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The Independence of Media from the States Essay

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Updated: May 23rd, 2019

Media is an important part of human life. There are a lot of different functions of media, informing, creating social opinion, adverting, etc.

Living in the free democratic world, many people are sure that the media is independent from states and that TV, radio and newspapers are free for creating and presenting the material each of these department wants. However, this is not really so.

Each time people refer to media, they expect to consider the data which is presented as a part of free press, however, this is not exactly so. Media depends on the states under which it has to function.

It is impossible to imagine an absolutely free media which does not belong to anyone and does not responsible to anything. Modern mass media is owned by specific groups in the state and the power of these people and organizations make each release dependant.

Social opinion is not created on the basis of the free press, states always try to make sure that public opinion is created in such a way that powerful people want it to be.

Considering the level of the dependency of mass media from the states it performs into, it is possible to say that even the most democratic countries have the state influence on mass media. Mass media is not independent from the state totally, however, some level of independence is still present.

No one is able to contradict the opinion that democracy is the regime we are trying to live into. Therefore, the democracy presupposes the freedom of mass media. However,

the media…have a double relation to democracy. On the one hand… the emergence of a global information society is a powerful democratizing force.

Yet, television, and the other media, tend to destroy the very public space of dialogue they open up, through relentless trivializing, and personalizing of political issues.

Moreover, the growth of giant multinational media corporations means that unelected business tycoons can hold enormous power (Meier 2002, p. 298).

Being connected to political issues, mass media cannot remain uncontrolled. Society believes that the themes discussed on TV are presented by their desire to watch them, people are sure that making a choice they do it just because they want to do that choice, however, this opinion is wrong.

If one tries to answer the question what controls and forms human opinion, he/she will find only one possible answer – mass media. However, most of the data which appear on BBC and other world spread sources of information exist under strong censorship.

The “double relation to democracy” (Meier 2002, p. 298) is explained by the desire of the mass media sources to show personal freedom from any authority, however, at the same time, it is impossible to say for sure that even in the most democratic countries mass media is free.

Democracy is defined as the participation of the citizens of the country in making decisions, however, there is no a word about absence of the control of the government over people.

The power of broadcasting cannot be overestimated, and the governmental structures understand this. Thus, the very beginning of the media era was controlled by the government and the priorities of such control may be enumerated.

Remembering the history, the fist official newspapers and TV shows in most countries were created under the strict supervision of the government. Later, mass media tried to become an independent industry, however, each time it appeared in hands of powerful people who have to deal with the state and its interests.

Hesmondhalgh (2007) believes that even living in a democratic era, government cannot allow such powerful industry to remain without influence. If mass media was not under total control, information presented on TV could be frustrating.

Many examples may be remembered when important data devoted to international relations, national business, health care, politics, economics, etc. is not shown in mass media. It does not mean that there are no people who know anything about the issue.

It means, that there is a censorship which does not allow some information to appear in mass media until it is necessary for the state. One may refer to the secrets which are released on TV, about the scandals and anther data which is not useful for the government.

The Internet is full of information and the power of broadcasting there cannot be compared with TV, radio and newspaper. However, the information online is referred as just the gossips which are not trusted until the official declaration is presented. Is not this a control of the government?

Is it possible to say that all the data which is appeared in mass media is trusted until the official declaration is presented? The answer is negative.

So, the influence of state on the mass media is more obvious than one may think, still, many people try to reject this opinion claiming about the freedom of speech and press.

The problem of ownership should be considered as one of the ways of the media control by the state (Doyle 2002).

Looking objectively at the problem can one answer the questions who own the TV channels, newspapers, and the Internet browsers which control the search engine capacity? Is it society who controls mass media?

Such big industry cannot function without monitoring. Mass media is an industry which brings much profit to those who owns it. Of course, governments do not own all the companies connected with mass media, but they are the property of people who support the interest of the government and make all possible to work in the interest of the state.

Owning one particular mass media company, such as BBC or CNN, or another one of the same prestige, the influence on other sources of information is guaranteed. Ownership of the mass media companies is a serious affair as those who own newspapers and TV channels have an opportunity to control human thoughts and ideas.

Moreover, one big channel may apply to the unity of smaller channels or work under their supervision that creates the chain of the connected and dependent sources of information which gets the data from the bigger sources.

It is hard to believe that states leave the biggest sources of information without control. The information has become one of the weapons of the modern world. It costs too much and it is hard to find it.

It is impossible to imagine the state which does not have an opportunity to use such powerful weapon as information, therefore, the ownership of the mass media industry is a crucial problem for the safety and prosperity of any developed state.

Bagdikian (2004) is sure that “the media world – newspapers, magazines, books, radio, television, movies, and now the Internet – occupies a beginning of the end of government-as-protector-of-the-consumer and the starts of government-as the-protector-of –big-business” (p. 11).

It is possible to agree with the statement in some way as looking at the information which appears in newspapers, more attention is devoted to business, however, the politics does not remain apart. Most of the data presented in media is devoted to business world.

Ads influence the opinion of people. Advertising make people buy the products of the companies which are shown more frequently. There are also situations when advertising becomes too occupying and in this case government interferes.

It is obvious that “the greatest threat to freedom of expression in the United States or elsewhere is the possibility that private entrepreneurs will always tend to monopolize the marketplace of ideas in the name of economic efficiency and private profit” (Meier 2002, p. 298).

Thus, mass media cannot belong totally to private owners. The problem of ownership still appears as in case the mass media is not controlled by the state and all the power is offered to the private entrepreneurship the monopolization of the industry may lead to unpredicted consequences.

