the public watchdog. Indeed, at the international, regional and national level, journalists serve as the public’s watchdog, activist and custodian. These roles are protected by the fundamental human right of freedom of expression. This area discusses the extent to which courts can extend their protection over journalists, and how journalists can avoid court cases. Specific topics for your media dissertation could include:
• Reynolds v Time Newspapers is the key case for recognising the role of press as the public’s watchdog. What are the implications of this case on the courts’ approach to journalists?
• Sources are essential to journalists. Should the freedom of expression laws be used to protect these sources from cases that can result in breach of confidence?
• The First Amendment of the United States Constitution has a tenet that supports a very balanced approach to freedom of expression and journalism. Should the UK adopt their approach?
• Are there any justifications for the journalist’s right of freedom of expression to be breached in the interests of a democratic society?
• Some argue that freedom of expression and the free press is the cornerstone of a democratic society. A comparison of citizens’ attitudes to a free press in the UK and US.
• Journalism relies on the right of freedom of expression; however, should this give journalists the license to destroy the lives of individuals? A discussion of the balance between journalism and responsible reporting.
• The “name and shame” approaches adopted by many newspapers have been questioned as unethical, Is this so, or does this strategy confirm their status as the public’s watchdog?
• Watchdog is a very important consumer protection programme. Is this an example of responsible journalism?
• Breach of confidence is a major factor that contradicts Data Protection laws and regulations; how far can the journalist’s right to freedom of expression be used as a defence of such a breach?
• Is there a different level of freedom of expression for tabloids and broadsheets? The News of the World versus The Times.
• UK citizens have a negative right to freedom of expression under the common law. How does this impact the country’s journalism?
• The Sunday Times vs UK case highlights how courts infringe on journalists’ freedom of expression. How can courts extend their protection over journalists?
• Freedom of expression is protected under Article 10 of the Human Rights Convention. Can journalists leverage on this legislation?
The Artist, Censorship and Media Dissertation Topics
Censorship is the suppression of speech, public messages, and other similar information, that can be provided by journalists, based on the assumption that such material can be offensive, detrimental, delicate, politically incorrect or problematic as determined by government establishments or by public consensus. Therefore, censorship can be referred to as the government’s approach to controlling the media for the good of the society. The question is how far can the government go to protect society and is it really justified or merely a form of citizen control? There are two forms of censorship; the first is direct censorship, which is the banning of certain mediums and topics, while the second form is propaganda censorship, where the media and artists feed the government viewpoint. This is a controversial area, which offers various unique media dissertation topics, including:
• Direct censorship is a direct breach of an individual’s human right to a free press. Discuss in relation to UNDHR
• Journalists have a moral right to provide a balanced approach to the news; however, it is argued that the media is highly politicised. The case study of Fox News in the US.
• Iran currently has a strict censorship programme in relation to its media. Does this approach protect the integrity of the country or is it a form of state control?
• Were the dossiers released by the UK and US government prior to the Iraq war an example of the state using the media for propaganda?
• A review of the differing viewpoints about banning pornography within an independent or democratic society: Is this a form of censorship??
• The Spycatcher Case illustrates that the English courts will allow censorship if there is a threat to national security; however, should there be a limitation to the extent of legitimate whistleblowing, and when does whistleblowing constitute a crime?
• Art has been an object of censorship over the years to protect the morals of the community. Some would argue that certain artistries, such as the BODYWORX art show, is immoral, but has not been censored. How does this compare to the display of foetuses and other controversial artistries?
• Censorship, through propaganda, appears to be more subversive in a democratic society because it is hidden behind supposed legitimate laws. Case Study: The war on terror.
• Political correctness is the new form of censorship in a democracy. Has the liberal view on tolerance caused a breach of the rights that they aim to protect?
• The recent cases on the right of an individual to wear religious symbols have brought into question whether the UK is now censoring the right of religious association. Can this and other similar cases be classed as examples of censorship?
• Censorship of controversial topics (violence, scandals, etc.) – Is there a balance between censorship and the ability to portray the true version of events?
• A review of strict censorship regulations: Does censorship form a barrier to wide-ranging dissemination of creative works in the Arab world?
• Implicit theories of censorship: Has the United States and U.K. Government institutions implemented censorship regulations that have created adverse conditions whereby journalists have to carry out personal-censorship to avoid prosecution?
