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Proposal September 21, 2007

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Truth Manipulation; News. Media & Censorship.


How does the current media affect and sway public perception of news, local and world issues?

How can we as communication designers create awareness of this issue and begin to change its effects?


Freedom of expression and the right to hold opinions, to seek and receive information is one of the fundamental values as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Restriction upon this has been frowned upon and often been perceived as valid only within third world countries. Australia already has one of the highest concentrations of media ownership in the western world with two families, the Murdochs and Packers, controlling the majority of the country’s newspaper and television markets. The government’s new media laws lifted a 20 year old ban on cross-ownership and now allows each corporation to operate in two out of three media sectors – print, television, or radio. This creates less diversity in media coverage and brings new threats to press freedom here in Australia. As a result it has become increasingly difficult for the public to separate fact from fabricated fiction and false, misleading information. Media moguls such as Rupert Murdoch employ ‘spin doctors’ disguised as editors and journalists to manipulate stories to advance his own right wing, Republican viewpoints and corporate agendas.

Our initial investigation into the topic of truth manipulation began by conducting a ‘cultural probe’, followed by an extensive literature review from various sources. Further primary methods such as surveys, questionnaires and focus groups may be used to further enhance our learning and knowledge. User testing will be used during the design development stage to determine if the target market is receptive to any developed outcomes.

Our aim is to equip the public with knowledge as to the ways and means the media uses to influence their opinions. This will open up the option for our target market to form their own opinions on issues, rather that taking the political or social standpoint that the media wishes to instill upon its audience.

Australia is often dubbed as ‘the lucky country’. It has been known as a free country with cultural and social diversity. It is a society built upon the foundation of democratic principals. The way the current media landscape is heading, Australia may become the 51st state of America if the public does not take back control.


Following on from last semesters group discussions, we commenced by discussing and looking into issues concerning our views and perceptions of communication. Self-promotion and publishing, via the forming of new media outlets such as YouTube, Myspace, Facebook and weblogs has recently provided an alternative to the traditional way of receiving news information. The idea of creating and selecting the kind of information we wish to enrich ourselves with has steadily become more attractive as of late. With such a dynamic flow of information happening around the globe, North Korea somehow stands out in its seclusion. Strict government control in all aspects of life has this country isolated and the city landscapes sterile from any traces of media.

We, as a western society, on the other hand are exposed to various kinds of information on a daily basis. Up to 3000 advertising messages per day to be precise. We cannot walk around a block without being lured to buy a certain product, use a form of service, or have a particular view. There is an absolute abundance of options. But are we really free to choose? Who is it to say that our source of information does not choose our information for us? Are we, despite having freedom of choice, not at all that different from the sheltered North Koreans?

This idea formed the basis of our selected topic of research and led to the exploration of truth manipulation in the current media landscape.


Firstly to create awareness amongst the public about techniques employed by media conglomerates to spin truths and push their political and social agendas and opinions upon society. Then to equip the audience with necessary means in order to defend themselves against truth manipulation in the current media landscape. The objective is not to dictate views or opinions but to encourage a critical perspective when listening to, reading and taking in news and current affairs information. We would like to encourage the audience to think for themselves, form their own opinions and draw logical conclusions from the media they absorb.


As a consumer driven society, the public are often naive to the variety of methods employed by media giants in order to sway opinions to align with their own agendas. Many of these conglomerates have continuously dishonoured their obligation to serve public interest and raise unbiased awareness of news and current issues.

As time progresses, and sophistication in technology becomes more and more advanced, consumers are becoming more vulnerable to truth manipulation as they do not have the ability to keep up with media movements. This provides the media giants with the opportunity to leverage their opinions and as a result the unsuspecting public become more susceptible to the success of the medias endeavours. This is a daunting factor in today’s society, as society puts a certain amount of trust into the media and hope that what they are delivering is authentic and unaltered information rather than issues that have been fabricated to benefit secondary needs. This is where the public are being mislead.

What is needed to overcome these troubling issues is a raise in public awareness. Propaganda and truth manipulation must be exposed so the public are able to see that the information they receive is not necessary the whole truth. Once this occurs, we as a society will be better equipped to form our own opinions, and perhaps even regain some power over media giants. Grassroots is where this movement must begin and it is our aim to assist such a cause.


Research Methods September 21, 2007

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This project centers around research and investigation. In order to absorb and analyze as much information as possible on the chosen topic of truth manipulation, we have decided to employ several vastly different research methods.

