It is impossible to underestimate the impact of Modern Mass Media on every single person, and a society as a whole. For many centuries, starting with the invention of first printing machine, public opinion was extensively exposed to the influence of mass media. But who influences mass media? Ideally, mass media should be an independent body, whose main function is to reflect the reality, and provide people with new information, concerning economical, political and cultural aspects of life. However, as everything in the world is influenced by something, mass media is also being influenced, which makes it lose the main purpose which it serves. It is well-known that by means of mass media people’s behavior and beliefs can be adapted to the goals of certain individuals or organizations. However, the dramatic effect of mass media may seem small at the first sight, because it is a long slow process of adding up necessary information in order to modify public opinion. With the invention of the Internet the interaction between public opinion and mass media has become even stronger; hence, the influence on public opinion has also become more intense.
We all know that news programs on TV provide us with the current events going on worldwide; however, it is already a fact that the same events are interpreted and shown differently in different countries. Before the news can be shown on TV they are altered in order to satisfy somebody’s needs. Thus, it is possible to say, that a process of “inventing reality” does really exists.
Who and what influences modern mass media and takes part in the process of “inventing of reality” will be discussed further in the study.
Does mass media influence or is it influenced?
In the book Inventing Reality by Michael Parenti, the author gives the definition of mass media as “weapon” that can be used to protect people and against them . He exposes the dissimulation of the absence of censorship of mass communication media, and the prevalence of right forces in the creation of news today. Parenti convinces the readers that the entire mass media is serving the interests of political and corporate leaders, rather than the interests of average people, whom it should have served indeed. The author is convinced that modern mass media is misleading public opinion and shifts it in the necessary direction.
Actually, mass media should be a mirror of reality, reflecting objectively and independently the given information. Obviously it is not so, and there are multiple factors influencing the process of reflecting information, and the rate of influence of certain factors varies in accordance with the alteration of information. Mass media tries to control people’s mind, thus it doesn’t need independent people. In “Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky”, the authors of the book write that mass media together with educational system “weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on – because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions” . According to Chomsky, people cannot use their brains while working for mass media, because they should be submissive, rather than independent.
There are a lot of political and economic factors that exert corrupt influence on mass media. Money as a source of power has a great impact on mass media. When a certain TV company is profit-oriented and is paid money to attract as much people as possible, it will do its best to attract the audience by fair means of foul. The owners and top mangers of mass media companies may be then referred as an authoritative body, which is equal to higher political or economic bodies. It is also considered that press lords, such as Rupert Merdock in Great Britain or Conrad Black in Canada have a full control over the content of the news, and show in their press mainly the conservative views.
Mass media is influenced by commercial activities of some of the corporations and businesses. Commercially-oriented mass media is to attract as large audience as possible to gain profits for advertising account. Thus, the information given in the news should be interesting for the audience. The presence of such commercial restrictions evidences that the market can bring in rather effective censorship into mass media. As a result, commercial mass media is characterized by certain obstacles faced while reflecting some radical or progressive opinions. However, other researchers believe that mass media reflects not all variety of views, but only the views of the representatives of institutional authority: politicians, governmental officials, economic leaders and etc. This concept assumes that the authorities determine general set of matters, which should be discussed by the media, outlines the main principles of perceiving the reality and determines the rate of possible digressions in views.
Another important view on what might influence mass media is the influence of ideology on the reflection of reality. As many researchers believe, ideology determines all standards of the production of news: professional criteria, the value of information, and especially the rate of “objectiveness”.
According to the authors of the book “Mass Communication in Canada” Rowland Lorimer and Mike Gasher the nature of mass media has changed due to the growing popularity of the Internet and its applications. The Internet is now used in all spheres of life; however, its usage in mass communication is probably most extensive. By means of the Internet people are able to receive and distribute information, which of course has a dramatic effect on mass media as well as society in a whole. To prove this Lorimer and Gasher write “transmission of messages made by many is far surpassing the production and distribution of a limited set of products made by a few …” . Thus, it is necessary to emphasize, that the advent of the Internet into Canadian mass communication has changed the roles and functions performed by all mass media organization and the public.
