Thank God for commercials: a content and discourse analysis of the incorporation of religious iconography in television promotional messages that promote non-religious companies

Gould, Melissa Leonie
Nelson, Frances
Johnson, Rosser
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Master of Communication Studies
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Auckland University of Technology

The relationship between sacred concepts and secular companies is naturally problematic as their core values oppose one another: on the one hand, religion is concerned with human interests based on concepts of divine morality, and on the other hand, secular companies centre on commercial and capitalist goals. The problematic nature of this relationship is implied in The Broadcasting Act of 1989 which prohibits television and radio networks from broadcasting any advertisements from 6am until midday on Sundays and for the entirety of Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Christmas Day (The Broadcasting Act, 1989). Although The Act suggests that it is inappropriate to promote secular companies during times of religious observance, the inclusion of religious elements in secular promotional messages is not covered by The Act, the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) or the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Thank God for Commercials is a reaction to the practice of religious iconography being used within the secular frameworks of television promotional messages which promote secular companies. It is the observation of this practice, in conjunction with the positioning of The Broadcasting Act, BSA and the ASA, that provides the direction for my research in this thesis. This research investigates television promotional messages in order to answer the research question, “How is religious iconography incorporated in television promotional messages that promote non-religious companies?” In order to answer this question the research employs a triangulation method that combines content and discourse analysis to examine promotional messages which appear within a 90 hour sample of prime-time, free-to-air, terrestrial television broadcasting in New Zealand.

Religion , Television , Commercials , Advertising , New Zealand , Content analysis , Discourse analysis
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