Initial investigation began by conducting a ‘cultural probe’. This method is a first-hand data gathering endeavor. The exercise involved using ten people to participate in a series of news, media and communication related activities. The aim of this method was more about gathering inspiration than information. The outcomes and results of this method are outlined below in the section entitled ‘Cultural Probe Results’.

Secondary research took the form of a literature review, as included on the following pages. Each group member selected or was assigned a series of literature and information sources to investigate and report. Sources included documentaries, films, publications, journals, articles, case studies and electronic resources. Both global and local issues were explored. This form of research aided a better understanding of our topic, and helped us form individual and collective opinions of the issues arising. The outcome is the following argumentative essay.

At the point of writing this research proposal, third and fourth methods of investigation are being discussed. Further primary methods such as surveys, questionnaires and focus groups may be used to further enhance our learning and knowledge. User testing will be used during the design development stage to determine if the target market are receptive to any developed outcomes.

Literature Review September 21, 2007



How does the current media affect and sway public perception of news, local and world issues?

Major media conglomerates use their power and media outlets to portray an often hidden political or social agenda. To do so they spin and manipulate truths, molding information to suit their cause. Authenticity of information is lost owing to this trend, and it has become increasingly difficult for the public to separate fact from fabricated fiction and false, misleading information.

The media has a role to portray true and relevant information and so serve public interest. This notion is seemingly lost on many media giants who are more focused on profit and swaying opinion than delivering a realistic and reasonable account of current affairs and issues. This goes against the journalistic promise to honour societies right to true and honest information. If the media pushes a certain stance or viewpoint upon its audience, public opinion is effected as people receive a biased point of view.

In the 1999 Michael Moore television series ‘The Awful Truth’, Moore raises the point that in this day and age media and corporations have more power over the world than politicians and their governments. This is a serious concern as it causes consumerism to rise, and a certain ‘brainwashing’ of public opinion to occur.

During 2006 documentary ‘America, Living in Spin’ actor Aaron Eckhart says, “You never know what to believe anymore because it’s all spin really. Everything these days is damage control”. The director, David Kofchner states, “We live in a world filled with political correctness, because there is no more honesty, and so spin has taken over”. Media moguls such as Rupert Murdoch employ ‘spin doctors’ disguised as editors and journalists to manipulate stories. In the 2006 movie ‘Thank You For Smoking’ (carrying the tag line ‘Don’t hide the truth, just filer it’), Nick Naylor, a tobacco activist states, “I’m a lobbyist, it requires a moral flexibility that goes beyond most people”. This effectively sums up the role many journalists are now forced to play. ‘OutFoxed’ a documentary focusing on ‘Rupert Murdoch’s war on journalism’ features several ex-Fox News Channel reporters who tell of the lengths this mogul will go to in order to push his right wing, Republican political agenda. The Adbusters Media Foundation, in their article ‘The Resistible Rise of Rupert Murdoch’, confirms this troubling trend. The author Granville Williams writes, “Murdoch continues to exploit his power to exert political influence… [he] is known as an extremely hands-on proprietor, choosing editors who follow his orders and political dictates”. With media tycoons such as Murdoch controlling up to 40 percent of the national press in the UK, US and Australia, how are the public to receive information untainted by personal and corporate agendas?

Media consolidation is a growing concern in countries such as Canada and here in Australia. Quoting Adbusters, “Australia has one of the highest concentrations of media ownership in the western world with two families, the Murdochs and Packers, controlling the country’s newspaper and television markets”. It is little wonder that our citizens are subject to biased and narrow-minded views. This problem was further enhanced “when Australia’s conservative government passed a series of media reform laws last year that removed some of the final barriers to complete media convergence. [When this happened] the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) was nowhere to be seen”. Currently “Australia’s already heavily consolidated media has a strong bias toward John Howard’s conservative government at the expense of any opposition”. It is unfair to not only Australia’s citizens, but also its opposition parties that the media uses its control to promote certain Liberal ideologies over any alternative points of view.

