The web has been a great benefit to students generally and to media students specifically. It allows fast and immediate access to a world of information much of which would have seemingly taken an eternity to find and transcribe from books. More than that it also allows you to search easily across a range of sound, visual and audio visual archives without needing to leave your desk or even put a DVD into the player. Finally the web is a great boon to media students because it is a medium that allows you not only to consume information and entertainment but equally enables you to create your own. So as a student the web provides you with a dynamic medium for finding information that also encourages you to interact in some interesting ways and offer your own take on the world of media output.
Of course in this latter benefit lies a potential pitfall for the unwary student. In general the information you obtain from books comes from reliable sources who have taken the trouble to substantiate the information and opinions which you are offered. While this is also the case with many reputable websites, there are far more opportunities on the web to offer ill-informed opinions often disguised as hard facts. So a word of caution is needed here. Whenever using the web as a research tool, consider carefully how trustworthy the site where you obtained your information is likely to be. Of course, you can never be 100% sure of any information regardless of the source, but it is common sense that sites such as the BBC and the quality national newspapers are going to be more reliable sources than the blog of someone you have never heard of.
Allied to this point is another important caveat. It is a very simple matter to get information from a website and simply paste it into your own work, such as a coursework essay. This is potentially an action which is called plagiarism. It is frowned upon by schools, universities and the awarding bodies which mark your exam papers. There is a very simple matter of etiquette here. By all means take other people's ideas but on no account pretend that they are your own. You must always acknowledge the source of any ideas or information that you quote by writing the details of the source in a bibliography or as a footnote. Not to do so leaves you open to all sorts of recriminations on the part of Awarding Bodies who see lifting other people's ideas without acknowledging that you have done so as nothing more than cheating. It is just like leaning over in an exam and copying someone else's answer.
So if you want to get the best out of what the web has to offer you as a student, you must be discriminating in using the information you find and honest in acknowledging where you are making use of other people's ideas.
Where to look
Here are some ideas for good places to start to look out information about Media Studies on the web.
The media industry itself has an important and valuable presence on the web. The quality newspapers, both the dailies and the Sundays are always worth keeping up to date with, not just for national and internal news, but also most offer supplements with information and discussion about the media and important media events. Particularly useful is the Media Guardian which offers a weekly update on media news and issues. Remember you can also search the archives of this section so if you are working on a specific topic, you can look up any recent articles that might be helpful. All the quality newspapers have section on film, reviewing cinema releases on a weekly basis as well as having features on important and not so important aspects of cinema and film.
All the major television channels have their own websites, many with the opportunity to search and watch archive recordings and find information about programmes. You should also bear in mind websites for radio stations and the opportunity to listen to programmes and radio output from around the world online.
The BBC website is a vast resource of information covering an array of topics. It is worth spending time getting to know your way around the site. Apart from the site's news content, there is a wealth of information about the BBC's own radio and television output as well as links to a back catalogue of television and radio programmes. Some of the sites that, as a media student, you may find particularly interesting are:
The Learning Zone:
Primarily aimed at teachers, LZ is a searchable archive of short clips from television programmes of different genres and formats. Many of the clips are chosen to illustrate a specific aspect of the media, such as issues of representation, and are therefore of particular use in media research. If you are looking for specific examples to illustrate a topic you are working on, try a basic search. If you are simply looking for inspiration, or even just amusement, try browsing. Here is a good example of an LZ clip, Charlie Brooker talking about making TV programmes.
Another handy port of call is BBC Blast. If you don't already know BBC Blast, this is another archive resource offering the opportunity to browse clips, many created by students themselves. You may wish to offer one of your productions to the Blast team. Additionally there are some useful tips on how to do some media tasks such as interviewing and writing a story.
Finally take a look at the BBC Archives page. Here you will find links to such resources as the BBC Comedy Collection and a history of the BBC itself.
Other archives that you may find useful include
The National Media Museum
Worth a visit if you can get to Bradford.
Here's another site that is dedicated to helping media students.
Media output in the UK is heavily regulated through a combination of statutory organisations (those that have legal powers of enforcement) and voluntary organisations (those set up by the industries themselves to regulate media output and activity). The websites of these organisations are well worth looking at especially if you are doing work on areas such as censorship and media regulation and control. Each sets out its individual remit and describes its powers and method of working. Many deal with complaints from the public which are investigated and adjudicated upon. Reading the complaints and adjudications can offer a useful insight into the different sectors of the media industries and how they are regulated.
By far the most significant site is OFCOM.
Check out the link to the OFCOM website where you can read about the organisation's role as regulatory for the television, radio and telecommunications industries. This is a great site for undertaking research into how regulation works, how industry codes of practice are enforced and how complaints are dealt with.
In addition, OFCOM also commissions research into audience use of the media. Look, for example, at their report published in August 2010 into how audiences use television radio and other communications media:
Other regulatory bodies that have useful websites cover different areas of media output:
There are a number of websites which specialise in the academic aspects of media studies. These vary considerably in terms of level and accessibility. All are probably worth a look. However, don't get too discouraged if you find some of the content hard going as much of it is intended for undergraduate use and above. One especially interesting site is Professor David Gauntlett's Theory.org.uk site. Here you will find a lot of cutting edge approaches to media study with a particular focus on issues of identity and gender, as well as useful insight into the world of Media Studies 2.0.
Similarly the Media and Communications Studies site MCS http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/index.html is a comprehensive source of media theory and current thinking. You are likely to find both sites pretty demanding in places though.
Film is an area particularly well served by the web. If you are undertaking study or research into cinema, a useful first port of call is our Routledge companion site to Film Studies: www.alevelfilmstudies.co.uk. Although dedicated to the WJEC GCE in film studies, it has some useful material for the media student too.
The BFI has some useful information and further links.
Film magazines all have an online presence. For example:
Try also the Film Education site.
The Internet Movie Database is a very useful research source — it provides detailed information (cast, crew, release schedules, filming location etc) for thousands of films. It also provides links to a variety of reviews from publications worldwide. A related site is http://boxofficemojo.com/ which analyses budgets and box office takings (and has an extensive archive of box office statistics). There are also articles analysing industry developments.
http://www.launchingfilms.com/ is the website of the Film Distributors' Association; it provides statistics about release schedules and box office takings but also detailed explanations of the role of the distributor.
Academic film sites
Bright Lights Film Journal started as a print journal in the 1970s but is now an online journal with a range of popular academic essays on a variety of contemporary and older films with specific focus on European, avant-garde, documentary and independent cinema.
Senses of Cinema has an extensive section on auteurs comprising academic essays on the work of notable directors.
Popular film journalism
Both these sites offer a huge variety of writing on film in the form of articles, essays, interviews, festival reports, blogs and video links on a range of films.