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The mass media can be defined as any form of technology
that is intended to reach the mass audience. Most common platforms for mass
media are news, magazines and the internet. The public typically rely on the
media to provide information about political and social issues as well as
entertainment. Fake news can be defined as “news articles that are
intentionally verifiably false and could mislead readers” (Allcott et al,
pg213, 2017). Policy making is a political process affected by various social
and economic factors, although it cannot be denied that the media plays a vital
role in shaping policy implementation. Some believe that the media acts as
conduct between policy makers and those who want to influence policy. Below,
the extent to which the media influences policy making will be critically
discussed. Some have argued that the mass media has become a very significant
player in policy making in the contemporary world. The world society and the
global environment have grown in complexity. People have now developed a
greater need of information about national and international affairs. Therefore,
it will be argued that the media has not lost its significance for policy
making, despite the arguments against it.

 

The media selection of legitimate policy actors reveals that
the media has not lost its significance for policy making. It can be argued
that the media acts as an influential dogmatic actor, benefits tied to the
status quo. Instead of public, journalists and editors shape policy agendas by
actively filtering issues, so reporting conforms to their dominant news values,
selecting what issues are covered and what sources are used. The elite authority of the mass media and demotion of
dissenters that results from the operation of these filters happens so
naturally that media news people, often working with whole integrity and
kindness, can persuade themselves that they indicate and understand the news
objectively and grounded on specialised news values. Within the limits of the
filter restraints they regularly are objective; the restrictions are so
controlling, and are constructed into the organisation in such an essential
way, that alternative bases of news selections are hardly conceivable.
However, it must be said that, although the media sets agenda in some
circumstances, this doesn’t necessarily mean they influence policy.

Due to the emergence of fake news some argue that the media has now
lost its significance in policy decision making. Individuals can no longer
trust what the they see on social media, has a direct result people are now
becoming more rational and are ready to question the information they are being
fed by the media. The culturalist theory would support thus claim,
since it argues that individuals interrelate with media to generate their own
opinions out of the imageries and messages they are exposed to. This model sees
spectators as playing an energetic rather than inactive role in relation to
mass media. They
maintain that spectators select
what to view among extensive series of choices. Findings of mass media parallel
text?reading
and analysis of research accomplished by linguists. Both sets of examiners discovered
that when people approach data, whether inscribed text or media imageries, they
deduce that material grounded on their own comprehension and experience. Thus,
when investigators question different groups to clarify the meaning of a data
or information, the groups generate widely deviating explanations based on
ethnicity, gender, and religious experience. Therefore, culturalist theorists
claim that, while a limited people in huge companies may exercise significant
control over what material media manufactures and distributes, personal perception
plays a more influential role in how the viewers interpret those messages.

 

On the contrary, the Al Jazeera Effect,
presented by Seib, considers new media, in precise satellite distribution and
the Internet. Seib suggests that the media are undoubtedly able to transform
the status quo of policy by influencing intercontinental and national public
opinion. Seib’s core idea is the virtual state: separate societies attain an
unparalleled solidarity that puts them on the political chart universally.
Satellite broadcasting and the Internet foster virtual sovereignty by
humanising a communal identity between diffused affiliates of cultural or
religious groups. This shows that the mass media can influence policy decisions
because virtual states can affect the stability of traditional states and
regions. Mass media can also ease tensions and struggle by providing fresh
perceptions to an unprecedentedly huge audience. Seib commends that, if
policymakers want to benefit of the media’s authority to create groups,
collaboration is a better method than opposition, and global media, such as
Voice of America and Deutsche Welle, become relevant tools of foreign politics.

 

On the other hand, it can be argued that public opinion can
shape what priority policy makers give certain types of policy. Holsti and
Sobel argue that there is no evidence that public opinion constraints policy
decisions. They maintain that there is a general correspondence between public
opinion and policy decision. Public opinion delivers a significant effort to
policy decisions. Despite some early scepticism about rationality of public
opinion regarding rationality. Policy makers follow the media reports on public
opinion and the media is the public’s main source of information on what policy
makers are doing, thus the media acts as mediator. However, it can also be
suggested that the media constructs the public opinion, by choosing what topics
are discussed. The media plays an agenda setting role, the public concerns tend
to follow media coverage of those issues rather than any changes in the real
world. For instance, from 1980-85 public concern about drugs went from 3% to
over 50% and back to 3% in early 2000. Those shifts have nothing to do with the
scale of the problem and everything to do with the media coverage. The power of
the media to set agenda is based on what they deem as important. Therefore,
this shows that the mass media still plays a very significant role in policy
making, despite the visage of the public having any real influence in policy
decision making.

