The role of media in politics is diverse. From altering the way government institutions operate to influencing governance and policy-making, the media is a powerhouse that has a lot of influence. In the status quo, media also affects the way elections are contested and the way citizens are engaged. The media also highlights the corrupt practices of politicians and brings forth essential facts about these personalities, but more on that later.
In this article, we will discuss the role of media in politics, its far-reaching effects, and how this role has been expanded in recent times, so stay tuned.
The Transformation of Media: From Legacy Media to New Age Media
Legacy Media consists of established mass media institutions and includes communication through television programs, radio shows, newspapers, etc. There were established channels involved and one had to go through a lot of checks and balances before one could publish a story or a report.
These legacy media channels played an essential role in highlighting political figures and their ideologies.
The 21st century saw a steep shift in the way media operated. Legacy Media was soon replaced with new-age media that consisted of websites, digital apps, social media, and video-sharing platforms. Rather than relying on media channels to communicate on their behalf, more and more politicians opted for direct channels and their social media handles to share information with their fans.
Stats estimate that more than 26% of members of the Senate are on social media. You could also see parliamentarians and senate members like Alexandria Ohio Cortez, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump who frequently use social media to get their message across. The number is only growing.
7 Important Roles of Media in Politics
Legacy media was responsible for communicating information to the public. The new age media is doing so much more. From influencing elections to holding politicians accountable, let’s discuss the diverse role of media here.
1. The Information Powerhouse: Shaping Public Perception
a) Media’s Role as the Fourth Estate
Often referred to as the Fourth state, media holds a lot of power in today’s world. Contrary to popular belief, media channels and platforms do not simply communicate important information, they also influence society and hold institutions accountable.
It acts as a watchdog and sheds light on the personal and professional lives of politicians. The role of media in most free countries is critical because it empowers citizens with knowledge and allows them to scrutinize society.
b) Framing and Agenda-Setting: Impact on Public Opinion:
How an issue is perceived has more to do with how it is framed than anything else. Media channels and platforms are involved in agenda setting, building narratives, and framing issues thus influencing public perception and response.
In doing so, the media can highlight and emphasize upon certain aspects of a given incident or story while neglecting or downplaying the others. This is an important tool of manipulation and can reduce objectivity for impressionable minds.
c) Bias and Objectivity: Navigating the Media Landscape
Like all other institutions, media is also influenced by biases and influences. This can manifest in reporting, storytelling, or analysis on talk shows. Complete objectivity was unattainable, even for legacy media channels.
However, the advent of social media has reduced responsible journalism and allowed for more bias to creep into these channels of communication. A good way to sort through these issues is to navigate media landscapes with discernment.
2. The Political Circus: Media’s Influence on Elections
a) The Evolution of Political Campaigns in the Media Age:
Candidates who used to rely solely on traditional rallies and door-to-door canvassing are now using media channels to get their message across. The political campaigns are glorified and candidates leverage these platforms to twist facts and present a biased worldview to their supporters.
The world saw this happen in the recent US election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Both politicians were heavily invested in running their political campaigns online.
b) Role of Debates and Political Advertisements
Modern political campaigns include two main components: political advertisements and debates. The former is often a way to attract new voters to the mix. Debates on the other hand offer a way for politicians to present their arguments, highlight their goals and aspirations for the future, and talk about key policy issues surrounding their country.
It is worth noting that politicians spend a hefty amount on political advertisements. According to some reports, US politicians spent more than $9.7 billion on political advertisements in 2022.
c) Social Media’s Disruptive Force: Amplifying Voices
Social media, a transformative force in the status quo, is used for political campaigning, engagement, and dissemination of information. It allows politicians to connect with their constituents directly and present information about themselves in a favorable light.
Additionally, these channels offer rapid spread of misinformation and fake news and viewers need critical thinking and analysis to extract truth from the plethora of news.
3. Media’s Most Important Role: Accountability and Transparency
a) Investigative Journalism: Exposing Corruption and Wrongdoing
Investigative journalism is the backbone of good media coverage. It plays a critical role in uncovering the truth and highlighting the corruption and malfeasance of public officeholders. Journalists who do their homework well and tend to present unbiased and objective analyses of issues help raise accountability and transparency for everyone involved.