Cultures in Media Dissertation Topics
Media, as a means of communication, has the potential to stretch and strengthen the human capacity for the transmission and exchange of information. The cultural value of media is dependent on those who control the mechanisms of media. For example, mass media, such as television, can produce significant cultural effects. Concerns about threats to media democracy have generated an exciting area for comparative research. Here are some media dissertation topics and case studies that you could research for your media dissertation:
• What is the role of cybernationalism in China?
• Facebook and Fears – A consideration of the ways in which social media networks have been implicated in digital terrorism.
• Celebritisation and class conflict – A critical analysis of British ‘structured reality’ programming and its impact on class identity.
• What is cyberviolence and how can it be regulated?
• Following terror attacks in France, social media has been used to disseminate information in emergency situations. What are public expectations in relation to media messages and crisis management?
• How does individualism-collectivism influence media use? A cross-cultural comparison between the USA and China.
• Can the media be used to breach cultural divides and erase stereotypical images? An argument for responsible journalism.
• Is the growth of media and film making, outside of Hollywood, important to ensure that all cultures are represented? The case of Bollywood.
• In the UK do the British media fail the North/South cultural divide? A comparison of BBC news broadcasting.
• Technological developments have influenced contemporary journalism and news culture. What is the fate of the modern newsroom?
• Considering the ‘multicultural question’, discuss the extent to which the Hall/Morely model of audience reception remains relevant.
• Examine postmodern views of media representation of significant cultural events.
• Identify key debates about how media influences questions of sexual difference and the performativity of gender.
Music, culture, the artist and intellectual property
Intellectual property is a key feature of a new idea that an artist puts into practice. In the past, copyright, patents and trademarks have limited the ability to reproduce the work of the artist. However, in the current age of advanced technology, there are less effective regulations and restrictions governing whether individuals can download pirated music and films. Debate about control, ownership, and the values of the artist lead to the question of whether using the work of an artist is, in fact, stealing. This is becoming a more prominent issue within an increasingly globalised and digitised media industry, and the subject would make for interesting media dissertation topics.
• The Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is the most important intellectual agreement of the 20th century. Discuss.
• There are legitimate situations in the name of education where breaching an artist’s intellectual property rights is permitted. Discuss.
• Intellectual property law fails minority cultural groups, their tribal music and art because it fails to understand communitarian ownership and prioritises the individual. Discuss.
• Copyright law is far more interested in the owner of the copyright, such as record labels, than the artists. Discuss.
• Using The X-Factor as a case study, present reasons why economics, rather than musical style, shapes the role of the music industry in popular culture.
• It is argued that in the UK there is no real choice in music, because there is a monopoly on record labels in the market. A comparison of the UK and Canada’s music markets.
• Music throughout the centuries has been linked to culture. However, in the UK there seems to be a distinct lack of cultural mainstream music. Does there need to be a promotion of British music culture?
• Do the beliefs and attitudes of consumers in the music market need to change to stop music pirating?
• Artists are changing the music market by allowing consumers to choose their price for music purchases. How will this change the face of the music market?
• The Americanisation of the music industry is destroying traditional musical forms. Debate whether cultural imperialism is evident in the context of music censorship in Iran.
• At the turn of the century, 80% of global publishing and recording revenues are appropriated by only five companies: EMI (UK), Bertelsmann (Germany), Warner (US), Sony (Japan) and Universal (Canada). Debate whether this monopolisation will continue.
• Evaluate the role of cultural intermediaries (Bourdieu, 1984) in relation to the active role that personnel in the music industry undertake in relation to the production of particular styles of music.
• The greater control that technology affords has led to more complex patterns of everyday music usage. Discuss.
Communication in the Digital age Dissertation Topics
Communication in the digital age has caused fears that individual privacy will be breached. For instance, different digital technologies have different conceptualisations of privacy. As with any broad social change, as well as fear come new forms of knowledge. The digital age has provided improved access to learning and education. Further to this, advances in communication technologies have supported activism and furthered freedom of expression. Here are some media dissertation topics within this area that you could research on.
• The Data Protection Act (DPA) is soon to be replaced by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Evaluate this change in data protection regulation.
