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Make the media control the people or make the people control the media?

The function of the media in modern-day society is a cause for concern for a broad scope of media pupils, policy analysts and determination shapers at the morning of the 20 first century. Fired by the duplicate engines of the ‘Digital Revolution’ and the victory of nomadic telecommunications, the media is today unrecognizable from the setup that was used to circulate intelligence and information a mere twenty old ages ago. As Piers Robinson ( 2002:9 ) has declared, “the proliferation of new engineerings transformed the potency of the intelligence media to supply a changeless flow of planetary real?time intelligence. Major media events were communicated to Western audiences outright via Television intelligence media.”

However, whereas technological invention has bequeathed a entirely modern type of planetary mass media, the relevant national and international Torahs that monitor, regulate and regulate its advancement have altered really small as the construct of minimalist intercession ( or neoliberalism ) has dominated western political idea during the same progressive clip frame. Therefore, the present twenty-four hours is a clip when the inquiry of who controls the media is often asked, needfully ask foring the inquiry that if no one administration is seen to regulate the media, so does the media now govern the people? The inquiry is inherently complex, affecting a great trade of academic argument that still resides entirely within the kingdom of speculation with hypothesis and guessing make fulling the nothingness created by the disintegration of facts and first manus cognition. Ultimately, though, the inquiry is per se tied to the argument over planetary criterions of democracy and the combative pan?western international foreign policy of globalization that seeks to convey democracy and “free?market capitalist economy to virtually every corner in the world.” ( Friedman, 1999:9 ) Democracy and the media travel together manus in manus ; if there is a sensed crisis in one, so there is necessarily an Inquisition as to whether the same quandary is impacting the other.

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“The nucleus intent of news media is and should be about bring forthing and administering serious information and argument on cardinal societal, political, and cultural affairs. Journalists regulate much of what the pubic gets to cognize about the universe they inhabit, and this activity is critical to a operation democracy.” ( Gripsrud, 2000:294 )

For the intent of position, the following penetration into the power of the media must follow an particularly analytical attack, so as to look beneath the facade of the relationship between democracy, the people and the media to uncover the true ideological nature of the treatment at manus. Although the majority of the text will cover with the function of the media in the UK, grounds and commendations from a assortment of beginnings in a figure of relevant states will be utilised in order to underline the international facet of the issue. A decision will be sought that efforts to demo the dichotomy of the media criterions argument while foregrounding the demand for a changeless re?appraisal of ordinances in states that exist within the traditional democratic western hegemonic political and economic confederation. First, nevertheless, a brief historical overview of the planetary mass media is necessary so as to set up a conceptual model for the balance of the essay.

In malice of the aforesaid Ascension of the digital media age, it would be wrong to presume that the concerns over the power of the media are confined entirely to the modern epoch. History can be defined as the narrative of those who controlled the information flow versus the untold narrative of the people who did non hold entree to the same communications theoretical accounts. Karl Marx, for case, composing in the 1840’s, was to the full cognizant of the manner in which the people he referred to as ‘the opinion classes’ used the media to rule the working classes through a presentation of societal and political world that was in maintaining with the manner that they wished to imagine the universe.

“The thoughts of the opinion categories are in every age, the governing thoughts: i.e. the category, which is the dominant stuff force in society, is at the same clip its dominant rational force. The category which has the agencies of stuff production at its disposal has control at the same clip over the agencies of mental production… in so far as they rule as a category and find the extent and compass of each era, they do this in its whole scope, hence, among other things, they regulate the production and distribution of the thoughts of their age ; therefore their thoughts are the governing thoughts of the epoch.” ( Marx and Engels, 1968:64-65 )

What applied to Marx’s review is really much in grounds in the modern epoch as capitalist economy, the media and the dominant businessperson opinion categories have conspired to put a chokehold of information over the liberated bulk in the domestic population. Surely, the cementation of capitalist philosophy within the universe of the mass media has proved to be the most important in footings of what sort of content the media is able to bring forth as ( in most instances ) the demand for net income overrides the desire to face sensed political unfairnesss within society. It is an of import point and one that should be borne in head throughout the balance of the treatment. The assorted organic structures and administrations that make up the media are – in the concluding analysis – consumerist constitutions that need equal support in order to map in the sharply commercial modern-day capitalist economic clime. This incontestable fact even applies to province funded media administrations such as the BBC that is dependent upon authorities support in the same manner that commercial administrations are dependent on private concern for capital support. This deep?rooted economic development has, as Roger Miliband ( 1973:211 ) declared over 30 old ages ago, resulted in a self-contradictory state of affairs whereby those who control the media proclaim to run on behalf of ‘the people’ yet are besides dependent upon the bing societal and political opinion elite for the fiscal endurance and cultural reputability.

