Mass Media, Politics and Public Affairs Intercourse
With the advent of the first mass media tools, the political elites of the international community started to exploit them excessively to gain political advantage over its opponents and to solidify its own positions within a certain country. When the first bibles were disseminated freely and gratis among the population of Orleans, the practice that took place in France in 1713, it was written on the hardcover that they had been respectfully printed and presented to the good people of Orleans under support and patronage of the Duke of Orleans (Cook, 1998). This was the way in which the Duke was trying to help the magistrates, he had nominated, get elected to the city council to promote and back up his political aspirations. Hereby, it is evident that long before the evolution of the sophisticated brand-new modern tools of mass-media communication (like smartphones with internet access) most primitive and basic mass media communication tools were widely employed by political powers to influence public opinion and to obtain political support of definite strata of society.
The role of mass media communication tools has drastically changed since the time of their respective inventions. In 1970 the shift from positive to negative elucidating international political events became evident (Bennet, 2011). Political elites gradually started to fully comprehend the fact that the tools of mass media communication could be used for not presenting information truthfully and neutrally, but in the way their political aspirations dictate them to proceed (Porto, 2012). The unanimous scholarly opinion nowadays is that the mass media sector has eventually turned into a powerful political institution, rather than being merely a societal affiliation (Besley & Burgess, 2001).
Overall, the goal of this paper is to explore negative influence of mass media in terms of political news representation. The paper relates to the available scholarly and empirical exploration of various tactics embraced by politicians to influence the public opinion, speculate on the issues related to media bias and put pressure on free journalism. Lastly, the paper broadly discourses upon the issues related to the recent phenomenon known as selective news representation.
The unanimous scholarly opinion is that political powers and those willing to come to political power do have an immense arsenal of various tools, both legitimate and relatively legitimate to hit their political and semi-political goals (Ridout, 2013). Three most important sections of this area are namely political advertising, coverage of political news and public affairs. In accordance with the international standards of journalism ethics, applicable national and international legislation, information shall be presented in a neutral way, without any political or commercial bias, prejudice or influence. Most importantly, only that news that is indeed of interest and relevant for the targeted audience shall be illuminated thereto (Jennings & Miron, 2004).
The practice however indicates that nowadays media coverage of political news and public affairs is really far from being totally impeccable (Soroka, 2011). The mindshare of the targeted audience is captured by irrelevant, selectively chosen news in order to get them distracted from what is really important. Recent researches indicate that national channels of the majority of the European Union and Asian countries broadcast problems and speculate on how these problems are being tackled by political forces of those countries, but it is never elucidated what are the roots of the problems and how they relate to the political ruling class of a specific country.
The popular scholarly opinion is that the most flagrant negative sides of mass media political coverage are the tactics employed by political parties to influence the public opinion, strengthen their own political positions and to blacken their political rivals.
Nowadays, the mindshare of the leading political analysts is captured by the rising polarization of the global news coverage. Before the issue is elaborated, it is necessary to highlight the fact that politics and mass media institutions are mutually linked in three main areas. The first one is political advertising, which is the most popular type of political messages during the electoral campaigns. The second area of interconnection of these institutional formations is political news coverage, i.e. the elucidation of current affairs of political importance that may directly or indirectly affect the lifestyle of the targeted audience (Besley & Burgess, 2001). Lastly, these institutions interact since the mass media illuminate public affairs that shall be distinguished from the political ones. In contrast to them, public affairs are those that do not necessarily affect the lifestyles of the country residents, but which are of relative practical significance anyway.
One of the most widely embraced tactics employed by political parties internationally is the targeted blackening of their political opponents. In order to stay consistent with the existing provisions of the law and not to get sued, the analysts hired by political units conduct thorough analytical work, finding out the flaws and imperfections of the political course promoted by their opponents. To illustrate, during the recent United Stated presidential elections the opponents of Barack Obama deliberately emphasized his errors in the healthcare reform and Afghanistan/Iraq withdrawals of the military forces. Obama and his team extensively hailed the Republicans with criticism for their outdated controversial political approaches and failure to be consistent with the recent modern developments of the international affairs` evolution and inability to perceive the trends of the technologically-oriented society. Political debates have turned from classical Aristotle and Plato-style discussions into fault-finding processes with a great aim to deliver to the message the general public regarding how bad or unprofessional the competitor is. This principle of mass-media political opponents` masked and undisguised criticism is common for both democratic and authoritarian political regimes (Shaw, 1979). The United States Delaware State broadcasting channel Seaford was one of the most demonstrative samples during the last congress election campaign due to the fact that the preference was squarely given to the Democrats.
