Media’s impact on AIDS public opinion, policy, people

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					    Media’s impact
       on AIDS:
    public opinion,
    policy, people.
        Implications for
               Guy Berger,

Rhodes Journalism & Media Studies, 26/11/03
What’s the point of AIDS

  List three impacts it has
              What’s up:
1.   A force for change
2.   Place of news
3.   Models of media-people-policymakers
4.   Kinds of influences
5.   Public opinion
6.   Conclusion
              What’s up:
1.   A force for change
2.   Place of news
3.   Models of media-people-policymakers
4.   Kinds of influences
5.   Public opinion
6.   Conclusion
        South African problem:
•   Deadly serious epidemic
•   Popular government & powerful president
•   Very fixed govt ideas:
    –   HiV not linked to AIDS
    –   Poverty => AIDS
    –   Fear of pharmaceutical companies
    –   Suspicion of ante-retrovirals
    –   Pride about African male sexual practice

• Tutu, Mandela, Ndungane
• Cosatu, TAC, opposition parties
• Canadian prime minister
• 5000 doctors
• Constitutional court
Five year change process:
“Questions still remain about
 what finally prompted
 government to open the way for
 HIV-positive people to get the
 medical treatment they need.”
Business Day
           Poll factor:
“One possibility is that the crisis
that arose as a result of govt
inaction, has now had
consequences that are impossible
to ignore – especially with an
election in the offing.” Business Day

  What was media role in all this?
     What can media do?
“Without doubt, journalists have
the power to shape and influence
the way people think and make
“This agenda-setting role has never
been more urgent, given the impact
of HIV/AIDS on ordinary lives in
eastern and southern Africa”
Lucy Oriang, Nation, Nairobi.
     Specific role of news
     coverage: Soul City
•   Gives public accurate info
•   Helps destigmatise
•   Gives informed debate on tough qtns
•   Influences public opinion against
    behaviour that spreads HIV
•   Monitors and pressurises govt and
             Summing up:
•   No major change in infection rate,
    – but maybe it would be even worse
      without the many efforts incl media.
•   Momentous change in a very stubborn
    government policy.
•   Change has also occurred in drug
    companies’ pricing policies.
•   Qtn remains:
•   how do we understand media power –
    and powerlessness - in all this?
              What’s up:
1.   A force for change
2.   Place of news
3.   Models of media-people-policymakers
4.   Kinds of influences
5.   Public opinion
6.   Conclusion
     Specific role of news
       coverage: Cadre
•   Influences public policy, and therefore
    the environment within which
    individuals act.
•   This is different to communication
    campaigns which target individual and
    peer behavioural change.
•   Journalism complements social
    (Wallack & Dorfman, cited by Cadre)
     How News works: Cadre
•   Links AIDS to social conditions and collective
    action, rather than treat it as a purely/primarily
    personal issue;
•   Focuses on opinion leaders & policy makers –
    i.e. puts responsibility with those in power, not
    with individuals in the public;
•   Amplifies voices of civil society;
•   Effects change in public policy & institutional
    practice, rather than in personal behaviour.
    News is distinctive: Cadre
•    It does agenda setting and opinion-
     making rather than simply information-
•    It is not necessarily government-
     bashing, but it can be.
•    “Powerful forces often try to influence
     the agenda and may pressurise
     journalists … for eg. … politicians …
     pharmaceutical companies.”
    Strengths & weaknesses:
•  Media coverage ensures that HIV-
   AIDS is seen as an important issue
   requiring a coherent national polity
   response. Indeed it has the power to
   set the agenda in this regard.
• But:
  – Can give sense of helplessness.
  – Educative role is weak.
   Perceived effect: media
     quotes from Cadre
• “It’s very clear that the pressure from
  the media shamed them into working
  more quickly”
• “Usually, there has to be a groundswell
  in society. Very occasionally, I think
  that the media makes the issue, but
  usually the media is reflecting the
  reality of what is happening on the
            Summing up:

• Journalism is different to social marketing.
• It plays in a political arena.
• The stakes are about public power and
allocation of national resources.

As we’ll see, journalism impacts on policy
issues via its power in making Public Opinion.
              What’s up:
1.   A force for change
2.   Place of news
3.   Models of media-people-policymakers
4.   Kinds of influences
5.   Public opinion
6.   Conclusion
“   Public opinion sets the bounds of
        the possible – especially as
     regards the shape of policy and
           the exercise of power.
    Qtn: how do orthodoxies change –
    cf. women’s role, privatisation and
       Qtn: where does media fit in?
    That’s why understanding media’s
            impact is important.