As it has been mentioned above, mass media influences vast mass people, while it is influenced by a certain group of people who own some sort of power. Politicians, owners of corporations, millionaires influence the quantity and quality of reality that if been reflected by mass media, thus making the latter “invent the reality”. What is the purpose of doing that? This purpose is well-described in the book by George Ritzer “The McDonaldization of Society”. The author treats McDonald’s as the result of bureaucracy influencing the society – the same bureaucracy, which effects mass communication worldwide. From the viewpoint of Ritzer, managers of McDonald’s aim at gaining full control of their employees, and for this reason they hire young people, who maybe more easily influenced and controlled than adults .
Having spoken about modern mass media, and the factors which influence the process of reflecting the reality it is necessary to make a conclusion. From my point of view, the main function of mass media should be just the reflection of reality, without any interpretations, adaptations and other means of misleading the people. With the development of such sciences as psychology and political science, politicians and other authoritative individuals have learned how to control people’s minds by means of mass media.
Though, a lot of states claim to be democratic and have the freedom of speech, censorship is still being exercised there. That’s why the same events are reflected differently in different countries. This is done in order to satisfy the interests of governmental officials, who strive to gain as much power over people as possible. And it seems natural, because it is what government was created for – to rule the people. However, it’s not politically correct, when a country is democratic, but implements undemocratic measures. All of this is done in order to create new reality, to “invent” the correct reality for people.
1. Fan, David P. “Predictions of Public Opinion from the Mass Media: Computer Analysis and Mathematical Modelling. Greenwood Press, 1988
2. Lorimer, Rowland and Gasher, Mike, Mass Communication in Canada, 4th ed. (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2001)
3. Mitchell, Peter R. Schoeffel, John Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky
4. Parenti, Michael. 1986. Inventing Reality: The Politics of the Mass Media. New York: St. Martin Press
5. Ritzer, George, The McDonaldization of Society, Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, 1996
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THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MEDIA AND POLITICIANS Essay – by Elena Chobanian
The media have been the predominant source of political information for citizens in a democratic society. Mass media has a colossal influence both on people and politics, since it shapes public opinion, and its role becomes more powerful especially during elections when political parties are sensitive in terms of how the media shows their public appearances. Ideally, the media should fulfill the political role by “disseminating the full range of political opinions, enabling the public to make political choices and enter the national life.” In democratic societies, for instance, the media is a communication channel which ensures the exchange of opinions both in power and general public, governments and political parties don’t put direct pressure on the media (depending on the country). In liberal democratic countries it informs the public and acts as a watchdog of the government. On another hand, mass media must make the political system more “transparent”, by helping people participate in political decisions, understanding the operations of government, etc. Unfortunately, in practice, most of the time the media plays different roles. It simulated transparency and doesn’t serve the political values that motivate the “transparency”, hides important information in a mass of manufactured political realities. Although, the political transparency is impossible without mass media coverage. Politicians, even governments can manipulate the coverage of information to achieve their political and economical goals through diverting audience attention.
According to some sources, there are two types of media: informational rich, which are the elites who seek information from a diversity of elite specialist media, political elites also pay attention to the media to monitor what coverage they receive, and issue that journalists place onto the public agenda. And information poor, that is voters. In this case politicians deploy the mass media to communicate with voters. Most voters are almost entirely dependent upon the mass media for information about the political process, candidates and issues.
Juergen Habermas, a German sociologist,defines the media as a space for public discourse which must guarantee universal access and rational debate in society. But, in practice, the free market rules and competition create restrictions for journalists, and commercial television channels are forced to respond to the interests of advertisers, as well as politicians.
