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There has been a debate over the interrelationship between the politics and media with different scholars giving different opinions. As much as some scholars strongly believe that media influences politics with others feeling that it is politics that has been of much influence on media, it is clear that the two affect and is affected by the other. David Easton defines politics as simply who gets what, when and how. It therefore means the politics relies on the medium of communication in its attempts to allocate resources. Certain scholars have even proposed that every nation’s politics is a reflection of the freedom of its media. At the same time, a nation’s media is also a reflection of the kind of politics that it has experienced over the years. This is true to an extent noting that it is the governments that make regulations guiding the establishment and operations of the media while the politicians also rely on media to reach the public. It is therefore true that a strong inter-relationship exists between the media and politics.
Influence of media on politics
The roles played by the media have a great contribution in the development of the government. The media gives people access to and enable people to choose the political parties they want to join. This is because different political parties use the media to sell their manifesto. The media is also instrumental in influencing the kind of attitude an individual will have towards his/her government and the existing political parties. The media also carriers out the necessary public education which enables the public to criticize decisions made by the government. The different mediums such as the newspapers, the radio, television and the internet are useful in political communication. The mass media is useful in entertainment during political functions, in reporting the news, in identifying the public problems, in orienting new generations, and in providing political forum all which are useful to the politicians.
Media and political campaigns
According to Dr. Roderick Hat, Politics and the media have walked hand in hand for long .He noted that the media have always played a powerful role in politics even long before the innovation and use of radio. During this time there the medium was the penny press. He says that there had been great wars between various newspapers about politics. This shows the importance of media was realized long time ago even before the modern mediums of communication were invented. He said that some of the recognizable elements of the modern campaign can be traced to the widespread use of radio in the 1930’s and 1940s. During this time Franklin Roosevelt had instituted and was using his fireside chats. In the early 1950s, the president and the presidential candidates started addressing the public in a conversational manner. Hart noted that Radio should be valued than it is today because of its role in changing the American politics. Over a number of generations, the public perceptions of politician’s personalities have been the determinant factor in the voting processes over decades.
According to Hart, the most common image on television is a close up of the human face. He believes that television is not only a mass distribution channel but it is also distribution of intimacy as it allows the politicians to develop intimate relationship with their voters. This has changed the mode of campaigns as the politicians have to be a bit human in the way in which they handle their citizens. The candidates must consider how they present their ideas when appearing on televisions for the interviews on various channels across the world. The channels allow the public to evaluate the candidates based on their policies and agendas. The politicians must go into the channels ready to “seduce the voters” . Research has revealed that it is easier to grasp the voter personality through a television. Television has the power through its use of techniques such stereotypes and dramas to persuade the voters.
The influence of media on politics is more prominent during political campaigns when politicians are forced to seek the televisions and the radio. Such services may range from the coverage of an event to conducting interviews aimed at popularizing the individual or his party. It puts a candidate ahead of his/her political opponents. Today’s countless national figures, including the presidents, plan public appearances and statements to expand their influence through the media. It is a usual phenomenon seeing candidates and their consultants presenting their strategies to get the most impact on television viewers. The coverage used by candidates may take the form of advertising, management of news coverage and/or campaign debates.
Even though in many cases people already have their own ideas, viewing television, reading newspapers, or logging on to websites allows the viewer to pay more attention to the details that are in line with his or her own opinion. The media are especially very effective with those who have not formed a stable political opinion concerning political issues or candidates. Studies have shown that political fundraisings and debates publicized shortly before the Election Date have the most effect on undecided viewers. On the other hand, it is harder to influence the voters who are already decided. The media may therefore not be effective in making such a group of people to change their minds.
The media equally utilizes the political campaigns to source income to help them meet their operational costs. They thus look for viewers and readers and as well as advertising on behalf of the politicians during the campaign period. They also conduct exclusive interviews and promote their pundits as well as their public relations. The media also gives the voters unprecedented opportunities to access information and at the same time numerous ways to see issues that the politician is trying to hide. An informed public is essential for democracy. However, political analysts have warned that it’s not obvious that our media-saturated world ultimately serves to make the public more informed.
