The Mass MediaAnd the Political Agenda Chapter 7
High-Tech Politics • A politics in which the behavior of citizens and policy makers and the political agenda itself are increasingly shaped by technology
Mass Media • Television, radio, newspapers, magazines, the internet, and other means of popular communication • Who are the people that control these media? • Who decides what is “news” and how it is presented? • What is “bias”? • Is there anything inherently wrong with it?
Mass Media • What are “blogs” and who are the bloggers? • What kind of controls do we have to ensure that the information we are receiving is accurate? • Should there be any such controls? • How much information is too much?
Media Event • Events purposely staged for the media that nonetheless look spontaneous. In keeping with policy as theater, media events can be staged by individuals, groups, and government officials, especially presidents
Image is Everything • In today’s media environment the object is to get maximum advantage from minimum exposure • Keep the sound bite short but get in a good visual so as to shape the scene • Negative campaigning lends itself to the current method of presentation • Accusations take no time at all – Proof does
Mass Media • How has the mass media developed over time? • What was the historical role of newspapers? • When was the advent of radio? • When was the advent of television? • What is the role of “investigative reporting”?
Print Media • Traditionally the most important form of print media was the newspaper • Magazines, especially those with a news focus, were also important • Life and Look provided photo journalism • Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report have been augmented by such magazines as Vanity Fair, Esquire, The Atlantic Weekly
Print Media • National Review • The Weekly Standard • The New Republic • The American Prospect • The American Spectator • Washington Monthly • Foreign Affairs • Rolling Stone • The Nation
Print Media • There appears to be declining interest in and readership of all forms of print media • Publishers have begun to experiment with new forms basing their products on existing models such as U.S.A. Today • These new versions are far more compact and visually oriented with news stories generally running to half the length or less of traditional coverage
Broadcast Media • The earliest form of broadcast medium was radio which became popular in the 1930’s • FDR became a master at using the Radio to rally support for his New Deal programs by calming the fears and concerns of his listeners – the American public • TV replaced radio beginning in the 1950s
Broadcast Media • TV is now the most common source for news especially among young people • The expansion of TV outlets has allowed for more information to be presented • This expansion has also led to more competition among the dispensers of news which has resulted in efforts at differentiation • A TV station will now seek to identify itself with a particular point of view in order to attract that target audience
Government Regulation • What is the FCC? • Federal Communications Commission (1934) • Regulates radio, television, telephone, cable and satellite • Independent regulatory agency • In reality subjected to many political pressures • Congress controls its budget
FCC • Three ways it regulates the airwaves; • To prevent monopolies of control over a broadcast market it has instituted rules to limit the number of stations that can be controlled by one company (maximum = 35%) • Periodically examines the performance of the station to ensure that they are serving the public interest • Issues fair treatment rules concerning access to the airwaves for political candidates and office holders
Cable TV & Internet • These outlets provide a much broader array of options for information • These outlets also have tended to focus on one particular segment of the viewing or reading public • Almost anyone can participate (democratic?) • There are literally no controls on content
Private Control • In America almost all of the sources of news are controlled by private corporations • Publicly owned outlets are relatively unimportant • Most other countries control their own media to a large degree with varying amounts of freedom given to the journalists for criticism
Reportage • Journalists are quite often more likely to report stories that they think people will find interesting rather than important • Stories must appeal to a broad audience which means that the “average” citizen must be able to understand it • Reporters and sources have a “symbiotic” relationship
Reportage • War reportage can be especially troublesome as limited access to the actual fighting may be seen as limiting access to what is actually occurring on the battlefield • Should battlefield or war zone reporting be censored? • If so, what should be censored and why?
Reportage • In political reportage (and now elsewhere) “sound bites” are the preferred method of presenting information • Unfortunately little true information can be gained from this method • Why then is it being done this way on the major networks? • Do networks have any civic responsibility at all?
Bias in the Media • A common complaint of conservatives si that the media has a “liberal bias” • Some studies have shown support for this claim • Other studies fail to find any “systematic” bias toward a particular ideology • Most journalists pride themselves on their objectivity and editors tend to reward balanced reporting
Bias in the Media • In the “business” of reporting boring is bad, exciting is good • Bad news sells, good news does not • Visual images are extremely important • “Talking Heads” tend to turn off the audience
Bias in the Media • “The public is exposed to a world driven into chaos by seemingly arbitrary and mysterious forces.” • Is this an accurate description of the world? • Are there any implications to having a chaotic view of the world? • Is it incumbent upon the Media to make sense of the chaos?
News & Public Opinion • It is critical to understand the role of the media in, not just measuring public opinion, but in shaping it • The public’s opinion of the personalities, issues, and priorities of the political process are to a large degree controlled by the media • What are the potential effects of the media setting the national agenda?
Policy Entrepreneurs • People who invest their political capital in an issue. • These are often the political activists who are extremely interested in how the national political agenda is being shaped • They have learned how to use the tools of the media in all of its forms to present their particular point of view so as to best frame the issue
Media as Agenda Setters • In many cases the media shapes the political agenda by its decisions as to what is to be seen and heard • Media entrepreneurs and political activists have a substantial impact on those decisions • Getting and maintaining a positive public image is important for anyone wanting to shape the public’s view of their agenda
Media as Agenda Setters • The media’s primary influence on public opinion is through identifying the issues of greatest concern • Their role is indirect rather than direct • They can’t tell you how to think, but they can decide what it is you are thinking about • Is this good or bad for America?
Media and the Scope of Government • The media are a key linkage institution connecting the people and the policy makers • The media are the Watch Dogs for the American public • It is their job to ensure that public officials do not become arrogant, complacent, or corrupt
“The Fuel of Democracy” • Access to information ought to be a boon to the democratic process • In reality it has failed to live up to its potential • The rise of the “information generation” has not led to the rise of the “informed generation” • If there is fault involved it lies with us