The technological development changed the politics-media relationship. Since the rise of the internet in the ‘80-90s, the social media have involved many actors: regular citizens, nongovernmental organizations, activists, politicians, software providers, telecommunications firms, governments. In the new media environment various social networks and blogs started to play a significant role in communication and the society became an active player. Even if through the new technology – web sites and sophisticated computer programs – the politicians-voters communication has become more direct, media’s role and responsibilities are still argued. An ineffective, not classical media make politicians likely to pander and control the media.
The dominant and powerful medium of political communication in our contemporary world is television. It creates, with the internet, new forms of political reality and the virtual world. Television tends to accentuate entertainment, that kind of television keeps viewers’ attention. Television is the right place for the celebrity coverage, for political conflict and so on. Stories about backstage political manoeuvring and control offer a kind of transparency. However, they divert attention from substantive policy debates, and since politicians know how important media is to influencing citizens, television through its image manipulation helps create a new reality populated by media consultants, pollsters and others.
The internet, an anotherimportant medium for politicians,has enhanced the effects of television by shortening the news of reporting, makings mass distribution of information inexpensive making possible new journalistic sources that compete with television coverage. The internet is a mediated access to wide range of information, two-way communication channel, distribution channel for wide variety of content, low barriers to entry for access and global reach of a connected network. However, it can worsen television’s tendency to emphasize celebrity and gossip.
Media events manipulate political transparency.
Politicians stage events are covered by the media, which show them engaged in the business of governing over public policy issues. They show the politician with own family, like an ordinary, likeable person. Media events offer basic information, but in fact they offer political image and showmanship. American politics has employed media events for many years. For instance, the Clinton Administration has used media events to great advantage. Thus, thrusting entertainment in citizens, politicians keep people from watching other things.
Shanto Iyengar, professor of Political Science and Communication Studies at UCLA, researching the framing effects of news coverage on public opinion and political choice, expressed: “Their explanations of issues like terrorism or poverty are dependent on the particular reference points furnished in media presentations.” According to him, the framing of issues by television news forms the way the society understands the causes and the solutions to central political problems.
In the late 1960s, Maxwell E. McCombs and DonaldL. Shaw studying the agenda-setting capacity of the news media in American presidential elections, in their 1977 book, The Emergence of American Political Issues, McCombs and Shaw wrote: “The most significant effect of the media was its ability to organize our world for us. The news media are stunningly successful in telling us what to think about.”
Robert Karl Manoff,from the New York University, arrived at the same conclusion in the1987 issue of Center Magazine. “One of the major problems of today’s journalism is that the press is allied with the state. The press is a handmaiden of power and American politics. It reports governmental conflict only when conflict exists within the state itself.”
As to the objectivity in journalism, it is based in favor of the status quo and against independent thinking. During the presidential campaign in 1988 journalists rose the anger among voters instead of bridging the gap between public and politicians, which means that the public is losing its grasp on the democratic process. Even when the media does offer analysis, it may not offer people large opportunity for action. Hence, it doesn’t strengthen the public dialogue. During elections, the media in general removes its focus from the classic, ideal role as society’s guard dog and focuses on the parties inner issues. Reporters have no choice but to cover the people chosen to lead government, but smaller parties seem to suffer in the everyday news stream.
Tricks used during elections.
Sometimes the crowds of people (rallies) are made up of campaign workers and volunteers, so that the TV cameras don’t capture an empty room. They’ll be dressed so they appear to be moms and dads, factory workers and teachers, but that can be just an illusion on TV and magazines. You can see his wife baking cookies for charity in their newly remodeled kitchen and get her secret recipes (Obama’s recent ads serving food to homeless people). Those people are carefully chosen so they appear in photos and in news coverage. He can talk about his family and his hopes for a better world for all of citizens, appearing a relaxed and human candidate. The more social sites followers and likes, the better.Another trick is to say that the candidate is really busy and can’t take any questions at all, so he can be on time for his next event. Campaign experts know an exclusive interview will be given more space in a newspaper or more time in a TV newscast than a day-to-day campaign story. That’s free publicity! Thanks to campaign laws of the media, ad space has to be sold at the lowest available rate, and media outlets have very little control over what is said in a political advertisement.