Furthermore, the limited?effects theory contends that since people usually pick what to watch
or read built on what they previously believe, mass media uses an insignificant
influence on policy making. Studies that inspected the capability of media to
impact voting found that well?informed individuals depend more on private experience,
previous knowledge, and their own intellectual ability. Nevertheless, mass media
specialists where more likely to influence individuals who were less
knowledgeable. However, criticisers have claimed that limited?effects theory disregards
the media’s role in framing and preventing the dialogue and debate of issues.
How media frames the discussion and what questions members of the media ask
changes the result of the conversation and the likely assumptions people may
draw. Critics maintain that the theory came into reality when the accessibility
and supremacy of mass media was far less extensive.

Although, Mody methodical examination of the coverage of the genocide in
Darfur by ten news organizations in Africa, China, Europe, and the United
States reveals how significant the media is in setting agendas for discussion.
Mody represents a strongly normative perspective, arguing that knowledgeable
people is necessary, though not adequate, for avoiding struggle and
humanitarian catastrophes. She maintains that, media influence policy decision
making by pushing matters on the public agenda and by framing them in a way
that catches the consideration and compassion of a huge spectators, which then
demands action from their designated legislatures. For example, both the
Somalia charitable crisis and the fight in Darfur were not on the schedule of global
politics until the media started paying attention. Mody comprehends media as
organised conscience discrediting policymakers into responding to a
catastrophe; generating incentives to act while at the same time raising the
danger of not acting.

 

In additon,
it can be argued that the ‘CNN’ effect explains how the media still has impact
on foreign policy development. The presence of 24 hours broadcasting
environment leads to a continuous movement of news and information, which acts
as a persistent feature on legislative decision making. On that interpretation, the accelerant result damages the
quality of both the congregation of intellect and of the real response
formation. The relentless stream of information can also be an impairment to state
safety, since news closure of certain subjects can also lead to exposure of confidential
information. Some also believe that the media drives western conflict
management by forcing western governments to intervene militarily in
humanitarian crisis against their will.

 

Pluralists
on the other hand argue that the media is reflective of public reality, and performs
as a mirror. They maintain that it has practical role in meeting the difficulties
of its huge spectators, and so owes a responsibility to the public. Marxists on
the other hand would contend that the media constructs needs and generates
social truth. In other words, it is sculptor of a worldview and distorts social
reality which is based on exploitation of powerless majority, thus it is
ideological tool of powerful bourgeoisie and reflects their interests. Over 80%
of the media is owned by transnational Corporations. However, does ownership
have any effect on the media coordinators? According to pluralists the answer
is simply no. They back this claim by highlighting the fact that power is dispersed
within society and that different pressure and intertest groups all influence
groups all influence the policy makers, who reacts accordingly. Pluralists also
share the interpretation that mass media content is reflective of the spectator’s
interests, an illustration of this is how reporting of refugees is frequently
very undesirable in the Sun, a scandalous newspaper. Pluralists feel that media
is receptive to both market and communal request. The viewer is a tyrant in
terms of what it desires in the media content. Burham argued that the mergers
and takeovers are irrelevant due to the emergence of joint stock companies. His
administrative thesis also documented that possession and power is separate due
to the fact it is impossible for people such as Rupert Murdoch to make every decision
concerning media.

 Pluralists maintain that a significant share of the media
market in Britain is taken up by public service broadcasters
(PSB). Which are media outlets controlled by the state
such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The BBC has a legal
obligation to inform, to educate and to ensure that all programming is
pluralistic and diverse. For instance, all sections of society are catered for.
Pluralists argue that PSB is impartial and objective, and balances out any
potential bias in the private sector. Thus, the media doesn’t necessarily
influence policy making because of sinister motives, but rather because it scrutinises
government affairs, and ensures government actions can be held accountable by
the public. On
the other hand, Growing disagrees with the pluralist perspective. He argues
that the media outrage often provokes only symbolic polices, for instance minor
sanctions or aid package. Research shows that the media only has influence when
elites are undecided, and the cost of acting is quite low.