         •the public

                       public opinion

•the media             •policy people
Give examples of these
actors in your universe:

 1. Media
 2. Public
 3. Policy people
          Specific players:
• media:
  different platforms, premier outlets, media
  stars (Oprah)
 public:
  general public, civil society groups incl NGOs,
  business, global forces, individuals.
 policy people:
   the makers and the implementers.

 Qtn: who drives the process?
Five models of how the
  relationship works:
1.   Liberal democratic
2.   Watchdog model
3.   Bypassing civil society
4.   Manipulation model
5.   The “Toady Times”
    1. Liberal democratic model
                                  MEDIA 2
1   PUBLIC +
    i.e. The public is the active source of public opinion
        eg. Aids activists win coverage, affect govt
             2. Watchdog model
                                    PUBLIC +            2
1    MEDIA
    i.e. Media coverage is active source of public opinion
eg. Exposure of child abuse, Child-headed households
      3. Bypassing Civil Society

  1   MEDIA

i.e. Media impacts on govt, irrespectv of real public opinion
             eg. Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky
         4. Manipulation model
1   GOVT
                           PUBLIC +
                           OPINION           3

    i.e. Government is the originator of public opinion
eg. Iraq war in US, Info scandal, discredit leader’s rivals
             5. “Toady Times”
                                GOVT                  2


       i.e. Media is the originator, circuit incomplete
eg. media coverage aims to please govt, ignores public
        Overall picture (a):
• Policy people infer Public Opinion from
• and they use media to promote their

• Often it is interaction of media &
  politicians (not the public) that affects
  govt policy & practice.
         Overall picture (b):
• But civil society also has a real role to play
  as in the first model.
• In practice, many situations combine
  aspects of all five models.

Which model/s match/es your medium best?
   democratic, watchdog, bypassing civil
       society, manipulation, toady.
   Making public opinion 1:
• Enthusiastic, one-sided & simplistic treatment
  in the media = rapid policy change;
   – Eg. ante-retrovirals

• Complexity & debate = slower policy action.
   – Eg. genetically modified crops

• Effect on politicians & policy is cyclical:
      mobilisation -> action ->
      maintenance -> fade
      (as the media intensity declines).
   Making public opinion 2:
• Some media more influential than others: eg.
  TV greater on dramatic & short-term events.
• But often TV takes its cue from print.

• Intermedia agenda-setting power. For
  example, some titles set “the story” for others.

• Note: power of international media and
  cultural imperialism.
           Summing up
   Keep triangle of public-media-
    policymakers in mind;
   Note the complexity or simplicity
   Acknowledge cyclical impact;
   Remember inter-media influence.
              What’s up:
1.   A force for change
2.   Place of news
3.   Models of media-people-policymakers
4.   Kinds of influences
5.   Public opinion
6.   Conclusion
 Your influence: a preview
          Direct, indirect, longterm, etc.
1.   Audiences make the effects
2.   Indirect identity development
3.   KAP: knowledge & info levels
4.   Stimulus-response effects: emotions
5.   Agenda-setting
6.   Paradigms and frames
  1a: Audiences are active
Uses & gratifications theory:
Audiences act on media; they make the effects.
 People do change through media exposure,
 Messages are not open-ended,
 Reinforcement, rather than change, effect.

Still: U&G valid - audiences aren’t pure recipients
      1b. Audiences decode
Media effects are subject to receiver
(a) hegemonic, (b) negotiated, (c) oppositional

a. “Hegemonic decoding”:
    Reinforcing influence.
    You accept the package
1a. Audiences decode cntd.
b. “Negotiated decoding”:
    You accept only part of the package.
    Question: Why?
    Answer: Situated & Mediated meaning-
    making resources.

c. “Oppositional decoding”:
    A “weak effects” approach.
    Implies a resistance orientation (eg. to
    white media, govt media).
  2. Indirect effects: identities
 Media creates new publics-communities,
  causes changes in politics, alters people’s
  time allocation.
 A “media dense” environment will have
  greater effect in this area, and especially
  on identities – on who you are.
 Identity is developed through role models,
  & through the “subjective” positioning
  needed to participate in a discourse.
 Much less the case in most of 3rd World.
    3. Knowledge & info effects
KAP model

•    Knowledge and information,
•    Attitudes,
•    Practices/behaviour.

