Communications in Canadian Society (Third Edition)

Benjamin D. Singer

Designing reading lists for undergraduate courses in Canadian mass communication has traditionally been a tedious task. Between attempting to satisfy theoretical and descriptive requirements, as well as struggling to ensure that sources are both relatively current and meet with the exigencies of the curriculum, the search for material can be long and arduous. With 44 theoretically diverse essays on a wide variety of salient Canadian mass communication topics between them, these two publications contribute to easing this burden temporarily.

The third edition of Communication in Canadian Society is almost completely revised, with rewrites of articles from past editions, as well as the addition of both reprints from other publications and new material. Divided into five parts-- I. Canadian Media Institutions and Audiences; II. Processes and Impact of the Media; III. Control and Policy; IV. Social Problems and the Media; V. Canada in the Information Age--it is an eclectic mix of theoretical and methodological approaches that offers a broad introduction to the social and institutional characters of the Canadian mass media. Seeing Ourselves too is comprised of largely original work with a few rewrites and updates of previously published material. Divided into three parts--I. Regulating Media Power; II. Media Power and National Identity; III. Media Power and Social Change--it is the more analytically nuanced of the two and more focused upon the issues and challenges that confront contemporary Canadian media regulation and practice. Singer's collection comes complete with a comprehensive index, while Holmes and Taras' book has two valuable appendices: one, detailing basic Canadian media ownership, production, and consumption statistics; the other, a reprint of the 1991 Broadcasting Act.

Because of the scope of these works, space does not allow for a detailed rehearsal of their contents. However, together the two volumes provide an excellent introduction to the diversity of media scholarship in anglophone Canada. At one level, they offer a general description of the growth of the Canadian mass media and the current issues facing these industries, as well as reviews of the specific histories and contemporary contexts of the newspaper, magazine, broadcasting, film, book publishing, advertising, and public relations industries. At another, they explore issues of nationalism and the problems inherent in representing diverse cultural and regional interests in centralized policy processes and media systems. The political context of the media is discussed, and the ways in which journalistic practices and the political economy of the media work together to nuance representation in media forms are examined. As well, specific issues of representation in media content and practice with regard to women, ethnic minorities, and native northerners are highlighted. Other essays elaborate on the intricacies of broadcast measurement and some of the complexities of media /audience relationships. And there are both qualitative and quantitative accounts of media impacts, and both obscenity law and pornography are given vigorous and enlightening discussion. On yet another front, the larger social, political, and economic parameters of popular culture are examined through discussions of Canadian football and hockey. Finally, there are several essays that introduce the character and possible social implications of new electronic media forms.

The diverse academic backgrounds of the contributors--business, communication, film studies, history, journalism, law, political science, psychology, and sociology--illustrate the growing interdisciplinary nature of the study of mass communication, and the different approaches these writers bring to often similar subjects give rise to some interesting theoretical and methodological comparisons. Together, these essays clearly demonstrate that not only are the media themselves contested social terrain, but also that their study too is a site of struggle.

Whether one is searching for material for an introductory survey course on Canadian mass communication, articles describing the histories and current issues facing Canada's cultural industries, essays on general media impact or specific issues of representation, or comparative approaches to the field for a theory or methodology course, both these texts merit serious attention. And while neither of them offers a comprehensive discussion of any one topic, the breadth of information and scholarship they bring to the area earns them both well-deserved places in any collection of Canadian mass communication texts.



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We wish to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for their financial support through theAid to Scholarly Journals Program.

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