“Given the political and economic context in which they function, they ( the media ) can non fair to be, preponderantly, bureaus for the airing of thoughts and values which affirm instead than dispute bing forms of power and privilege and therefore add to the arms in the armory of category domination.”

Interpreted from this point of position, the media is clearly non the exclusive drive force behind public sentiment and political consensus. Rather, the media is bound to the will of the free market and the unwritten regulations of political democracy with respects to the information it is able to circulate. Without the sort of political backing that can merely be attained via cardinal authorities and the sort of commercial support that can merely be afforded by bowing to the demand of the audience, the power of the media would be badly diminished, rendering all efforts at claims that it controls the people obsolete. There are infinite illustrations of this double truism within the annals of modern media history. For case, the so?called ‘Wapping Victory’ of 1986 when Rupert Murdoch opposed the commercial monopoly of the UK print brotherhoods in order to establish successful periodicals such asThe Mugwumpshows how even the most powerful newspaper editors will gratify to the demands of their purchasing audience in order to do a net income. As James Curran and Jan Seaton ( 2003:103 ) explain, the media have since used merely such a consumerist platform in order to establish more expansive tabloid policies with the consequences including the preparation of complex constructs such as a corporate political consciousness and national individuality.

“The national imperativeness by and large endorsed the basic dogmas of the capitalist system – private endeavor, net income, the ‘free market’ , and the rights of belongings ownership. By often raising the consensual model of the national involvement and by projecting positive symbols of nationhood ( such as featuring heroes ) , the imperativeness fostered a national individuality at the disbursal of category solidarity.”

The victory of Murdoch’s capitalist vision of the intelligence civilization over the traditional elite of the media circle constituted an of import watershed in the development of the power of the mass media in modern society. This minute triggers the beginning of what has become known as the ‘tabloidisation’ of the mass media in democratic states, which is characterised as the ‘dumbing down’ of non lone traditional yellow journalism newspapers such asThe Sunor commercial telecasting channels such asITVbut besides of historically more high?brow media administrations such asThe Timesand theBBC. Although the cultural effects of this tabloidisation be outside of the parametric quantities of the treatment herein, the grounds behind the clearly noticeable alteration in the media during the past 20 old ages provides a critical hint as to the where the ultimate power may lie in the on-going argument over the relationship between the media and the people. In the concluding analysis, it is unthinkable to gestate of a profit?driven industry that does non orient its services to run into the dominant cultural temper of the age. Tabloidisation is merely such a barometer of public sentiment during the gap decennary of the 20th century whereby important grants by the media industry such asThe Guardian’sswitch to the ‘Berliner’ theoretical account in September 2005 and the proved rush in human involvement narratives reported by theBBCappear to endorse the theory that it is the people who dictate the content of media end product as opposed to the media explicating cultural consensus along its ain pre?determined lines. The inquiry of tabloidisation is, it should be noted, non every bit straightforward as it might at first seem. In kernel, the Southern Cross of the job resides in decoding the differentiation between news media as the giving of facts and news media as the relation of the narrative, which is a notoriously subjective line of oppugning. As with much else sing this treatment, the concluding tax write-off frequently resides in the position of the person. What may look to be an illustration of aggressive tabloidisation to one individual may look like a newsworthy exchange of information to another set of eyes. Either manner, the alteration in the content of the mainstream mass media should non travel unnoticed.

Analysis has so far concentrated on underlining the power of the consumer and the elective authorities in reigning in the cultural influence of the media, a point that has been made by a assortment of experts like Jean Chalaby ( 2005:273-290 ) who cites the Charles De Gaulle Presidency in France ( 1958-1969 ) as grounds of how a ‘statist’ attack ( characterised as a policy of interventionism as opposed to liberalist non?intervention ) can be effectual in restricting the cultural power of the mass media. Yet none of this is to declare that the media is non an vastly powerful tool of political persuasion in its ain right, surely non since the innovation and mass distribution of technological agencies of communicating that have made past attempts at commanding the media ( as practised by De Gaulle, Nixon and infinite others ) of small value to the survey of the present twenty-four hours dynamic at work with respects to the relevant Centres of planetary political power and the mass media. One demand merely look at the issue of how modern-day elections are won and lost throughout the West in order to recognize the extent of the power of the media over which party comes to power. Indeed, as Dalton and Wattenberg ( 2000:9 ) explain, the media have non merely immensely increased their place at the bargaining tabular array of democracy ; it has besides taken on the undertaking of electioneering in the modern age.

“The mass media are presuming many of the information maps that political parties one time controlled. Alternatively of larning about an election at a run mass meeting or from party solicitors, the mass media have become the primary beginning of run information. Furthermore, the political parties have seemingly changed their behavior in response to the enlargement of mass media. There has been a inclination for political parties to diminish their investings in vicinity electioneering, mass meetings, and other direct contact activities, and give more attending to runing through the media.”