Through fearless reporting and rigorous research, journalists like Jamal Khashoggi of Saudi Arabia go to any lengths to uncover the truth.
b) Holding Public Officials Accountable: Case Studies
Journalism can change the tides for politicians and transform the status quo. Recent examples where journalists have held politicians accountable prove this. The Panama Papers revelations and the Watergate scandal highlighted the power of journalists to expose the highest level of corruption.
These cases not only changed the lives of these politicians but also fueled public demand for corruption-free practices and ethical governance.
c) Whistleblowers and Leaks: Shaping Political Discourse
Often debated and called unethical, whistleblowers and leaks play an essential role in unveiling the most hidden truth about politics and politicians. Figures like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden exposed military misconduct and highlighted how government surveillance can be counterintuitive to success.
Moreover, they also facilitated debates on security and privacy and compelled people to ask for more ethical standards from politicians.
4. The Digital Era: Social Media’s Revolution
a) Rise of Social Media Platforms in Political Discourse
Earlier, viewers were silent spectators of all the news that was communicated to them. They would look at their televisions, listen to radio programs, and have no way to respond to the news or comment directly on it. However, with the rise in social media, viewers are no longer silent spectators, they are actively involved in discourse generation.
Through real-time communication, these viewers can now voice their opinions, connect with policymakers, or share information with each other. All this helps generate discourse and makes the viewers an important stakeholder in the process.
b) Viral Campaigns and Hashtag Activism
Hashtags like Black Lives Matter and MeToo help galvanize global audiences to support politicians and ideologies and bring a transformative change in society. These viral campaigns propel political causes into the spotlight and foster increased awareness and solidarity among like-minded groups.
However, these campaigns also have a downside to them. They are criticized for being too simplistic and not presenting a holistic picture of the issue at hand. Moreover, in most cases, these hashtags only offer online momentum and rarely get translated into any real, tangible change.
c) Fake News and Misinformation
The rise in fake news and misinformation is part of popular political discourse. It poses a profound threat to democratic practices and can spread like wildfire. False narratives are often glorified and can easily manipulate public opinion.
Additionally, fake news can undermine the trust in leadership and make people question the authenticity of legitimate news as well. One needs fact-checking mechanisms, algorithms, and media literacy to escape the menace of fake news.
5. Mediating Diplomacy: International Relations and Media
a) Diplomacy in the Age of Live Reporting
Diplomats, politicians, and other important stakeholders in politics had to rely on traditional channels of communication to get their message across. Now, they can address global audiences in real-time. This allows them to be the first person to respond to any given situation.
This fosters transparency and engagement, however, it also leads to new challenges. It allows politicians to manipulate statements and events and deliver a false narrative to the audience.
b) Role of Media in Shaping International Perceptions
The role of media in politics goes beyond a specific country. It also impacts how nations interact with each year. Look at how countries like China and America reported the Russia-Ukraine war.
Where the former painted Russia as a defender of their rights, the latter painted Russia as an aggressor. Naturally, the proponents of each country accepted the narrative that was presented to them.
c) Soft Power and Cultural Diplomacy through Media
Most developing and developed countries use media as a tool to yield their soft power and promote their culture. Through entertainment channels and platforms, countries can highlight their story and their perspective through films, movies, music, and documentaries.
This cultural exchange fosters mutual understanding, transcending political differences. However, the challenge lies in preserving authenticity amidst commercial interests and avoiding the perception of propaganda.
6. The Dark Side: Media Manipulation and Propaganda
a) Historical Precedents: Propaganda’s Influence on Political Movements
In the face of persuasive rhetoric, critical analysis is very important. Throughout history, we have seen how media manipulation and propaganda have swayed public opinion.
Look at the propaganda done by Nazis in World War II or the Soviet-era campaigns that manipulated the public. One could see wartime posters that delivered persuasive messages and drove ideological shifts among viewers.
b) Modern Manipulation Techniques: Deepfakes and Disinformation
Today, posters and pamphlets are not the only ways to spread disinformation and lead the public astray. With the rise of social media, politicians can fabricate content and spread narratives that suit their facade.