Media and Government functioning
Political analysts have tried to demonstrate that mass media does not just have extensive authority in political campaigns but they can also exercise power over government officials and affairs. It is noted that the media and the politicians both need each other because the politicians enable the media to get news to report while the politicians need coverage. Therefore both the politicians and the media work hard to utilize the opportunity presented by each another. The government also uses the media to gauge the priority of the needs of the public. Studies have shown that the public problems that receive the most media coverage are considered to be the most important one by the politicians. The media works to provide the governments with a better understanding of he need and desire of their citizens. The media also plays an important role in any current public issue or on going debates.
The media biasness and politics
Studies have shown that the opinion of the political parties, politicians and governments are greatly influenced by the biasness of the media in its presentation. There have been cries with specific remarks accusing the media of leaning more towards either side of the political sides like liberal side or conservative side. Other politicians have also been heard from all over the world saying that one or a number of media houses is/are bias towards the status quo or towards their candidates. In such a situation, the candidate or the political side labeled as losers finds it difficult to regain their popularity. The biasness can also result from the journalists’ own code of objectivity especially in cases where the media industry is looking forward to gain financially.
But often the media has made people chose on poor leaders. This is indicated by ineffective presidents and legislatures who were first portrayed as great personalities but later turn out to be very poor leaders. Studies have shown that the public often do not investigate the report they obtain from the media, they instead take the stories as they are. This may create a circle of focus that tends to drive off important stories.
Media and conflict
Dr. Mary Dixon noted that because the media covers conflicts, they have to create conflicts. Research has sown that a story without conflict won’t draw viewers’ and readers’ attention. The media therefore seek and air conflicts whenever they can. Conflict is what makes news and what is interesting to people. This action by the media has been responsible for major world revolutions right from the First World War, to date.
Media and the elections
The media covers important issues and brings the political process into the day to day. Even though the viewers may be bored by the repetition of the election coverage, they may not be able to avoid it. Given that media coverage can be driven by commercial pressures, voters should not make their decisions exclusively from what is aired on the media. This fact leads to one of the media paradoxes in the political process. That the media does not matter so much as they think that they do. The paradox arises from the fact that the media has power but not as much power as the individual has.
With such weaknesses, studies have shown that person to person contact is still extremely necessary than all the available mediums. Talking one on one with a candidate may still matter more than all the other methods which media offer like interviews . Person to person interaction is thus the most powerful way of winning the voters loyalty to a candidate or a political party. Therefore apart from seeking a relationship with the press, politicians need to seek unmediated ways of reaching the individual voter.
The internet though is a new tool has also been used as a campaign tool especially in the developed worlds. It has particularly become important in raising campaign funds. The various groups like MoveOn.org have created online networks for activists and politically active citizens enabling them to adequately participate in the political processes. The internet also provides the individual voters with a chance to get information. The media has also forced the politicians to maintain a high level of integrity as they can no longer hide any information from the public. They are held more accountable to their actions and words. The political speeches can be read online and the voters can ask the questions related to campaigns directly .
Influence of politics on media
Scholars have argued that one can never understand media until he understands the political environment in which they operate. Studies have shown that a big difference exists between the media operating in a democratic society and those in totalitarian nations.
Media in Totalitarian Governments
In almost all totalitarian nations, the government exercises full control of the media. The potential agency of the media in such like states is dominated by the existing structures laid down by the state. In extreme cases, news agencies, broadcast media and film studios are normally owned and controlled by the state and used to spread the state agendas. This forces the public to become very selective with what they read and how they interpret the information they receive from the media. Another common phenomenon is the attempt by the citizens to create unauthorized media which shows their desire to actively involve themselves in the political process.
