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“A fully functioning democracy depends on media sources with diverse voices and opinions as well as content relevant to local communities.”
Senator Olympia J. Snowe1
The media are relied upon in democratic societies for the protection and promotion of human rights and democracy. Diversity of the media and accurate and honest reporting of the news are considered to be vital for guaranteeing pluralism of opinion, adequate political representation, and a citizen’s participation in a democratic society. A pluralistic media is seen to meet the demands of democracy by providing citizens with a broad range of information and opinions; to represent minorities by giving them the opportunity and space to maintain their separate existence in the larger society. It is also seen to reduce the likelihood of social conflict by increasing understanding between conflicting groups or interests; to contribute to overall cultural variety and to facilitate social and cultural change, particularly when it provides access to weak or marginal social groups.2
Media should also been considered in the context of conditioning our view to global issues. These days such conditioning has become a controversial issue that has its opponents and supporters. It’s been suggested that in majority of cases media has become corrupted and dependent even in such countries, as Great Britain and the United States. Today media has a power to manipulate people’s opinions in such a manner that cannot be seized even by the government. Whoever holds this power owns a world.
There are many roles and responsibilities of media in the international sphere – covering wars, disasters, foreign policy, and diplomacy. The press has been less successful, however, in defining its role in covering the most pressing international crises of today — the environment, health, trade, the poverty gap, and the war on terrorism. There is a growing influence of television in shaping U.S. public opinion foreign policy, especially via the “CNN Effect”, which is the idea that media coverage of international crises can spark a response from politicians. The classic case is the coverage of starving children in Somalia in the early 1990s, which was followed by U.S. military involvement in humanitarian relief efforts. But even in the case of Somalia, some administration officials actually used the media to get the attention of other officials, and the majority of the coverage in Somalia followed rather than preceded official action.3
In many places, governments are even more likely to be driving media coverage rather than the other way around, although it may suit governments to appear as if they have bowed to public opinion.
THE INFLUENCE OF WEALTH ON MASS MEDIA
Anarchists have developed detailed and sophisticated analyses of how the wealthy and powerful use the media to propagandise in their own interests. Perhaps the best of these analyses is the “Propaganda Model” expounded in Manufacturing Consent by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman.4
Chomsky and Herman’s “propaganda model” of the media postulates a set of five “filters” that act to screen the news and other material disseminated by the media. These “filters” result in a media that reflects elite viewpoints and interests and mobilises “support for the special interests that dominate the state and private activity.”5 These “filters” are: (1) the size, concentrated ownership, owner wealth, and profit orientation of the dominant mass-media firms; (2) advertising as the primary income source of the mass media; (3) the reliance of the media on information provided by government, business, and “experts” funded and approved by these primary sources and agents of power; (4) “flak” (negative responses to a media report) as a means of disciplining the media; and (5) “anticommunism” as a national religion and control mechanism. 6
“The raw material of news must pass through successive filters leaving only the cleansed residue fit to print,”7 Chomsky and Herman maintain. The filters “fix the premises of discourse and interpretation, and the definition of what is newsworthy in the first place, and they explain the basis and operations of what amount to propaganda campaigns”.8
Even a century ago, the number of media with any substantial outreach was limited by the large size of the necessary investment, and this limitation has become increasingly effective over time. As in any well developed market, this means that there are very effective natural barriers to entry into the media industry. Due to this process of concentration, the ownership of the major media has become increasingly concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. 9
Needless to say, reporters and editors will be selected based upon how well their work reflects the interests and needs of their employers. Thus a radical reporter and a more mainstream one both of the same skills and abilities would have very different careers within the industry. Unless the radical reporter toned down their copy, they are unlikely to see it printed unedited or unchanged. Thus the structure within the media firm will tend to penalise radical viewpoints, encouraging an acceptance of the status quo in order to further a career. This selection process ensures that owners do not need to order editors or reporters what to do — to be successful they will have to internalise the values of their employers. 10
Media extensively rely on information provided by government, business, and “experts” funded and approved by government and business. Two of the main reasons for the media’s reliance on such sources are economy and convenience: Bottom-line considerations dictate that the media concentrate their resources where important news often occurs, where rumours and leaks are plentiful, and where regular press conferences are held. The White House, Pentagon, and the State Department, in Washington, D.C., are centers of such activity. 11
Government and corporate sources also have the great merit of being recognisable and credible by their status and prestige; moreover, they have the most money available to produce a flow of news that the media can use. For example, the Pentagon has a public-information service employing many thousands of people, spending hundreds of millions of dollars every year, and far outspending not only the public-information resources of any dissenting individual or group but the aggregate of such groups. 12
To maintain their pre-eminent position as sources, government and business-news agencies expend much effort to make things easy for news organisations. They provide the media organisations with facilities in which to gather, give journalists advance copies of speeches and upcoming reports; schedule press conferences at hours convenient for those needing to meet news deadlines; write press releases in language that can be used with little editing; and carefully organise press conferences and “photo opportunity” sessions. This means that, in effect, the large bureaucracies of the power elite subsidise the mass media by contributing to a reduction of the media’s costs of acquiring the raw materials of, and producing, news. In this way, these bureaucracies gain special access to the media. 13
