A central concern in democratic theory is how people can have the information, knowledge, and forums for communication and debate necessary to govern their own lives effectively.
Public debates over education and media policy are central to debates over the nature of democracy in any given society. The media is a key agency in information and debate that facilitate the functioning of democracy. The media inform the electorate and assist them to make an educated choice at election time. The media are also a main channel of communication between government and the people, which helps society to clarify its objectives and formulate policy and manage itself.
The situation is even more severe for democratic values in media, though this receives far less attention in the official political culture. In particular, journalism is that product of the media system that deals directly with political education. Within democratic theory, there are two indispensable functions that journalism must serve in a self-governing society. First, the media system must provide reliable information and a wide range of informed opinions on the important social and political issues of the day. No single medium can or should be expected to provide all of this; but the media system as a whole should provide easy access to this for all citizens.
Unless a society has a journalism that approaches these goals, it can scarcely be a self-governing society of political equals. Secondly, the media system must provide a rigorous accounting of people in power and people who want to be in power, in both the public and private sector ie. the watchdog role.Two of the earliest and most influential authors of media theories were Marshall McLuhan and Harold Innis. Innis put forward the idea the different sections of the media could manipulate the organisation of areas of the social order. Innis asserted that Communication relates to the passing of information from a one person or group to another via the use of a medium eg.
in speech or in written form.McLuhan (1964) developed some of Innis ideas, especially those surrounding to the modern media in industrialised cultures. McLuhan asserted that the nature of the media located in a society could have influential powers over the society's structure rather than simply the messages or the content that the media conveys. In essence McLuhan was seeking to emphasis that 'the medium is the message.' For example television news can pass on messages to the 'global village' directly to millions of people. Now the globe can witness first hand a major world news event eg.
the events of 11th September 2001.Jurgen Habermas of the Marxist leaning 'Frankfurt School.' The School focused on the industries of film, television, radio, popular music, magazines and newspapers, what they described as "culture industry." The group also stressed that this culture industry had led to a form of dumbing down and some how restricted individual's ability of critical and independent thought.Habermas took this subject matter forward and developed these ideas in a different format.
He studied the development of the media from the 18th Century charting areas of advancement and decay of the public sphere. This public sphere was put forward by Habermas in 1989 and concentrated on an area in which public debate of which areas of general concern can be placed on a platform and discussed.This form of debate and discussion was somewhat innovative for its time, and could now been seen in most pubs at around closing with people queuing to add there two pennies worth to the discussion. However at the time when newspapers and news sheets were very much in their infancy, this form of political debate, which allowed participates to resolve political problems through public discussion was genuinely radical.
Habermas goes on to stress that the public sphere hasn't been fully realised. This he claims is due to the stifling affect that 'culture industry has. Habermas' concept of justice demands that we look further than the altruism of ourselves and consult the needs and interests of others. He also states that public opinion is not formed through open, rational discussion but rather through manipulation and control. This control and manipulation comes from the media and mass entertainment, which leads the public sphere to become superfluous.The French theorist Jean Baudrillard regards the effect of the media as being highly different and that much more influential than any other form of technology.
The evolution of the mass media has transformed our lives eg. the internet and the use of emails has revolutionised the way in which we communicate. Television does little in the way the world is represented but rather defines it.Baudrillard suggests that in an era when the mass media is omnipresent. It has the ability to be a hyperreality (the polarisation of reality and the images which are broadcast by television, in a sense the new reality is that which is shown on television.) In the modern world no political leader today can be victorious in an electoral sense that doesn't regularly appear on television in a positive light.
The Interactionist, John Thompson takes some elements of Habermas' work and has expanded them to include the relationship between the media and societal development of industrialised countries and stresses the importance of the media's role in shaping and defining modern society.Thompson whilst using some of the ideas of Habermas eg. the idea that the public are passive to the media's messages. He was critical of him and of the Frankfurt School. Particularly of the way in which Thompson believes the School approached the culture industry in negative and sometimes with contempt.
In contrast Thompson believes that people don't suffocate the publics ability to think critically. Rather the media have the ability to supply people with a range of information that otherwise we might not obtain.Thompson's theory of the media is based on three types of interaction Mediated quasi-interaction, face-to-face interaction and mediated interaction.Firstly, Mediated qusai-interactionism, is concerned with the relationships formed by the media socially. This interaction is spread across, however it doesn't link individuals together directly, thus quasi-interaction and is monological.
For example a newspaper article can communicate one-way, it may well be cause for discussion with other people who have read it.Face-to-face interaction is unlike mediated quasi-interaction is dialogical. This is because it is fully reliant on individuals engaging in discussion eg. at a meeting. This is loaded with suggestions with which enable others to gage an understanding of what others are saying. Mediated interaction is like face-to-face interaction due to the fact that it is also dialogical.
