Essay: THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK OF MEDIA AND POLITICS

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THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK OF MEDIA AND POLITICS

The relationship between media and politics can be considered as one of the most debatable topic in political science literature. In this study, this relationship will be covered under several models and approaches to describe the relationship in various aspects of understandings. In the first place, the role of media in politics will be discussed and indicated with the help of literature review of media and politics. Therefore, the foundation will be ready to go deeper discussion regarding media and politics relationship.

General understandings of models will provide a ground to put them in a separate way, in foreign policy. Major assumptions of models will be examined in the foreign policy part. To observe the role of media more specifically, Turkey will be the case in following part. The historical development of Turkish press, political environment of Turkey and its effects on media, also the effect of media on Turkish political environment will be discussed. This study will constitute the theoretical framework of media and politics.

ROLE OF MEDIA IN POLITICS

The relationship between media and politics has always been one of the critical areas of discussion. The need of political actors for public support and the media’s desire to influence society have made the media an important and indispensable force for rulers. The term “media” has been derived from the Latin word “medi” which means “in the middle.” In this respect, media can be considered as the mediator between two aspects of the society. Media is used as a general concept but also as a structure expressing mass media.

“The “mass” character of the mass media is derived from the fact that the media channel communication is a large and differentiated audience using relatively advanced technology. Grammatically and politically, the mass media are plural. Different messages may be put out by the “broadcast” media (television and radio) and the “printed” media (newspapers and magazines)” (Heywood, 2007: 232).

The mission of the mass media is to communicate and give information to individuals, groups, communities and masses in written, visual and interactive manner. Heywood also underlines the mass role of the media through new technologic developments and internet in particular (Heywood, 2007: 231-237).

Media is the shortest and most effective way to influence society. Every community that wants to direct the dynamics of society finds the media. Political actors constitute one of these communities. Direct or indirect power relations are observed in this area. Governments often have a tendency to relate to the media. Political actors may be found in some legal or illegal practices for the press. Those who hold the power of media can also use media organizations for these purposes in order to benefit from their unlimited opportunities. “In authoritarian governments, the nature of news and the media is carefully regulated by the government” (Orum and Dale, 2009: 273). As in the China example, governments can control the mass media in order to sustain their political stability (Orum and Dale: 2009). Media, in every stage of social and political continuation, seek a channel to achieve the ideas and opinions of individuals. The communication between the individuals creates the cement and structure of what we have called “politics”. In this respect, the mass media not only create the channel for this communication, but also participate and affect the political process (Heywood, 2007: 231-232).

“Watchdog” role of mass media as, in a sense, is a subset of the political debate argument. The role of the media, from this perspective, is to ensure that public accountability takes place, by scrutinizing the activities of government and exposing abuses of power. The mass media promotes democracy by widening the distribution of power and influence in society” (Heywood, 2007: 236).

The importance of the media for society is a long-accepted reality. With the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, the role of printed materials in the dissemination of new scientific, political and religious ideas has for the first time led to an understanding of the importance of communication policies (Arslan, 2007; Bekci, 2013: 4). Especially in the 19th and 20th centuries, newspapers have become very important tools for trade and industry as well as for political parties and governments. (Cuilenburg, 2010: 101; Bekci, 2013: 4). “At the beginning of 20th century, the influence of the media on foreign policy continued to increase with the invention of the radio” (Bekci, 2013: 4).

“The news media played an active role in many events in the 21st century. The active role of Pravada Newspaper in the organization and struggle of workers in the Bolshevik revolution is expressed by many researchers. The United States has used the media quite effectively when it propagated its legitimacy in the wars it experienced. In World War II, Adolf Hitler established the “Ministry of Propaganda” in order to canalize society into war and legitimize its policies and used the media in a strong way” (Temel, 2014: 7).

It can be said that the media having missions such as organizing the information flows of the societies, acting as a bridge between the policy-makers and the people, transmitting the political developments, educating the society and raising awareness have a very important place in social life (Karadoğan, 1996: 54; Bekci, 2013: 7). It has been determined that the media, which were sometimes defined as the “fourth power”, play a key role in democracies, and that individuals increase their awareness of each other and their surroundings (Haas, 2009: 77; Bekci, 2013: 6). In any area of activity in society, the relationship between politics, for example, art, pressure groups, trade unions, and so on, is not as complex as the relationship between media and politics (Arslan, 2007: 51; Özdemir, 2013: 61).