Marshal McLuhan once stated, “The coverage is the War. If there were no coverage… there would be no war”. In other words, without media and journalists to report facts, wars and other such human generated outbreaks would go unnoticed. It is therefore imperative that media outlets inform their audiences of any arising conflicts in order for citizens to form their own opinions and standpoints. In their book ‘Propaganda and Persuasion’ Garth Jowett and Victoria O’Donell claim “War propaganda is that branch of public relations devoted to manipulating people’s attitude toward a war, rather than engaging in open dialogue. It includes both pro-war propaganda by governments and anti-war propaganda by pacifists. What makes it propaganda is not the sincerity or insincerity of its originators but its methods of media manipulation, going beyond lies to misdirection, loaded vocabulary, and staged events”. The Adbusters Media Foundation supports this view, “The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have shown that media conglomerates limit the diversity of views, subvert democracy and stymie journalistic integrity”. The media employ many propaganda techniques to do so.

Censorship is a common technique the media uses to control and manipulate the truth. A recent example of a broadcaster censoring an opinion that conflicted with their own views was seen during the broadcast of the 2007 Emmy Awards. During her acceptance speech, actress Sally Field stated, “If mothers ruled the world, there wouldn’t be any god-damned wars in the first place”. This statement was ‘bleeped out’ by broadcaster Fox in the US. This just goes to show that the media can, and do, put a very tight hold on individual opinions and that even entertainment programs cannot escape political censorship. It should be noted that Australia’s channel Ten did air the comment, proving that Australians are slightly more likely to receive alternative opinions. However, the way the current media landscape is heading, Australia may become an ‘unofficial 51st state of America’ if the public does not take back control.

A recent outbreak of documentaries such as Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, Michael Moore’s ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’, Morgan Spurlock’s ‘Supersize Me’ and Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott and Joel Bakan’s ‘The Corporation’ marks a positive step in the right direction. Each of these films aims to expose truths that corporations and the media have been concealing for decades. Self professed ‘The ex-next President of the United States’ Al Gore, speaks of scientists being forced to conceal the truth about global warming, “Scientists have an obligation to present the truth as they currently see it… [but they are] being forced to write false testimonies, prosecuted, ridiculed, deprived of jobs and income, being silenced, simply because the facts that they have discovered led them to an inconvenient truth that they are insistent upon telling.” Michael Moore, world famous author and director, uses his 2004 documentary ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ to expose the Bush administrations corruption and hidden links to Al-Qaeda and the Bin Laden family. In his documentary ‘Supersize Me’ Morgan Spurlock puts himself through a thirty day McDonalds diet to prove the harmful effects that the companies food has on ones body. If more activists, creatives and independent media outlets begin using their skills to continue on the path set by Gore, Moore and Spurlock, the public will have access to a greater diversity of views and will be greatly benefited.

In conclusion, it is well known that consumers determine how successful a product will be in the marketplace. In much the same way, the public is able to determine how successful media outlets are in getting their messages across. By equipping the public with knowledge as to the ways and means the media use to influence their opinions, and arm citizens with information about the truth manipulation and agendas of their news sources, we can give the power back to the people. Once people are aware of hidden messages, they will have the option to form their own opinions about issues, rather than taking the political or social standpoint that the media wishes to instill upon its audience.

The article ‘Taming the Watchdogs of Media Concentration’ by Sean Condon shares our goals. “With Major issues like the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and climate change still on the horizon, the public today, more than ever, needs a diverse media that can allow them to make informed decisions. But if a handful of corporations control the flow of information, they control the debate: blinded by short-term profits and bound by powerful lobbyists, they are content to leave the majority of people in the dark. A diverse media is crucial to a healthy and just society… It is time for people to speak out against consolidation and demand their media watchdogs be strengthened”.

In closing we refer to Keri Smith, an American artist who writes the following in the introduction to her ‘Guerilla Art Kit’, “The recent political climate has left many individuals feeling like they have no say, powerless to a system that seems to be dominated by corruption and money. Growing mistrust in corporate media has created a need for alternatives. Consequently, independent media such as weblogs, indie news, public art and street art have become a rapidly growing trend, a way for people to take power back”. This very much aligns with our aim to equip the public with necessary means in order to defend themselves against truth manipulation in the current media landscape. As Benjamin Franklin once said “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”. We wish to encourage people to, in the words of Mahatma Gandhi “Be the change you want to see in the world” and start creating a fair, unbiased and democratic media for all.

Target Market September 21, 2007

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35-45 year old males and females, mid-socioeconomic, working class.