One of the postulates of the activity of contemporary mass media institutions is their ultimate objective to deliver the news neutrally and objectively. However, nowadays the political formations of different jurisdictions employ various means in order to be able to choose what messages to send to general public. The most popular form is the so called “indirect TV channels ownerships”. In accordance with this strategy, TV channels are owned by family members of political activists or by legal entities in which the politicians have their share or are somehow linked to them. Using their ownership rights and, irrespective of the violation of the existing media legislation, they define what content is to be broadcasted. Naturally, the biggest share of the airtime is given to their political units, but not to those belonging to their political competitors (Porto, 2012). This situation is not popular in the United States of America and European Union, where strict government control is exercised to ensure that media institutions are performing their activities with relative independence, but in the developing countries of Western Europe and Asia these tactics are widely popular.
Moreover, the ruling parties often use their administrative and legislative resources to influence the media. In particular, they create specific tax breaks and tax clippers to oppress the channels and other mass media tools favorable to the opposition (Jennings & Miron, 2004). To be more particular, it shall be highlighted that criminal codes and codes of criminal procedures of various jurisdictions set forth a set of activities that can be potentially committed by journalists. Hereby, free and unrestricted delivery of messages is highly imperilled by this unethical practice of the governing political authorities. As far as the taxation pressure tactics are concerned, it shall be stressed that the state can legally create the conditions under which the mass media units cannot normally and freely function.
Scholars have constructed a hierarchical structure of news representation, truthfulness and validity. In this framework, the news disseminated by the means of the internet occupies the smallest position. The most significant shortcoming of the news representation in this paradigm is the lack of government control and prompt state intervention when it is required. In contrast to rather conventional means of informational transmission like TV and radio, the internet-based communicational tools can’t be effectively controlled and several important political and public messages are linked thereto (Soroka, 2011).
First and foremost, the gravest problem here is paid advertising. A vast number of business units are operating on the Internet with an aim to create the news, blackening political opponents and gaining electoral support. These soldiers of political frontline create the news, SEO-optimize them at the most skilful level and deliver to the targeted group, existing or prospective, and motivate them in accordance with the task assigned to them. The scale of this business is taking enormous sizes, due to the lack of effective state control and upscale professionalism of those involved in the process and readiness of political formations to finance this sphere. One of the most popular means of news representation is to deliver it through social networks of international significance (Cook, 1998). To illustrate, the recently conducted scientific research has revealed that the content published on Twitter and Facebook profiles of political groups significantly differ from that, transmitted by official media tools. The violations and partisan tactics in the framework of official media tools are more or less controlled, while the internet is the most fertilized area for the abused. The targeted audience reasonably thinks that the social groups they register into are ruled by the representatives of their favored political party, while in reality they are run by professional, accomplished, politically neutral and money oriented experts who are aware how to control the “throng” and drive them to take politically beneficial decisions.
Overall, the internet-based political news delivery tools are not presenting the news with 100% accuracy, reflecting the true state of political and public affairs that occur in the country. Unless effective state control over the political and public news representation is imposed, it can be assured that this unethical business area will further proliferate.
False news media representation can be equally attributed to the violations of the existing journalist`s code of ethics. Actually, no single document of universal legal force exists, but various national jurisdictions and internationally adopted documents provide either obligatory or facilitative provisions which are to be observantly followed by the licensed and accredited journalists, columnists and other media soldiers. Nowadays, the most flagrant abuses in this field are twofold in their nature (Bennett, 2011). Either the mass media workers breach their professional duties being suborned by political units, or the political units repress the journalists and force them to make specific actions with recourse to their administrative resources.
