viernes, 27 de marzo de 2009

Personal reflection #4 - Who decides what news is?

Major Mass Media conglomerates are powerful enough to control most of the exchange of information going on around the world, and therefore silencing the minority media voices. And so those who control them have power over the news reported and set the agenda broadcasted worldwide, or at least nationwise. This situation certainly restrains diversity from taking part in the game of information, just as it happens in Chicago where out of a hundred stations just one is owned by an Afro-American person. This makes the Agenda-Setting Theory (installed by Cohen during the 60’s) become a reality as it undermines the voices of minority groups and makes the voices of mayorities or people in control to become known or seen as public opinion when it isn’t by simply broadcasting what it is expected by the majority.

And so the Mass Media has a strong influence in society by determining what stories are news based on who they define as their main target rather than on the real importante of the event. This is achieved by how much space or time these events are given when broadcasted. Therefore, this theory states that the Mass Media determine the importance of information bearing in mind its audience (majority groups and their social or political views and values) and the impact that it will cause on them, just as they do when it comes to excluding which events aren’t important enough. And so the Mass Media’s agenda becomes the audience’s agenda. This doesn’t mean that media determines what we think but it does determine what to think about.

Bearing this in mind, it is quite obvious that there’s not much we as an audience can do to increase the main media channel’s interest on different topics, but what we can do is to try and read, watch and listen to minority media. And most important, compare diferent political biased media so that we can build up our own point of view by contrasting different opinions. I don’t know much about American media but in Spain I usually watch and read the two main left and right winged newspapers and news channels in the morning and then watch an “alternative” main channel for news at night which usually opens its daily broadcast with different events which barely appear on other media. And I believe that by doing so we can give this type of newsreporting our support so that they keep up the work in order to become stronger and hopefully more popular within the general audience.

I don’t know how wasr was reported in the US at first, but in Spain the right winged channels showed our ex-presient and his support towards the Iraq War as the right way to go. Obviously the opposition would give a much more negative view of this event and instead of showing the heads of state holding hands, they would insist on broadcasting images of war attrocities and bombardments. Images are usually the same in every channel, but voice overs differ largely from one to another. However, once Spain got into te eye of the hurricane witt the whole war thing and became a target terrorist forces, news stations started backing up the government or accusing it by blaming either the Spanish terrorist group know as ETA or Al Qaeda. A few months later the elections proved popular discontent and the former president took over especially because of his policy of backing up from Iraq.

All of this was the result of huge demonstrations against the war that occured all around the country and it certainly worked in favour against supporting the war. People spoke and voted for what they thought was right without any censorship involved, but surely with fright. However, after decades of living under a dictatorship, Spain as many other countries in Europe, is a country of free speech and open minds in which besides media’s inevitable manipulation people can express their thoughts openly even if they differ from the majority’s. Nontheless, our media failed at the time of informing as it wasn’t months after that it was made public who had provoked he terrorist attack and even years to inform public opinion about the real events that took place on 11-M.
*Newspaper cover from El Pais (left-winged/ opposition):
*Newspaper cover from El Mundo (right-winged/ government):

If we compare this situation to the Civil Rights movement we can totally yuxtapose this moments in time and place by stating that any press regarding an important event is always welcome as the important thing is to make people react and realise that there is somethign goind on, especially because all views and believes regarding it will certainly be different. Politicians and citizens shared the opinion that something should be done to change the fact that black people lacked civil liberties during the civil Right movement, just as Spanish politicians believed that something should be done against terrorism in Spain and despite their different political views a common goal is always an easier thing to fight for as it needs unity from all of us.

I personally believe that it is a shame how media simply control what we think about. It feels like unless they determine the relevance of an event, mankind might not even know that it ever occured. But the worse part is how they have the ability to manipulate the images and make them seem like something else. I feel like we aren’t at all in control of what we know, we just have to have faith that how and what we think is our personal thought and fight for our voices to be heard whenever and injustice takes place. No relevant part of history has ever been written by a single person, it is unity of a group and the encouragement of a fair cause that makes the world change.