In the United States, many citizens and influential politic figures look at mass media as their source of information, education and even entertainment. It is difficult to assess the huge influence US media has on the public and on political people. In the arena of policy-making, the influence of mass media has shaped the development of the government and has led to issuing various laws. Media has had a strong voice in politics for a long time. For example, in 2007, Washington Post published an exposé featuring the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. In response to this, the U.S. army started a thorough investigation which meant the improvement of the facility. The conclusion – media coverage can directly influence politics and furthermore can change or even improve people’s lives.
The Tremendous Influence of Media on Politics
Much of what US politicians do is driven by their own beliefs in the power of media. Everything happens with a sole purpose – to increase the power of media. Many people believe that media is subordinated to politics. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the truth is exactly the opposite. Politics is normally subordinated to the media. The industry of mass media is quite big, especially in the US. Most media owners are huge corporations or giant corporate conglomerates. All “big media” channels, including CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Time magazine and USA Today are mainly owned by corporations like Procter & Gamble, Phillip Morris, Sears, GM and JRJ Nabisco.
Critics say that most media companies tend to ignore the interests of the public in order to please their stockholders. Moreover, these media companies have the power to dominate society by influencing politics. According to several critics, certain “media elites”, usually composed of producers, owners and managers, have taken hold of the mass media and control which messages reach to the public. What’s even worse, these media elites who control things in the background have more or less democratic or republican points of view, so they can easily influence politics through the companies they control and through mass media. Other critics say that media have as much power as governmental factors when it comes to manipulate public debates. Even if the power of ABC and FCC differ, they actually work hand in hand, because the one edits while the other one regulates.
Journalists and other media factors can influence government policy-making in the following ways: by playing the unique role of public opinion representatives, by producing the reality in which the political leaders act, by acting as a strong link between governmental agencies and ultimately by giving special attention and care to certain issues, highlighting them above all else. According to a recent survey conducted in 2010 (PRESS & VERBURG), some journalists have even agreed that they are “very active participants in the complex political process.”
Despite those laws put in place just to prevent unbalanced political coverage, most of the public is aware that the media has a certain degree of influence on politics. According to a survey conducted in 2010, over 72% Americans believe that reporters can and will offer their support to various political parties in order to help them win the elections. Also, 65% declared that, in their humble opinions, the media has way too much influence on the government. Television is considered the most important political channel of the century, even if the Internet is slowly catching up. Political groups have come to look at the Internet as a source of information. Moreover, political figures are now tapping into the power of social media to increase their popularity, gain new supporters and influence important political issues. The trend of online petitions has greatly increased the dependency of politics on media, allowing people from all over the country to freely express their opinion.
Politics and media have a long and complicated history together. If until the World War 2 the politic scene was controlling the media, things have slowly started to change. Today, rich people behind large corporations are those influencing governments. As technology develops and companies will create even more bonds, the relationship between politics and media will become even more intermeshed. US News Media is definitely changing. Our hope is that the US public will be able to capitalize on these changes.