The agenda-setting process is an almost unavoidable part of news gathering by the large organizations which make up much of the mass media. (Just four main news agencies — AP, UPI, Reuters and Agence-France-Presse — claim together to provide 90% of the total news output of the world’s press, radio and television.) Stuart Hall points out that because some of the media produce material which often is good, impartial and serious, they are accorded a high degree of respect and authority. However, in practice the ethics of the press and television are closely related to that of the hegemonic establishment, providing vital support to the existing order. Independence (e.g. of the BBC) is not “a mere cover, it is central to the way power and ideology are mediated in societies like ours.”
The public is bribed with good radio, television and newspapers into an acceptance of the biased, the misleading, and the status quo. The media are not, according to this approach, crude agents of propaganda. They organize public understanding. However, the overall interpretations they provide in the long run are those most preferred by, and least challenging to, those with economic power. Greg Philo demonstrates this in his 1991 article, “Seeing is Believing”, in which he showed that recollections of the 1984 UK miners’ strike were strongly correlated with the media presentation of the event, including the perception of the picketing as largely violent when violence was rare, and the use by the public of phrases which had appeared originally in the media.
McCombs and Shaw (1972) demonstrate the agenda-setting effect at work in a study conducted in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA during the 1968 presidential elections. A representative sample of un-decided voters was asked to outline the key issues of the election as it perceived them. Concurrently, the mass media serving these subjects were collected and their content was analyzed. The results showed a definite correlation between the two accounts of predominant issues. "The evidence in this study that voters tend to share the media's composite definition of what is important strongly suggests an agenda-setting function of the mass media." (McCombs and Shaw),.
Read more about this topic: Media Effect
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“In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men ... you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
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