Title page for ETD etd-10112004-101845

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Reid, Julie Barbara Jane
URN etd-10112004-101845
Document Title September 11, 2001: a critical analysis of ideological representations on television news
Degree MA (Visual Studies)
Department Visual Arts
Advisor Name Title
Dr A A du Preez Co-Supervisor
Prof J van Eeden Supervisor
  • television news
  • September 11
  • myth
  • media imperialism
  • Ideological State Apparatus
  • globalisation
  • dominant political ideology
  • Americanism
  • American ideology
  • American monomyth
Date 2004-05-08
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation analyses the extent to which dominant political ideologies generate meanings in television news texts. The working process of the television news system and the manner in which television news constructs news programmes are discussed. In light of the televisual mode of news production, the author demonstrates how ideologically inspired meanings can systematically enter the television news system and thus potentially manipulate the production of television news broadcasts, though making a semiotic analysis of the CNN representations of September 11.

This study is situated within the field of visual culture studies, and semiotic theory is employed to a great extent throughout. The author discusses the influence of dominant political ideologies on the television news production process, and how this contributes to the restriction of the polysemy of the television news sign. Television news representations may be mediated and manipulated in such a way to encourage viewers to produce readings that are favourable towards a certain dominant political ideology.

The many mechanisms that television news utilises to create meaning are discussed. The mechanisms that are identified by the author as being the most effective in the production of ideologically inspired meanings are paid particular attention. These semiotic mechanisms include the manipulation of iconic signs, the construction of arbitrary signs and the representation of myths.

The CNN representations of the September 11 events are analysed for their ideological content, and the author contends that these televisual representations were deliberately constructed to inspire readings that would be favourable to the ideology of Americanism. Therefore, Americanism, as an example of a dominant political ideology, is discussed. The visual mechanisms employed by CNN after September 11 are analysed. These include the editing of visually recorded footage, the treatment of the newsreader and the incorporation of the image of the American flag. The author offers a reading of the ideological motivation of these texts. The media myths that are constructed to naturalise Americanism, such as the myth of the hero and the myth of the tower, are discussed with regard to the manner in which they were represented by CNN after September 11. The iconic representations of key political figures involved with the September 11 events are also discussed and their ideological meanings uncovered.

The CNN television news broadcasts functioned both to inform an international audience of the terrorist attacks and reinforce an ideology in crisis: namely, Americanism. CNN repeatedly employed many visual mechanisms to encourage viewers to produce readings that were favourable to Americanism. While Americanism entered a period of crisis, it mobilised its Ideological State Apparatuses, including television news, to reinforce and justify its position of power in order to maintain its own dominance after a deliberate blow.

This study suggests that the CNN representations of September 11 are an accurate indication of how dominant political ideologies can effect the construction of television news texts. Where television news broadcasters reach large audiences while being ideologically aligned, and viewers are deliberately encouraged to produce certain ideologically inspired readings, television news becomes a medium through which widespread ideological domination can be achieved.

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