Simon and Jane work 9 to 5 jobs in the city and live in a town house. When they get home after walking the dog they watch the 6:00 o’clock news on either channel 7, 9, or 10. This is their routine five days a week Monday to Friday. On weekends their interaction with news is the Herald Sun newspaper. Some of the headlines they may receive include ‘Britney Spears life crisis’, ‘ Asia stocks jump after Wall Street surge’ and’Who watches US security firms in Iraq?’ Simon and Jane only receive headlines that are from the mainstream media. They are not exposed to Newspapers such as The Age, Australian or Financial Review or world news from sources from government funded broadcasters such as SBS or ABC.

This primary target group will find it difficult to face evidence of manipulation from news media. They may find it surprising that their so called ‘reliable’ source of information are dishonouring their obligation to serve public interest and awareness.


20-30 year old males and females, tertiary educated.

Elise and Brad have both come from several years spent at uni and are now keen, business savvy people excited to face the corporate world. They are however not so well informed in world news but are open to alternative sources of information and points of view. They are yet to develop well-informed opinions on political and social issues.

This secondary target group are more receptive to news media. This market will react with outrage to evidence of manipulation of news media and will therefore address the situation with an open mind and will wish to challenge the status quo.

Three Possible Concepts September 21, 2007

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CONCEPT 1.0_ SPIN DOCTOR, How To Spin The Truth

Main Design Consideration
Utilizing sarcasm and humour, in order to penetrate necessary information to the target audience. The content is methods of how to spin the truth. The idea is by giving the audience this knowledge; it is also giving back power to them. Therefore enabling them to select and received vital information that maybe beneficial for them instead of being taken advantage of by the corporations’ own agenda.

Research & Justification
To use the enemy’s weapon in order to win battles are one of Sun Tzu’s strategy in the Art of War. Corporate leaders had also used this principle for decades. They used this tactic for mergers and acquisitions, marketing advances and mostly, damage control. We have also found, through research, that the traditional role of journalists and that of entertainer have shifted and considerably reversed in recent decades. More and more hard facts news and public opinions are being delivered more effectively by variety of creative channels, such as comedians and documentaries. The issue will become more relevant as the audience’s attitude is more receptive towards this method or approach. As it is usually seen as being delivered by ‘one of the people’, therefore is not patronizing and more trustworthy. This can be seen clearly through current movie trends, e.g. Hotel Rwanda, An Inconvenient Truth and Michael Moore’s various works.

Promotion & Advertising Ideas
Using guerrilla’s tactics to send the message more clearly that this effort is going against the mainstream media. Distribution will take place via word of mouth and personal hand-outs through a variety of channels.

The visual could reminisce a self-help book, small publication that can be easily distributed and carried. Possible titles include ‘How to spin the truth’ or ‘How to create propoganda’. The content will be self-explanatory, with fun addition such as moral flexibility tests. People can read it while they are on the train/tram/bus. This could be accompanied by small scale print campaign, such as paste-up posters and other non-traditional methods. The outcome will create awareness amongst the target market of techniques the media use to push their own, often hidden, agendas.

CONCEPT 2.0_MRW (Media Review Weekly)

Main Design Consideration
Creating awareness of the monopoly of the media outlets and how this effects society and our political landscape. This can be achieved by providing them with collected facts and data about the power and the control of media conglomerates and moguls.

Research & Justification
Research has shown that currently, individual media giants yield more power than many government institutions or political leaders. This presents a problem in itself, as the main purpose of a business is capital gain, therefore they will use any means to sway public opinions to suit their own agenda. Their methods are often more effective than others as they hold most of communication channels that are able to access private levels. Bombarding the audience with news that supports their means. The companies are also suppressed by strict codes and regulations that takes the liberty out of their workers personal opinions and creative pursuits. This is clearly evidenced through case studies such as News Corp of Rupert Murdoch and The Packer’s Channel 9. News Corp’s reputation has been raided by controversial headlines, such as its deliberate exposure of mostly Republican viewpoints. Their staff are dominantly right wing loyalists. In the past employees who have refused to work along with the Fox Limited point of view had been deprived from jobs, income and even had to pay retribution. Therefore by providing them with vital facts, our audience can make informative decisions based on their own understanding.

Promotion, Ideas & Implementation
A magazine publication that mimics economy/business magazines such as BRW. The idea being that a top ten list of media moguls / giants is created with review of each. These profiles would include the person’s vital statistics, companies owned, political / social agendas, method of truth manipulation and so on. By arming the audience with these facts, they will become more aware of the sources and hidden agenda’s behind the news that they receive. This concept can be further advanced through an interactive website that may contain a blog, forum and even games.


