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Title: Television, audiences and medical science : the social construction of AIDS
Author: Khattab, Umi Manickam
Awarding Body: University of Leicester
Current Institution: University of Leicester
Date of Award: 1995
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Although Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Aids) is both a social and a medical problem, scholars largely concur that it has been imbued with meanings beyond its medical signification. Attempts to objectify the reality of Aids by authoritative claimants within medical science, within the news media and between them seem to have produced multiple realities of the disease. This study rejects the moral panic argument of early research on Aids and proposes instead the social problems constructionist theory and the critical argument of medicalisation. Empirical evidence, obtained through content analysis of all United States national news networks-ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS-and five local Chicago news networks---WGN-9, WTW-11, WBBM-2, WLS-7 and WMAQ-5---as well as survey of 200 students and 200 non-students in the city of Chicago, point out disjunctures in the representation of Aids and responses to Aids messages. However, no major differences were observable between networks in the coverage of Aids news and between groups of respondents, no major differences were observable with regard to knowledge and understanding of Aids. Generally, network television news was noted to give prominent, medically metaphorised coverage to Aids. While television news discourse appeared to have demedicalised homosexuality due in large measure to gay activism, children and race seemed medicalised. Subtly, television news tended to perpetuate a particular set of values providing as such common definitions of reality through the consensual depiction of normal and deviant. Television Aids news discourse seemed not to accurately reflect the actual incidence of Aids among groups of people in the United States or the actual difficulties of Aids research within medical science. Incongruencies were noted between audiences' construction of Aids and television portrayal of Aids as well as the real world of Aids. Although audiences were well-informed about Aids, sympathetic toward PWAs and largely denied Aids was a homosexual disease, yet they mostly blamed television for constructing Aids as a homosexual disease which they mostly said was not realistic. Furthermore, the more educated light viewers were somewhat more skeptical and critical of television presentation of Aids. Constructionists argument that social problems are not objective conditions is supported by highlighting the role of television news in the initial stage of the definitional process of social problems and underscoring that illnesses, such as Aids, tend to be impregnated with denial and blame in the construction of reality. Television, based on news values, made claims by selectively representing the claims, interest and values of the powerful.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available