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"The stories told in the media should respond to the reality of the family environment, related to the values of protection, safety, construction of one's own identity, Education and learning"

Interview with Mercedes Medina, professor of the School of Communication and member of the committee of experts of the workshop Interdisciplinary on the Family.

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PHOTO: Manuel Castells
22/12/14 17:03 Raquel Astibia

Mercedes Medina, professor of School of Communication of the University of Navarra, is a member of the committee of experts of the interdisciplinary workshop 'Family and Society in the 21st Centurywhich is coordinated by the Institute for Culture and Society on the initiative of Office of the Vice President for Research. In this interview he talks about the family from the point of view of Communication.

How is communication challenged by the issue of the family?

From the field of communication, the family is a topic of informative interest, therefore, all issues that have to do with the family directly or indirectly, such as the Education, or the defense and protection of life, may be of interest from this field.

On the other hand, traditionally, television as a means of communication has been a medium whose consumption took place in the domestic sphere and used to bring together all the members of the family. Although today the new mobile screens have broken this trend, there is still a lot of content aimed at the family, or at children, which is usually part of the per diem expenses media.

The protection of the latter has been the object of legal regulation and social concern in the sense of avoiding content that may harm the physical, mental or psychological health of the youngest members of the household. In Spain, compliance with this obligation is monitored by the Comisión Nacional de Mercados y skill (CNMC).

What topics can be interesting to research from the perspective of communication on the family and family ties?

Undoubtedly, communication in the family is an essential topic for the proper functioning of this social institution, but it is not usually the object of research from Schools de Comunicación. In the discipline of Economics of the media, the consumption of media from the home, in the family, and the family as the audience goal to which the informative and entertaining contents of the media are directed, have been studied.

On the other hand, from other disciplines such as Communication Theory or Script Fundamentals, the representation of the family and family narratives in printed and audiovisual media has also been addressed. Many fiction and documentary works have the family as a trigger for action and relationships. Their main plots are family-based and take place primarily in the domestic sphere.

What about the field of fiction?

The reception of family fiction has some peculiarities that make it different. Within the so-called reception programs of study , television series, soap operas, documentaries, family movies and, lately, family coaching programs have captured the interest of researchers. These programs target a family audience that brings with it new consumption practices and different attitudes towards the values represented.

Some communication companies design their products from agreement to the family audience they are targeting. The term "family" is not limited to the fact of living in a common domicile, but there are links that guarantee unity, affection and security to individuals living under the same roof. The adjective family implies a series of universal and permanent values, common to all countries. Therefore, the stories narrated must respond to the reality of the family environment, related to the values of protection, security, construction of one's own identity, Education and learning. Family coexistence is based on a certain stability, it gives rise to its own conflicts. This subject of coexistence allows the commercial success of these formats, turning them into brands with which the public identifies.

Does the media adequately reflect the conflicts and roles that occur in the family?

Conflicts and relationships occur in an environment of mutual acceptance and trust, which ensures giving and selflessness in relationships. In these stories, spouses are the main characters. But differences can be seen in the subject of marital relationships, educational styles and in the resolution of conflicts. This feature allows for a plurality of possible worlds, thus reinforcing the possibilities of identification of a wider audience.

The clarification of family roles helps to make the stories understandable and bring dramatic tension to the stories. If the difference in roles is blurred, the stories become complex and strange to the viewer.

By studying the family traits present in fictional works, or in reality programs or documentaries, other traits are discovered that deform the nature of the family institution to the extent that the fallacious deviation appears. With the study of the dramatic fallacy in the contents of the media, it is possible to explain the internal inconsistencies of these products that, many times, have not prevented them from achieving commercial success.

What proposals can communication make to strengthen family ties and relationships?

The media have a strong social impact. Clarifying the nature of the family, family roles, the configuration of identity staff, etc. will contribute to create contents that truly reflect the reality of the family institution and will allow the use of a true and not a false narrative.

On the other hand, analyzing media consumption, especially audiovisual content on different screens, can help parents and educators to take advantage of this content to form in young people certain criteria that will allow them to distinguish good from evil in human behavior and actions.


Mercedes Medina holds a PhD in Information Sciences from the University of Navarra (1995) and a Master in Arts in Communication from the University of Westminster in London (1994). Professor of Communication Structure and Markets and Media and Entrepreneurship. Director of the Master of management of Communication Companies (MGEC) (2006-2012) and since 2012 deputy director of the Master of research in Communication at the University of Navarra.

She has three sexenios of research CNEAI recognized. She has been principal investigator in the following projects "Business and thematic values in family TV series in Spain" (2004-2007) and of "New audiovisual consumption habits in Europe: impact of digitalization on citizens' per diem expenses and industry" (2010-2013), and has participated in others: "Globalization and pluralism: role of public TV in the European audiovisual market" (2002-2005); "skill and diversity in the television market in Europe" (2007-2009); "Effects of skill on the television market in Europe" (2007-2010).

She is an expert in Economics entertainment, management content and quality in television. Among her publications are the following books: Globalization and Pluralism: reshaping public TV in Europe (2010), Creating, producing and selling tv shows. The case of the most popular dramedies in Spain (2009), Series de televisión. El caso de Médico de Familia, Cuéntame cómo pasó y Los Serrano (2009),The Changing average Business Environment (2008), Calidad y contenidos audiovisuales (2006), Estructura y management de Empresas Audiovisuales (2005; 2011), European Television Production: Pluralism and Concentration (2004), evaluation publicitaria de los programas de televisión (1998) and Estrategias de marketing de las empresas de televisión en España (1997).