Role of Mass Media

12 December 2016

Local and world news is being televised 24 hours a day with up to the minute breaking news. Information exchange is at the hands of the media, and the media has the power to manipulate the audience as they wish. The media has evolved and developed the power to severely impact the way American people view political topics and day-to-day issues. The role of the mass media has become a controversial topic and many experts and critics have taken turns debating and analyzing how the media eases or hinders government and political influences.

Mass media is the production and distribution of all sorts of knowledge, information and entertainment intended for delivery to a mass audience who desire availability of it. The most common mediums of information distribution include radio broadcast, newspaper, television and the World Wide Web. The television has primarily been the preferred medium due to its proven effectiveness in the past.

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[1] Presidential candidates have used television broadcast for decades to inform the public of their views through commercials and televised debates. Since WWII, Presidents in office have also used it to address the nation of important current events.

Some presidential candidates and political parties have used the media to expose the opposite party in political scandals with the hopes of gaining an upper hand such as the case with presidential candidate, Herman Cain. The television media can also provide a favorable advantage to political candidates since it gives them an opportunity to demonstrate charm, charisma and persona to the viewing public. Such was the case with Ronal Regan, President from 1981 until 1989 who jumped on the presidential race with no experience in Washington, an ex-actor, an ex-professional after dinner speaker.

He had no direct experience of national government before becoming President, and he had no experience of international politics. ” His use of photo opportunities, stage managed presentations and speeches broadcast by the media greatly enhanced his popularity and his ability to govern. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a more recent example of a similar story. Although the internet is a rising medium of information, the television remains the preferred means since people are more entice to visuals representation than reading material. Technology has also made it possible for the media to bring global conflicts to peoples home.

Vietnam was the first time that people were able to view that dramatic affects of war from the television set in their own homes. Such broadcasting has also been viewed in recent conflicts such as dessert storm, and operation Iraqi Freedom. Maxwell McCombs from the University of Texas in Austin wrote, “The Agenda Setting Role of the Mass Media” where he explains his opinion of the roll of the Mass Media. McCombs believes that what we know about the world is largely based on what the media decides to tell us. [2] The media then can be credited for opinion forming or opinion reinforcing.

The media has the ability of being selective on what they broadcast and publish, and some broadcasting channels, programs or writers are known to be bias in nature and are sometimes accused of propaganda; all factors that contribute to the development of the public’s opinion[3]. The ease of media influence has continuous to grow through use of mobile smart phones. The internet has been a steady rising non-mainstream news media and can now be accesses at any time in any place through a mobile device. Mobile phone subscription had reached 4 billion by the end of 2008 which revolutionized the speed in flow of information. 4] Although the majority of people use their phones to talk, sharing photos and social media, Studies have show that millions have used to examine candidate, party, government, and advocacy group websites. Some political parties have even gone as far as making their own mobile applications. The media can be seen to have a direct impact in the way electoral campaigns are held and the day-to-day running of government. However, despite the exponential growth for internet media, mainstream media such as newspapers and television maintain their central role as gatherers and reporters of political and government topic.

The Internet and the mobile device only enhance the Medias reach. The Mass media has become a powerful and influential political mediator and plays a vital part in our democracy. It supplies information to the voters through which the voters base their opinion. Maxwell McCombs journal suggest that current media holds enough power to set the agenda of the nation. [5] That is to focus the attention of the public on a few key public issues. The media places emphasis on the topics they want the public to concentrate through repetitiveness on the television and big letters in newspaper, magazines and internet articles.

The opening segments on the newscast and the length of time devoted to that segment will highlight the importance the media is placing on that particular topic. The topics that the get the most attention in the media are the same topics that most people tell pollsters are the most important topics in our nation. In recent studies have shown that during a controlled experiment, people that are shown doctored television news broadcasts emphasizing a particular problem, such as National Defense, mention the problem as being important more often than people who have not seen the doctored media broadcast.

The media has the ability to shift the public’s attention by emphasizing more time in one particular topic therefore providing them the ability to manipulate the public’s opinion. [6] Bias media networks favored a specific political party can then also have a strong influence on the public’s opinion on particular topics if they choose to interpret the news to favor that party’s beliefs. This could also be known as framing, or favorable interpretation of stories based on media personal and bias opinions. [7] Framing and Agenda setting could become a significant problem if the government allows media monopoly.

News media in the United States are privately owned businesses and are often part of very large empires. Large empires such as that of Rupert Murdoch or Time Warner often buy out many of the smaller media businesses creating a sort of media monopoly. This is why we often see the same media coverage or the same media interpretations on various channels. This can prove to be important since these major media empires often side with political parties and influence the public based on bias interpretations. [8] After all, media empires are just corporations seeking to make money out of media attention.

Alternative voices will then not have an opportunity to be aired and heard. For example, since Disney owns ABC, will ABC news go easy when covering a political scandal with Disney Organization? An actual event and recent story involving Rupert Murdoch’s Employees of the newspaper were accused of engaging in phone hacking, police bribery, and exercising improper influence in the pursuit of publishing stories. Although many experts believe that Media corporations have not reached a level of media monopoly, it can have a serious impact in the public’s political opinions if it is not avoided.

Not all information, however, that comes from the mass media is said to be negative. Before the growth spurts of the media initiated, the information concerning political views were often left for an elite group of the higher class, usually of higher education. The pluralist theory suggests that power in a democratic society should be evenly dispersed through representation of the ‘electorate’ by elected politicians rather than placed in the hands of a ruling class. The wide distribution of government and political information permits the public to become more involved and allows them to accurately vote on laws and candidate officials.

Once political leaders are elected the mass media serves as a “watch dog” over government officials. [9] The media keeps the public informed on how there tax dollars are being spent, often exposing political leaders of any scandals that the public deserves to know. The citizens can hold the officials accountable for their wrong doing but would never be aware of them if it was not for the mass media. A perfect example of this would be the Monica Lewinski Scandal. [10] The mass media turned this case into a media circus keeping the public informed of every detail as it was made available.

The government official happened to be non-other than the president himself. This is known as infotainment and the media seeks every opportunity to make exploit such stories and make as much money as they can, since this is what the public likes to here. The media has made is much easier for ordinary citizens to form policy preference, to judge the actions of government, and to decide whom they want to govern them. There is no doubt that the mass media has a huge effect on the government and politics in the United States through their information and influences.

At this day in age it has become an inevitable factor and as technology progresses, its ease of communication will further affect its influences in the public’s opinion. However, the mass media involvement should not always be viewed as a negative entity in our society. The availability information is available through various sources and it’s up to the public to choose a reliable source of their liking. The media serves a purpose in the checks and balance system and it bring viable information to public who deserve it.

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