I personally do not object to being targeted by certain media based on my reported interests. If I am going to be exposed to advertising, my preference is that it be for products and services of some personal relevance, and not simply those which target a broad demographic that I can be placed within. As an adult who has learned to competently read media, I would much rather hear about the new album from a musician I enjoy than a generic advertisement for a tooth-whitening system or Paris Hilton’s latest perfume. It isn’t such a revolutionary concept that advertisers are marketing to a target audience: thirty-second advertisements for the latest toys are going to make more impressions when screened during Saturday morning cartoons than during daytime talk shows, and movie trailers for an upcoming romantic comedy would be better placed before a similar feature than a ultra-violent slasher film.
The primary fear in this multifaceted age is that as these previously competing media bodies merge over time, the concentration of their previously competitive nature is diluted. In a capitalist democracy, the more media is monopolized by media corporations, the less it is expected to meet the needs of its consumers and the more control it has to determine their beliefs and needs. In The political economy of media: An overview, the authors cite the News Corporation’s (internationally infamous) Fox News, which aggressively promotes its right-wing agenda across all of its media influences. Historically, Fox News consumers had been inundated with a single, conservative subtext across all media which was available to them. I believe that the internet poses a major challenge to that narrative and provides a platform to access a broader range of media influences, affording interested consumers with options which may not have been otherwise available. Beyond that, the recent convergence of digital media channels cannot be easily stated to be better or worse, but simply different from its predecessors.
Through a lifetime of exposure, adults have hopefully learned how to (somewhat competently) read media and to understand it on an intertextual level. From there, they can ideally make conscious decisions to consume media which is in alignment with their particular economic comfort zone, disposition, or political ideology. However, that is not the case for children and adolescents. Their brains are not fully developed and they have not learned to critically consume media, and yet they have access to revenue far beyond their own means. For this reason, they represent an incredibly lucrative market in a capitalist society. The recognition of the tween demographic as a target market clearly distinguished from the marketing towards kids or teens more aggressively targets what has become an industry in North America which is said to generate over forty billion dollars annually. I believe that it is the responsibility of schools to provide students with respite from this kind of aggressive advertising. Further, I propose that they should actually scaffold a process of critical media literacy that equips students with the facilities to maintain healthy skepticism of the media they consume. This is of particular relevance in my field of Secondary art education, where the lines between art and media studies have been irrevocably blurred, but I assert that all educators equally bear the responsibility of creating independent citizens that are critical of their environment.