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With Particular Reference To Television News, Assess The Role That The Mass Media Have In Shaping "Reality".

1759 words - 7 pages

"The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace." (Herman and Chomsky, 1994: 1). From surfing the worldwide web to picking up a newspaper in the morning, from watching the nighttime news to switching on our mobile phones mass media is all around us, in everything we do and we can't escape it. We are in a period of media saturation. Television is the best media example to use because, "watching television is the most common home based leisure activity for men and women in the UK [and other western countries as well]" (Macionis and Plummer, 2002: 712). This indicates that television is likely to have an impact on the way people shape their ideas and how they view reality. The mass media has been around since the printing press and since newspapers started becoming commonplace. Since the beginnings of mainstream media those at the top have tried to shape our views through its use. I'm going to try and show in this essay, using the 1991 Gulf War as a case study, that the ruling class i.e. big business, through overseeing the media, try and make us believe what they want us to believe about the world, outside our immediate social milieu. This management of the media, though, may not always be able to shape 'reality' to everyone's satisfaction (even though it leaves little scope for debate and follows already perceived social norms). For example as Kellner (1995) points out only 1% of the mainstream television coverage of the 1991 Gulf War offered dissenting voices towards the war, yet there was still a significant percentage of Americans concerned about / opposed to the war against Saddam.According to the pluralist way of thinking "the media [should] play a key role in the democratic process by providing ... information ... open debate and ... opportunity to share ... beliefs ... with others." If this was the case we would be able to shape our own reality from a wide-ranging information base and through debate / discussion of differing points of view. Looking at the media from a Marxist viewpoint we can see that the ruling elite "ensures the media will present things within a framework that serves the interest of the dominant institutions [the ruling class]" (cited in Chomsky, 2003:13) and we don't have a fully free media. "Today ... not the threat of force ... [but] complex system of filters ... which ends up ensuring that dissident perspectives are weeded out" (Chomsky, 2003:13). Therefore, the popular press is kept within a "limited spectrum of debate" (Chomsky, 2003:13). We see that those with the power at the top of the media spectrum are not the editors, but are those who advertise with / sponsor the media outlets, these are the ruling class. These are the people with "the means of material production at ... [their] disposal ... [and] at the same time ... the means of mental production, so ... the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it" (Mark and Engels quoted in...

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