What Impact Do Politics Have on the Media Industry? - Seeker's Thoughts

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What Impact Do Politics Have on the Media Industry?


What Impact Do Politics Have on the Media Industry?


Studies suggest that media play an influential role in shaping public opinion, possibly impacting what policies citizens support or oppose. But why can some media sway opinion more effectively than others?


Classic approaches to media usually assume at best minimal effects; but considering media as a play by its own rules and dynamics allows for a more nuanced view of this issue.


Politics and the Media


An independent media sector that keeps citizens informed about politics is as essential to democracy as fair elections themselves. When governments attempt to control media content they jeopardize democratic principles and social political stability. That is why investing in increasing professionalism, accountability and freedom within media sectors is so essential.


Media's traditional functions include informing the public, serving as an impartial watchdog and encouraging participation in political activities. 


New media have the potential to fulfill many of these roles by connecting people directly with one another and with government officials through personalized digital networks. 


But, unfortunately, new media are also creating echo chambers: echoing chambers where users choose news sources that reflect their ideological leanings, so messages spread rapidly without filtering or fact-checking being applied at lightning speed.


Scholars have amassed a substantial body of literature about the effect of media on political behavior and opinions. 


Graber's classic textbook Mass Media and American Politics examines its historical evolution while others such as Nabi and Oliver 2009 and Iyengar and McGrady 2007 address political media effects with particular emphasis on new media; others, like Gans 1979 and London 1997 explore routines which determine media content messages.


The Media and Politics


Media has always played an essential role in democracy. In the US, for instance, the First Amendment established freedom of the press as one cornerstone of our constitutional republic. Voters need access to information to make informed decisions; journalists' job is to provide that crucial source.


As is evident with social media platforms like LinkedIn, new communication technologies are both expanding and undercutting traditional textbook roles. New media allows citizens to access information previously inaccessible to them as well as collaborate around political issues via personalized peer-to-peer networks.


Conversely, information shared over these new channels may trivialize politics by replacing serious reporting with infotainment; thus blurring the distinction between journalism and propaganda and making its dissemination easier than ever. Furthermore, spreading falsehoods now more widespread and simple.


Journalists in the world's advanced democracies are being increasingly threatened in their roles as gatekeepers of truth and public good. Although not as drastic as authoritarian countries, attempts at curbing media independence have increased dramatically, from threats to tighten libel laws to attempts at damaging media owners' business interests. Zselyke Csaky explores these strategies used by democratically-elected but illiberal leaders to co-opt media outlets.


The Media and Government


Political scientists and journalists alike have expressed concerns that an increasingly fragmented media environment could exacerbate polarization, promote populism, create cognitive bubbles, and foster fake news. Recent developments in Eurasia and MENA such as new legislative restrictions, arrests of journalists, and growing insecurity has compounded these worries (Allcott & Gentzkow 2017; Chadwick 2017; Bovet et al 2019).


No matter their social class or group membership, societal actors rely heavily on media coverage to understand what other citizens and groups think of them, what causes they champion, and their options for responding to conflicts. Thus, they often remain uncertain of how their support or opposition to any given policy will be influenced by political actors and media attention (Lowi 1964; Wilson 1980).


As such, media creates incentives for privileged players to use their access to media to restrict conflict or focus it on issues that benefit them personally, while those without such privileges seek attention through strategic behavior that draws negative stories more likely to generate audience interest and controversy - something which undermines journalistic credibility while decreasing chances for balanced coverage of an issue.


The Media and Society


Scholars have long been intrigued by the relationship between society and media since the introduction of mass circulation newspapers and magazines, sound films, and radio at the end of the 19th and beginning of 20th centuries. At that time, industrialization, urbanization, population shifts, immigration flows and other sociological transformations were altering American society significantly.


As societies became more educated and literacy rates rose, it became evident that media would play a vital role in informing citizens about public affairs. At the same time, social science research methods and theories became increasingly applicable to media studies; social psychologists developed agenda setting theory and dependency theory while communication researchers began investigating media effects on individuals directly.


Digital communications technologies have dramatically transformed the media environment, providing citizens with new outlets and opportunities to participate in political content production. People also utilize these new forms of media to personalize their news experience by filtering out information that doesn't fit with their worldview - this trend has resulted in widening gaps between established media outlets and mass public, while compounding existing challenges to press freedom in some countries.

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