Mass Media and American Politics

Chapter 10
Essential Questions
 How does a politician use the media to talk to
the public and how does the public use the
media to talk to a politician?
 Does the media assist, impede or transform
these messages?
The Mass Media Today
 Modern political success depends upon
control of the media.
 Image making does not stop with the
 It is a critical element in day to day governing
since politicians’ image s in the press are
good indicators of their clout.
 The 30 second president.
Meet the Master of the Mass
 7 principles of Reagan
Plan ahead
Stay on the offensive
Control the flow of information
Limit reporter’s access
Talk about the issues you want to talk
Speak in one voice
Repeat the same message many times
Development of Media
 First it was newspapers
 FDR first President to use media to an
advantage-1000 press conferences including
“fire-side chats”
 Vietnam creates an adversarial
press/government relationship that is
reinforced by the Watergate scandal.
 Now the perspective of the press is
investigative reporting—”dirty-laundry”
Television as Mass Media
 Broadcast journalism replaces print
journalism as the predominant for of news
and information.
 1960’s debate between Kennedy and Nixon in
Black and White
 Nation was taken to war with Nixon, exposed
the gov’t naivite/ lying about the progress of
war…today, embedded reporters
 Cable follows/24-7 news/internet
Mass Media Regulation
 Ownership by large corporations-dispels the
myth of the “liberal press”( Rupert Murdoch
owner of Fox News)
 Regulation-FCC licensing controls-created in
1934 by Congress
 FCC is an independent regulatory body but is
subject to political pressures
Mass Media and Regulation
 FCC regulates media markets in several ways.
 Prevents monopolies of broadcast markets-limit
on number of stations owned by same corporation
 FCC conducts evaluations of media outlet for
conformity to regulation
 FCC has issued a number of fair treatment rules
regarding access to airwave for political
candidates and office holders
Fairness Doctrine
 FCC required those with broadcast licenses to
present controversial issues of public concern
in a fair, equitable light
 Not to be confused with equal time rule
 Supreme Court upheld FCC power to enforce
fairness doctrine but not an obligation to do
so. Red Lion Broadcasting vs. FCC (1969)
 1987-FCC abolished Fairness Doctrine-leads
to growth of ideological news sources
Mass Media Regulation
 Internet adds a whole new element
 Narrow-casting-increase of broadcast
channels that are oriented toward particularly
narrow audiences
 Traditional broadcasts are being replaced by
blogs, The Daily Show, websites and
misinterpreted YouTube postings
 Does the FCC have the legal right to regulate
the Web?
Reporting the News
 American media is free and independent
when it comes to journalistic content, yet
completely dependent upon advertising
revenues to keep the business going.
 Profits shape how journalists define what is
newsworthy, where they get their info and
how they report it.
 TV networks report the news, it is said, as to
what is entertaining to the average viewer.
Media Conglomerates
Media Conglomerates
 Gannet owns USA Today and controls the biggest
circulation in the nation + owns 100 additional
papers -23 TV stations 19% of the market
 Rupert Murdoch owns 124 radio stations, New
York Post, Weekly Standard, and FOX News
Case Study - Viacom
• Media Conglomerate – Viacom
•CBS News
Comedy Central
Time Warner Cable
•Paramount Pictures
Role of the Media
 Gatekeeper: influence what subjects become
national political issues, and for how long
 Scorekeeper: the national media help make political
reputations, horserace journalism
 Watchdog: Following closely the front-runner
candidates, searching for any past or current history
that will make “news”—media maintains close eye on
all important happenings of major candidates
Horserace Journalism
• Media coverage that focuses on
poll results and political
battles instead of policy issues
• Refers to almost exclusive
reporting on candidate
differences rather than
Media’s effect on political
 It’s unclear…research is lacking
 TV may influence the political agenda
 People unlikely to take cues from the media
about things that affect them personally
 Media usually does more to REINFORCE
beliefs than CHANGE opinion
Media and Political
 Advertising – very expensive on TV, way to reach
many voters, raising campaign costs
 News coverage – “free” coverage, politicians will
attempt to create events where media will
attend for free publicity
 Spin doctor – one who tries to influence journalists
with interpretations of events that are favorable to
the candidate
 Presidential Debates
Impact of Media on Politics
 “sound bites” – seconds long segments
 Stories/political messages are shortened, and
made to seem less complex than reality
Trends in News Coverage
media = primary link to American
politics(linkage institution)
 TV: news reduced to 15-45 second sound
 Rise of Talk Radio
 9 out of 10 Americans listen to radio (esp. in cars)
Trends in News Coverage
media = primary link to
American politics
 Newspapers: even w/ competition from
Internet & cable, 63 million Americans read
the paper
 National papers:
 Intense advertising competition
 60% of cities have competing newspapers
Criticism of the Media
 Profit Motive: Strong competition, must keep
one step ahead
Sensationalism and “feeding frenzy”
Homogenization of the news: uniform