We live in a ”mass-mediated” society where the power of media has expanded exponentially. Mass media is a powerful tool in the shaping public opinion. It is now playing the role of an agent of change or a mediator of setting an agenda and has a significant impact. Many researches show that since its advent, mass media has been directly influencing the audience.’Magic Bullet Theory’ shows that the content of the media works like a bullet for the audience’s heads. Media injects its message straight to the public. Nowadays, media often creates confusion among the viewers, bringing out certain agendas. Evidences show that media shapes the views of the people and it is assumed that radio, TV and newspapers play a deliberate role when issues emerge.
Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman note that,“A propaganda model focuses on this inequality of wealth and power and its multilevel effects on mass-media interests and choices. It traces the routes by which money and power are able to filter out the news fit to print, marginalize dissent, and allow the government and dominant private interests to get their messages across the public.”
Many people blame journalists and media to be biased, as though it is the sole responsibility of the media industry to be ethical no matter the cost. Journalists are underpaid and often murdered eve trying to do their jobs, but regardless, they are supposed to keep doing the right thing without recognition, support and appreciation. People sit comfortably at home and complain about how the newspaper is filled with advertisements, but won’t pay Rs.10 for the same paper -who is covering that cost? Do people not realise that a newspaper is not actually printed and distributed at Rs.3 with profit? Some might argue that if people want money, they should not opt for journalism. But, why? Do journalists not have families to feed or medical bills to pay? Media is just like any other business, wanting to make a profit in the capitalistic world, There is nothing wrong in doing that ethically, but its the unethical misuse of power that becomes a huge problem.
Who owns the media organisation is significant as there are certain limitations that are forced upon the journalists by their bosses; which news should be covered or ignored, and other various forced activities. Almost all the media organisations- print or electronic, in the country receive advertising revenue from corporate conglomerates. Political parties or individual politicians have direct and indirect investments in these conglomerates and use the funded-media for their own promotion and also to “expose” their opposition and rivals. The removal of editors and journalists, or filtering the content only to safeguard the interests of the corporates and politicians is no surprise. What has to be seen now is how long the media industries would take to set themselves free from this spider-web where not only the free-press has no space, but even the established journalism is suffering miserably.
Noam Chomsky’s propaganda model of communications and media seeks to explain how people are manipulated and how consent for economic, social, and political policies is manufactured in the public mind due to propaganda. The theory postulates that the way in which corporate media is structured, i.e. advertising, the concentration of media ownership and government sourcing, creates an inherent cognitive dissonance that acts as propaganda for autocratic forces. This theory views media as a business which sells its products (the audience, readers, and subscribers) to other businesses that do their advertisements in the media, rather than disseminating news for the citizens.
The theory postulates five general classes of “filters” that determine the type of news that is presented in news media. These five classes are Ownership of the medium, Medium’s funding sources, Sourcing, Flak, and Anti-communism or “fear ideology”, all of which can be witnessed in the current functioning of the media industry. The corporate organization which own media houses never publishes the financial details, which may endanger their functioning, they may even threaten the media firm saying that they will withdraw advertising contract if the media publishes any news which damage the reputation of the organization. The government officials and politicians are viewed as credible sources of information, the media avoid the need for fact-checking as it is both costly and time-consuming, they also act in favour of the sources ensuring that the source is delighted by fine-tuning of the news as they expect the continuous flow of news from them.
Noam Chomsky in Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media notes ,“The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behaviour that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfil this role requires systematic propaganda.”
Propaganda has appeared in the past whenever a social system sanctioned by antiquity is broken up by a dictator. In modern times, the increase of facilities of communication has brought about a state in which discussion and persuasion have supplanted violence and coercion as a means of changing an opinion or modifying action. Agenda-setting is the conception of public awareness and concern of salient issues by the news media. Two basic hypotheses can be added about the agenda-setting theory of media: the press and the media do not reflect reality; they filter and shape it, and the media concentration on a few issues and subjects leads the public to perceive those issues as more important than other issues. It hence becomes every individual’s responsibility to exercise diligence while consuming media content, because at the end of the day, media industry is a business too.
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