Deepfakes use advanced technology to create realistic but fabricated content, while disinformation spreads false reports to confuse and divide. Such techniques not only harm democracy and decrease cohesion between societal institutions, they also create a chaotic society.
c) Safeguarding Against Media Manipulation: Media Literacy Education
In the digital era, media literacy is extremely important. Citizens need to be able to discern between sources of information. They need to learn how to identify biases and recognize manipulation tactics.
Media literacy also empowers critical thinking. It enables individuals to navigate through a plethora of information quickly. Individuals can learn these skills through education and awareness. With these tools, society can become more vigilant and not face the menace of populist leadership.
7. Future Trends: Technology and Political Communication
a) AI in Journalism: Automated Reporting and Fact-Checking
AI has been integrated into journalism in recent times. It is not only revolutionizing the industry but also ensuring the spread of authenticated and verified information. Automated reporting systems use algorithms and AI tools to cross-check news and enhance efficiency. Additionally, these tools can fact-check from a wide variety of sources and come up with the most authentic information.
However, it is worth noting that an increase in AI usage will lead to ethical concerns. Human oversight will become limited, reducing journalistic integrity. Creating a balance between AI usage and human oversight is key to achieving long-term sustainability.
b) Virtual Reality and Immersive Political Experiences
In many developed countries of the world, virtual reality integration in the political sphere has led to a revolution. Virtual reality makes for an immersive political experience and allows the audience to participate in the political processes. Moreover, the audience is able to escape geographic limitations and transcend boundaries.
Despite this advancement, barriers still exist. VR technology may have fostered empathy and understanding among the audience and the politicians, but it still requires careful application. Unbiased engagement is key to achieving success.
c) The Evolving Role of Media: Taking Sides
Once a watchdog and commentator of politics, the role of media is expanding. It is now picking sides and choosing to side with politicians or parties that they support. We see this happening in the United States of America where FOX news often sides with the right (Donald Trump and the conservatives) while other news channels support the left (Joe Biden and the liberals).
Taking sides means that media channels can not be unbiased. They will automatically side with the party they feel more aligned with. This is against the essence of objective journalism.
Learn more about Media and Politics with Best Diplomats
In this rapidly changing world, it is hard to dissociate false information from the truth. One needs active listening, critical thinking skills, and wisdom to analyze information. With the role of media in politics expanding and influencing young minds, it is important to develop skills that help you uncover layers of biases. Luckily for you, Best Diplomats offers you a platform to hone your critical thinking skills.
It is an international platform that conducts seminars, conferences, and training programs that allow hundreds of young, capable minds to come together, enter into discourse, and learn about the world and the politics surrounding it.
Introduced as a channel of communication and sharing information, media has evolved and taken on a much more significant role in the status quo. New-age media have undercut traditional roles and expanded their scope. The introduction of a diverse number of channels has given viewers the choice to discern information and use their critical thinking to reach an informed decision.
On the other hand, the rise in multiple channels has also increased the spread of misinformation and fake news. Politicians are using this opportunity to sway away their voters and manipulate public perception. All in all, the media is no longer on the sidelines; it is a force to be reckoned with in the political landscape of the country.
What are the Three main roles of media?
Media is responsible for educating, informing, and entertaining the audience. They do this through news, entertainment platforms, and news analysis.
What are Some Advantages of media?
Some advantages of media include:
1) It helps people stay connected with each other and with the latest news.
2) It can facilitate business and open up new opportunities for people.
3) It can help spread culture and art.
4) It gives voice to the voiceless and helps uplift the marginalized.
5) It can hold politicians accountable.
Is media Beneficial to Society?
Media has created a more interconnected society. It helps raise awareness among people and helps them gain a supportive community. Moreover, it helps socially anxious individuals find a supportive environment to communicate.
Is Social Media Powerful?
With the recent #Metoo and #BlackLivesMatter movement, one thing is clear: social media has the power to change lives and the status quo. It not only allows users to share photos and videos but also connect with people from across the continent.