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.
Media's Impact on Politics Essay
3263 Words14 Pages
Here in America, we try to pay close attention to everything that goes on in the government. Whatever decision they make we want to know when, where, why, and how. This is because whatever decision that they make will determine what will happen with this country as a whole in the long run. So what is the best way to find out what’s going on with our government? Why the media of course. The media plays a major part in every aspect of the government including what happens in elections, the reporting of major military operations and how the American people will react to certain political situations or scandals. Here are some the ways that the media affects the way we think when it comes to the government.
The Right to Laugh: Media Satire…show more content…
One recent case where the mass media poked fun at and satirized the government was the year 2000 election. In the time where ballots and votes became confused and the state of Florida became the punch-line to many a water cooler joke, shows such as the ones above took the story and ran with it. From the very beginning the satire of political figures played its role in the election. According to the Washington Post and the Pew Research Center, 47 percent of Americans under the age of 30 receive around 26% of their information about candidates, amongst other political matters, through late night comedy television. This trend has been labeled by many “Infotainment.” The viewers are receiving information about political issues and their government, but through a sarcastic or humorous filter that creates a different culture of informed citizens.
When the poll results in the 2000 election came in, the jokes seemed to last longer than the re-counts. Even now 3 years later the jokes continue to be evoked. Recently at the academy awards, while on stage to receive his academy award for his very humorous gun control documentary “Bowling for Columbine” Michael Moore called George W. Bush “a fictitious president” while following with jokes about the pope and the Dixie chicks.
Indeed, when we live in an entertainment and media saturated culture such as the USA, such comments as