•    Head => heart => hands
     – But not so simply linear!
•    Still, knowledge-info are vital elements.
    4. S-R: emotional effects
 Stimulus-response (S-R) theory:
• Works on short-term attitudes and opinions
• Overly-powerful view.
• But true that S-R exists in affective
    responses: fears, tears, identification,
    anger, laughter, arousal. Suicides,
    fashions, riots.
• Less-powerful view: S-R is modified by
    psycho variables, socio variables, 2 step
          5. Deeper effects
•   Works on beliefs, values, norms,
•   (foundation of attitudes & opinions)

More longterm, & relatively powerful:
       Agenda-setting effects
       Paradigmatic effects.
5a. Agenda-setting effects

 Defines what is important.
 Affects not what you think,
        but what you think about.
 Plays to advantage of specific
    5b. Paradigmatic effects
   How you think about the agenda:
   i.e. “framing” what has been “primed”.

   This effect defines reality & norms.
   Defines what is wise, normal,
    praiseworthy, acceptable, right.
   Sets out what is deviant, disgusting,
    outdated, unacceptable.
    5b. Paradigmatic effects cntd
    The frame also defines what is taboo,
     illegitimate, stigmatised.
    It often merges with other paradigms:
       Eg. Anti-statism => govt AIDS plans are
        automatically suspect.
       Eg. Anti-racism => white sources are suspect.
       Eg. Homophobia/xenophobia => The Other is
        seen as an external threat.
       Eg. Sexism => women are there to satisfy men.
      Paradigm examples
   “Mbeki slammed by health
   Govt out of line with international
   Health Minister Tshabalala-Msimang
    described as bloody-minded, petty,
    obsessed, toady, insensitive, a quack.
    Influence: summing up
Theories we’ve covered:
 Audiences make effects
 Identity development
 KAP: knowledge as foundation
 Stimulus-response effects: emotions
 Agenda-setting
 Paradigms and frames

   There is value in all of them. Media interacts
   with people – singly, jointly – in all these ways
Which effect/s resonate with
your AIDS journalism? How?
   No effect: Audiences are in charge.
   General: Identity development
   KAP: knowledge as foundation
   Stimulus-response: you arouse emotions
   Agenda-setting about what is NB
   Paradigms and frames: set norms
              What’s up:
1.   A force for change
2.   Place of news
3.   Models of media-people-policymakers
4.   Kinds of influences
5.   Public opinion
6.   Conclusion
Impact on “public opinion”
• For journalism, “Public Opinion” is
  the key object of impact.
• Through PO, journalism can
  interact powerfully, although
  indirectly, with the policy people
  and the public.

• Spiral of silence theory
             Public Opinion
          Knowledge and information
          Beliefs (about reality)
          Values (about goodness)
          Norms (about behaviour)
    => attitudes, which in turn => contextualise and
    colour specific opinions on specific issues.

• Public Opinion = a set of shared attitudes based
  on: knowledge, beliefs, values, norms.
• i.e heart-and-head on an aggregated scale
Public opinion: fact or fiction?
Very notion itself of Public Opinion can be
   argued to be an effect of media
   coverage: i.e. a media construct.

Notion of PO can also mask real power –
   that of media, their owners and key
   sources (such as govt or PR
       Public opinion: Self-

Policy people – who influence so much
media coverage – gain their own
understanding of Public Opinion from the
self-same media.

Public Opinion is both a media artifact,
AND it also shapes media influence in
             Policy impact:
Thus, even fictions have impacts:

   “Public Opinion” affects circuit of policy
    making, via media.
   PO influences the decoding by audiences
    – influencing how they respond to media
    content in terms of emotions, knowledge,
    attitudes, and practices.
   PO also influences audience decoding by
    setting agendas & framing paradigms.
              What’s up:
1.   A force for change
2.   Place of news
3.   Models of media-people-policymakers
4.   Kinds of influences
5.   Public opinion
6.   Conclusion
              Summing up
What role does journalism play?
In South Africa, it crystallised the Public Opinion
    which finally shifted government policy.

Focus on: Media, public, policy people
= a dynamic & powerful triangle!
that is sometimes not a triangle!

and that works at diff levels, issues, rhythms!
Need to grasp the complexities and the
  nuances about triangle actors, your
  influence on audiences, and the role of
  journalism in relation to Public Opinion.

In this way, you can strategise & heighten
    the impact of your AIDS journalism.
             Personal audit
8 point checklist for your journalism:
1. Who are the players in your particular
2. Does your work acknowledge active
3. What identity is promoted/implicit in your
4. Does your work generate emotional
             Personal audit
8 point checklist for your journalism:

4. Does your journalism contribute to new
   knowledge & understanding?
5. Do you help set the agenda?
6. What frame and paradigm do you convey?
7. How does your work relate to public
      Thank you

Think about your
  purpose and impact

Be a conscious player
    in public opinion