Some sources argue that the distinction between media and politics in parliamentary democracies is completely out of the question (Alver, 1998: 39; Bekci, 2013: 7). This situation also reveals the concept of “mediocracy” which has been used quite often recently (Alver, 1998: 39; Bekci, 2013: 7). This concept, which emphasizes that there is no border between the political system and the media, also highlights the intense relationship between political actors and media actors (journalists, reporters, etc.) in democracies (Alver, 1998: 47; Bekci, 2013: 7). It is an undeniable fact that the individuals providing the media and media publications are directly related to politics and politicians (Bayram, 2011: 69; Bekci, 2013: 8). In this relation, Kırlı emphasizes media’s role of generation of public opinion of society (Kırlı, 2004: 20-25). “Tools that help to determine the public opinion, help to form and develop the public at the same time. The media has an impact on the formation and direction of public opinion through the interpretation and evaluation of events” (Kapani, 1970: 241; Kırlı, 2004: 21).

Some of scholars have paid attention on the power relations between the media and political actors.

“While the media put pressure on other power actors, they can submit to the pressures of these actors at the same time. “Manufacturing Consent” and “CNN Effect” are leading theories explaining the complex relationship between media and other power systems” (Temel, 2014: 8).

Moreover, Agenda-Setting Model tries to explain the relationship between the media, the public and the political agenda and how these agendas affect each other (Terkan, 2003: 564; Bekci, 2013: 21).

MANUFACTURING CONSENT- PROPAGANDA MODEL

Walter Lippman, an American journalist, first used the concept of “Manufacturing Consent” in his book “Public Opinion” published in 1922 (Chomsky, 2013; Temel, 2014: 8). In Chomsky and Herman’s book “Manufacturing Consent” (1994), the concept is explained by the fact that the state cooperates with the capital to make it appear as if it fits the needs of the society that would not beneficial for them. In the capitalist democracies, people are controlled in soft power and used their voting rights according to wishes and desires of the elite minority. According to them, it is possible through a collective consciousness control to ensure that people get to the “thing” they do not want and that they will consent to situations that the community will not accept under normal conditions. (Chomsky, 2013; Temel, 2014: 8). According to the two writers, the media “serve the interests of powerful social groups that inspect and finance it” and “make propaganda for these groups” (Chomsky and Herman 2006: 16; Temel, 2014: 8).

“Noam Chomsky and Ed Herman, in Manufacturing Consent, identified five “filters” through which news and political coverage are distorted by the structures themselves. These filters are as follows: The business interests of owner companies, a sensitivity to the views and concerns of advertisers and sponsors, the sourcing of news and information from “agents of power” such as governments and business-backed think-tanks, “Flak” or pressure applied to journalists including threats of legal action, an unquestioning belief in the benefits of market competition and consumer capitalism” (Heywood, 2007: 233-234).

“State and capital owners transfer large resources to the media sector. This resource will lead to media outlets, either mainstream or “agenda-setters”. According to Chomsky and Herman, this situation causes that the media lose its polyphony and move itself away from the public journalism” (Temel, 2014: 9).

Chomsky and Herman assume that the information required for systematic and aggressive propaganda by government and global corporations is transformed by filters into news that will serve the common interests of governments and corporations. In “Manufacturing Consent”, War of Vietnam has been indicated as an example of this situation. Herman and Chomsky argued that the casualties of the war with North Vietnam were regarded as “Worthy Victims” by the media and claimed that civilian casualties in American bombardment were not brought to the agenda in South Vietnam, and that the “Unworthy Victim” treatment was shown. (Chomsky and Herman, 2006; Temel, 2014: 9).

On the other hand, Bernard Cohen notes in a theoretical work he has developed in the 1960s based on Lippman’s ideas: “The media may not be effective in determining what people will think, but it is successful in determining what they will think about” (Oktay, 2002: 45-48; Bekci, 2013: 13). “What Cohen wants to emphasize here is that the media will not be able to influence society’s idea on a particular issue, but will able to influence what society will talk about” (Bekci, 2013: 13).

Bekci (2013: 16), summarizes Manufacturing Consent as highly controversial in terms of internal and foreign policy.

“Besides, the concept emerges as an approach based on Marxist foundations that have found extensive coverage in the academic literature. In this respect; it can be said that it has brought a critical viewpoint to the media in both political and economic sense. But to say that the media will have no influence on political power in any sense means to deny the media’s individual and social power. The fact that the media has made social and individual influence contradicts this approach at this point” (Bekci, 2013: 16).

As a matter of fact, the point that the media creates as an area of influence both socially and individually shows that there can be also an area of influence or interaction on foreign policy makers from time to time (Bayram, 2011: 69; Bekci, 2013: 16).

CNN EFFECT

During the Gulf War, CNN has gained an influential momentum by informing with live broadcastings the entire world about the war. This term was named due to its power of pressure to decision-makers. Indeed, it is an appropriate example to indicate the role of media in political decision-making process.