The class?dominant model contends
that the media reproduces and projects the opinion of a minority elite, which
controls it. Those individuals who own and regulate the companies that produce
media include these elites. Believers of this interpretation concern themselves
mostly with huge commercial unions of mass media establishments, which limit
hostility and put huge corporations at the reins of media—specifically news
media. Their concern is that when ownership is constrained, a few individuals
then have the capability to deploy what individuals can understand or perceive.
For example, owners can effortlessly evade or silence stories that expose immoral
corporate performance or hold companies accountable for their activities. Networks aim
programming at the largest probable audience because the wider the demand, the
greater the potential of attracting audience and the easier trading air time to
promoters becomes. Consequently, newscast establishments possibly will avoid
undesirable stories about companies particularly large establishments that
invest in huge marketing campaigns in their newspaper or on their stations.

 

Additionally,
Marxists theorists suggest that the media is dominated by the ruling class,
otherwise known as the bourgeoisie. Who are the major owners of media
corporations, which gives them total control and manipulation of media content
and audience in their own interest. Marxists maintain that mass media audiences
are passive consumers of the distorted and partial part of the news. As a
result the public just accepts whatever is presented to them, whereby the
public opinion could be easily manipulated by the media. However pluralists criticise
Marxists for failing to see that the public has the power to resist persuasion
and the ability to use the media, rather than be used by the media.

Moreover, new media, such as social
media is now speeding up political procedures in response to the imminence of
news about incidents in the online sphere that demand more hasty responses to
be more effective, such as in challenging misrepresentation. As social media
have become more available, in terms of both Internet access and comfort of
use, it has become one means by which people, nonstate players, and regimes can
share their policy urgencies to obtain feedback, engage in negotiation, inform
people, and attempt to impact foreign policy results. Policy consultants and
scholars have quick to define and begin to analyse the ways in which social
media has become part of the foreign policy procedure. The social and diplomatic
turmoil connected with the Arab Spring, some of which has been traced to both external
and domestic use of social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and
YouTube, generated a better sense of perseverance among those who seek a
greater understanding of the impact of social media on policy making.

It’s a reasonable assumption and
there are indeed many ways in which social media has inspired policy makers to
alter their policy. Possibly most noticeably, social media can lower the costs
of connecting the fundamental where, how, and why of protests to huge numbers
of people, as Twitter did during the 2014
Euromaidan revolution in Ukraine. Other platforms, such as YouTube, help promote
basic knowledge about how to rally effectively, helping movements build managerial
capacity. When physical congregations are prohibited, digital sites such as
Facebook or Reddit can produce forums for new, virtual public spheres that are
difficult to shut down. Therefore, social media proves to play a significant
role in policy making, because it provides the public with the tools to
persuade policy makers on certain decisions.

In
addition to this, Internet utopians also argue that virtual venues create space
for discourse in the midst of battle, offering policy options to the public and
to elites in spite of regime suppression. Also, the internet allows protestors
to promote their own narrative, which is predominantly important when the
mainstream media is controlled by the government. Yet despite this optimism,
what is sometimes known as liberation
technology is not, in fact, making pro-democracy arrangements
more effective.

Furthermore,
misrepresentation can increase on social media just as fast or faster than trustworthy
material. Stories
of Russian trolls manipulating a polarized information setting to affect the recent U.S. appointments
are a case in point. Misinformation is only compounded by individuals’ predisposition
to select news sources that approve their prior beliefs. The echo chambers so prevalent in the social media serve to
further divide societies instead of uniting them behind a common cause. Hence,
why individuals now find it difficult to trust information or stats they come
across on the social media. Therefore, the significance of social media
specifically in Influencing policy is reduced.

Even those who are goodhearted
and diligent about evaluating reliable and credentialed news sources can unintentionally
cause complications. Seeing the downfall of a tyrant through social media can
encourage dissidents in a neighbouring country to rise in identical fashion. In
fact, they may try to prematurely import the tactics and methods they see used
successfully elsewhere into their own situation with disastrous consequences.
One need looks no further than Libya or Syria to see the danger of this effect.
It was easy for activists in those countries to watch the Arab Spring unfold in
Tunisia and Egypt and conclude that, if they assembled masses of people in
public squares, they too could topple their dictators in a matter of days. This
reveals how important social media is in giving people the confidence to form
groups to stand up for what they believe. Which in turn causes the government local
or abroad to alter its policy.

 

In conclusion, although the
development of fake news has effected the reliability of the information people
receive from social media; it has to be argued that mass media has a whole
still significant when it comes to policy making.