Sunday, 17 April 2011

THE ROLE OF THE MEDIA

The media are tremendously important not only as informative but also as formative. In that sense, they can raise awareness to the masses, build trust, and especially serve as a bridge between government and citizens. Sadly, the media many times are manipulated and thwarted.

In countries where the media and government, without ever having a perfect relationship, have more independence from each other; work much better because they have understood they are a decisive factor in the development of their nations.

The media can play a crucial role being the eyes of countries on their long-term strategy. Without the pressure made ​​by the media, there is no development. Democracies depend on what media say and teach citizens, but when they lie, all democracies are affected cause they touch our sentiments and drives us as they want. Sensational and superficial are the two main descriptions we can give today's media.

The media sometimes represent large corporations which of course have a direct profit motive. They have the basic function of social communication but when that basic function battles with the private purpose that those corporations have, a great conflict comes out and in most cases, the prevailing desire for profit wins.


Journalists who accurately report what their sources say can effectively remove responsibility for their stories onto their sources. The ideal of objectivity therefore encourages uncritical reporting of official statements and those of authority figures. In this way the biases of individual journalists are avoided but institutional biases are reinforced (Ryan 1991: 10,176). ‘Professional codes ensure that what is considered important is that which is said and done by important people. And important people are people in power. Television news thus privileges holders of power
’ (Kellner 1990: 113-4).


Many magazines and newspapers are mouthpiece of some political parties, doing the task of informing with objectivity very difficult. So, people have to judge on their own by looking different channels for the same news and just then form a conclusion.

Many people do not trust the media. Or it is that maybe they all accept the self-contradictory definition: "Media: 99,99% of what happens is not on the news"

The information we all get from the media, is indispensable for the growing of democracies for three main reasons:

1.- Information provided by the media help to see if governments popularly elected are doing everything they promised in campaign.

2.- Every country that wish to become a very strong democracy must have strong and empowered citizens who are willing to participate actively in political discussions, and to meet in all their civic obligations.

3.- The media can guide and empower citizens to take action
as they are a very powerful weapon used to target not few but large masses. The media can also help build peace and social consensus.


The media are sometimes called the fourth branch of government, just after the executive, legislative and judicial power. Basically, we can assume the media have four main roles to play: inform, enlighten, entertain, and educate.

It is fundamental that media are the guardian of countries cause its participation in the development process can decide many things such as establishing objectives, in reflecting public opinion, and in building a decent environment of criticism because constructive criticism is always appreciated, specially for the role it has in helping governments to rethink their decisions when they are not the best for the future of their countries.

The media as a whole have to operate under precisely the same rules without preferential treatment in the licensing process. The influence of the media are enormous as never before in the history of our planet, but if that influence is not used correctly; we could have irreversible consequences.

In words of James Wolfensohn, ex-president of the World Bank, “Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are surely essential elements in the development process.”


Contradiction?

No wonder that the media are campaigning one day quite "aggressive"against cigarette consumption and its terrible consequences, and another day are broadcasting commercials of different brands of cigarettes. This is where many of us wonder, are there contradictions in the current model of communication?

The media should be giving us fair analysis and factual information and not as happens most of the time, where the media have their own agenda which is to avoid people knowing the truth. Needless to say, they do not always represent the interests of citizens. The media tend to represent groups of powerful spokespersons. That's why people say that they are a key to changing consumer habits of a society.

Environmental problems are poorly reported in the media because of the need to provide entertainment rather than political awareness, to attract audiences for advertisers, even in news and current affairs programs. This occasionally affects a specific item of news but more generally affects the sorts of stories that are covered and the way they are covered. News editors are reluctant to deal with controversial political and social issues that might alienate potential consumers. As a result news has become bland and neutral and ignores issues that concern large portions of the population who are not considered to have or exercise much buying power (Bagdikian 1983: 180-1, 201-2).




The great dilemma of the developing and poor countries is that people do not know that their basic rights are and if they know, they don't know about where to go and what to do. They don't know what their collective strength is because they tend to act separately. Even they don't know how to protest and what the importance of protests is.

What is fundamental in every country is that we all, with the pluralism that surrounds all nations; can bring together the forces for being used in favor of our countries and not against it. When the media start doing their homework in the right way; we will start looking at them as a real watchdog with a very high credibility among the public.


References:

Bagdikian, B.H. 1983, The Media Monopoly. Boston: Beacon Press.

Kellner, D. 1990, Television and the Crisis of Democracy. Boulder CO: Westview Press.


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