• Thea Astrid Brunslev Pedersen
  • Henriette Maria Bolvig Stentebjerg
  • Zenia Ina Stavnshøj Torp
4. term, Communication, Master (Master Programme)

This thesis searches to examine, on the basis of the two documentaries The Cove and Blackfish, which topics and discourses are generated in the debate around marine parks and how it influences the business. We define a marine park as a place where guests can experience shows with performing marine mammals. In the thesis we have used SeaWorld as a representative for marine parks and therefore as a case to define and explain how the debate influences the business. We define SeaWorld's situation as a crisis, since we see critics and media articulate that SeaWorld is in a critical situation. This thesis has a socialconstructivistic approach, whereby we first consider and call a crisis a crisis when this is articulated and given meaning by humans.

We have examine our problem definition by interviewing a variety of people, which we have characterized as critics and supporters. Common to them is that they are a part of the debate around marine parks which is why they can give us an insight into this specific field.

The analysis of the thesis is two parted. First part is a discourse analysis of four communication products in form of the documentaries The Cove and Blackfish and SeaWorld’s killer whale show One Ocean as well as their site Blackfish: The Truth About the Movie. In the analysis we have used Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse theory to define the critics’ and supporters’ point of view on marine parks. In addition we have used Henrik Juel’s content analysis. In the debate two discourses have been identified through the analysis: The Critic-discourse and The Supporter-discourse. We see that the critics and supporters do not agree in the perception of marine parks. In according to this, they create an enemy image of each other. By using Laclau and Mouffes’ concepts within the discourse analysis we found out that overall, there is an antagonistic relationship between critics and supporters, which means that they cannot engage in dialogue with each other. According to the critics, marine parks are not able to improve anything and the only solution for them is to close the business down. In that case marine parks cannot do anything right in terms of their communication, campaigns or initiatives.

In the second part of the analysis we have used theories about crisis communication by William Benoit and Timothy Coombs to define and examine how SeaWorld has chosen to respond to the crisis. The results of the second analysis shows that no matter which approach SeaWorld has chosen to use to defend themselves they are still being criticized by critics, media and stakeholders. Through the thesis we see a change in how marine parks communicate and a shift in their focus where topics such as conservation, education and research are highlighted as qualities of marine parks. A change in focus also appears since marine parks start to defend their actions even more in relation to their livelihood. Thus the institution articulate that it has an important function in the society. Furthermore we derive from the analysis that there is a questioning surrounding marine parks in the society by both the stakeholders and the media. We assume that before the debate, trust and faith were attributed to marine parks, but it seems like this is no longer the case. A reason for this development, is that we see a strong and modern focus where stakeholders require much more animal welfare and also concerns more about environment, consuming food, farming and marine parks. This new natural focus, which is exposed through documentaries The Cove and Blackfish, generates a negative view on marine parks due to the unnatural surroundings for the animals. If this trend continues, we see a potential hegemonic intervention, which can make the critics' view on marine parks the widely accepted in society. This could have the effect that marine parks will find it difficult to exist with their current businessform. Therefore a 50-year-old tradition might be losing its livelihood.
Publication date1 Jun 2015
Number of pages109
ID: 213266147