As far as the first method of violation is concerned, the accent shall be put on the fact that the ultimate goal of journalism is totally lost (Jennings & Miron, 2004). The information is not presented in a neutral and equal way, but in full accordance with the political preferences of the contractor. Second method of influence brings the same outcome, with the only discrepancy that bigger share of legal responsibility lies on the repressing unit and not a targeted journalist. Mass media industry is a business sphere. One of the most widely discussed scholarly approaches is that this industry shall never be regarded as business opportunity due to the set of reasons of paramount importance (Cook, 1998). All media tools of international and domestic importance, including web-based ones, have been established with an aim to generate profits (Cook, 1998). The convergent opinion of the practitioners is that money accrual is closely connected with a close intercourse with state agencies. Therefore, mutually beneficial concessions are to be made. A lot of surveys indicate that tax preferences and privileges are given to the companies which favorably illuminate political affairs of the governing political unions and formations, as well as the activity of individual key political figures (Soroka, 2011).
Notably, the fact that former media tycoons go to politics or public administration and vice-versa is to be accentuated in this essay. To illustrate, the representative of the US Senate are shareholders of the CNN Company and other institutions of international and domestic significance. The standpoint of the United States Organization in this situation is one of the most explicit patterns of conflict of interests (Porto, 2012).
The issues discussed above are primarily the roots of the problem. Selective informational representation is the primary outcome according to the scholars, while the secondary inherent outcome is the electoral legitimate misrepresentation of the population political will. Before the issue is speculated further, the fact that the ultimate objective of the entire mass media broadcasting and informational collection activity is to present the news, including political and public news, in a neutral and objective way (Besley & Burgess, 2001). The most important pillar here is that no opinion or recommendation, or favorable attitude shall be expressed to any political affiliation. Unfortunately, the practice indicates that this fundamental principle remains totally declaratory in its nature (Porto, 2013).
Widely utilizing the methods and strategies stated above, political units choose what information shall be delivered to the targeted audience. Negative accomplishments of specific political units are deliberately withheld, while positive achievements, however insignificant they are, are eulogized. For instance, during recent Japan’s currency depreciation, the attention of the public was intentionally focused on the sport achievements of Japan athletes. The nation was proud of the national team’s successful international performance, but was totally unaware of what financial decisions were taken to safeguard their deposits and other earnings (Ridout, 2013).
Another frequented practice is creation of the point of contention and broadcasting such news. For instance, in India a popular practice involves the transmission of the news elucidating the clashed between Pakistanis and Hindus (Ridout, 2013). The news about the decline of economy, unemployment and corruption are hidden, but the confrontations and commotions among these social groups are rotated promoting further conflicts. The aim is achieved; the party can keep on doing its business.
This tool is used not only by the regimes of the developing countries (Shaw, 1979). The battles in EU and in the United States of America in particular regarding feminism, globalization and homosexual minorities rights have totally overshadowed the illumination of the issues that relate to taxation, the downturn of economy and progressive ideas of the newly-formed political units, which really have a grain of truth in their electoral programs. Moreover, the statistics manifests that in the US airtime, 61% of the entire news coverage, taking into calculation the stately-broadcasted one, is allocated to the coverage of international news (Besley & Burgess, 2001). The popular postulate is that electoral decisions are determined by decisions of the government interior policy. It is natural for politicians to withhold the failures, and to praise their international achievements which are comparatively more easily attainable.
Having recapitulated the main findings of this essay, several inferential conclusions can be drawn. First and foremost, it is universally agreed that the main objective of the mass media is to present information in an unbiased, unprejudiced, neutral and objective way. Inclination to any political affiliation is considered as a violation of ethical standards and codes of practice.
Practically, the roots of the problem lie in the ownership of the news channels, the lack of control and monetary seductions of journalists. These factors are aggravated and intensified by political and administrative pressure exercised on the media by politicians. Considering all these facts, no viable alternative remains but to distort the facts, although some progressive media workers have numerously expressed their concerns over this situation.
However, in the United States of America the situation is still catastrophic. Provided that business links are uprooted, pressure on journalists is ceased and web-technologies become well-controlled, the overall goal of mass media functioning can be achieved. Moreover, the fact that the UN takes practical steps to remedy the problem is gratifying for those particularly preoccupied. The Administration of the President of the United States of America has recognized that the internet chaos shall be eradicated and TV/Radio channels political misbalance is to be removed as well.
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