The Media Student's Book  book cover
5th Edition

The Media Student's Book

ISBN 9780415558426
Published April 29, 2010 by Routledge
488 Pages

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Book Description

The Media Student's Book is a comprehensive introduction for students of media studies. It covers all the key topics and provides a detailed, lively and accessible guide to concepts and debates.

Now in its fifth edition, this bestselling textbook has been thoroughly revised, re-ordered and updated, with many very recent examples and expanded coverage of the most important issues currently facing media studies. It is structured in three main parts, addressing key concepts, debates, and research skills, methods and resources. Individual chapters include:

  • approaching media texts
  • narrative
  • genres and other classifications
  • representations
  • globalisation
  • ideologies and discourses
  • the business of media
  • new media in a new world?
  • the future of television
  • regulation now
  • debating advertising, branding and celebrity
  • news and its futures
  • documentary and ‘reality’ debates
  • from ‘audience’ to ‘users’
  • research: skills and methods.

Each chapter includes a range of examples to work with, sometimes as short case studies. They are also supported by separate, longer case studies which include:

  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • online access for film and music
  • CSI and detective fictions
  • Let the Right One In and The Orphanage
  • PBS, BBC and HBO
  • images of migration
  • The Age of Stupid and climate change politics.

The authors are experienced in writing, researching and teaching across different levels of undergraduate study, with an awareness of the needs of students. The book is specially designed to be easy and stimulating to use, with:

  • a Companion Website with popular chapters from previous editions, extra case studies and further resources for teaching and learning, at:
  • margin terms, definitions, photos, references (and even jokes), allied to a comprehensive glossary
  • follow-up activities in ‘Explore’ boxes
  • suggestions for further reading and online research
  • references and examples from a rich range of media and media forms, including advertising, cinema, games, the internet, magazines, newspapers, photography, radio, and television.

Table of Contents

List of Figures



Section 1: Key concepts

1 Approaching media texts


Semiotic approaches

Structuralism, difference(s), and oppositions

Denotation and connotation

The social nature of signs


Content analysis



Case study: Visual and aural signs

Analysing a poster, and notes on two photos

Voices and sound signifiers

Audio-visual moving images

Content analysis


2 Narratives

General theories of narrative

Narration, story and plot

Narratives in different media

Long running and ‘single’ narratives

‘New media’ and narrative debates


References and further reading

Case study: CSI: Miami and Crime fiction

The classification ‘crime fiction’


Applying Todorov

Applying Propp

Applying Barthes

Applying Lévi-Strauss

Narratives, institutions, ideologies

References and further reading

3 Genres and classification

Classifying films: Thelma and Louise (US 1991)

Repetition and difference

Repertoires of elements

Case study: Formats and genres

Status and genres 1: ‘escapism’ and verisimilitude

Status and genres 2: the cultural context


References and further reading

Case study: Horror as popular art The Orphanage and Let the Right One In

The child in the horror film

Global and local audiences

Style and the Gothic: different repertoires

Authorship and promotion

Distribution patterns

4 Representations

‘Representation’ now

Stereotyping and ‘scripts’

Case study 1: US plantation stereotyping

Scripts and performances

Case study 2: Representations and gender

Stages of change, and ‘positive/negative’ debates

Realisms and representations

Comedy and questions of representation

Historical and institutional processes


Reference and further reading

Case study: Images of migration


Discourses and stereotypes of ‘migration’ and other kinds of travel

News media

The ‘grain of truth’ in stereotypes?

Varieties of media representations


5 Globalisation

Your experiences of globalisation

Global histories

Approaches to globalised media

Global-local flows

Global futures?


References and further reading

Case study: Slumdog Millionaire: global film?

The background to a global hit

The production of the film


The Bollywood connection

Controversies in reception

After the Oscar ceremonies . . .

6 Ideologies and discourses


‘Ideology’ and its histories: Marxist approaches

The persistence of class and its (in)visibility

Post-Marxism and critical pluralism


Lived cultures


References and further reading



Case study: The Age of Stupid (UK 2009) and Climate Change Politics


Context: images and discourses

The term ‘propaganda’

Textual approaches to the film

‘Cinema’ and its ‘everyday practices’


7 Media as Business

Studying business organisations

Ownership and control

The experience of conglomerates

New players in India and China

Public or private funding?

Public or private in filmed entertainment

The new digital environment

Business models

Different perspectives


References and further reading

Case study: Music and movies – digital and available

The challenge of copying


Changing models in the film industry



Section 2 : Debates

8 ‘New media’ in a ‘new world’?


‘Newness’ and histories

Academic approaches

Openness, collaboration and ‘users’

‘The long tail’

Digital copies and the ‘enclosure’ of information

New media, old metaphors

‘New media’, vanishing resources


References and further reading


9 The future of television


Ownership and control in the television industry

Paying for television

Business models for television broadcasting

Public service broadcasting

Network television


10 Regulation now


Politics and media economics

Regulation and ‘freedom’

Historical background

Changes in the orthodoxy of economic policies and new models

Deregulation, liberalisation and media institutions

The contemporary regulatory environment

A ‘free market’ for classification, censorship and sex and violence?

The public gets the media it deserves?

‘Free choices’ and free speech?


References and further reading

11 Debating advertising, branding and celebrity


Advertising, marketing and branding



Hollywood and branding

Hollywood: the brand(s)

Case study: ‘Brangelina’

Citizenship and consumption

References and further reading

12 News and its futures


The importance of news, and views of ‘the public’

The construction of ‘news’

‘Impartiality’ and accuracy

‘News values’

Debates on the influence of news

Futures: ‘new’ news?


