Changing Media Landscapes and their Impact on Society

In previous articles, we have discussed how media affects society and effects changes in the way people think and act. This article looks at how the historical function of media as a watchdog and a purveyor of public good have now evolved to a point where the media sets the agenda for the country to follow.

Further, we also discuss how the advent of the internet and social media has changed the discourse and how they have affected the way in which people use and consume media.

First, it is no longer the case that the media reports news and generally acts as a keeper of the public good.

On the other hand, the media in many countries like the US and India (the world’s oldest and largest democracies) have now reached a point where they set the agenda for the nation and its citizens.

This can be seen in the way the recent Presidential Elections in the US were characterized by media driven talking points and media led rhetoric. In India, the anti corruption movement was largely driven by media frenzy and nonstop media coverage that ensured crowds in large numbers turning up to support the crusaders.

In the US, the media is no longer a bystander in the national discourse but an organ of democracy that steers the narrative.

In India, though in the decades after independence, the media were largely content with investigative journalism and recording events as they happened, in recent years, they have become the vehicles that launch or destroy careers of politicians, businesspeople, and celebrities.

In other words, both in the US and in India, the media can make or mar the chances of the public figures.

Without commenting on whether this is a positive development or negative fallout, it needs to be mentioned that the power vested with the media ought to be used for productive purposes rather than negative reporting and coverage.

The reason for so much importance being given to media in these countries is that for many citizens, the visual media is the place where they get the news, views, and opinions because many of them do not have the time to peruse lengthy articles or books on the topics of the day. What this means is that in this sound-bite society, many people simply watch the news on TV and make up their minds on the issues of the day.

Hence, it is no longer the case that people read newspapers or pore over books that have more detailed descriptions of the issues along with in-depth analysis.

On the other hand, all of us are looking for a quick capsule of the news with a digest of the most happening stories.

Indeed, market research done during the recent presidential election in the US has shown that many voters formed their preferences after watching the presidential debates and after following the coverage on TV simply because they did not have the time nor the inclination to have detailed and in-depth discussions about the issues and the policy stances of the candidates.

In conclusion, with so much power vested in the media, there is a scope for misuse and we would look at this in detail in subsequent articles.

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