• France, Germany and the UK have different approaches to Data Protection. Are any sufficient to deal with digital communications?• Identity fraud and hacking behaviour has grown with the evolution of digital communications. Evaluate research into cybercrime perpetration by adolescents and young adults.
• Education has been improved in the digital age with faster communication and exchanging of ideas. Has this made traditional teaching methods less important?
• In light of the influence of micro-blogging on political campaigning, discuss the effectiveness of e-campaigning on Twitter as a more participatory process.
• Higher education in the digital era – discuss the impact of online forums on distance learning.
• Digital inequality may compound the existing rural-urban disparity in developing countries. Discuss.
• How has the use of the Internet in local economies kick-started sustainable development? A comparison of rural South Africa and rural India.
• Digital communication has been an important tool for human rights campaigners. A case study of Amnesty International’s email petitions.
• In the past, governments have tried to censor information as a form of control. With the emergence of projects such as WikiLeaks, examine whether the Internet has brought about democratic change.
• Does use of the internet stimulate political unrest in the Middle East?
• Virtual Communities of Practice (VCoP) is a useful analytic frame for examining the professional identity and status of media workers. Discuss.
• The individual has the power to design their own information environment. Evaluate Harper’s (1997) notion of the ‘Daily Me’.
• Large corporations and governments have developed new methods with which to analyse social media data. Discuss the implications that dominant uses of data mining and analytics may have for the public.
Communication and Government Monitoring Dissertation Topics
The growth of mass communication and the technology to enable this communication has brought many benefits. Technological advancement provides the individual with information at the touch of a button, as well as allowing them to participate in politics. The advancements have also provided cheaper and easier formats for communication. However, there are some significant problems, enabling governments to access individual’s private communications with greater ease. Thus, privacy of the individual is threatened. This includes ISP addresses asking for personal information on access and Internet providers allowing government access. Does this mean that although mass communication has benefits it also has significant problems? An important issue to many would mean any of the following topics could create a useful and well-read media dissertation.
• Is it ethical for Internet providers to allow government agencies to access private, individual, personal communications in the interests of justice?
• How does the UK government justify using mass communication interceptors, such as ISP address recording, to access private individual’s personal information?
• What are the implications of governments using the private individual’s access of mass communication as reason to investigate their personal communications?
• How are the boundaries blurring between mass and personal communication with the advent of blogs and social networking sites?• Privacy is a key factor to limit journalists accessing personal information. How can the government justify breaching the same rights of an individual’s personal information?
• What is the nature of the participatory culture of politics and how has social media encouraged this to individuals and government?• In enabling governments to access the private information of the individual, what implications has this for society and freedoms for the individual?
• Communication is key to the democratic process; how can individuals be assured of their rights and freedoms?
Communication and social networks Dissertation Topics
Digital communications are constantly changing and moving the goal posts at a rapid speed. Social networks, such as Facebook, are changing the way that many people use the Internet and are changing the face of the distinction of private and mass communication. Information is readily available, allowing the individual to participate in a virtual world. Communication is being enabled through the various platforms and mediums available to the user, such as blogs etc. The socialising processes are being updated in link with how social media is operated by connecting individuals. Social media also has its critics who accuse it of damaging personal communication and dumbing down the latest generations. It has also become the site of cyber bullying which on the internet cannot be fully governed. If the area of communication and social networks interests you, you could write about any of the following topics for your media dissertation.
• Social networks are the new form of mass communication, where blogs and ideas are exchanged; however, as technological processes are dynamic this is not the final product of social media. Discuss
• What are the effects of social networking sites on the economics of mass communication?
• Can social networking sites be used as a form of mass communication to trigger sustainable development and trading outside the ambits of corporations, such as eBay.
• Do social networks play an important role in mass communication, advertising and the economic growth of trading over the Internet?
• Are social networks more persuasive than traditional forms of communication, especially in regards to changing attitudes of individuals towards key debates?
• Can we use social networks and blogs as a platform of mass communication to change attitudes to consumers and companies? Social networks and consumer boycotting.
• Social media has been described as the digitalisation of word of mouth; how effective has this format been for marketing business?
• Cyber bullying has become a greater problem using social media. How can this be regulated?
• How true is it that social media can have an adverse effect on social interaction and the dumbing down of the English language?
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