The most compelling theory to me is the media effects theory discussed in chapter 7. As individual citizens and as a society, we are reliant on the media to give us information about what is happening in the world around us. This goes as far as Niklas Luhmann once said “What we know about the world, we know from the media.” Since media plays such an important role in our lives, the question arose in how far we – our thoughts, our ideas, our opinions – are influenced by the images and messages we are exposed to through newspapers, television, radio, film, music, etc.
As most people accept the idea that media can influence people, the degree of that influence as well as who is impacted when how and why have been the subject of great discussion among scholars and researchers for many years. The answers that have emerged over the years range from a vision of all-powerful media with simple models emphasizing direct media influence and a passive audience (Hypodermic or Silver Bullet model) to more sophisticated analyses highlighting the interaction of media and an active audience (Minimal Effects Model and Agenda Setting)(p. 231). As the early models left out the “active agency of the reader of the media messages” and “ignored the pre-existing ideas and orientation of the reader”, later models took into account the “ability of the reader to select, screen and judge media information.”
The model I would support, based on my own experiences and observations, is the agenda setting model, which is the ability of the media to direct people’s attention towards certain issues. This means the media may not affect what people think, but may affect what they think about, through the choice of which topics to cover and what to emphasize. What we know about the world is largely based on what the media decide to tell us. More specifically, the result of this mediated view of the world is that the priorities of the media strongly influence the priorities of the public. Elements prominent on the media agenda become prominent in the public mind. Issues that are ignored by the media will most likely not make it into the public discourse. However, as mentioned above, what people think about an issue, their thoughts and opinions, depend on many more factors than just the media message itself.
Active participants in a democratic society need reliable, accurate, and diverse news in order to create their own opinions, and to make educated political decisions.
However…in a capitalist society, media corporations have economic incentives to becoming the dominant provider in the industry. Eat or be eaten. Crush the competition. Corporate conglomerates purchase independent companies, and integrate horizontally and vertically in order to cross-promote and increase the synergy of production.
Ultimately, the majority of content chosen by these major media sources is influenced by profit. If the majority of the audience enjoys the content, or the way the content is framed (such as with cutting edge political campaigns), then the media will air it—regardless of providing viewers with diverse perspectives.
It is crucial for democratic citizens to be informed and to be exposed to diverse ideas; yet, it is difficult to achieve this goal with the existence of such strong economic competition. This struggle compels me to be interested in the theories of both media economics and media effects.
Within the media effects models, I think that the Media-Reader Interaction Theory is the most accurate theory. Rather than suggesting that the media directly “injects” the viewer with a message (silver bullet theory), the viewers are “active agents” in receiving media. Furthermore, media is only one part of the viewer’s source of information; the other part is interpersonal communication (235).
Thus, people are influenced by conversations they have day-to-day with their friends, family, co-workers, colleges, and community members; but are also influenced by the information they receive from the media. I want to extend this theory by saying that the amount of interpersonal communication and media exposure vacillates within each individual, so there is no determinable amount of media influence per person.
The Media-Reader Interaction Theory is an umbrella for other sub-theories including the Political Socialization Theory (adolescents are increasingly more influenced by media in the formation of their beliefs, values, and political views) as well as the Two-Step Flow of Influence Theory (“interpersonal contact is more influential than the media in affecting a change in belief because it involve[s] the desire for social acceptance that is part of all direct human interaction”) (232). Basically, within media-reader interaction, both the media and interpersonal contact are recognized as influences in shaping the reader’s opinions.
Furthermore, the Media-Reader Interaction Theory does not claim any causality relationships—which are difficult, if not impossible, to prove.
For example, Cultivation Theory explores the impact that television cultivation has on the political belief system, and says: “on economic issues, heavy viewers are more likely than moderate or light viewers to adopt the conservative call for lower taxes, but they are also more likely to support a populist call for more social services,” (236). What if the “heavy” viewers already had the same political views as the media figures that are controlling the media, before even watching the television show? Television could be reinforcing political ideals that already exist, rather than influencing or directly causing people to think a new way.
Ultimately, individuals are influenced by their interpersonal relationships—including other peoples’ political and social ideals—and media also influences individuals. All individuals are active participants in consuming information, and are accountable for forming their own opinions. Media outlets should also be accountable for the value and diversity of the news they provide—regardless of their own economic incentives. Yet, in a capitalist and politically polarized country, accountability is hard to achieve.
Regarding the simple idea of the government regulating all aspects of the media, I do not think this is the direction our nation should be headed in. Our nation is based on freedom of speech and other core values that allow us to speak out and promote individualism. This is something that I think should never be abolished through control of the media. However, I do think that the government should have the right to play a vital role in regulation of the media. I think that yes, the government should be allowed to exercise more power for prior restraint and to block publication of material it feels might hurt national security interests. This seems obvious! Protecting the rights and safety of national security should be in our nation’s best interest. Of course, it should also be in our best interest to express ourselves, but only to a certain extent. Blocking publication of something that may be harmful can be a necessary move to protect national security, and the government should have the green light to assess the matter. A difficulty in doing this may be argumentation on what exactly is material that could be threatening. This may cause a lot of controversy. Nonetheless, despite the controversy and differing points of view, I feel that the government should ultimately be able to control threatening or harmful publications in the media to keep our nations ideals and practices in place. In our Converging Media book, it outlines the fact that historically, aside from the United States (Europe/European colonies), a “public service ethos for electronic media was most prevalent”. This meant that there was a limitation on the amount of media (radio/television) that were officially licensed by the government. It talked about how programming content was much more focused on news and cultural shows rather than shows based solely on entertainment. I think that the change in media from being focused on ‘the principle of public service’ to mainly supplying “pure entertainment”, definitely draws attention to the fact that media (naturally) is becoming more and more diverse. With this diversity in the media combined with freedom of speech can also bring content that may either be explicit or too offensive for certain audiences, or a video/content leak that may breach guidelines of national security or another branch of the government.