Rather than just utilising direct interaction between individuals it also uses media technology eg. electronic connections and paper.Thompson stresses the idea that all three types of interaction combine in modern life. Unlike the evidence put forward by Habermas, Thompson believes that an alteration in the equilibrium between the public and private spheres, and it is this balance that allows greater debate.An integral part of public debate is the sense of belonging to which an individual ahs to a 'public' arena ie. citizenship.
Central to this argument is the work of T.H Marshall. Marshall (1992) separated citizenship into three sections. The first was civil rights which largely development in the 18th Century.
The 19th century saw the expansion of political particular rights, and particularly with the extension of the franchise. Then in the 20th Century welfare state social rights emerged, to form a safety net against illness, poverty and unemployment. With these rights came responsibilities and were supposed to be definitive of the membership of a community.More recently, whilst being highly influential this theory has become controversial. This is due to Marshall's evolutionary emphasis and particularly the passive way in which citizenship has been divorced from the concept of struggle. Roche (1992) particularly highlighted the dogged emphasis placed on nation-states, the restricted focus of social rights and the abandonment of inequalities other than that of social class.
Murdock (1992) also pointed to Marshall's acceptance of civil, political and social aspects of citizenship in the context of rights and responsibilities, there is however an apparent failure to acknowledge cultural citizenship.Rights and responsibilities of the media have been put forward by Walzer (1983) in what was defined as a sphere of justice. The core feature of such a theory is based upon a rather complex idea of equality. In straightforward terms this could mean parity of resources ie.
own the same number of computers, radios and televisions and equally have the same opportunities to access them. Problems arise when individuals own differing levels of technology. This is because of the link between opportunities to access technology should be looked upon in terms of citizenship and not material wealth.In a democratic society, the system of mass communication should meet the wide ranging demands for political information and entertainment from its citizens. This comes in stark contrast to Habermas' highbrow approach suggesting the 'culture industry' is erosive of the public sphere. Walzer believes that the demands of citizens can be met commercially and through a weight being placed on public service.
This is only questioned when a form of complex equality is sought ie. if some social groups have greater access and/or more economic power to buy more sophisticated forms of electronic media.Since the introduction of Bernard Ingham as Press Secretary to Margaret Thatcher, the then Prime Minister, the media has become a player in the British political area. The media market is changing in ways that can be more demanding and less predictable on political parties.
The news market has expanded particularly with the introduction of 24 hour rolling television new stations eg. Sky News and BBC News 24. Radio has also seen an extension with BBC 5Live and TalkSport, the commercial station headed by the former Sun Editor Kelvin McKenzie. Both stations offer extensive news coverage and discussion throughout the day and night. Whilst some areas have seen expansion others have seen decay. None more than terrestrial television news coverage and current affairs.
Which has witnessed a large drop in its commitment at Prime time. The ITV network dropping its flagship news programme News at Ten in favour of a more competitive entertainment schedule with greater mass appeal in the ratings stakes highlights this. This decision was reversed after persuasion by the television watchdog, the Independent Television Commission. However News at Ten was on reintroduced to three nights a week leading to some commentators dubbing it 'News at When?' to make matters worse was that the BBC also changed their schedules and moved the Nine O'clock news to 10 O'clock meaning that the two main terrestrial television stations would broadcast their flagship news programmes at exactly the same time most of the weekday nights. One thing, which can be confidently asserted, is that in the new age of multi-channel television political news has dropped on the agenda of most broadcasters and has lost its apparent secure place in Prime time.Post-Thatcher the newspapers have seen radical changes is their partisan nature of support for political parties.
Most papers have a range of columnists with diverse ideological approaches. This is partly down to the political association of the ownership, however it rests altermately with a clinical calculation of commercial interests, this can particularly be said for the Rupert Murdoch owned press eg. The Sun.Since 1997 and the election of 'New' Labour Alastair Campbell, the former Tabloid editor has come into his own, as Press Secretary to the Prime Minister Tony Blair. Some believe that he holds some much and control that Peter Osborne has called he 'the real deputy prime minister.
' Campbell himself has bemoaned what he views as the movement from straight reporting of events to interpretations that he believes are contemptuous backed up by anonymous quotes. This theory is backed up to an extent by Semetko et al "On Message: Communicating the Campaign." In which they suggest that the Content analysis of news coverage has moved away from straight reporting of news events but to a more analytical, evaluative and critical journalism.Depending on your ideological perspective is dependent on whether or not the media reduce or increase public debate. In some instances they have been shown to increase it. For example BBC 5Live and TalkSport, however this is only to relatively small audiences.
Television however back up Habermas' argument that there has been a decay due to the culture industry. Although, Thompson would counter this and suggest that the culture industry is simply supplying the demand for entertainment. No matter which perspective you adopt it is difficult to argue that communication between the Media and those in power occurs to the exclusion of the public who are now largely passive.