This practical assignment has two main aims –
(1) To develop and deepen your understanding of changes in the organisation of the major corporations involved in the media and cultural industries , the strategies they are pursuing, and the questions current developments raise for issues around corporate power and the diversity of cultural production.
(2) To extend your skills in documentary research and in summarising and presenting complex information and data effectively.
What do I have to do ?
Words:1500-2000 MUST CHOOSE this company:Microsoft http://www.microsoft.com
This assignment requires you to choose ONE of the major transnational companies operating in the media and cultural industries listed below and to construct a profile of its development and current organisation and operations by answering the following questions –
(1) When and how did the company originate? What have been the major stages in its development?
(2) How has it used horizontal and vertical integration and diversification to grow?
(3) How wide ranging are its present operations ?
Which established and emerging communications sectors does it currently operate in ? which sectors make the most important contribution to its income as measured by pre-tax profits or turnover?
Relevant sectors would include
print media – books, newspapers, magazines
established audio visual media- film, terrestrial television, cable TV, satellite TV, radio, recorded music.
New digital media- eg video games, computer games, internet service or content provision
telecommunications –fixed line and mobile telephony
other cultural sectors – theme parks, holidays, leisure provision, sports teams and events.
You will find some basic information on the subsidiaries of major US media Corporations at the Who Owns What site hosted by the Columbia Journalism Review at http://www.cjr.org/resources
and –but only for US new media organisations- at the Pew Research Centre site ‘Who Owns the News Media’ at http://stateofthemedia.org/media-ownership/
(4) How globalised are its current operations ?– how many national markets does it operate in ? Which markets make the most important contribution to its income? How does it operate in key overseas markets- by owning ‘local’ companies, by exporting products made in its ‘home’ market, or through joint ventures ? How has it adapted to national political demands and consumer preferences in its overseas operations ?
(5) Who owns the company? Who are the major shareholders ?
Two points to remember here
(i) From the point of view of company control the key shares are voting shares which allow their holders to participate in elections to the Board of Directors. But there are other kinds of shares that allow their holders to invest in the company but not to vote. You need to distinguish between the two
(ii) In many societies shareholders are allowed to nominate banks or other financial institutions to hold shares on their behalf . So you will often see on the list of major shareholders names like ‘HSBC Nominees’. In most cases it is impossible to tell whether the bank is holding these shares on its own behalf or on behalf of others who do not wish their identity to be disclosed since the bank is under no legal obligation to disclose who the beneficial owners (who materially benefit) for the shareholding are
(6) How is the company linked to economic , political and cultural networks through interlocking shareholdings and interlocking directorships ?.
The networks developed by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in the United States are analysed in some detail in
•Amelia Arsenault and Manuel Castells (2008) ‘Switching power:
Rupert Murdoch and the global business of media politics’
International Sociology, 23 (4) pp 488-513
You will find some useful basic information on the interlocking directorships of major US media companies on the web site of FAIR-Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting at http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2870.
(7) If you were advising the company on how it should seek to expand over the next 5-10 years which areas of operation and markets would you recommend it develop or move into and why ?
One way to approach this last question is to employ SWOT analysis which is widely used in business.
SW stands for the Strengths and Weaknesses of the company in its internal organisation and strategies . These might include as strengths-its brand name, its capacity for synergy, its established market share and as threats- its levels of debt, its exposure to take over , damage to its reputation stemming for corporate malpractice (as in the New International phone hacking scandal or accusations that Apple uses exploited labour to assemble its machines)
OT stands for the Opportunities and Threats to the company generated by changes in its external operating environment. These could be shifts in technology, economic changes (eg recession damping down demand), social dynamics (the increase in the ageing population for example), or changes to the political environment that put global expansion at risk (such as increasing tensions between the US and China)
Presenting the material
In presenting your work I would strongly recommend using the questions listed above, or shortened version of them, as subheadings .
answers to questions 1-4, which are mainly descriptive, will account of 40% of the marks for this assignment. The remaining 60% will be given for your answers to questions 5 and 6 which require original research and question 7, which requires original analysis.
Select this company from the following
Useful places to start include:- .-
The ‘Who Owns What’ website operated by the Columbia Journalism Review at www.cjr.org/resources/index.php This provides a handy list of top media companies , though with a noted US bias.
