Puttnam (2014) asks a very important question regarding the media: “Does the media have a duty of care?” The core tenet of democracy ought to reflect the people’s will. In a democracy that is representative, the integral opinions enlighten political representatives, who then take action on their behalf. For this to happen, it requires a public that is engaged. However, many citizens lack informed opinions in relation to matters happening internationally as a result of inaccuracy of reports by the media. In instances where the public cannot depend on personal experience, the media take an integral role in providing information to the citizens. However, past nasty experiences with media reports in relation to different subjects have made many individuals lose faith in the media because it is compromised by the political and business influences. As a result, the media do not have a moral imperative that can create informed citizens, so as to support democracy.
The mass media comprise of the backbone of democracy. For instance, it provides the public with information that is relevant in the making of decisions during voting in national elections. They as well identify the issues that are in the society as well as act as a medium for reflection. The media are also a watchdog that individuals in the society relies on for disclosing bot errors and wrongdoings by the people who are in power. As a result, it is rational to require the media to subscribe to specific standards in relation to these functions, and society relies on the assumption that they do (Barlow, 2009).
However, there is a rising concern in relation to the lack of proper fulfillment of these functions by the media. There are various media critics who assert that commercial media houses that are controlled by several multinational conglomerates have turned out to be anti-democratic force that supports status quo (Greenberg, 2007). The news that many media houses present to the public is entertaining rather than informing that supply predominantly celebrity gossips, scandals, as well as violence. The absence of thoughtful debates makes voters who are uninformed to be left with political propaganda that has been paid for, and which comprise of worthless slogans that make them to be disinterested as well as cynical concerning politics.
The competitive factors within the media have led to media firms producing entertaining accounts so as to appeal to the emotions of people. The competitive news media have led to them framing stories in manners that hamper the capacity of a democratic system to resolve both social and international conflicts. As the world becomes increasingly globalized, it becomes important for democratic countries to have foreign policies that are supported by informed citizens. Packer (2008) assert “The media act as a platform of informing the public about the things that are happening locally as well as internationally” (90). For instance, whereas an informed electorate is significant for the functioning of democracy, there are some medias that circulate information that is falsified to the public, hence misinforming them. In this case, an individual may decide whether to listen or not to listen to them.
The strong attention on topics that relate to fear as well as danger within the media agenda places such topics on high political agenda. For instance, a politician who is seeking re-election cannot overlook a sensationalist media campaign or even moral panic. In other rare cases such as when a politician may be able to repel the emotional appeal from the media as well as see the facts that are behind the accounts, he/she will do something that will satisfy the opinions of the public.
Another issue that the media uses to catch the attention of the audience is by using sex. There may be constructive or destructive messages regarding sex that the media may propagate. The high significance that the media places on sex might, therefore, influence the sexual morality of the society in a manner that is either liberal or restrictive. Saunders in “The Braindead Megaphone” refers the media as a noise machine. Saunders utilizes “The Braindead Megaphone” to represent the U.S. mass media, which, despite having a great voice globally, it normally offers the public half-baked truths, therefore dumbing down their usefulness to the society, “hasn’t our mass media always been sensationalistic, dumb and profit-seeking?” (Parker, 2008, p.13). The issue with the media is that it fails informing the media about the truth, but it is rather feeding the public with lies for the motive of making money.
The incessant media pay attention to fear, danger, disaster, as well as crime, making people see the world as being gloomy as well as an unsafe place. The media are a product just like any other. People in the society may choose to consume it or not. In the essay “The Braindead Megaphone,” Saunders present both a smart as well as complex commentary regarding the United States media culture. He makes a comparison of the U.S. mass media to a guy who is at a party and is in possession of a megaphone. Saunders claims that although the things that this guy is saying is dumb, everyone who is in the room is listening to him since he is the loudest individual speaking. They end up responding among themselves from what he is saying.
In addition, the media, serving as watchdogs, are addressing the wrong things. For instance, the media had over the last years hunted for scandals that are happening in the private lives of individuals in power as well as their families instead of concentrating on more serious effects of their policies. Lally (2011) asserts “they go after politicians who are wounded like sharks that are in a frenzy” (90). The media as well make the public to get terrified by the wrong things. For instance, minor dangers in the society are uproariously blown out of proportion, whereas more serious dangers facing the society go unnoticed (Greenberg, 2007).
The media as well fail to report to the public on the wrongdoing that take place in the corporate sector. For instance, most media have suppressed important information in relation to health risks of smoking as a result of pressure emanating from advertisers (Lally, 2011, p.76). Also disturbing is the fact that some mass media, particularly women’s magazines are encouraging insignificant alternative health products, hence efficiently conspiring with corporate bodies that want to defraud consumers of a lot of money (Greenberg, 2009). Most medias such as newspaper, as well as TV's, obtain most of their income from advertisement fees as well as sponsorship deals. As a result, most media houses will seek to optimize the interests that their advertisers have, which may not be consistent with their audiences’ interests.
When we see media-groups as agents of inquiry, seekers of truth and providers of public-information, it's logical to expect their representatives to exhibit an interest in objective-analysis and investigation; yet when we see them as corporate-driven market-players, we shouldn't be surprised when all they seem interested in doing is selling us products or political-ideology. The media are the marketplace, nothing more, nothing less…and that is a major reason why truth and democracy in this country is under siege.
In conclusion, if the above claims have merit, it is important that the society perception on the working of democracy be reviewed. The bottom line, as well as the major directive of the commercial mass media, is to safeguard corporations in addition to their interests. The media should a significant element in influencing the political climate as well as the process of democracy in a particular nation. The position held by Puttnam however does not censor the constitutional freedom of the media. This is because the media has an independent set of rights as well as freedoms that it has been given by the constitution. Nevertheless, the media should make sure that it serves its function of informing the public appropriately, as this is the essence of media’s existence. Puttnam concludes by asserting “If we want to provide decent, fulfilling lives for our children and our children’s children, we need to exercise to the very greatest degree possible that duty of care for a vibrant, and hopefully a lasting, democracy (Puttnam, 2014).”
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