“The “CNN Effect” can be expressed as theoretically structuring the politics of the decision-makers who are the accountable to the society, by arousing certain emotions in the audience and readers with the publications and broadcastings of the news media” (Temel, 2014: 12).

With “CNN Effect”, the society interferes with political strategy, impedes decision-makers’ political goals, and accelerates decision-making mechanisms (Yalçınkaya, 2008; Temel, 2014: 13). In this approach, seen more often in human drama, society forces decision-makers for humanitarian intervention. Decision makers may also be affected by these images or news (Robinson, 2002; Temel, 2014: 13).

Jakobsen claimed that the news media had the capacity to undermine or even change governments (Jakobsen, 2000: 131-143; Bekci, 2013). The influence of the media can be summarized with Jakobsen’s schema as follows:

“News in the media (images and news of atrocities and suffering people – both written and visual) – Journalists and Opinion Leaders force “Western” governments to move – Public opinion emerges – “Western” governments intervene (Jacobsen, 2000: 131; Bekci, 2013: 17).”

To be more precise, the authors describe the CNN Effect as loss of the control by decision-makers in the political arena and the gaining the control by the news media. Accordingly, the CNN Effect; TV channels (CNN, Al JAZEERA, BBC…), which are generally broadcast worldwide, argue that the news media is particularly influential in the decision-making process of governments during times of crisis and war. The theory claims that the images on TV and in newspapers have influence on both the public and the political elites. In a sense, by addressing and directing the emotions of the individual, media prevents the decision-makers from applying rational policies (Christopoulou, 2011: 18; Bekci, 2013: 18).

There are also many criticisms on the “CNN Effect” theory. The most important one is the assumption that the decision-makers have to change their policies with the reaction of the society shaped by the media; in fact, it is assumed that decision makers have produced a new “Manufacturing Consent” in order to lay the groundwork for the new official policies. It is claimed that politicians’ ability to react and reverse the public reactions towards these new policies is nothing more than a “Manufacturing Consent” with a “CNN Effect” look. (Denk, 2007; Temel, 2014: 13).

According to Livingston, who emphasized and criticized the agenda-setting character of CNN Effect, the notion of CNN Effect is exaggerated (Livingston, 1997:1-21; Bekci, 2013: 20). According to him, the majority of humanitarian interventions are done away from the observation of the media (Livingston, 1997: 6; Bekci, 2013: 20). To sum up, the discussions on the CNN Effect approach are mostly due to the fact that the CNN Effect is not fully understood (Bekci, 2013).

AGENDA-SETTING MODEL

Agenda setting model can be considered as a process that is one of the ways in which the media is influencing the politics. It provides that media shape the contents of what the public thinks about specific policies and positions. Maxwell McCombs’ hypothesis “the media agenda sets the public agenda” was confirmed by the experiment in 1968 elections (Orum and Dale, 2009).

“As in the case of the propaganda model, the first study that created a source for the agenda setting model is the work of Lippmann in 1922, entitled Public Opinion” (Bekci, 2013: 20). Lippmann stated that the dominant elements in the media image have become dominant or prioritized in the images of the minds of the media viewers (Yuksel, 2001: 72; Terkan, 2003: 563; Bekci, 2013: 20).

“The media may not be successful in determining what people will think, but it is extremely successful in determining what they will think about (Cohen, 1963: 13)” sentence has been told by Bernard Cohen in 1963 and became the beginning of the underlying ideas to the Agenda-Setting Model (Yuksel, 2001: 34; Terkan, 2003: 564; Bekci, 2013: 20). Terkan also agrees with Cohen’s idea and says it reflects the basic idea of the agenda-setting approach (Terkan, 2007).

In the same way, this model can be summarized as follows; we assume as “important” the issues that the media has ruled as “important” (Gittinger, 1995; Bekci, 2013:21). Furthermore, this model claims that the media has a significant degree of determinism in the contexts in which the reader is informed indirectly (Koc, 2004: 7; Bekci, 2013: 22).

ROLE OF MEDIA IN FOREIGN POLICY

It has been determined that the media, sometimes described as the “fourth power”, plays a key role in democracies and that individuals increase their awareness of each other and their surroundings (Haas, 2009: 77; Bekci, 2013: 6). However, the media is also one of the important parts of the political process (Haas, 2009: 77; Bekci, 2013: 6).

According to Gadarian (2010: 469), which states that the media has a key role in important foreign political events that governments face, the media strengthens the perception of men’s threats and the foreign policies of the countries are shaped in this direction. For example; it points out that the US has a significant share of the media in the post-9/11 war on global warfare (Gadarian, 2010: 470; Bekci, 2013: 6).

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