The presentation of the information just from one side, the delivery only of the ‘suitable’ for the manufacture data may be destroying for society.

Therefore, it may be said that states do not make mass media sources independent to avoid monopolization of the industry and to make sure that the information presented in mass media is given from different perspectives.

State cannot stay apart from mass media as this source of information plays an important role in the life of people. Cottle (2003) says that mass media plays important role in formation of the social opinion, cultural identity, traditional peculiarities and other values of the people in community.

Absence of the total control of the government of these issues may lead to the problems in the future which may result in social misunderstanding. Social problems guarantee political and economical instability in the country. Mass media is able to do both, maintain order and create chaos in the country.

Absence of the state control and providing of the independent guarantees to mass media will never result in anything positive. It has already been pointed at many crucial outcomes which may result from independence of mass media from the state, such as monopolization of the industry.

Cottle (2003) points to the loss of cultural identity. Much attention in this source is paid to the news presentation. Each event may be considered from different perspectives, it can be highlighted from various parts.

The ability of mass media to show the news from the governmental position, trying to show the unity of the country and the care of the state leaders about the country may increase the unity of the community.

Therefore, the governments are unable to allow the mass media to have the full independence as sometimes the vision of the journalists should be directed in an appropriate way. However, speaking about journalists, they are free and independent searchers of information and news.

These people should just present the useful data for the society, otherwise, the information they have considered may be perceived as uninteresting and boring. This is one of the principles of state control over mass media.

Croteau and Hoynes (2005) stress the importance of the government to provide specific information to the society. The control over mass media helps such states impose the necessary information in the society.

The absence of such control and absolute independence of the mass media from the state would not form such powerful societies as they are now. The image of UK supported with the presence of a queen, the USA leaders are also known to the whole world as the leaders of one of the most powerful countries.

Of source, there are people who do not support the actions of their leaders and there are the channels and programs which strictly criticize their actions. This should be. People should see the situation from different perspectives, however, the information should still be directed at the affairs of the country.

If the international issues are discussed, it is important to view them in the prism of the state affair. This is the place of the state in the mass media influence. Mass media cannot be independent from state as this is the source of the information which creates the image of the country.

One should not confuse the dependence of mass media from the state and the freedom off press. In the USA the First Amendment of the Constitution guarantee the freedom of press, however, it does not mean that mass media may advertise all the products which exist.

The state should control the advertising campaign to protect people from inappropriate goods. The same is about everything which appears on TV, radio and in newspapers.

States protect people from the goods of poor quality trying to make sure that the information people get is appropriate, even if it does not meet the interests of the state as freedom of speech exists (Croteau & Hoynes 2005).

Hesmondhalgh (2002) pays much attention to the reasons and the interests of mass media. The attention is paid to the ownership and the interests mass media supports.

The author is sure that the interests of the powerful and rich people are met while creating the releases of information. In case mass media would be independent from the state, this would be exactly the issue.

However, having the dependency from the state, much of the released data is subjected to censorship, that is why the private owners of newspapers and channels are unable to monopolize the sphere.

If state controls mass media and the information released there, why some data does not meet the requirements of the state, why the state allows to show the programs and to deliver the information which may compromise the government?

Answering this question, the aspects of democratization and the freedom of speech should be considered. Hesmondhalgh (2002) is focused on the private interests of those who own mass media companies forgetting about the law and other specific barriers on the way to controlling the data released to the community.

The dependency of mass media from the state is different basing on the level of the democracy in the country. Considering such states as France, USA, UK and other developed countries, the level of interdependency of mass media from the state is rather high.

However, such countries as China impose greater dependency of mass media from the state as in such countries people are controlled and programmed by means of mass media.

TV, radio and pres are used for propaganda purposes making sure that people will be affected by the data. Gehlbach and Sonin (2008) believe that “when mobilization is especially important, the government will be inclined to seize ownership of private media, as it can save the cost of subsidization by controlling the media directly” (p. 2) and it is impossible to disagree with the statement.

Each state understands that mass media may be used in personal purposes in critic situations, therefore, making all possible to follow the freedom of press law, each state do keeps in mind that control over mass media is crucial.

Therefore, it may be concluded that there are two points of view that mass media is dependant from the state and that it is independent from it. There is no country where mass media is totally independent from the state as this is an information weapon which may be used incorrectly.

The government of each state chooses the level of dependency and applies the chosen policy in action. The democracy does not presuppose the absence of the dependency.

Democratic world should be controlled, as otherwise chaos would be imposed. The ownership and monopolization are the problems which are to be controlled by the state and some of the reasons of the dependency of mass media from the state.

States should understand the difference between controlling and imposing.

The independence leads to chaos and the developed countries cannot allow such state of affairs as only structured and highly monitored world actions guarantee harmony of the modern global society.

Reference List

Bagdikian, B 2004, The New Media Monopoly, Beacon Press, Boston.

Cottle, S 2003, Media organization and production, SAGE, London.

Croteau, D & Hoynes, W 2005, The Business of Media, Sage, London.

Doyle, G 2002, Media Ownership: The Economics and Politics of Convergence and Concentration in the UK and European Media, SAGE, London.

Gehlbach, S & Sonin, K 2008, Government Control of the Media. Web.

Hesmondhalgh, D 2002, Media Production. Berkshire: Open University Press.

Hesmondhalgh, D 2007, The Cultural Industries, SAGE, London.

Meier, WA 2002, ‘Media Ownership – Does It Matter?’, in R Mansell, R Samarajiva & A Mahan (eds), Networking Knowledge for Information Societies: Institutions & Intervention, DUP Science, Delft.

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