In spite of the 9/11 attacks, I believe that the government should have the ability to restrict the media, if and only if, it could affect national security. Media regulation today is one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish, especially given our nation’s advancement in technology. Anyone with access to a computer can upload whatever information they please to the internet which makes it very difficult to regulate.
Events such as the airtstrike video that Bradley Manning leaked should be censored from the general public. Imagine if you were a family member of either the pilots or the journalists; is that something you would want the world to see? Releasing videos such as that one may cause citizens to lose faith in the government and our national defense. The government isn’t perfect and does make mistakes at times. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 continues to uphold the requirement of the media serving in the “public interest, convenience, and necessity,” and this is not clearly defined. The release of such a video (or one similar), in my opinion, does not meet the public convenience or necessity.
With an increase in regulation on the media for the benefit of our national security, people may feel that their First Amendment rights are being violated. No one is ever 100% satisfied, and sacrifices must be made for the interest of our national security. The FCC’s job is to regulate the media, whether it’s for television ratings, censoring profanities, or cutting out a program that may be found as offensive. For all of the radicals who feel that the media shouldn’t be regulated period, why does the FCC regulate offensive language? They allow you to bash the government as you please. The FCC should only step in and regulate the media when it’s a potential threat to national security.
The shield laws mean well. But if what the journalist publishes from a “confidential source” is related to a potential threat to our nation, then the shield laws should be voided and the journalist prosecuted unless the source is revealed. Any media that could be potentially threatening to our national security should not be published or viewed by the general public. First Amendment rights only go to the point where national security is involved.
Blog 4 Rewrite
In light of the attacks on September 11th, I think the US government should be allowed to block publication of material. Many people would disagree with me on this, saying that allowing this would only segue into less free speech. Allowing the government to control what is published on the Internet would, undoubtedly, lessen free speech, but it would also protect national security. Which would you rather protect: free speech or American lives?
This is most currently relevant in the Wikileaks debate that has been going on since the site first began in 2006. Wikileaks was started by Julian Assange, as a site that was untraceable and uncensorable, and attempted to give society the real idea of what was going on and what was being hidden by the government.
Personally, I think Wikileaks is awful and should be taken down immediately, for many different reasons. Firstly, Assange has no right to post American government documents on the Internet that he obtained through treason. Assange is Australian and has no stake in American politics, making him more willing to throw America to the dogs. He posts documents and videos from governments other than his own, because if he betrayed his own country he could be tried for treason- something he cannot be tried for by other governments he betrays. Some may argue that Assange has a right to make these documents public; it is not libel, they are actual government documents. The matter still remains that Assange is making public classified documents and videos, things that were kept from the public for a specific reason, which he overlooks. Secondly, Assange claims that he is trying to give the public the plain blatant truth about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example. Yet Assange edits the videos he uploads, and titles them with her personal beliefs of what occurred. In the video about the Iraqi journalists being killed he titles it “Collateral Murder” and cuts the video down from 40 minutes. The edited and titled video is released loudly and publically, while the raw footage is quietly added to the Internet. Assange is doing exactly what he was attempting to prevent! He shows the public what he wants them to see, while leaving a small trail of truth. His hypocritical moves demonstrate his deeper motives than freedom of speech and governmental truth. He aims to destroy trust in the American government (for reasons currently unknown) and preach his off-kilter beliefs about what is happening in the war.
The US government should show restraint in investigating and potentially blocking written materials. It is written in the constitution that everyone is entitled to free speech. I think citizens would be upset if the United States changed its core values because of one incident. There has always been a struggle over how much power governments should have, and the banning of certain reading materials deemed dangerous would give the government too much power. Past governments who have banned controversial reading materials were not very successful. Countries like the USSR and Nazi Germany banned reading materials, and they no longer exist. It is difficult for anyone to not react to a threat, especially the US government. It would also be difficult for people to that if a preventable tragedy occurred. A positive would be that more people’s ideas could be heard. A negative would be that there could be a possibility that there are more attacks that maybe could have been prevented. However, there will always be tragedies that cannot be prevented.
Regarding the simple idea of the government regulating all aspects of the media, I do not think this is the direction our nation should be headed in. Our nation is based on freedom of speech and other core values that allow us to speak out and promote individualism. This is something that I think should never be obolished through control of the media. However, I do think that the government should have the right to play a vital role in regulation of the media. I think that yes, the government should be allowed to exercise more power for prior restraint and to block publication of material it feels might hurt national security interests. This seems obvious! Protecting the rights and safety of national security should be in our nation’s best interest. Of course, it should also be in our best interest to express ourselves, but only to a certain extent. Blocking publication of something that may be harmful can be a necessary move to protect national security, and the government should have the green light to assess the matter. A difficulty in doing this may be argumentation on what exactly is material that could be threatening. This may cause a lot of controversy. Nonetheless, despite the controversy and differing points of view, I feel that the government should ultimately be able to control threatening or harmful publications in the media to keep our nations ideals and practices in place.