Essay: Media and Political Relations

I want “you” to be like “this”

by Takhta Pandu Padmanegara

“Politics and the media have long walked hand in hand. The media have always played a powerful role in politics. Even before radio, we had the penny press. There’d be great wars between various newspapers about politics. So even back then, the media were important.”
– Dr. Roderick Hart, a professor in the Department of Communication Studies and acting dean of the College of Communication at The University of Texas at Austin.-

Over the centuries the debates between the media practitioners, scholars, and politicians in all over the world have not finished yet. The main problem of the discourse is whether the media influence the politics or politics influence the media. In this essay I would like to elaborate the relationship between the media and politics through its process, impact, and also how is strong the influence between both of them.

How Media Influence Politics
Since the very first beginning of media was born in this world, the media had become the most effective tools that are used to influence the every aspect in the society; one of aspects is political aspect.

The media are affected by the constraints of legal and informal political pressures. Media can be active agents in affecting the political structure while at the same time serving as an institutional structure used by political actors to achieve success (Croteau, David & William Hoynes, 1997).

Media affects the political world through many ways. The power of the media that create, shape, and manipulate the issues in the society by using its image, text, and sound has established the connection to the political world. The politicians use the media to control the society and to extend their power to become more powerful. According to the postmodernist theorists, which one of them is Baudrillard (e.g., 1983), the image has come to replace the “real”. Because of that it is really difficult for the society to distinguish between image and reality. The role of media is also becoming very important to the political world. Institute Professor Noam A. Chomsky presented two theoretical models on which to base analyses of the media’s role; the traditional, “Jeffersonian” model sees the media as a counterweight to governmental power; the “propaganda” model, on the other hand, sees journalists as agents and adjuncts of the government (Desai, Niraj S., 1989)

The traditional model focuses on whether the media coverage is too negative, not whether it is properly functioning as a check on elite interests. While propaganda model focuses on the political elites that they should create “necessary illusions” to control the mass of people, who were unable to make rational decisions. Under the propaganda model, the media attempts to create illusions which will allow the corporate elite to continue in power (Desai, Niraj S., 1989). For case in point, in Indonesia the political elites use television to promote their campaign. In previous Jakarta Governor Campaign, each candidate delivered their message through the media. Their appearance, behavior, and attitude had been set up by the team campaign. Then media has been strengthened the message through their image, for example television. In conclusion, media has influenced the political world so much that the politicians really depend on the media to change and control public opinion for the continuation or extension power over the society

How Politics Influence Media
The impact of political economic has affected the media in making decision. When talking about political economic, we are talking about the government. The media behavior and content are really depend on government policies and it also caused by the nuance of politics where those media are living in. The political actions, regulations, and policies where the media are living would influence the way that media will operate in the society. In Indonesia, for example, the relationship between the governments, political parties, elites, and the media are really strong. The condition of media in Soeharto era is different from the condition of media in Soekarno era; it is also different in Reform era.

The purpose, form, and content of the media are all socially determined, as are the rules that regulate them (Croteau, David & William Hoynes, 1997). This issue is very complex. Sometimes, the regulations that are made in the country represent only the wants and needs of the people who have power in the governmental area. Those people not only have political power but also economical power. Hence, they dictated how media should act in the society.

From the problem above, it will lead to the ownership issue. The ownership has given the effect also to the media contents and behavior in reacting to the policies and regulations of the government in controlling the media. Media organizations operate within a context that is shaped by economic and political forces at least partially beyond their control, but the production of media is not simply dictated by these structural constraints (Croteau, David & William Hoynes, 1997). The distribution of the news, for example, will pass several steps, but at the end, it just depends on the owner of the media. Therefore when the media are close to the government, the orientation of the media to choose the government side is strong. While on the other hand, when the relationship to the government is not really good, the media itself will prefer to choose to become the rival of government by criticizing the elites. But when the power of the government is strong over those media, it is useless for them, because they will be pushed or even banned by the authority, for example in Soeharto era. Many media were banned because they against the government at that time. In conclusion to this main issue about the politics influence the media is the content, attitude, behavior, process, and distribution of the media will depend on the regulation and policies that are made by the authority. Each media has the political orientation, even the independent media. Therefore the relation between the media and politics could be said that it is same as the relations between “you and your friend, girlfriend, or boyfriend”. When one of them changed the other will also changed. Interrelated, interconnected, and it could not be separated.

References Books:
Croteau, David & William Hoynes. 1997. Media/Societies: Industry, Images, and Audiences. London. McChesney, Robert W. 1998.
Capitalism and the Information Age: The Political Economy of Global Communication. New York: Monthly Press Review.

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