Edited by Norberto González Gaitano and José María La Porte. Original
Title: Famiglia e media. Associazioni familiari e comunicazione.
Edusc, Rome 2011, 13.50 Euro.

The second volume of the series Family and Means of Communications has been just
published. The series is the fruit of the research
project Family and Media, an international initiative carried out
by various departments of Italian, Swiss, Spanish, Argentinean, and Chilean

The most important feature of this second volume is, without a doubt, the
first chapter, which contains an in-depth, detailed analysis on the
communication of family associations in Italy. The research was carried out
by professors José María La Porte (Pontifical University of the Holy Cross)
and Silvia de Ascaniis (Università della Svizzera Italiana of Lugano). TheForum for Family Associations commissioned the study to the Family and Media research team. It was conducted from June 2008 to
June 2010, on a sample representative of 31 associations that belong to the
Forum. The study offers the results as well as recommendations to improve
the effectiveness of these associations’ public action.

The research focused on the image that the family wants to offer of itself
as an alternative to the image put forth by mainstream culture, especially
by certain chief media in the public sphere. The main goal of the study was
subdivided into intermediate objectives. At the descriptive level,
the study outlined a map of Italian family associations at the national
level, in order to obtain a precise panorama of their presence, their
activity, and their goals in association to Italy. The strategic
goal, on the other hand, aimed at identifying and analyzing the
communication strategies of the associations, in order to formulate a
proposal and suggest ways to improve the efficacy of their role in society.
The strategic goal is linked to another more implicit goal that aims to
sensitize the associations themselves on the importance of having a
structured communication plan. In fact, the study confirmed the initial
suspicions that few associations base their activity on a promotional plan,
following a precise strategy, and that the organization and direct
communication to their own associates are dedicated to purely informative
channels, without a planned structure. The questions of the survey,
integrated into an exhaustive interview with the directors of the
associations, were intended to sensitize the interviewees on the need to
develop internal and external communication strategies for their own

The second chapter , now updated and translated into Italian, includes the
by Norberto González Gaitano at the 6th International
Family Day held in Mexico, on January, 2009. The conference Family and Means of Social Communication, which had an important
echo in the international press, especially Spanish media, is now updated
and translated into Italian. The document maintains the oral tone from the
lecture and presents updated data.

The following study by Teresa Téramo, professor at the Catholic University
of Argentina (UCA), had two clearly defined objectives. 1. how the image of
the family- and at the same time that of the woman- is conveyed by
Argentinean television programs during prime time. 2. Present a method of
analysis designed not only to describe, but also to quantify the positive
and negative evaluations relative to the representation of the family and
of family ties through the television.

Fortunately, the studies on the representation of the family in television
are always increasing in number. The originality of this study consists in
its methodological novelty, manifested in two dimensions: the unit of
analysis and the content analyzed.

Téramo considers the scene to be the primary element of analysis
because, as she well argues, “this is the basic unit of the audiovisual
language, just as speech is the basic unit for verbal language. Each scene
is inserted into a unit of time, place and action. The scene varies when
one of the five constitutive elements vary- character, timing, place,
action or narrator. In this way, each part of the program can be subdivided
into scenes. We also must remember that the script is divided by units of

Regarding the content analyzed or the fields of analysis covered in the
study, the three dimensions of family relationships are the primary aspects
taken into consideration: the action (what), the expression (how), and the main characters (who, which
ones, their actions and the causes). Namely, these are the passions that move the actors, their personal characteristics and
reasons for their actions that determine the level of their importance and
involvement in the story.

It is not hard to guess that the Téramo’s study is based on Aristotle’s Poetics premises. The fiction, as the author reminds us, is a
representation of human action, mimesis. It consequently has two
functions: to reveal truth (to make known), and to allow the viewer an
internal liberation that acts as a vent for the moral needs ( catarsis). In other words, it is a form of knowledge. Therefore,
“fiction is a type of reality- even before being fiction- that embodies a
certain morality.”

As García-Noblejas has repeatedly affirmed: “That which is perceived in
films and in television programs can be understood as a representation of
actions and human habits, with its kit of sentiments. Or said in other
words, it is the measure of the appreciation of the meaning of life that is
given by viewers in general terms of more or less conscious values, virtues
and vices.”

The corollary of this chapter is evident: viewers are either educated or
mislead through popular fiction.

The next chapter is written by Luciano Elizalde, member of the National
Council of Scientific Research and Technology in Argentina (CONICET), and
professor of Social Analysis at the Austral University.

His contribution to this book is a synthesis of some previous studies aimed
at “knowing more about how the figure of the family has evolved in the
television process of exposition, use, consumption, and reception among
children, in the context of Argentinean society. Following the theoretical
hypothesis of this study, it would not be possible to understand how and in
what measure television influences childhood if you do not study television
consumption within the historical process of the development and evolution
of the family as well as of television itself, since both are defined as
social institutions”.

The author reminds us that the television and its effects on the family
have not always been the same throughout the history of the relationship
between family and television. “This happens, above all, because it has not
been possible to find only one family or only one television during the
last sixty years. On the contrary, the “portrayal” or the social
organization of the television and of the family has been changing due to,
among other reasons, the effect of the change generated by the
relationships between both institutions. That does not mean however, that
the relationship between television and family has always been the only
source of transformation of these institutions. There are exogenous factors
that modify their behavior patterns, their decisions and their processes of
cognition and communication used”.

Elizalde begins his analysis by telling real life stories that illustrate
how young people between 18 and 25 and professionals (journalists,
historians, sociologists, politicians, economist, etc.) use television.
Together, these stories offer an insight into the evolution of the general
historical context of the country and of television in particular, as a
cultural industry. Elizalde offers a rigorous and detailed outline of the
phases of television in relation to the Argentinean family that, besides
the historical differences, find many similarities with other studies
carried out in different countries in the West, such as those done by
Casetti and Aroldi in Italy.

Elizalde presents the results of this research on the family-television
relationship within the frame of “a theory of reception as the process of
distancing”, as he himself defines it.

The fifth and last chapter, written by Alfredo García Luarte, journalist
and professor of Journalism at the Catholic University of the Holy
Conception (Chile), studies the representation of the Chilean family in two
leading national papers, El Mercurio and La Tercera.

As the author affirms, “explicitly or implicitly, the journalistic texts
are contextualized within a definite argument and framework, from which the
information is structured in a way that transmits ideas and concepts
differently to a public that more often than not, is unaware of it”.

Using an inductive-deductive approach, Alfredo García pinpoints the
anthropological values present in the journalistic texts relative to the
family and the relationships that consequently derived. He draws upon the
frames that are explicit in the narrative organization of the news article
and that respond to conventional journalistic practices. Then he identifies
the arguments or common places (topoi) that deal with the
journalistic texts and relate to the fundamental elements of sociability,
or social virtues.

Alfredo García’s valuable contribution has been the validation of
journalistic texts, for the first time, in an analytical approach proposed
by the research project Family and Media.

We call to mind a quote from Montagu that relates to this appealing book:
“men and societies are made according to the image they have of themselves,
and these change according to the image of their own development.”
Certainly this book will inspire he who, having received the legacy of a
better image of a family, works to introduce and incarnate this model into
the culture for the good of society.


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