Mass Media

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					and the political agenda
Essential Questions

 How does a politician use the media to talk to the public and how
 does the public use the media to talk to a politician?

 Does the media assist, impede, or transform these messages?
         The Mass Media Today

Modern political success depends upon control
of the mass media
Image making does not stop with the campaign
It is a critical element in day-to-day governing
since politicians’ images in the press are good
indicators of their clout
         Meet the master of mass media
                1. plan ahead
7 principals of Reagan
                     2. stay on the offensive
                     3. control the flow of information
                     4. limit reporters’ access to the president
                     5. talk about the issues you want to talk
                     6. speak in one voice
                     7. repeat the same message many times
         Development of Media Politics

• First it was newspapers
• FDR used media effectively (1000 press
 conferences - fireside chats)
• Vietnam and Watergate soured the press on the
• now the perspective is investigative journalism
 (pitting reporters against political leaders)
                Television As Mass Media
Broadcast journalism has replaced print media as America’s principal sources of
news and information

1960’s debates b/w Nixon and Kennedy

Nation was taken to war with Vietnam
    exposed the gov’t naivete/lying about the progress of war
    today - embedded reporters

Birth of cable TV

Internet - instant news
                   Mass Media - Regulation

Ownership: large corporations & some foreign investors (Fox = Rupert Murdock -

Regulation: FCC licensing controls- created 1934 by Congress

• FCC is independent regulatory body - but in practice it is subject to many political
                  Mass Media - Regulation

Regulates market in 3 important ways
   • prevent near-monopolies of control over a broadcast market- rules limit number of
   stations owned/controlled by one company

   • FCC conducts periodic examinations of the goals and performance of stations as
   part of its licensing authority

   • FCC has issued a number of fair treatment rules concerning access to the airwaves
   for political candidates and office holders
                  Fairness Doctrine
FCC requires those who hold broadcast licenses to present
controversial issues of public concern in a fair, equitable manner

don’t confuse this w/ Equal Time Rule which ony deals w/ political

SC upheld FCC right to enforce fairness doctrine but not the
obligation to do so (Red Lion Broadcasting v FCC 1969)

1987 FCC abolished the fairness doctrine
                        Mass Media - Regulation
INTERNET has added a whole new element....

     narrowcasting - increase of “broadcast” channels that are oriented toward particularly
    narrow audiences

     Traditional broadcast news is being partially replaced by political Web sites, bloggers,
    The Daily Show

• Current pending legislation adds more limits (not more than 25% of local market)

    Telecommunications Act of 1996
                                        Current Issues

  A bipartisan Congressional group has asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to
  investigate Google's alleged policy of blocking high-cost calls to rural areas. According to Reuters, the
  legislators described Google's position as "ill conceived and unfair to our rural constituents."
With the release of the Federal Communications Commission's new Internet nondiscrimination proposals (that is, network neutrality),
one vexing question continues to vex. Does the FCC have the legal authority to regulate access to the 'Net? The issue came up again this
week, and not just because of the net neutrality proceeding; Comcast, which is suing the FCC for its sanctions against the ISP for last
year's P2P throttling, told a federal court hearing the case that the answer is no.
                    Current Issues

   Visit this website to check out the
  issues with the Net - A Bill Moyers
                        REporting the news

   American media is free and independent when it comes to
journalistic content - still totally dependent on advertising
revenues to keep the business going.

  News reporting is a business in America in which profits
shape how journalist define what is newsworthy, where they
get their information, and how they present it.

   TV networks, it could be said, define news as what is
entertaining to the average viewer
  Mass Media - SignificAnce of Ownership
  National level: impact on elections and everyday politics – daily
news, campaign ads, in-depth news shows, campaign sites

  Star quality of some news journalists( Brian Williams, Katie
Couric, Wolf Blitzer…) “experts”

•Stories presented driven by hidden agendas     (ie: corporate

•Most stories accepted by the public as FACT
•Emerging role of the internet as a legitimate news source (CNN,
CMBC, MSNBC) and as a more questionable source (Drudge
Mass Media - SignificAnce of Ownership

                What is the role of the profit motive in
              how journalists report the news?

                 What if we had a publically funded
              information service?
      Mass Media - Role as Gatekeeper
  Controls what is news and for how long
    •Auto safety, water pollution, crime rates, etc.
•Can help to set or swing the political agenda
•Can be biased
     •By ownership of the media
     •By ability to “sell” a story (or advertising)
     •Journalist’s personal bias
               Mass Media - Agenda Setter

• People try to influence the gov’ts policy agenda when they confront gov’t officials
with problems they expect them to solve.

