Media Influence and the Political essay

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" (2001)

Kalathil states that the state has been both "empowered and weakened..." By the recent information and communication advances and as well these have created great difficulty for the effective hoarding of control information resources by the government. (2001) As the government in China has lost its monopoly on information, Internet-based media in the country "have capitalized on the opportunities made possible by new technology. By making available a wide range of news stories from geographically diverse locations, for instance, Chinese web portals have been encouraging competition between news organizations. This competition means that small, local news organizations are increasingly pushing the boundaries of acceptable reportage, pressuring larger national organizations to follow. News often appears on the Internet either exclusively or before traditional media outlets can publish it. Even stodgy, official media organs such as the People's Daily view their web sites not merely as an extension of the newspaper, but as separate entities with their own corporate culture and often a more progressive mode of operation. " (Kalathil, 2001)

Kalathil writes that a 2000 survey "...conducted by China Market and Media Research examined media consumption in 20 cities, and found that an average of 12.3% of urban residents were using the Internet. Yet a majority of those polled still read newspapers and watched television to get their news. Data obtained from the China National Readership Survey in 2000 shows that television achieved a penetration rate of almost 100% in the 30 cities polled. Meanwhile, Internet penetration is growing at a fast pace. China's official Internet Network Information Center estimated the country's Internet users hit 33.7 million at the end of 2001, although outside observers argue that this estimate is inflated." (Kalathil, 2001)

Kalathil additionally states that under the rule of Mao and his totalitarian regime the function of the media was " serve the state and impose ideological hegemony. His regime was characterized by vertical control of communication, exemplified by a top-down media system that acted as a conduit carrying Party thought to the masses. This was complemented by a telecommunications system that was accessible only to elites." (2001)

According to Kalathil, some of the most interesting of developments in regards to media have been those that have occurred "on new commercial web portals, which inject some...formerly taboo issues" i9ncluding such as homosexuality and environmental pollution into mainstream public debate in China. Those in the West who advocate for freedom of expression state that these developments are "a sign that the information revolution has catalyzed an irreversible stream of politicized thought that, once unleashed, will inevitably lead to demands for political liberalization. Others argue that the Internet and other new technology help create a chaotic space filled with apolitical content and atomized individuals, a space that ultimately will not contribute to the formation of an independent civil society." (2001) However, Kalathil states that it is "...more likely, however, that the government is allowing the Internet to be used as a pressure valve, preemptively allowing the broadening of acceptable discourse in order to prevent a buildup of mass frustration. While still ambivalent about open political debate, the Chinese government appears to be tacitly encouraging a degree of public throat-clearing in the relatively controlled environment of Internet chat rooms rather than in areas outside relative openness are often followed by periods of retrenchment, and it may be that recent media restrictions, such as the "Seven No's," represent part of such a process. With a change in leadership looming, the future direction of media sector reform is up in the air. What seems certain is that the government will continue its attempts to ensure that the information revolution empowers the media to serve state interests." (Kalathil, 2001)

The work of Smith (2004) entitled: "The Influence of Media In Presidential Politics" states that John Kerry, Democratic forerunner in the 2004 Presidential Election "...answered questions like, "Were you cool in college?" On MTV's "Choose or Lose." President George W. Bush defended his military record to Tim Russert on "Meet the Press." Former Democratic hopeful Howard Dean and his wife sat on the couch across from Diane Sawyer and discussed Dean's allegedly hot temper on "Primetime." Presidential elections are characterized by the media "...vying for viewers, readers and advertising dollars over the next six months with the same vigor with which the candidates will vie for votes. As they land exclusive interviews and promote their pundits, the media may make it seem like they themselves are the big story." (Smith, 2004) The citizen's challenge is to be "more than an audience member." (Smith, 2004)

According to Dr. Roderick Hart, professor of University of Texas College of Communications states that politics and the media "have long walked hand in hand. The media have always played a powerful role in politics. Even before radio, we had the penny press. There'd be great wars between various newspapers about politics. So even back then, the media were important." (Smith, 2004)

Hart states that the radio was used in the 1930s and 40s "when Franklin Roosevelt instituted his fireside chats. Soon the president and presidential candidates alike were addressing citizens in a conversational manner. Before that, radio had brought us that kind of tinny voiced speech making, but with (Franklin D.) Roosevelt and later a bit with (Harry S.) Truman, a bit more with (Dwight D.) Eisenhower and certainly with (John F.) Kennedy, suddenly we had changed. Radio is really undervalued as something that really changed American politics in the direction of asking, 'What are these guys like as people?'" (Smith, 2004)

This question has become an important one in the modern political environment as the "public's perception of a politician's personality has been driving voting choices for decades. And shaping and communicating personality are perfectly suited for the medium of television. The most common image on television is a close up of the human face. Television is not only a mass distribution channel, but it's also a distribution of intimacy. That's changed the way people have to campaign." (Smith, 2004)

Smith (2004) states that the dangers of politics in an age of media is that the media "...can give importance to things that in reality have little significance. And sometimes the stories that become big stories become so out of convenience rather than out of impact." Dr. Stephen Reese, professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas states that the media " the era of 24-hour satellite news channels, they need something that fills up the time. Rather than go out and do investigative reporting, they pick up the story of the day and load up on that. It creates a cycle of focus that tends to drive off important stories." (Smith, 2004)

Smith writes that during the presidential election campaign that television "...offers many things to the voter during the election year. It televises the presidential debates, which are a critical means for educating the public about the candidates. It often does supply in-depth coverage of important issues. And it brings the political process into the day-to-day. Televisions air CNN in airports. News briefs update viewers between evening sitcoms. Viewers may tire of the election coverage, but they're unlikely to avoid it." (2001)

It is important to understand that in today's world the Internet " also tempering the influence of the traditional media. As a campaign tool, the Internet is still relatively new and untested, though the 2004 election may change that. Campaigns have come to treasure their e-mail lists and the Internet has become an important means of raising campaign funds. The Dean campaign used the Internet as a grassroots organizing tool. And groups like create online networks of activists and politically minded citizens." (Smith, 2001) However, stated as one of the most important functions of the Internet in today's political environment is providing the "...the individual voter the means to become informed." (Smith, 2001)

The work of Hardcastle (2009) entitled: "Do Mass Media Influence the Political Behavior of Citizens" states that a "....harsh and seemingly ever-growing debate has appeared, concerning how mass media distorts the political agenda. Few would argue with the notion that the institutions of the mass media are important to contemporary politics. In the transition to liberal democratic politics in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe the media was a key battleground. In the West, elections increasingly focus around television, with the emphasis on spin and marketing. Democratic politics places emphasis on the mass media as a site for democratic demand and the formation of "public opinion." The media are seen to empower citizens, and subject government to restraint and redress. Yet the media are not just neutral observers but are political actors themselves." (Hardcastle, 2009)

Hardcastle states that it is "...the interaction of mass communication and political actors -- politicians, interest groups, strategists, and others who play important roles -- in the political process is apparent. Under this framework, the American political arena can be characterized as a dynamic environment in which communication, particularly…[continue]

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