The profiles of major media companies in the Americas and Australasia at http://ketupa.net
The site covering media conglomerates, mergers and concentration of ownership run by Corporate Influence in the Media at http://www.globalissues.org [you will find this on the module Facebook site]
The campaigning group, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has a useful list of interlocking directorships for major US media companies at www.fair.org/index.php?.page+2870
If you want to compare the current western model of conglomeration with a Chinese example, take a look at the web site of the Shanghai based concern- the Shanghai Media and Entertainment Group (SMEG) at http://www.smeg.com.cn [this in Mandarin but if you access the site via Google you can use the English translation facility]
Points to remember
Since one of the key aims of this assignment is to develop your skills in documentary research your mark will depend in part on the range of sources you use. Relying simply on one or two sources will earn you a low mark.
You are expected to use primary sources such as company reports as well as secondary sources
You will also gain marks for presenting your information in the most accessible and effective manner. Wherever possible summarise empirical data in a table, chart or diagram rather than relying on a simple list in the text. Graphic presentation is easier to read, has more impact , highlights key points more forcefully, and is more professional looking
From description to analysis Although the assignment asks you to collect and synthesise a range of factual material it also requires you to analyse the patterns this data reveals drawing on the readings for the relevant lectures. You will loose marks if you simply present a description.
Where to look for information
(1) The Companies’ own websites contain much useful information on the organisation and operations but remember , they are part of the corporation’s public relations strategy so they are likely to ‘talk up’ their current operations and give them a positive gloss.
(2) Some company websites also include links to down loadable copies of the Annual Report to Shareholders (sometimes called The Annual Report and Accounts) This is an important document for your purposes. For an example go to the Viacom web site at www.Viacom.com and look at the SEC filings under ‘Shareholder Information’ on the toolbar.(Viacom is a global media major with interests which include the CBS television network in the US, Paramount Pictures, the MTV music channel, and the major book publisher Simon and Schuster).
If the company is registered in the USA you can access the Annual Report (known as the 10-K form ) from the web site of the regulatory body – the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) at www.sec.gov
(3) Once you have examined the company report the next step is to search for other information and comment on the company or its key personnel .Checking recent stories on the company printed in the major newspapers and magazines available on line is essential.
(4) A number of the leading media companies have also generated a sizeable secondary academic literature , both journal articles and books. Disney is the most obvious example. So make sure you also check the relevant bibliographical data bases.
(5) for information on shareholders and members of the company board of directors make sure you use a range of internet search engines
If you have chosen a US based company you can find some information on the links between corporations and regulatory bodies using the ‘information tracker’ data base compiled by The Centre for Public Integrity at www.publicintegrity.org/telecom
Tips on how to get a good mark
CRITIQUE You need to maintain a sceptical stance towards the company’s own claims for itself and take account of the criticisms of its operations advanced by outside observers
CONCEPTUALISATION .Make full use of the key concepts introduced in lectures (eg vertical and horizontal integration, conglomeration) when describing key trends in a company’s development . This demonstrates that you have understood these concepts and know how to apply them.
EXAMPLES. Try to find concrete recent examples of key aspects of corporate strategy Again, this shows that you have understood the concept and can apply it to new cases.
SUBHEADINGS. Use subheadings to indicate how you have organised your essay by themes and to signal when you moving from one topic to another. A clear set of subheadings in a clear sequence indicates to the examiner that you have thought carefully about how to organise your material and presentation
PRESENTATION – as mentioned earlier, try to present key statistical data in graphs or charts rather than simple lists.
You must provide references for all the information you present in your profile together with a full bibliography of all the sources you have consulted. The Departmental conventions relating to both these requirements are fully explained in the Programme Handbook. You bibliography should be a single consolidated list of all the sources you have consulted arranged alphabetically by author’s family name or the name of the organisation or web site. Do not put internet sources in a separate list. Do not include references that you have not read or have not referred to in the body of your essay.
A Final Note
Don’t worry if you are not able to collect the full range of information for the company you have selected. Not all governments require companies to file such detailed reports and accounts as the US and not all companies attract the same degree of outside comment and scrutiny.
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