The dominance of official sources would, of course, be weakened by the existence of highly respectable unofficial sources that gave dissident views with great authority. To alleviate this problem, the power elite uses the strategy of “co-opting the experts” — that is, putting them on the payroll as consultants, funding their research, and organising think tanks that will hire them directly and help disseminate the messages deemed essential to elite interests. “Experts” on TV panel discussions and news programs are often drawn from such organisations, whose funding comes primarily from the corporate sector and wealthy families — a fact that is, of course, never mentioned on the programs where they appear. 14
MEDIA AND COMMUNISM
“Communism,” or indeed any form of socialism, is of course regarded as the ultimate evil by the corporate rich, since the ideas of collective ownership of productive assets, giving workers more bargaining power, or allowing ordinary citizens more voice in public policy decisions threatens the very root of the class position and superior status of the elite. 15
Hence the ideology of anticommunism has been very useful, because it can be used to discredit anybody advocating policies regarded as harmful to corporate interests. It also helps to divide the Left and labour movements, justifies support for pro-US right-wing regimes abroad as “lesser evils” than communism, and discourages liberals from opposing such regimes for fear of being branded as heretics from the national religion. 16
Since the end of the Cold War, anti-communism has not been used as extensively as it once was to mobilise support for elite crusades. Instead, the “Drug War” or “anti-terrorism” now often provide the public with “official enemies” to hate and fear. Thus the Drug War was the excuse for the Bush administration’s invasion of Panama, and “fighting narco-terrorists” has more recently been the official reason for shipping military hardware and surveillance equipment to Mexico (where it’s actually being used against the Zapatista rebels in Chiapas, whose uprising is threatening to destabilise the country and endanger US investments). 17
Of course there are still a few official communist enemy states, like North Korea, Cuba, and China, and abuses or human rights violations in these countries are systematically played up by the media while similar abuses in client states are downplayed or ignored. Chomsky and Herman refer to the victims of abuses in enemy states as worthy victims, while victims who suffer at the hands of US clients or friends are unworthy victims. Stories about worthy victims are often made the subject of sustained propaganda campaigns, to score political points against enemies. 18
“If the government of corporate community and the media feel that a story is useful as well as dramatic, they focus on it intensively and use it to enlighten the public. This was true, for example, of the shooting down by the Soviets of the Korean airliner KAL 007 in early September 1983, which permitted an extended campaign of denigration of an official enemy and greatly advanced Reagan administration arms plans.” 19
“In sharp contrast, the shooting down by Israel of a Libyan civilian airliner in February 1973 led to no outcry in the West, no denunciations for ‘cold-blooded murder,’ and no boycott. This difference in treatment was explained by the New York Times precisely on the grounds of utility: ‘No useful purpose is served by an acrimonious debate over the assignment of blame for the downing of a Libyan airliner in the Sinai peninsula last week.’ There was a very ‘useful purpose’ served by focusing on the Soviet act, and a massive propaganda campaign ensued.” 20
MEDIA AS PROPAGANDA INSTRUMENT
“Most biased choices in the media arise from the preselection of right-thinking people, internalised preconceptions, and the adaptation of personnel to the constraints of ownership, organisation, market, and political power.” 21
In other words, important media employees learn to internalise the values of their bosses. “Censorship is largely self-censorship, by reporters and commentators who adjust to the realities of source and media organisational requirements, and by people at higher levels within media organisations who are chosen to implement, and have usually internalised, the constraints imposed by proprietary and other market and governmental centres of power.” 22
MEDIA ON THE WAR IN IRAQ
As the war in Iraq continues – and casualties mount and the impact on the Iraqi civilian community worsens the battle over public opinion becomes as important as the military battle itself.
Analysis of the variety of views on the Iraq war needs to pay attention to local factors, for instance: – the country’s dependence on the US for trade and investment (and many fit that category); – the percentage and nature of the Muslim population in the country concerned. – possible relationships, at least at the level of perceptions, between developments in Iraq and such local issues as the threat from North Korea or the presence of separatist movements in the country. – the relative independence of media from government in each country. 23
POSITIVE IMPACT OF MEDIA IN SPAIN
Although so far this paper discussed rather negative aspect of media in perceiving world events, there are, certainly, positive contributions that it had done throughout the history. The mass media, while under strict government control during Franco’s rule, did help in the transition to democracy. In the early years of the regime, state control over the media (newspapers, magazines and television) controlled what could be said. The media acted as a puppet of the State in order to get its word across.24
If the media did not preach the doctrine of the state, it would deal solely with non political issues such as sporting events or social events. The greater independence of the media in the final years of Franco’s life, as well as in the period following his death, has led to a decline in relations between the government and the people. The Francoist government had control over the media and what it published or showed to viewers. Franco was able to use this power to promote Francoism and at the same time frustrate anything negative from being said about the existing government and the principles of the regime. He was able to prevent the use of the media to support another form of government or political party. After Franco’s death censorship of the media declined and items against the regime and in support of political change were published more freely and often. This newly published material helped to gain the support of the people of Spain for a transition to democracy. 25
The current global situation with the media suggests that today one shouldn’t solely rely on the opinions and evidence suggested by the TV reporters or article authors, since it can reflect various individual interests rather than need for precise facts. Considering the essential need for information, however, on should rather analyze various sources and take the side which is more likely to be the truth. This would be my advice in surviving the campaigns of brainwashing by the national and international media.
1-3. Lee Edwards. Mediapolitik: How the Mass Media Have Transformed World Politics. Catholic Univ of Amer Pr. April 2001.
4. John Nichols, Robert Waterman McChesney, Noam Chomsky. Our Media, Not Theirs: The Democratic Struggle Against Corporate Media (Open Media Series). Seven Stories Press. December 2002.
5-22. John Nichols, Robert Waterman McChesney, Noam Chomsky.
23. Richard Gunther. The media and politics in spain: From dictatorship to democracy. Barcelona 1999.
24. Richard Gunther.