• Interest groups, political parties, politicians, public relations firms, and bureaucratic
agencies are all pushing for their priorities to take precedence over others.

• Political activists (often called policy entrepreneurs - people who invest their
“political capital” in an issue) depend heavily on the media to get their ideas placed
high on the governmental agenda
       Mass Media - Role as Scorekeeper

• Historically it was believed media had little effect on public opinion
• “Minimal effects hypothesis” based on looking for direct impacts such as how
people vote

• BUT...if focus is on how the media affects what Americans think about,   it does
seem that the media has a considerable effect on public opinion.

• Decision to cover or to ignore certain issues can affect public opinion. By focusing
public attention on a specific problem(s), the media influence the criteria by which
the public evaluates political leaders.
Mass Media - Effect on Politics

     Largest factor in driving up the cost of campaigns

     Equal time rule doesn’t affect all   (3 rd   parties – ie:

     Necessity of exposure: key to nomination

     Can show a bias
             Mass Media - Bias in Media

Not all bias is deliberate but can be detected by watching the
 following techniques:
Selection & ommission: choice of news items; content & details
 used/not; words used
Placement: first page stories/above fold; lead off stories – reflect
Headlines: most read part of the paper – wording & size can reflect bias
Photos & camera angle: visual portrayal can show bias as can captions
                  Mass Media - Bias in Media

Names & titles: choice of words such as “terrorist” or “freedom fighter” clearly indicate

Statistics: opinion can be reflected in method of counting – “a hundred injured in
 crash” vs. “minor injuries in crash”

Source: supplier of the information and their credibility – PR director’s puffpiece;
 staged-events (sit-ins, ribbon cutting, demonstration)

Word choice & tone: use of positive or negative words – value judgments

Media ownership: trying not to offend sponsors, ownership, etc
                                   Mass Media

Names & titles: choice of words such as “terrorist” or “freedom fighter” clearly indicate

Statistics: opinion can be reflected in method of counting – “a hundred injured in
 crash” vs. “minor injuries in crash”

Source: supplier of the information and their credibility – PR director’s puffpiece;
 staged-events (sit-ins, ribbon cutting, demonstration)

Word choice & tone: use of positive or negative words – value judgments

Media ownership: trying not to offend sponsors, ownership, etc
             Mass Media - Effect on Politics
Conducting Politics
  Events like conventions, Presidential addresses are staged to accommodate
 media, esp. electronic
                                                           What does
  Issues are established by media attention                Wag The Dog
  Affects the popularity of President and Congress

   Media can be manipulated
  By government: press conferences and “leaks”
  Investigative report shows (Dateline, 20/20) that attempt to influence agenda and
 cause distrust (Dan Rather’s debacle in Campaign 2004- Bush Nat’l Guard story)
      Mass Media - Role as Scorekeeper

  Decides who is winning and losing

    Disproportionate attention given to   1 st   primaries (can shape the campaign or
kill and candidate)

   Can be found in regular news as well as the election news (i.e., presenting an
issue as if it has “lost” such as a piece of legislation before the vote)
         Mass Media - Role as Watchdog
  Exposing scandals and intrigues

 Began with Woodward and Bernstein breaking Watergate in The
Washington Post

  Especially seen in election analysis of candidates

  Can drive policy by “creating” an issue
 Time magazine cover on Bob Dole’s Age 1996
 Monica Lewinsky/Bill Clinton publicity
 Swiftboat Controversy in 2004
                        Mass Media

The media act as a linkage institution
between people and the policymakers

It has a profound impact on the political policy
                                                   Robert Gibbs
                                                   Pres. Obama’s
                                                   press secretary
Mass Media
                       Mass Media

Watchdog function of media helps to keep gov’t

many people feel the media is biased against
whoever holds office and that reporters want to
expose them in the media

With every new proposal being met with skepticism,
regular constraints are placed on gov’t growth
                       Mass Media

Of course, when the media focuses on injustice in
society, the media inevitably encourage the growth of

The media portray gov’t as responsible for handling
almost every major problem
Mass Media

 TV has furthered individualism in the
 American political process

 candidates can appeal directly to the
 people through TV

 has it made political parties decline in
 the face of candidates’ personalities?
                        Mass Media

The rise of the “information society”
has not brought about a corresponding
rise of an “informed society”

With media’s superficial treatment of
important policy issues, it is clear the
increase in the amount and availability
of information has not increased voters
political participation/awareness

Evaluate whether American mass media has become too

In particular, is the impact of mass media on public opinion and
public outcomes consistent with the concepts of limited gov’t and
balanced power?
Is there any democratic way to hold mass media organizations
accountable for their behavior?

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