To what extent is the mass media politically powerful - Assignment Example

Mass media are channels of communication through which messages flow, produced by a few for consumption by many people. As the messages go through the channels, they are distorted. When people receive mass-media messages, they have no opportunity for immediate feedback with the producers of the messages.( www.pbs.org)

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Specialist institutions such as books, magazines, adverts, newspapers, radio, television, cinema, videos which occupy a central and pivotal role in our lives. That which reaches very large audiences (freespace.virgin.net)

Forms of communication designed to reach a vast audience without any personal contact between the senders and receivers. Examples would include newspapers, magazines, video recordings, radio and television (www.elissetche.org)

Political debates

In recent years the need to understand the relationship between the media and politics has become more pressing. Many researchers attribute enormous power to news media, claiming they have the ability to ‘move and shake governments. Although there has been questioning since early conception of media outlets about influence media can assert over a mass audience, the question of weather the media is politically powerful has become a very hot topic since the early 1980’s.

This has been done by examining coverage of political matter through newspaper and television. There seems little doubt television is the publics main source of information for political matter in the UK (516 TV sets per 1000 people: 1998) there is no doubt it is a major ball player with regarding political coverage. ‘Television has ceased to cover the campaign; it has become the campaign.'(Harrop: 2001)

One of the ways the mass media is politically influential is through deciding what to cover and what not to cover, through deciding what counts as newsworthy. This is essentially cutting a full day’s news coverage of world events into a half hour show. News programs tend to focus on exceptional stories this leads coverage to be an unrepresentative sample of daily events. For example media will focus policy failure over success or scandal and corruption over stories of integrity. This is can help influence politics because it is directing attention away from ‘lesser important views’.

The important point of thought is who decides this is news worthy. This selection of news stories centres around elite groups, nations and prominent political parties which reinforce images of relationships between power and order in society also where the power lies and how it should be used. According to Stewart hall these are not simply a reflection of the world as it is that’s neutral or objective but an interpretation of the world given to us. In these methods media can exclude certain no mainstream views from reaching publics eyes, shape opinions of the political parties who are the fore runners for campaigns.

By deciding a topic is news worthy the media can set agenda for political thought for example by allocating substantial coverage to certain issues call public attention to them, this places pressure on policy makers to respond. Recent examples include environmental issues, and video nasties.

Voting behaviour

Extensive research has been conducted to see if Media’s selection and presentation of political matter can be influential in voting the basis of research is usually objective analysis of voting patterns,

Martin Harrop (1986) attempted to measure the effect of the press on the press on peoples voting patterns. He found evidence which suggests that voters might be more vulnerable to the media than they were formally. He points to the fact that audiences use the media as an important source of political information, and, in turn, media coverage of politics has reached saturation point. For most people in modern times media is the only source of political.

“Although the influence of the mass media on voting is weak compared with the impact of partisanship, issues and candidate evaluations, it is principally through the media that voters hear about parties, issues and candidates and for most this is the only means of political. (Jennings, 1992; Lanoue, 1992”

Readership of newspapers and the political party they favour have been used to try to support arguments for media being politically powerful and able to influence votes. Using the 1992 election Neil Kinnock vs. John Major as an example, fro results of pre-election polls it seemed labour would win by a reasonable percentage over conservative party, after extensive bad coverage in the following weeks against labour party, The Conservative Party went on to win the 1992 election with the largest number of votes any party has won in a British General Election. The polls pre election indicate otherwise, polls had not been wrong since 1970 and by a margin of 3.2% the sun claimed to have been the cause of the shit in public opinion to vote for the conservatives

Curtis and semetko (1994) rejected this view that this election results had been influenced by media intervention, they saw even though john major benefited from a late apparent swing in votes, they those who supported conservatives actually read newspapers which favoured the conservatives. Like Harrop they concluded from results of panel surveys over time that media had limited influence over and could not provoke a large swing towards either party. Also like Harrop they conclude that the readers of newspapers supporting either conservative or labour parties will only have there values and political identity re affirmed rather than be likely to switch party’s

“Recent research presents a view of contemporary voters as actively seeking out campaign information to assist in deciding how to vote, in the context of partisanship, prior knowledge, beliefs and needs (Miller, 1991).”

Against this view Patrick Dunleavy and Chris Husbands (1985) they argue press has large influences over political issues. They attack those who conclude that press only reinforce values already believed by the readers. They believed right wing dominated press had helped create a conservative majority they claim to show that voting habits of manual and non manual workers varies according to the amount of right wing press they are exposed to, those how read right wing press were more likely to vote for the conservative party.