The mass media can be defined as any form of technologythat is intended to reach the mass audience.
Most common platforms for massmedia are news, magazines and the internet. The public typically rely on themedia to provide information about political and social issues as well asentertainment. Fake news can be defined as “news articles that areintentionally verifiably false and could mislead readers” (Allcott et al,pg213, 2017). Policy making is a political process affected by various socialand economic factors, although it cannot be denied that the media plays a vitalrole in shaping policy implementation. Some believe that the media acts asconduct between policy makers and those who want to influence policy. Below,the extent to which the media influences policy making will be criticallydiscussed.
Some have argued that the mass media has become a very significantplayer in policy making in the contemporary world. The world society and theglobal environment have grown in complexity. People have now developed agreater need of information about national and international affairs.
Therefore,it will be argued that the media has not lost its significance for policymaking, despite the arguments against it. The media selection of legitimate policy actors reveals thatthe media has not lost its significance for policy making. It can be arguedthat the media acts as an influential dogmatic actor, benefits tied to thestatus quo.
Instead of public, journalists and editors shape policy agendas byactively filtering issues, so reporting conforms to their dominant news values,selecting what issues are covered and what sources are used. The elite authority of the mass media and demotion ofdissenters that results from the operation of these filters happens sonaturally that media news people, often working with whole integrity andkindness, can persuade themselves that they indicate and understand the newsobjectively and grounded on specialised news values. Within the limits of thefilter restraints they regularly are objective; the restrictions are socontrolling, and are constructed into the organisation in such an essentialway, that alternative bases of news selections are hardly conceivable.However, it must be said that, although the media sets agenda in somecircumstances, this doesn’t necessarily mean they influence policy. Due to the emergence of fake news some argue that the media has nowlost its significance in policy decision making.
Individuals can no longertrust what the they see on social media, has a direct result people are nowbecoming more rational and are ready to question the information they are beingfed by the media. The culturalist theory would support thus claim,since it argues that individuals interrelate with media to generate their ownopinions out of the imageries and messages they are exposed to. This model seesspectators as playing an energetic rather than inactive role in relation tomass media. Theymaintain that spectators selectwhat to view among extensive series of choices. Findings of mass media paralleltext?readingand analysis of research accomplished by linguists. Both sets of examiners discoveredthat when people approach data, whether inscribed text or media imageries, theydeduce that material grounded on their own comprehension and experience. Thus,when investigators question different groups to clarify the meaning of a dataor information, the groups generate widely deviating explanations based onethnicity, gender, and religious experience.
Therefore, culturalist theoristsclaim that, while a limited people in huge companies may exercise significantcontrol over what material media manufactures and distributes, personal perceptionplays a more influential role in how the viewers interpret those messages. On the contrary, the Al Jazeera Effect,presented by Seib, considers new media, in precise satellite distribution andthe Internet. Seib suggests that the media are undoubtedly able to transformthe status quo of policy by influencing intercontinental and national publicopinion. Seib’s core idea is the virtual state: separate societies attain anunparalleled solidarity that puts them on the political chart universally.Satellite broadcasting and the Internet foster virtual sovereignty byhumanising a communal identity between diffused affiliates of cultural orreligious groups. This shows that the mass media can influence policy decisionsbecause virtual states can affect the stability of traditional states andregions.
Mass media can also ease tensions and struggle by providing freshperceptions to an unprecedentedly huge audience. Seib commends that, ifpolicymakers want to benefit of the media’s authority to create groups,collaboration is a better method than opposition, and global media, such asVoice of America and Deutsche Welle, become relevant tools of foreign politics. On the other hand, it can be argued that public opinion canshape what priority policy makers give certain types of policy. Holsti andSobel argue that there is no evidence that public opinion constraints policydecisions. They maintain that there is a general correspondence between publicopinion and policy decision. Public opinion delivers a significant effort topolicy decisions. Despite some early scepticism about rationality of publicopinion regarding rationality.
Policy makers follow the media reports on publicopinion and the media is the public’s main source of information on what policymakers are doing, thus the media acts as mediator. However, it can also besuggested that the media constructs the public opinion, by choosing what topicsare discussed. The media plays an agenda setting role, the public concerns tendto follow media coverage of those issues rather than any changes in the realworld. For instance, from 1980-85 public concern about drugs went from 3% toover 50% and back to 3% in early 2000. Those shifts have nothing to do with thescale of the problem and everything to do with the media coverage. The power ofthe media to set agenda is based on what they deem as important.
