by James P. Steyer
Atria Books, 2002
Review by Fred Ashmore on Jul 12th 2004
wasn't perfect to assign this book to a Brit for review. James Steyer's book
is so centred on US Media that any European is tempted to say, "Fine,
you sold the family silver and have only plastic to eat
off." But I think this book holds a important wider message
for anyone, and gives excellent advice for parents.
concerns are about the way that media pervades the life of children and teens,
its influence on our young ones and the way that those in charge of media
content have lost -- largely -- accountability, responsibility and a sense of
duty to the people they serve. He demonstrates the nature of modern media in
the US. explains how it affects the young and traces the
development of the industry that has allowed ownership to become increasingly
concentrated in the hands of a few conglomerates. He describes the pernicious
effects of free market thinking, weak regulators and a political system in
which money rules. It sounds scary! but fear not, the BBC is at hand ....
Which said, the attitude that
"if you can sell it, you can make it" is certainly present in the UK. I was talking to some colleagues the
other day and the subject of snuff movies came up. Out of the people present
three thought it was OK to sell a video that apparently shows a real woman
being killed during sex (as a way of adding intensity and excitement for the
man). The fourth was me, and I got some friendly ribbing for being a soft
hearted soft headed liberal with incoherent attitudes to censorship. There was
a case here not so long ago of a girl who was murdered by a person with a
passion for such films. Her mother has started an association to promote more
responsible approach to film making, though I wouldn't bet that it will have
much effect in the short term.
wise advice for parents. As with all aspects of raising children, the key
point is to know what media they are using, not necessarily so as to stop it
but so you can guide offspring if you don't like what they're using. Or, stop
it if you judge best. Close control may not be essential, but awareness,
participation and guidance are. The afterword by Chelsea Clinton shows a model
that is worth following. And if two fairly busy politicians can manage to stay
in touch with what their daughter watches and reads, I think it must be
possible for any parent.
much about the American media scene that will pass by readers from other
countries, but some of produces resonances. The remorseless expansion of News
Corp affects the UK Media scene powerfully. Its style and values are
reflected in the loss to serious readers of the London Times, once a journal of
standing and huge reputation but now just another dray horse in Murdoch's
stable of nags.
provides a large number of recommendations for parents on how to improve the
standard of what a child views. I liked his recommendations a lot.
"Establish good habits early" "No TV in child's room,"
"Set a media diet and stick to it," "Take an interest." Harsh?
Directive? Maybe, but such good sense!
some hard things to say about the politics and ethics of American media
managers and in particular about the primacy of bottom line over quality issues.
I have insufficient information to judge the accuracy of some of his
accusations, but they sound highly credible and he cites sources. The old
question arises; should a person's business and professional life follow
personal ethics? This is an easy one in the classroom, harder when taking
decisions in real life. And why is it hard? Maybe because of the way in which
much of the media drenches us with manipulative messages intended to promote
the interests of advertisers and others.
facet of this good book that interest me a lot was the picture of how
politicians in the US have become corrupted by media interests.
Given the influence of media on political issues and acceptance, it is hardly
surprising that politicians want the media to be on their side. But Steyer
shows a picture that looks pretty black. I hadn't felt before that this is
something that concerns all of us. Given the importance of the US and its politics to all of us, I'm beginning to
this book for? Parents, obviously -- well worth reading. People working in the
media might find it challenging. Anyone interested in politics and regulatory
control. America watchers. A good book, interesting,
carefully written and polemical but none the worse for a lot of sincere passion
about an important subject.
© 2004 Fred Ashmore
Fred Ashmore is a member of the
public with a strong interest in drugs, drink and addiction and how people
recover from them. He is active as a meeting host for the SMART Recovery® program, which offers
help for people who seek to modify harmful and addictive behavior.