Role of Media in Changing Public Opinion
The media has not always existed and was first introduced with the introduction of the Bengal Gazette. It was an English newspaper published in Calcutta India which was mainly political and commercial. Since then the media has played a significant role in affecting public opinion. Scholars have described the media as the 4th pillar of society amongst judiciary, legislative and executive. This indicates that it plays a critical role in the welfare of the community. A recently concluded research suggests that many people rely on the media for information and they believe everything as portrayed by the media. This affects their perspective on issues affecting them.
In shaping a democracy, the media play a very paramount role, and many refer to it as the backbone of democracy. It provides information about what is happening in the country in every manner for example politically or economically especially in areas where the public does not have access to information. A good example is when a politician is embezzling funds meant for public use or misusing public office. The media sheds light on the issue, and the public is left to judge the credibility of the accused. It also helps democracy whereby it exposes politicians for not accomplishing what they had promised the public and the end of their terms in office.
The media is a powerful tool that can be used to influence the popular opinion. A good example is such a situation is during a national calamity. The media has been used to inform people about what impacts the calamity has had on people and what they can do to help. During the Hurricane Katrina, media houses were used to help and raise funds for the affected people. It was also used to pressure the government to act the affected individuals. People have also used the media to shape public opinion concerning certain issues affecting them for instance to gather support for public policy. Individuals in power have t times attempted to implement policies that will negatively impact the public. In such cases, the media has been used to gather support for such policies. Over the past few years, the media has received criticism for intentionally shaping the news to affect the opinions of people. At times the media intentionally withhold information from the public with the intention of changing their opinion. This is ethically and morally wrong as people have the right to information.
The power of the media is better explained through the cultivation theory. The theory was first initiated by Morgan and Signorelli and argues that popular media for instance television and the newspaper has the power to influence public opinion. Research suggests that a majority of the people on the planet depend on television as their primary source of news or information. Scholars argue that television is a member of the family who has the most stories and is always telling them getting the attention of every other family members. For the media to have an impact on the population freedom of the press has to exist. The media has to have the freedom to report on anything that is of public interest. Denying the media that freedom will only promote the agendas and the policies of those in power. In nations where the freedom of the press does not exist people do not get accurate information on what is happening in the world. Due to worldwide corruption, the media today can be controlled. Powerful and resourceful individuals can use the media to promote campaigns that are meant for their benefits and withhold information that may have a negative impact on their reputation.