Poli Sci 2300 - Media
Monday, January 17, 2011
What does do the media do? Role of media in political spheres
Media seen as the “4th Estate” – Other three – Church, Nobility (land owning classes),
ordinary people of society
Historically can be traced to print media – 15th century
Theories of the Media:
1. Liberal interpretation of the media – Comes from classical rule of the media
being an institution acting as a check on the government. A function of a liberal
democratic system. Based on the notion of individualism, having institutions in
place acting to balance (check) out the government
2. Marxist interpretation of the media – Propaganda, media run by big business.
Nothing more than an instrument of big business, a reflection of the interests of
the dominant groups of society. Ties into the fact that media manufactures
consent through skewing information, propaganda, etc. – helps sway popular
3. Social responsibility model of the media – Basically states the media is nothing
more than an instrument that advances the interests of big business. Basically
advocating a system of media that tries to hold government accountable. Similar
to corporate responsibility – advances the interests of the ordinary people as
opposed to big business. Offers an alternative viewpoint with a wide range of
Why do we need the media? What role does it play?
•Dissemination of information to and from the government – government provides
us with information – media becomes a link between the government and the
people. Also pass along viewpoints through the media to the government (ex.
Writing to the editor of a newspaper)
•Serves as a watchdog on the government – Government has a means of being
checked – government needs to be weary of how their activities are going to be
reported/portrayed. Exposes activities not in the best interest of the people.
•Agenda setting – Many governments have fallen due to what media has reported.
Media chooses the important issues of the day and reports them to the public.
•Political education and civic education – Provides information to the general
public about events locally and around the world that we wouldn’t know
otherwise. Political education – Remind us of what politicians actually say and
inform us of how they’ve accomplished their campaign promises
•Deliberative function – A perspective of arguments being advances on different
political issues. Acknowledge the other argument and then back your argument
with other facts/figures. Discussing issues from particular perspectives – offers a
forum to agree or disagree with people based on information being put on the air
•Instrument of propaganda – Provides common misconceptions – doesn’t give an
accurate portrayal (ex. Africa)
•Mobilizing function – Stimulates public debate
•Transparency functions – Transparency and accountability for the governments of
newly democratizing countries – governments in NICs/LDCs can’t do anything
Criticisms of the Media
•Media does not always get the story right – Feeds into cynicism. Misinterprets
•Censorship – Canada ranked last on media accessibility.
•Laws of sedition – Some information is based on national security. Anyone who
reports is threatening national security – report at your own risk. Discourages
media from reporting certain issues.
•Manufacturing consent – Coined by Noam Chomsky. Media reporting on a
particular issue of which they may not have all the facts correct – Criticism of
making people think alike.
•Sensationalism – Over sensationalize news – ‘infotainment’ – encourages fear-
mongering, inaccurate perceptions, etc.
•Government control of the media – Especially in developing countries. Used as a
tool of political propaganda. Ex. Zimbabwe – BBC was banned from operating
because they provided an alternative source of information. Government can also
use extra-judicial means to control media coverage. Extra-judicial – Risk of
losing life, career, use of militia to intimidate, etc.
•Inadequate funds – Especially in developing countries – providing information
that has nothing to do with politics but rather, entertainment.
How to deal with these challenges and problems?