The Pluralist View of Mass Media
Pluralism is the belief that power is spread widely throughout the
world. It is a belief that companies or powerful groups are competing,
but within boundaries of consensus and compromise. The idea of
pluralism descends from functionalism. Functionalism is the view that
society is structured; every institution in society fulfils certain
roles and functions. If there was a disruption in one of these
institutions then it could affect the stability of society as a whole.
Functionalists believe that if something didn’t serve a purpose then
it would not exist.
The pluralist view of the mass media is based on this simple belief.
Pluralists believe that the reason some newspapers or other forms of
media seem biased is because they “simply respond to demand.” The
public has the buying power and the media are simply trying to appeal
to this. If they begin to put forward their own opinions or beliefs
about certain issues, then they are only appealing to the people who
share these ideas. If these ideas are extremely controversial then a
very limited amount of people would buy the newspaper. Therefore, if
the newspapers want to sell very well and make a profit, then they
need to portray views, ideas and beliefs appealing to the majority of
the public otherwise they would “risk going out of business.”
Basically pluralists are saying that the mass media is a democratic
organisation, as it is the public who decides which media product is
successful. “If the media have any influence over people, it is
because they reflect and reinforce society’s basic values, not because
they impose their ideas on the public.”
Pluralists also argue that not all media owners are trying to control
the content of the media. There have been many disputes between
Editors and media owners over the control of the content. An example
of this is the dispute between the (now ex-) editor of the Mirror,
Piers Morgan, and its owner, Philip Graf. Piers Morgan published
photographs in the Mirror showing British troops abusing captured
Iraqi soldiers. These pictures caused a huge upset in the British
Army, government and in the general public. Some government officials
began to ask questions about these photographs and their sources.
Piers Morgan stood by the photographs and was adamant that they were
genuine, even when the owners of the Mirror began asking questions.
The photographs were later proved to be forgeries. Piers Morgan was
fired and walked out of the Mirror Offices. The pluralist theory that
newspaper owners do not control the output of their media, some
editors control the output themselves.
Another example of disputes between organisations is the Government
versus the BBC over the Iraqi war. This argument came about after
Britain when to war with Iraq. One of the...