Chapter 6 THE MASS MEDIA
“Political Maneuvering, Yes; Substantive Issues, No” • The opening vignette is based on a story about how Linda Tripp at the suggestion of book agent Lucianne Goldberg secretly taped conversations with Monica Lewinsky about her sexual relationship with President Bill Clinton. • Major TV networks and news magazines picked up the story based on innuendo, without having listened to t he tapes. • The story illustrates that the media are not very interested in informing the public about important and substantive political and policy issues but concentrate, instead, on the game of politics.
In Chapter 6, the authors ask whether the media enrich or diminish democracy in the United States. • The text addresses major issues concerning the media: • Organization of the mass media • How political news is generated and presented • The relationship between reporters and politicians • How the media influence how citizens think about politics and public policies
Roles of the Mass Media in Democracy • The central idea of democracy is that ordinary citizens should control what their government does. • Watchdog over government • Clarify what electoral choices the public has • Present a full and enlightening set of ideas about public policy to the public
The Mass Media As Important Elements of the Political System • The mass media serve as critical links among political and governmental institutions. • They also act as political institutions in their own right. • Vehicles for government, political parties, and interest groups to speak to citizens • Channels of communication among political and governmental institutions • The media, primarily owned by large corporations, are themselves political actors with their own goals and interests.
Development of the Mass Media in America • The nature of the mass media has been shaped by structural factors: • Population expansion and dispersion • Technological innovations from the invention of printing presses to satellites • New forms of corporate business organization
Newspapers • Modern newspapers have been made possible by technological developments and economic growth. • Changing structural factors of industrialization and technology changed the shape of political communication and the shape of politics. • Newspaper readership: competition from television and radio
Magazines • Journals of opinion • Weekly newsmagazines • Large-circulation magazines • Specialized journals
Radio significantly changed the face of the mass media. • Commercial radio stations with broad audiences • Stations all over the country were organized into networks that shared news and other programs • Resurgence of modern radio
Transformation of the media by television • Television was invented just before World War II. • Developed commercially in the late 1940s • Adopted on a large scale in the 1950s. • Polls regularly have shown that most people name television as their most important source of news.
The new media have the potential to revolutionize politics. • Personal computers and modems in many homes and offices • The Internet
How the Media Work • Organization of the mass media • Corporate ownership — concentration of ownership has been increasing. • Effects of centralization
Political Newsmaking • Where the news comes from • Dependence on official sources • Mutual needs of the media and public officials • Foreign news tends to be sporadic and episodic. • Interpretation of political news
Is the News Biased? • Observers disagree about whether the media are biased in a liberal or a conservative direction. • What is bias?
Prevailing Themes in Political News • Tendencies in media coverage • Beliefs that are assumed • Values and points of view that are emphasized • Values that seldom are given coverage • Ethnocentric point of view in most news reports about foreign affairs • The combination of ethnocentrism and the dependence on U.S. government news sources has meant that most foreign news coverage supports U.S. foreign policy.
Impact • Results of relying on incumbent politicians as essential news sources • Negativity and scandal • Limited, fragmented, and incoherent political information
Effects of the Media on Politics • Media coverage influences public opinion and policymaking. • Agenda-setting effects — the topics that get the most coverage in the media are the same ones that most people say are the most important problems • The media’s framing or interpretation of stories affects how people think about political problems. • Trends in what the media cover sometimes diverge from actual trends in problems. • What appears in the media affects people’s policy preferences.
Influence on policymaking • By affecting what people think is important, the media indirectly affect what government does when the government responds to public opinion. • What appears in the media has a direct effect on policymaking when government reacts to news coverage and investigative reports.
Cynicism • As the adversarial attack journalism style has taken over political reporting, serious consideration of the issues or of the behavior of institutions has lost out to a steady diet of charges about personal misbehavior. • Is mass media coverage of American politics responsible for increased cynicism about political parties, politicians, and incumbent political leaders?
Censorship and Government Regulation • Government has less legal control over the media in the United States than in most other countries. • The U.S. government does enforce various technical and substantive regulations on the electronic media.
Constitutional Protection • Overt censorship since the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 has primarily been confined to wartime. • The Constitution now is interpreted as forbidding government from preventing the publication of most kinds of political information. • Exceptions involving national security • Limitations on prior restraint • Protection of the media after material has been published
The electronic media are subject to more direct government regulation, though such regulation is now very limited. • Federal Communications Commission (FCC) • Rate regulation • Government regulation of the media is no longer significant. • The trend has been toward a free market system with little government interference.
How to Judge the Media • Is it a flaw if the mass media fail to present informative, analytical, and sophisticated coverage of political issues? • Is it essential for people to have a lot of detailed information? • Does a shortage of good information make it difficult for citizens to form intelligent political judgments?