Indicators of media logic are journalists dominating politicians in news reports regarding the length of speaking time or fragmented reporting of a political discourse at the expense of debate. Media logic is increasingly guided by a commercial logic, and globalization reinforce that effect as global forces within national media systems promote the commercialization of broadcasting. For example, in Denmark, Germany, Switzerland there is a “democratic-corporatist” central european media system, where the press freedom developed early and journalistic professionalization is strong. Spain, France and Italy belong to the polarist-pluralized media systems where the press is elite-oriented with limited overall circulation, and television dominate the media market. America and Germany show patterns where candidates run controlled campaigns for which they are punished by journalists. Denmark, Great Britain, Switzerland and France show more interactive campaign styles where the journalist is still dominant and the candidates often need to defend themselves in press-politics interactions. Italy and Spain show very interactive campaigns and the journalists grant candidates rather long sound bites.
In an analysis of more than 30,000 news features about the ruling government aired on Danish radio over the past 20 years, a team of scientists have proven that critical coverage in the media leads to a decline in public approval ratings. The government has easy access to the media. The new study denies the theory that more media coverage is always good for the government.
Shotts and Scott Ashworth from the University of Chicago, analyzed the common assumption that a healthy media would make office holders less likely to pander. They constructed a theoretical model using well-established principles of game theory and found that if the media always produced correct commentary on policy choices, there would be less motivation for politicians to pander since voters would know what policies were in their interest. That freedom allows the politician to avoid pandering and take actions that are good for the voters without fear of being criticized by the media.
Arthur J. Heise, associate professor at Florida International University in Miami, sees the role of the media as a “public management function. “Many in the news media could agree that they are not covering the affairs of the state as fully, as penetratingly and as aggressively as they might”.
The following model assumes that media commentators are unbiased to present the news (classical role of the media and journalist) and people act rationally in their best interests, even though sometimes the media acts as a “yes man”. The figure 1 shows that the politicians-media relationship is closely, especially related to the debate on freedom of speech in a globalized, “liberal democratic” world.
Fig.1 Fig.1Interdepedendence of politicians and media in a globalized world.
Fig. 2Classical model of media and journalism
The figure 2 shows that the media’s responsibility is to connect equally the citizens and politicians, trying to create a balanced coverage during an election campaign to make sure that they listen to all parties. But, again, this is only the ideal model of the media, how it “should be.”
According to some specialists in the field, mass communication today operates autonomously due to commercialization, professionalization and technical innovation. In political world, mediatization can even have some positive effects by providing politicians with an additional arena in which to reach their goals and by making politics accessible to ordinary people. So, based on the media’s own economic logic, that it doesn’t necessarily correspond to the needs of the democratic process, it has led to the worry that mass media is profoundly transforming political communication into liberal democracies, undermining the functions of political institutions.
Media and politics will always have close connection, at least for the next five years, even if both view each other as adversaries. As the media is the most important source of political information for the wider public, politicians need it as a tool to get the exposure to win elections and gain as much power as possible. On the other hand, as a watchdog in politics, the media has the duty of criticizing decision-makers in society, but it will be possible only if the media and journalists are independent, because the majority of mass media channels are created by politicians/political parties to serve their own interests, which means the authorities generally control media coverage and repress its independence.
As to ordinary citizens, passive recipients of information, they are simply an audience to what Bill Moyers, an American journalist, has called the “monologue of televisual images.” Television determines what people believe to be important by paying attention to some problems and ignoring others, and the decline of party-controlled media and the rise of “independent”, commercially-minded media have transformed mass communication. However, there are still some independent journalists, who dislike being instrumentalised by politicians, present the facts without fear or favor of politicians. And one more thing: neither journalists, media, nor politicians are perfect, just like every ordinary individual in our real world.