The mass media are organisations and forms of communication used by specialist social groups to convey messages to a large, socially mixed and widely dispersed audience, without any personal contacts. Those who control the programming and editorial content are strongly encouraged to deliver what the audience wants. Their jobs are to attract a large, desirable audience. Traditional Marxism would be in favour of the view that the media output is influenced by the owners.
Traditional Marxist would say all historical societies contain basic contradictions, which means that they cannot survive forever in their exiting forms. These contradictions involve the exploitation of one social group by another. In capitalist society, employers exploit their employees. This creates fundamental conflict of interest between each social group, since one gain at the expense of another. In Marxism, there is a large believe in patterns and structures in society.
This structure is based on conflict and is known as conflict structuralism. This view believes that ideologies are set by owners, and that the owners control the media. The owners – usually rich and successful, ruling class people benefit from capitalism, as the media help to promote a set of believes and values which are favoured towards them. The ruling class, therefore, have a vested interest in ensuring its survival. Ideology is a set of ideas and beliefs that benefit the interests of certain groups.
In this case, ideology tends to favour the status quo of the ruling class, because the ruling class own and therefore dominate the production and distribution of ideas and meanings. Ideologies role in this is to promote and disguise the ideas of class domination, so that it becomes accepted by the majority of people as being normal. According to Marx, the ideas of the ruling class are fed in to the brains of the subject class in the interests of the ruling class. Hence, the ruling class maintain their power.
The ruling class own the media and make sure their ideas are given prominence to them. As the control over the production and distribution of ideas is concentrated in the hands of those few who own the means of production, capitalist power is maintained. The media in this way, projects messages, which reinforce the ideology of the ruling class. Evidence to back this up, refers to Louis Althusser (1918) who was a French Marxist philosopher. Althusser argued that the media is part of the Ideological State Apparatus (superstructure).
This refers to the different formative functions of religion, family, school etc. He believed that these organisations generate systems of ideas and values, which we as individuals believe. The media contributes to false class consciousness. The Marxist view sees ideology as a set of illusions, something which is false and not real. It enables the ruling class to maintain their dominance. They achieve this through their control and ownership of institutions for disseminating ideas, by manipulation or censorship. Owners have interests that they wish to promote.
Rupert Murdoch, a newspaper owner, made sure that his bid for Manchester United was reported in a way that showed him in a positive light in his newspapers. This evidence suggests that owners do, in fact, influence the output of the media. There are close connections between the media and the government- those who are in power. The government tends to support the ruling class. In Marxism, as the concentration of ownership of the media is high (mainly owned by the more powerful) there is only one type of view transmitted. Hence the media is bias.
The audience’s views and attitudes can be shaped according to what the media transmits. The Medias main aim is to make profit, hence to do this, they manipulate and “brainwash” the audience. However, there are criticisms towards this view. This approach assumes that the audience is essentially passive. It seems to imply that we (the audience) are “puppets” and that we can’t recognise when we are being exploited by people who have more power in society. It also suggests that idea that the mass media are so powerful that they can ‘inject’ their messages into the audience.
In this way, it implies that the makers of media messages can get us to do whatever they want us to do. This is known as the Hypodermic needle model. In addition, although this view suggests that the ownership of the media is concentrated by the media professionals, there are different editors and journalists to each newspaper; hence there are a range of views that are transmitted through out the media. Furthermore the Marxist view claims that the media are powerful, however, it implies that the editors and journalists are also “puppets”, with very little status.
However, investigative journalists exist, which highlights corruption in the existing system. The media are restricted by the government, as they have to abide by a number of laws and regulations, for example the Official Secrets Act. Another approach that would agree that the media output is influenced by the owners, is the Hegemonic Marxism view. The view is similar the Marxist approach, as it believes that the media support the capitalist system, thought enforcing certain ideologies. Traditional Marxist view would place the emphasis on the economic control exerted by the dominant class.
This view refers to Gramsci, who argues that there is a danger that in heroic fury there is a danger of being seduced by the material and not taking a sufficiently critical attitude toward it. Control is not maintained through manipulation but through certain ideas and values which are presented in a way that they are seen as “right”. Eventually, the views of the ruling class become common sense. This is known as Negemony. The hegemonic view believes that the media professionals (journalist and broadcasters) are from similar backgrounds, usually white, middle class and male.
Hence the majority have the same view points, which they will project to the audience. Alternate views are presented but the audience may discard them, as the media professionals are highly likely to pay less attention to them. This insures that the status quo is maintained, just like the Marxist approach, as people will accept what the media transmits by sharing the same views and seeing things to be common sense and normal. The media professionals act as gate keepers, and the media set the agenda. Here, they have the power to control what aspects are published or covered, i. . in a newspaper. They decide on what questions and issues are discussed. The media set the framework for debate on current issues. In this way, they can help shape the viewers attitudes and views about certain aspects, hence bias comes form the media professionals. Evidence to back the previous statements, is the Glasgow University Media Group (GUMG). The GUMG produces very influential research into the operation of ideology in the broadcast media. They analyse the language and visual images used by the media, this is known as content analysis.
Their findings of the media reflect the assumptions of the powerful society whilst marginalising the views of others. This organisation analysed the Gulf War, by looking at the language used to describe the Iraqis. They also analysed the reports of strikes on television. As a result, they found out that stories were reported in a selective way. In that the media, placed negative views towards the Iraqis, for example, “cowardly” and “brainwashed”, whereas, Britain/ America as “Loyal”. This helps to shape the audiences view, and the media are directly biased.
In addition, the media are more likely to report the effects of a strike, rather that the cause of it. This helps them to make profit, as more people are likely to watch / buy news which is interesting. However, this just suggests how bias the media actually is – they will do anything to meet the needs of the audience, even if they are transmitting false or distorted ideas. Furthermore, this study shows that the media does set the agenda and reflects that we believe what the media projects as “common sense”, so that people think about issues that benefit the ruling class. This organisation relates to my question…. Ways in which the output of the mass media may be influenced by owners and journalists. ” However, there are criticisms to the Hegemonic approach. This view assumes all journalists and editors share the same culture, values and ways of thinking. It also suggests, once again that the audience is weak, in that we believe what the media says to us. But this isn’t the case; all individuals have the ability to make up their own minds. In addition, this view does not take in to account the users needs (the audience) and demands. The media must cater to the demands of the audience, in order to make profit.
As a conclusion, I have found out that the mass media are influenced by owners and journalists, through a range of ways. However I think that the most important way, is thought gate keeping and setting the agenda. Hear, in my view, the audience are most influenced by the media, as a majority of people do believe what the media projects and it helps us to shape our views and opinions. However, this can be criticised, as I have stated above. Overall, the owners and journalists do have certain power over the media out put, but it is restricted to a certain point.