References and further reading

13 Documentary and ‘reality’ debates

Recent issues in documentary

Documentary and assumptions about ‘realism’ and truth

‘Direct Cinema’

Performance and documentary

Ethics and documentary

Recent hybrids 1: ‘pranksters’

Recent hybrids 2: ‘reality TV’

Recent hybrids 3: forms of ‘drama documentary’


References and further reading

14 From ‘audience’ to ‘users’


Academic representations of audiences

The effects model

The uses and gratifications model

From ‘effects’ to ‘influence’: factual forms

‘Cultural’ approaches

Re-mediating audiences


References and further reading


Section 3 : Research methods and reference

15 Research: skills and methods



Using the internet, and print forms

Fear of ‘theory’


Qualitative and quantitative

Textual approaches


Focus groups

‘Ethnographic’ methods

Footnote : Wikipedia

References and further reading



View More



Gill Branston is Honorary Senior Lecturer at the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies at Cardiff University. Roy Stafford is a freelance lecturer, writer and examiner in media education and training.


"This book does precisely what you want a textbook to do. It brings students to a wide range of concepts, issues and debates in media studies and sets them within critical, yet accessible, contexts. Through a guided and fully illustrated tour of textual, political, economic, social, technological and regulatory concerns the reader is encouraged to grasp the fundamentals of the field. It is littered with both contemporary and classic examples, links to online resources and probing questions to both cement understanding and challenge assumptions. It is effortless to read and should be the bread and butter of every media student’s diet." – Natalie Fenton, Goldsmiths, University of London

"The fifth edition of The Media Student’s Book is the best textbook on the media available on the planet today. It is an invaluable resource not just for students, but also for scholars of media and cultural studies. Beautifully produced, with full-colour images, informative sidebars and information boxes working in tandem with Gill Branston and Roy Stafford’s engaging text, the new edition addresses every and any topic in media studies today: documentaries, new media, globalization, advertising, news, and media regulation. With a key chapter on research methods and innumerable ideas for activities, assignments and projects, this book will find a home in media studies courses everywhere." – Imre Szeman, University of Alberta, Canada

"A terrific new edition, a re-write which takes on the challenges of Web 2 and uses it to explore and analyse the complexity of media production and use. A brilliant introduction to media studies with a range of accessible and up-to-date examples and student exercises which are thought-provoking and engaging. The re-design presents the material vividly and the cross-referencing to the companion website makes this a superb resource. Case studies provide an excellent basis for course activity while the clear advice on research methods and references is invaluable support for project work. The editors are experienced teachers and it shows.

Branston and Stafford’s enthusiasm for a wide range of media is infectious but they don’t shy away from tricky issues like media ownership, regulation and environmental impact. In such a fast-moving world, updating this classic text book was an almost impossible task; to do it so well is a tremendous achievement." – Christine Geraghty, University of Glasgow

"This is an excellent core text for first year undergraduates, offering breadth, balance and a wealth of guidance towards further reading and research. " – Christa van Raalte, Teesside University 

"The fifth edition of The Media Student’s Book is the best edition yet. Its reorganized and revised contents make the material more accessible and also provide valuable updated overviews of contemporary developments in both new and longer-standing forms of media. One of the book’s major strengths is its combination of detailed up-to-date accounts of contemporary media forms together with a deeper historical and theoretical perspective. The widespread inclusion of discussions and case studies on media texts and genres which have emerged since the fourth edition also ensures the book’s continuing ability to dialogue with media students and to provide a focused account of the contemporary media landscape." –Hilary Dannenberg, University of Trier, Germany

"This book breaks down the discipline into concepts, then shows how each one links to others. It makes sense of the huge interdisciplinary area of media studies by providing clear definitions of key concepts, illustrated with up-to-date examples and a wealth of external links. The language is simple and direct without being patronising. As well as allowing students to understand different approaches within media studies, this book will be a useful tool in essay writing and other assessment projects. Perhaps most importantly, because of the range of examples used and its thought-provoking style, I think after reading this, students will apply what they read and through that at least begin to understand the media around them. I think both lecturers and students will find this interesting, stimulating and very useful." – Carole Fleming, Nottingham Trent University

"Branston and Stafford still offer the best, one-stop resource for media studies with an incredible range of material and contemporary case studies presented in a conversational style. The book links itself to the broader mediasphere through the archiving of additional material online and references sending students to youtube clips and short films, encouraging students to be active participants in the process of learning about media rather than simply passive readers of the text.

Through the expansive coverage, information distilled and ideas on display, The Media Student’s Book will remain a valuable resource for students throughout their studies, as well as for many academics and those involved in the analysis and creation of media more generally." – Jason Bainbridge, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia

Student Feedback:

"The new edition is great! It is accessible and easy to relate to. The use of normal everyday examples that a student will have come across instead of academic (probably unseen ones) makes understanding difficult theories and philosophies easy and straight-forward. It is like somebody your age is explaining it. I like how it acknowledges the change in the way people learn, with a greater reliance on the internet and absorbs this into its design and layout. The 'Explore' sections are also really well put together as they make you aware of all the media things that saturate your day-to-day life that you have grown to ignore or take for granted, and they make you take a step back and critically analyse them."Charlotte Dean, Media Studies student at St Andrews University

"I think that the new edition is fantastic. It's very comprehensive and the examples used are very relevant to the topics discussed. I like the side information as it explains key concepts for readers who may not be aware of their meaning. Also, the extra websites and exercises I feel will enhance learning and allows the student to interact more with the topics covered. In the introduction, I like how readers can feedback to the publishers directly by email. I think it displays two-way media and new media culture very well."Anna Jordan, Media Studies student at Stirling University