This development has served to battle the legislative and executive power of certain western authoritiess, surely in the USA where an evident convergence of political relations and the commercial mass media would look to hold taken topographic point over the past decennary, tempered if merely somewhat by the function the media played in the recent implemented surrender of former Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld amidst a drawn-out imperativeness run against the war in Iraq. Until this point the mass media in the United States was purpose on hammering an confederation with Capitol Hill, particularly with respects to the blazing fosterage of what Stanley Cohen has referred to as ‘moral panic’ , the procedure which ensures that the universe is split into images of good and evil for the audience to digest in a repetitive, quasi?propagandist manner: “visible reminders of what we should non be” ( Cohen, 2002:9 ) . At its most utmost this installing of moral terror has been responsible for the fabrication of national and international enemies. When one thinks of the manner in which Islam has been shifted into the function of outcast vacated by the disintegration of the Soviet Union, it becomes clear that the media is at the front line of the sentiment devising when it comes to the issue of building even the most simplistic of ideological conflict lines. This, as Noam Chomsky ( 1997:35 ) attests, is another symptom of the media working in tandem with the dominant political parties of the twenty-four hours in order to warrant imperialistic, neoliberal action.

“It is necessary to wholly distort history. That is another manner to get the better of sallow suppressions, to do it look as if when we attack and destroy person we are truly protecting and supporting ourselves against major attackers and monsters and so on.”

The powerful cultural place of power of the media over its audience is non limited to the domain of international political relations. The imperativeness likewise plays a critical function in how domestic political events are perceived by the populace. Crime, for case, is an enlightening illustration of how the media can portray an issue as ‘fact’ when figures obtained from independent governments point to a entirely different sort of ‘truth’ ( Kidd?Hewitt and Osborne, 1995 ) . While the media creates moral terror by over-representing the spread of offense in society, the British Crime Survey shows a year?on?year lessening in offense in the UK since it reached its low-water mark in 1995. This tendency is besides seeable in personal businesss associating to race, faith, gender, gender, ethnicity and any figure of socio?political issues that involvement both the media and the governing political elite.

It can be seen that the media does play a important, specifying function in the preparation of cultural and political consensus with huge power to impact the sentiments of the audience. This power has significantly increased since the 1990’s when the outgrowth of the Internet and digital telecommunications – new media platforms – came together to work with the bing old media platforms in order to saturate the media consumer with intelligence on a 20 four hr footing. Troubles of circulating information between national boundary lines seemed to vanish nightlong with intelligence broadcast in one portion of the universe being able to be transmitted to the other side of the universe in existent clip. This development has farther exposed the selectivity of the media in testing what is and what is non deemed to be newsworthy stuff. For illustration, the on-going ‘war on terror’ is a topic that is broadcast in sempiternity on intelligence channels, in newspapers and on new media platforms throughout the West ; yet the race murder in Darfur, which began in 2003 has rarely been mentioned on any of the major national and international intelligence bearers. Merely little, independent new media Stationss have seen fit to describe on this every bit good as any figure of alternate atrociousnesss taking topographic point across the Earth and – as has already been ascertained – the form of the capitalist free market economic system dictates that it is merely the big, international administrations that are of all time able to make the grass roots base of the consumer media audience.

Therefore, it would look just to province that the control of the media over the type of content that the people are permitted to digest is absolute surely if one it to presume that control – in a free, democratic society – can merely be achieved through winning the heads of the people that make up the vote population. Yet this statement relies to a great extent on the premise that the governing elite in any given democratic state are intent on accomplishing the same political terminals as the mass media setup that is able to exert such unprecedented influence over its audience. When, nevertheless, there is a discernable split between the purposes and aspirations of the organic structure politic and the media, the issue of control is one time once more thrust into the spotlight as an inevitable squabble ensues over which version of the truth the people ought to be believing: the political facts as promulgated by the authorities or the journalist truth as portrayed by the imperativeness. This split is what has happened with respects to the British media and the present New Labour authorities, an disposal that is ill-famed for its interventionist efforts at organizing a ‘nanny state.’ In response to increasing degrees of journalistic unfavorable judgment, the authorities has resorted to oppugning the motivations of the media.

“The angry charge that the British newspaper imperativeness and, to a lesser but however marked extent, broadcasters, consistently lie and distort is a common physiological reaction of about all authorities ministers… The authorities has of import Alliess in the academic universe in its campaign to show that the media destroy public trust.” ( Oborne, 2005:229 )

Divides such as this between the governing political organic structure and the domestic mass media are merely of all time impermanent personal businesss: the invariably germinating nature of a healthy, functioning, partizan democracy ensures that harmoniousness must one time once more be achieved if merely to show in a new party of the political elite. Regardless, the effects upon the media audience are the same, functioning to divide the politicised portion of the population from the depoliticised as the transparence of the media apparatus becomes more obvious to the sort of audience that consumes traditionally ‘high brow’ media while the control of the mass media setup increases over the sort of audience that has historically consumed ‘low brow’ media.

