John Hibbert – Subject Advisor for Media and Film Studies
In this blog, updated from January 2019, I offer some guidance on the Media language and representation topic in A Level Media Studies.
Students need to study the set products for each of the three media forms covered in the Media language and representation topic. For music videos, students should study one set video from list A and one from list B. There are three set adverts to be studied for advertising which are the Old Spice ‘volcano head’ advert, the Lucozade advert featuring Gareth Bale, and the Shelter advert. The set adverts can be accessed via this document on our website. For magazines, students should study two front covers of The Big Issue from the September onwards of the first year of their course.
There will be two questions on this topic in the Media Messages exam, one 10 mark question and one 15 mark question. One of the questions will test knowledge and understanding (AO1). This style of question is likely to use the command word explain, and will be in relation to media language or representation in one of the three media forms. Students will need to be able to refer to the set products in their response to knowledge and understanding questions. Question 5 of the sample assessment materials demonstrates this style of question in relation to music videos, and question 5 of the practice paper shows this style of question for advertising.
The other question in this section will be an analysis (AO2) question, using the command word analyse. Analysis questions on advertising and magazines will use unseen sources. Students may be asked to make judgements and reach conclusions about the use of media language or representation in the product(s) analysed.
Any of the three media forms can be assessed through either of the two styles of question in this section.
Where the analysis question in this section is on magazines or advertising, unseen sources will always be used. For magazines this will be a Big Issue front cover, which can be taken from outside the period of study. Analysis questions on advertising will either use an unseen advert for a similar product to the set adverts (male grooming product, soft drink, homelessness charity) or ask for comparison of a set advert to an unseen advert for a similar product.
Unseen sources will never be used in relation to music videos. Question 6 in both the sample assessment materials and the practice paper demonstrate this style of question in relation to The Big Issue.
We’ve had a number of queries from centres asking about how the redesign of The Big Issue in November 2021 may affect assessment of this product.
As assessment of magazines can involve the use of unseen front covers of The Big Issue, we want to provide clarity on which style of covers will be used in exam papers in the future.
Magazines are not assessed in every exam series. If they are assessed in summer 2023, any unseen Big Issue cover used in the AS Level Media Today H009/01 exam would be taken from after the redesign of the The Big Issue in November 2021.
For the A Level Media Messages H409/01 exam, if an unseen The Big Issue cover is used in summer 2023 it would be taken from before the redesign in November 2021.
All three media forms should be studied in relation to social and cultural contexts. Students should have an understanding of how the different media forms can reflect their social and cultural context. A useful way of approaching this is to consider how social and cultural contexts such as changing gender roles, multiculturalism, celebrity culture, nostalgia/retro culture and consumerism are reflected in the set products.
The Big Issue also needs to be studied in relation to political contexts. The nature of The Big Issue means that is a politically engaged publication which addresses a number of political contexts including poverty and social inequality.
Students need to be prepared to discuss each of the set products for each of the three media forms in relation to media language, representation and the relevant media contexts. For advertising and magazines students should also be able to analyse these areas in relation to unseen magazine covers and adverts, and for advertising be able to compare the set adverts to unseen adverts for similar products.
If you have any questions about this topic please do comment below or get in touch via email firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @OCR_Media_Film. You can also sign up to our mailing list for information about resources and support.
John Hibbert has worked at OCR since April 2018 and is Subject Advisor for Media and Film Studies. Prior to joining OCR John taught a range of Media and Film Studies qualifications in secondary schools, and was a head of department for the last eight years. Predictably, in his spare time he is a keen filmgoer, and in addition enjoys reading and miserable indie music.