Therefore,this shows that the mass media still plays a very significant role in policymaking, despite the visage of the public having any real influence in policydecision making.Furthermore, the limited?effects theory contends that since people usually pick what to watchor read built on what they previously believe, mass media uses an insignificantinfluence on policy making. Studies that inspected the capability of media toimpact voting found that well?informed individuals depend more on private experience,previous knowledge, and their own intellectual ability. Nevertheless, mass mediaspecialists where more likely to influence individuals who were lessknowledgeable. However, criticisers have claimed that limited?effects theory disregardsthe media’s role in framing and preventing the dialogue and debate of issues.How media frames the discussion and what questions members of the media askchanges the result of the conversation and the likely assumptions people maydraw. Critics maintain that the theory came into reality when the accessibilityand supremacy of mass media was far less extensive.
Although, Mody methodical examination of the coverage of the genocide inDarfur by ten news organizations in Africa, China, Europe, and the UnitedStates reveals how significant the media is in setting agendas for discussion.Mody represents a strongly normative perspective, arguing that knowledgeablepeople is necessary, though not adequate, for avoiding struggle andhumanitarian catastrophes. She maintains that, media influence policy decisionmaking by pushing matters on the public agenda and by framing them in a waythat catches the consideration and compassion of a huge spectators, which thendemands action from their designated legislatures. For example, both theSomalia charitable crisis and the fight in Darfur were not on the schedule of globalpolitics until the media started paying attention. Mody comprehends media asorganised conscience discrediting policymakers into responding to acatastrophe; generating incentives to act while at the same time raising thedanger of not acting. In additon,it can be argued that the ‘CNN’ effect explains how the media still has impacton foreign policy development.
The presence of 24 hours broadcastingenvironment leads to a continuous movement of news and information, which actsas a persistent feature on legislative decision making. On that interpretation, the accelerant result damages thequality of both the congregation of intellect and of the real responseformation. The relentless stream of information can also be an impairment to statesafety, since news closure of certain subjects can also lead to exposure of confidentialinformation. Some also believe that the media drives western conflictmanagement by forcing western governments to intervene militarily inhumanitarian crisis against their will.
Pluralistson the other hand argue that the media is reflective of public reality, and performsas a mirror. They maintain that it has practical role in meeting the difficultiesof its huge spectators, and so owes a responsibility to the public. Marxists onthe other hand would contend that the media constructs needs and generatessocial truth. In other words, it is sculptor of a worldview and distorts socialreality which is based on exploitation of powerless majority, thus it isideological tool of powerful bourgeoisie and reflects their interests. Over 80%of the media is owned by transnational Corporations.
However, does ownershiphave any effect on the media coordinators? According to pluralists the answeris simply no. They back this claim by highlighting the fact that power is dispersedwithin society and that different pressure and intertest groups all influencegroups all influence the policy makers, who reacts accordingly. Pluralists alsoshare the interpretation that mass media content is reflective of the spectator’sinterests, an illustration of this is how reporting of refugees is frequentlyvery undesirable in the Sun, a scandalous newspaper. Pluralists feel that mediais receptive to both market and communal request. The viewer is a tyrant interms of what it desires in the media content. Burham argued that the mergersand takeovers are irrelevant due to the emergence of joint stock companies.
Hisadministrative thesis also documented that possession and power is separate dueto the fact it is impossible for people such as Rupert Murdoch to make every decisionconcerning media. Pluralists maintain that a significant share of the mediamarket in Britain is taken up by public service broadcasters(PSB). Which are media outlets controlled by the statesuch as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
The BBC has a legalobligation to inform, to educate and to ensure that all programming ispluralistic and diverse. For instance, all sections of society are catered for.Pluralists argue that PSB is impartial and objective, and balances out anypotential bias in the private sector. Thus, the media doesn’t necessarilyinfluence policy making because of sinister motives, but rather because it scrutinisesgovernment affairs, and ensures government actions can be held accountable bythe public. Onthe other hand, Growing disagrees with the pluralist perspective. He arguesthat the media outrage often provokes only symbolic polices, for instance minorsanctions or aid package. Research shows that the media only has influence whenelites are undecided, and the cost of acting is quite low. The class?dominant model contendsthat the media reproduces and projects the opinion of a minority elite, whichcontrols it.