“A important difference remains between a politicised, elect imperativeness and a comparatively depoliticised mass imperativeness. This difference is rooted in the historical development of the imperativeness, and is attributed to the chasm that purportedly separates the sophisticated penchants of the educated elites and the more basic involvement of the masses.” ( Curran and Seaton, 2003:93 )

Therefore, as foretold within the debut, much of the treatment remains within the boundaries of speculation and subjectiveness with the media looking ( in tandem with private endeavor and the governing political elite ) to exert tremendous influence and control over some sectors of the people while at the same clip there exists the politicised portion of the population that has historically been outside of the control of the media and its overtly political docket. With this built-in rational paradox in head, it is clip to turn attending towards offering a decision.


“It seems more appropriate to talk of a slow but engaged duologue between media and media consumers. Neither the media nor the audience are powerful in themselves, but both have powerful arguments.”

As David Gauntlett ( 2002:234 ) explains, it is academically ineffectual to declare that either the media or the people are in control of the other. Although the media is a alone and vastly powerful tool of societal, cultural and political persuasion, the administrations that constitute the imperativeness are capable to the same caprice of the free market as are any private endeavors runing in a democratic state. Arguments can hence be made for both sides with the media looking to keep a monopoly on the airing of of import information ( the lifeblood of a healthy democracy ) , while the media audience is in ownership of the most of import trade good of all: the ability to order the form of the consumer market by taking to back or non to back the media’s content and originative end product. As is the instance with many other private endeavors, for every bit long as the media is seen to be executing an of import public service, the devouring media audience will stay in partnership with the imperativeness to organize the critical barrier to any cases of inordinate political power. Therefore, in the concluding analysis, it might be more accurate to talk of the media and the people non as two opposing sides in an on-going cultural conflict but instead as a extremely important confederation between supply and demand that serves as a cheque and a balance against politics’ inclination to encompass dictatorship. When viewed through this prism, the epicenter of the argument displacements to into the country of political media theory where future rational focal point will undoubtedly stay ( Fairclough, 1995 ) .


Chomsky, N. ( 1997 )Media Control: the Dramatic Accomplishments of PropagandaNew York: Seven Stories Press

Chun, W. K-H. ( 2006 )New Media, Old Media: Interrogating the Digital RevolutionLondon: Routledge

Cohen, S. ( 2002 )Folk Devils and Moral Panics: Third EditionLondon: Routledge

Curran, J. and Seaton, J. ( 2003 )Power without Responsibility – the Press, Broadcasting and New Media in Britain: Sixth EditionLondon: Routledge

Dalton, R.J. and Wattenberg, M.P. ( 2000 )Parties without Partisans: Political Change in Advanced Industrial DemocraciesOxford and New York: Oxford University Press

Fairclough, N. ( 1995 )Media DiscourseLondon: Hodder Arnold

Fowler, R. ( 1991 )Language in the News: Discourse and Ideology in the ImperativenessLondon: Routledge

Friedman, M. ( 1999 )The Lexus and the Olive TreeNew York: Farrar, Straus & A ; Giroux

Gauntlett, D. ( 2002 )Media, Gender and Identity: an IntroductionLondon: Routledge

Hargreaves, I. ( 2003 )Journalism: Truth or Dare?Oxford: Oxford University Press

Kidd?Hewitt, D. and Osborne, R. ( Eds. ) ( 1995 )Crime and the MediaLondon: Pluto

Marx, M. and Engels, F. ( 1968 )Selected PlantsLondon: Lawrence & A ; Wishart

Miliband, R. ( 1973 )The State in Capitalist SocietyLondon: Four Books

Oborne, P. ( 2005 )The Rise of Political LiingLondon: The Free Press

Robinson, P. ( 2002 )The CNN Effect: the Myth of News, Foreign Policy and InterventionLondon: Routledge

Flickers, C. and Tulloch, J. ( Eds.) ( 2000 )Tabloid Narratives: Global Debates over Media StandardsLondon: Rowman & A ; Littlefield

Selected Articles

Gripsrud, J. ( 2000 )Tabloidisation, Popular Journalism and Democracy,in, Sparks, C. and Tulloch, J. ( Eds. ) Tabloid Narratives: Global Debates over Media StandardsLondon: Rowman & A ; Littlefield


Chalaby, J. ( August 2005 )Gallic Political Communication in a Comparative Position: the Media and the Issue of Freedom, in,Journal of Modern and Contemporary France, Volume 13, Number 3London: Taylor & A ; Francis

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