More Hope!: Ceremonial Media Events Are Still Powerful in the Twenty-First Century

More Hope!: Ceremonial Media Events Are Still Powerful in the Twenty-First Century

Julia Sonnevend (University of Michigan, USA)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 9
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9967-0.ch010
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In a journal article entitled ‘No More Peace!': How Disaster, Terror and War Have Upstaged Media Events (2007), Elihu Katz and Tamar Liebes offered a substantial revision of Media Events: The Live Broadcasting of History (Dayan & Katz, 1992). Katz and Liebes included “dark” events in the “media events” concept, distinguishing unexpected, disruptive events from the carefully scripted, integrative events that had been the sole focus of Media Events. They also claimed that disruptive events – like disaster, terror and war – have in fact upstaged more classical media events. In contrast, in this chapter I argue that ceremonial media events - as originally conceptualized by Dayan and Katz in the nineties - are still essential and powerful features of our social lives. First, I present an overview of the “pessimistic turn” of media events research and provide my criticism of it. Second, I discuss three contemporary case studies from three national contexts: the Obama inauguration (2009), the royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton (2011) and the most recent World Cup (2014). These three events represent the three basic scripts introduced by Dayan and Katz: “conquest,” “coronation” and “contest.” I argue that the selected case studies (and many other events) still bring societies and nations together in our “disillusioned” media environment, providing momentary hope for local and cosmopolitan citizens.
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Theoretical Framework: The “Critical Turn” In Media Events Research

In order to understand the recent theoretical reformulations of Dayan and Katz, we first need to recall their original concept of “media events.” In Media Events: The Live Broadcasting of History (1992), an event had to fulfill a strict list of requirements in order to qualify as a media event: it had to constitute an interruption of everyday life and everyday broadcasting, receive live coverage, be preplanned and scripted, and be viewed by a large audience. There had to be a normative expectation that viewing was obligatory and a reverent, awe-filled narration. The event also had to be integrative of society and (mostly) conciliatory (Dayan & Katz, 1992; Katz & Liebes, 2007). Dayan and Katz also divided media events into three basic scripts: contests (for instance the Olympic Games) conquests (such as the landing on the Moon) and coronations (for example the royal wedding of Charles and Diana). The worldview of Media Events was equally clear and organized: a neo-Durkheimian belief in media events’ ability to contribute to social cohesion based on shared values and common experiences.

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