Main Design Consideration
Using elements of shock in order to create controversy and build up conspiracy theories around the chosen subject. It should make the audience think and re-analyse their thoughts. It also should be able to encourage the audience to be more selective and persistent in the process of justifying received information.

Research & Justification
As our probe analysis concluded, the older generation are in some ways are more vulnerable than the younger ones, as they are somewhat less technologically savvy. They are more receptive of information that is given to them, and less likely question its credibility. This concept will challenge their perception and beliefs. It will also provide a variety of viewpoints, more so than what the mainstream media portrays.

Promotion, Ideas & Implementation
A take off a newspaper containing current affairs that are presented in a different way than what it is now in the mainstream media. Accompanied by a series of posters with unretouched photographs with limited text. Copy should include questions, leaving it open ended therefore enticing the audience to form their own opinions about the issue. An alternative to this concept would be to create a magazine entitled ‘No Idea’, a spin on the tabloid and gossip magazine the ‘New Idea’. Our version would contain realistic, unedited, non-fabricated news and issues, a complete contrast to the often fabricated and spun articles contained in glossy magazines.

Proposal Bibliography September 21, 2007

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Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2007, Media Watch, viewed 14 September 2007, http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/

Farouky, J, 2007, A new campaign for Madeline McCann, view 15 September, http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1662459,00.html

Hilton, P, 2007, Censorship Sucks!, viewed 18 September 2007, http://perezhilton.com/?p=5623

Indonesia Matters, 2007, Soeharto vs. Time Case, viewed 12 September 2007, http://www.indonesiamatters.com/1392/suharto-time/”%20http://www.indonesiamatters.com/1392/suharto-time

Infohost, 2007, Missing Madeline, viewed 9 September 2007, http://www.findmadeleine.com/

Mayer, C, Smith, A, 2007, McCanns return home as Suspects, viewed 16 September, http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1660098,00.html?iid=sphere-inline-bottom

Moore, F, 2007, Emmys go round as Fox goes heavy on the silence, viewed 18 September 2007, http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2007/09/16/entertainment/e210806D05.DTL

Wikimedia Foundation Inc, 2007, Propaganda, viewed 16 September 2007, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda


Adbusters Media Foundation, 2007, Adbusters # 72 (Journal of the Mental Environment), Volume 15 Number 4, July / August 2007, Adbusters Media Foundation, USA.

Adbusters Media Foundation, 2007, Adbusters # 73 (Journal of the Mental Environment), Volume 15 Number 5, September / October 2007, Adbusters Media Foundation, USA.


Altheide, D, 2007, Discourse & Communication, Sage Publications, Australia.

Carcon, D, McLuhan, M, 2003, The Book of Probes, Gingko Press, USA.

Jowett, G, O’Donell, V, 2004, Propaganda and Persuasion, Sage Publications, USA.

Smith, K, 2007, The Guerilla Art Kit, Princeton Architectural Press, New York.

We are what we do, 2005, Change the world for ten bucks, Pilotlight Australia, Vistoria.


Abbot, J, Achbar, M, Bakan, J, 2006, The Corporation [videorecording], Big Picture Media Corporation, Canada.

Gore, A, Guggenheim, D, 2006, An Inconvenient Truth [videorecording], Paramount Classics, USA.

Greenwald, R, 2004, OutFoxed, Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism [videorecording], DV1, USA.

Moore, M, 2004, Fahrenheit 9/11 [videorecording], Lion Gate Films, USA. Moore, M, 1999, The Awful Truth, The Complete First Season [videorecording], Bravo, USA.

Reitman, J, 2006, Thank You for Smoking [videorecording], Fox Searchlight Pictures, USA.

Spurlock, M, 2004, Supersize Me [videorecording], Showtime, USA.


Hammerer, L. Prina, F. Noorlander, P. & Simons, D, 2007, A Survey Of Access To Information In Abkhazia & Its Impact On People’s Lives, Article XIX Global Campaign for Free Expression, London, United Kingdom.

Hammerer, L. Prina, F. Noorlander, P. & Simons, D, 2007, Right To Access Information: A Fundamental And Enabling Human Right, Article XIX Global Campaign for Free Expression, London, United Kingdom.

Proposal Category September 14, 2007

Posted by shell in PROPOSAL.
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Hi Tofu’s, Just letting you know I have added a ‘Proposal’ category for all proposal related items (excluding the lit review). Cheers, Shell.