The Gruen Sphere


Since the 18th century the public sphere has been a place in which citizens come together to discuss and debate common interests, ideas and opinions unrestricted and without influence from the media or government where as the mediated public sphere is where the media (TV shows, film, magazines, etc.) plays a role in hosting the topics in which the publics opinions bounce off.Cultural theorist Jürgen Habermas (1964, p. 289) defines the public sphere as “a realm of our social life in which something approaching public opinion can be formed”

One such example of where the mediated public sphere is displayed is The Gruen Planet. This is a spinoff series on ABC (from The Gruen Transfer) that focuses on advertising, corporations, governments, global media strategies and their public relations. This show is filmed in front of a live audience and though they are not asked on their opinions or to present questions they do participate where they are provoked into thinking about what is being advertised, why and how effective it is.

The show creates intense discussions about the promotional efforts of a vast array of organisations, products, signifiers, signified and issues in society linking to them. This in return generates debates amongst the public sphere both in the live audience and at home.

It is often argued that the public sphere is “too fragmented, and it has caused citizens to become too apathetic about important public issues” (McKee, 2005) although this may be the case in some circumstances Wil Anderson the host of The Gruen Planet bypasses this by talking about important issues through comedy relief displayed throughout the series, thus connecting with the audience and allowing them to let their guard down in order to accept and discuss the information however controversial the topic may be.

Each week The Gruen Planet focuses on a specific topic or issue regarding advertising efforts. This one in particular concentrated on advertisements regarding the up coming voting of gay marriage rights at the time. They discuss their effectiveness and the issues in the public, with marketing such a campaign. This at the time had prompted debated with the fan base of the TV show, discussing not only the advertisements themselves but their thoughts and opinions on the topic of allowing equal marriage rights. I myself remember taking part of such a discussion at the time of the episodes release.

Though The Gruen Planet is mostly based on dissecting advertisement it is still able to create a buzz amongst its public sphere when regarding topics from upcoming laws and legislations to brand and pricing wars. This is possible because the audience affiliated with the program, are the ones being effected by such ads and are able to link and discuss them with more important issues.



McKee, A 2005, The Public Sphere: An Introduction, Cambridge University Press, Published in the USA by Cambridge University Press, New York,

Calhoun,C 1993, Habermas and the Public Sphere, Massachusetts Institute of Technology press, USA

Week 5 Lecture notes


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