Media and democratic societies
In the democratic societies, the press often enjoys the freedom of expressions. This is made possible because the democratic governments usually take it upon themselves to protect the freedom of their press. The citizens in the democratic nations also enjoy the freedom of expression and are free to own media outlets. This has resulted into a larger number of both the private and the public media outlets than that of the totalitarian governments. This means that the media outlets in democratic nations have the advantage of offering a variety of arts, news information and entertainment to the public. In democratic societies, citizens may form social movement organizations to push for their rights. The changes in political climate have also been having a big impact on the media regulation debates. Governments have a tendency of relaxing its regulations especially just before and shortly after elections.
Even though some democratic governments may still regulate the activities carried out by the media, they are independent to a larger extent. However, the freedom enjoyed by media in the democratic nations will depend largely on the political leaders in government. Observations have shown that even in some democratic nations, the media operations are largely regulated by politicians. However, the control of media by the government may sometimes be limited by the influence of the functions of the existing large commercial corporations. In such cases, the citizens may again opt for coming up with illegal media outlets or forming social movements to watch on the powers of the corporations.
The governments in all nations have the organizing structures that can either constrain or promote the free activity of the media. This result into the tension that is normally experienced between structure and media agencies. Various questions are therefore asked about the extent to which the citizens should enjoy free speech, the impact of economic interests and the appropriate role of the government. In many nations, the government regulates the ownership, technology, content and distributions of the media channels. It is also good to note that the amount of freedom enjoyed by the media is influenced by the media advocacy groups, public interest, the existing organizations, religious groups and media critics.
Many nations justify the government’s control over the ownership of the media by the fact that the media uses the public airwaves to reach their audience. The amount of spectrum available for each government is always limited forcing the governments to control the use of their frequencies. Majority of the governments achieve this by issuing license to the qualified parties. Such measures have led to pirate broadcasters especially in totalitarian governments. The pirate broadcasters usually have radio signals that are not very strong. Their action creates conflict between broadcasters since it interferes with the legal owners’ frequencies. This means that the regulation by the government is very necessary to ensure peaceful operations by different stations. The government action therefore works to protect the public interest.
However, such measures as licensing posses challenges to the small micro-stations which may not qualify to obtain such licenses. This means that small community stations are illegalized in countries using such measures. This leaves radio to be dominated by larger stations which in most cases are driven by their commercial interests and do not serve the interest of public .
The influence of politics on media also depends on whether the communication is falling under print media, broadcast media, or common carriers. The government may, for example, use the mail service to subsidize the print media. Another factor that causes the difference in regulation is based on the technological differences. It is often expected that every time a new medium emerges in the market, the relevant government agencies creates the new guidelines within which the new medium operates. Thirdly, studies have also shown that everyone involved with the media supports the need for government regulation especially the liberal and the conservative politicians.
However, there is still an open disagreement over what form any government regulation should take. This has raised a controversial debate on the issue of the extent to which the citizens should enjoy their freedom of speech and the interpretation of what the public interest means. The media industries in various nations have actively supported some regulation by the government especially those that benefits them. The debates regarding media regulation reflect competing interests as the media industry is seeking to promote its interest. The industry pursues this goal through offering financial support to certain political candidates and seeking the support of the elected officials. The politicians who seek to have favorable media coverage for re-election are likely not to pass any legislation that will work against the industries.
The role of the US government in the regulation of the media has always been minimal compared to other nations. The nation had embraced the free market commercialism in the early days of the radio. The European nations on the other hand adopted an approach that involves direct government involvement in controlling the operation of the media. The argument by the European governments was that they wanted to avoid any form of signal interference. This was not the case as the governments were greatly favoring the multi-corporations neglecting the interest of the public. The result was a system that was very biased. Many countries which followed the approach by the European nations adopted a state monopoly system. This was evidenced by the governments’ control of the operations and financing of the broadcast services.
In conclusion, it is clear that the media industry could not have existed in its present form without active government regulation and control. At the same time politics needs the media to feed the public with the latest stories on political activities. Political discussion is made possible through the print media, television, radio, and paid political announcements especially during campaigns. The media remains important since they are the means by which people obtain information both nationally and internationally. Politics and media are therefore a duality since they seem not to be separable.