Religion and the Media

Judith M. Buddenbaum

in Communication

ISBN: 9780199756841
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:
Religion and the Media

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Churches and other religious organizations have always conducted or commissioned media research addressing their interests. Scholarly journals have always published occasional articles dealing with religion and media. However, as a distinct area for scholarly inquiry, religion and media owes its origin in the United States to a confluence of events during the late 1970s that made religion important in a way it had not been since the 1925 Scopes trial. Questions raised by the opening of television to paid religious programming as a result of changes in broadcast law and network policies led to a flurry of scholarship on the then-new electronic church by sociologists of religion and mass communication scholars. At about the same time, the election of the born-again Jimmy Carter as president, the Iranian hostage crisis, and the rise of the New Christian Right paved the way for scholarly interest in religion as news. Since then the continuing political influence of conservative Christians in the United States, an influx of Muslim immigrants in European nations, and the events of 9/11 have sustained interest in the field and broadened it to encompass both international scholarly attention and a new emphasis on the portrayal of religions beyond Christianity in news and entertainment media. In the 1990s international research conferences on religion and the media began to appear. The American Academy of Religion, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, and the International Communication Association all had units devoted to the subject. As a result, religion and media, although still closely identified in the United States with journalism and mass communication, developed into an eclectic, interdisciplinary field. Although European scholarly research in both the sociology of religion and communication predates that in America, the events that initially triggered the development of religion and media as an area for scholarly inquiry had little initial impact outside the United States. However, by the 1980s scholars from around the world with interest in the field had begun to find each other through organizations such as the International Association for Mass Communication Research, which scheduled a session on the subject at its 1994 conference in Seoul, South Korea, and the International Communication Association, which did the same at its Sydney, Australia, conference that year. However, the real impetus for international research came from a series of media–religion–culture conferences, the first of them in 1993 at the University of Uppsala, Sweden, and from increasingly available funding for religion and media research from the European Science Foundation and similar organizations in individual countries. While the conferences moved audience-centered research from a culturist perspective to the forefront, the major funding promoted more traditional effects-oriented social science research in the wake of 9/11, European involvement in the US-led war in Iraq, and tensions between Muslim immigrants and traditionally Christian but increasingly secular host European nations.

Article.  21215 words. 

Subjects: Communication Studies

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