Those individuals who own and regulate the companies that producemedia include these elites. Believers of this interpretation concern themselvesmostly with huge commercial unions of mass media establishments, which limithostility and put huge corporations at the reins of media—specifically newsmedia. Their concern is that when ownership is constrained, a few individualsthen have the capability to deploy what individuals can understand or perceive.
For example, owners can effortlessly evade or silence stories that expose immoralcorporate performance or hold companies accountable for their activities. Networks aimprogramming at the largest probable audience because the wider the demand, thegreater the potential of attracting audience and the easier trading air time topromoters becomes. Consequently, newscast establishments possibly will avoidundesirable stories about companies particularly large establishments thatinvest in huge marketing campaigns in their newspaper or on their stations. Additionally,Marxists theorists suggest that the media is dominated by the ruling class,otherwise known as the bourgeoisie. Who are the major owners of mediacorporations, which gives them total control and manipulation of media contentand audience in their own interest. Marxists maintain that mass media audiencesare passive consumers of the distorted and partial part of the news. As aresult the public just accepts whatever is presented to them, whereby thepublic opinion could be easily manipulated by the media. However pluralists criticiseMarxists for failing to see that the public has the power to resist persuasionand the ability to use the media, rather than be used by the media.
Moreover, new media, such as socialmedia is now speeding up political procedures in response to the imminence ofnews about incidents in the online sphere that demand more hasty responses tobe more effective, such as in challenging misrepresentation. As social mediahave become more available, in terms of both Internet access and comfort ofuse, it has become one means by which people, nonstate players, and regimes canshare their policy urgencies to obtain feedback, engage in negotiation, informpeople, and attempt to impact foreign policy results. Policy consultants andscholars have quick to define and begin to analyse the ways in which socialmedia has become part of the foreign policy procedure.
The social and diplomaticturmoil connected with the Arab Spring, some of which has been traced to both externaland domestic use of social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, andYouTube, generated a better sense of perseverance among those who seek agreater understanding of the impact of social media on policy making.It’s a reasonable assumption andthere are indeed many ways in which social media has inspired policy makers toalter their policy. Possibly most noticeably, social media can lower the costsof connecting the fundamental where, how, and why of protests to huge numbersof people, as Twitter did during the 2014Euromaidan revolution in Ukraine. Other platforms, such as YouTube, help promotebasic knowledge about how to rally effectively, helping movements build managerialcapacity. When physical congregations are prohibited, digital sites such asFacebook or Reddit can produce forums for new, virtual public spheres that aredifficult to shut down. Therefore, social media proves to play a significantrole in policy making, because it provides the public with the tools topersuade policy makers on certain decisions.Inaddition to this, Internet utopians also argue that virtual venues create spacefor discourse in the midst of battle, offering policy options to the public andto elites in spite of regime suppression.
Also, the internet allows protestorsto promote their own narrative, which is predominantly important when themainstream media is controlled by the government. Yet despite this optimism,what is sometimes known as liberationtechnology is not, in fact, making pro-democracy arrangementsmore effective. Furthermore,misrepresentation can increase on social media just as fast or faster than trustworthymaterial. Storiesof Russian trolls manipulating a polarized information setting to affect the recent U.S. appointmentsare a case in point. Misinformation is only compounded by individuals’ predispositionto select news sources that approve their prior beliefs. The echo chambers so prevalent in the social media serve tofurther divide societies instead of uniting them behind a common cause.
Hence,why individuals now find it difficult to trust information or stats they comeacross on the social media. Therefore, the significance of social mediaspecifically in Influencing policy is reduced.Even those who are goodheartedand diligent about evaluating reliable and credentialed news sources can unintentionallycause complications.
Seeing the downfall of a tyrant through social media canencourage dissidents in a neighbouring country to rise in identical fashion. Infact, they may try to prematurely import the tactics and methods they see usedsuccessfully elsewhere into their own situation with disastrous consequences.One need looks no further than Libya or Syria to see the danger of this effect.It was easy for activists in those countries to watch the Arab Spring unfold inTunisia and Egypt and conclude that, if they assembled masses of people inpublic squares, they too could topple their dictators in a matter of days. Thisreveals how important social media is in giving people the confidence to formgroups to stand up for what they believe.
Which in turn causes the government localor abroad to alter its policy. In conclusion, although thedevelopment of fake news has effected the reliability of the information peoplereceive from social media; it has to be argued that mass media has a wholestill significant when it comes to policy making.