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8.3 The Functions of the Mass Media

The mass media plays a significant role in modern society. They bring about a general diffusion of knowledge about life in the world today, thus influencing many aspects of our social, political and economic patterns. Mass media has certain important functions to perform which include affecting public opinion, political opinion and government, to improve the political fabric of our democracy.

8.3a Public Opinion

Public opinion is the engine that keeps the wheels of a democracy turning. Though we elect officials to conduct our government, they are restrained by the influence of the same public opinion that put them into office. The average person is strongly affected by the social group and the opinion leaders who reflect the opinions obtained from the mass media. Thus the divergent views and in-depth analyses presented by the mass media are of vital importance in the stance Americans take on critical issues.

8.3b Political Agenda

Though similar to public opinion, political agenda indicates a wider scope. It includes all those matters that Americans consider weighty and need to be considered by the government. The press is regarded as the "market place" of political thought in a democracy, for the policies and aims of government are made known through the channels of the press. They are then examined exhaustively by the opposition, commentators, editors and the public in general. Television and radio further publicize this interplay of opinion through news reports similar to those appearing in the newspapers, interviews and panel discussions. Thus mass media affects our opinion on varied issues like civil rights, the economy, immigration and welfare. Diligent editors and commentators work on the principle that all the facts in a political situation must be presented to the public. Only after considering these facts can the public make its decisions. In fact research shows a very close relation between the importance the public gives to particular issues and media coverage on those issues.

8.3c Link between the Government and the People

Mass media definitely acts as a link between the government and the people, thus building up the political fabric of the American democracy. There are several channels through which political leaders can express their views and rally public support for their policies. Through the mass media the government can inform, explain and convince the public over their programs.

When the president of the United States makes a statement in a press conference, for instance, the news travels around the world through the mass media. The Americans read accounts in the newspapers, listen to summaries of it on the radio and also watch the president speak of it on the television. President F.D. Roosevelt won support for his economic reforms and also alerted the Americans against the menace of Fascist aggression, in his famous fireside chats on radio. Efforts are made by federal, state and local government officials to reach the voters by the press conference, the radio interview, the television panel discussion, the magazine article and even the book. The opposition is also given a chance to present its views after speech of the president.


8.0 - Introduction
8.1 The Evolution of the Mass Media
8.2 Structure of the Mass Media and Government Regulation
8.3 The Functions of the Mass Media
8.4 The Mass Media and Political Coverage

Chapter 9

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