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What role should the media play in a democratic society What might prevent the media performing this role in Britain today - Essay Example

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What role should the media play in a democratic society What might prevent the media performing this role in Britain today

The role of the media in any democracy is a concept that dates way back to the 17th century. The media was referred to then as the fourth estate, and today is being seen more as the fourth arm of government after the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The media is being increasingly viewed as an integral part of democracy which the latter cannot function properly without (Lichtenberg, 1991, 21). The media of course refers to all the means of mass communication including the press, radio, television and lately the internet (Oxford English Dictionary). It is the means by which mass communication has been attained, sometimes instantaneously, for a long period of time. The media continues to shape dispersal of information, opinion and attitude formation today as it has done for over three centuries (Lichtenberg, 1991, 23). This paper sets out to describe the role that the media should play in a democratic society and factors that may prevent the media from playing that role in modern day Britain. The media plays the primary role of a watchdog and guardian of the public interest in the conduct of public affairs. It is also an important conduit of information between the governors and the governed (Coronel, 2010, 1). This means that there would literally be a breakdown of communication between the governors and the governed without the media. The governors have a tendency to communicate to the public only that which they believe is fit for public consumption and holding back the truth whenever it suits them. The media comes in handy in such situations to expose the information that the governor would wish to sweep under the carpet in order to avoid public disapproval or embarrassment. In this way the media performs two important basic functions (Center for Democracy, 1999, 3). The first role is to ensure that citizens make informed choices by getting access to relevant, truthful and relevant information on issues that directly or indirectly affect their lives. This cannot be possible if they are only subjected to information the government feels it can relay to them. IF they only rely on official sources to gain access, they are likely to act on the basis of ignorance or misinformation, which inevitably leads to the wrong choices (Center for Democracy, 1999, 3). Secondly, proper conveyance of information serves as a check on leaders to watch their excesses in the form of corruption, exploitation or even crime. Officials tend to act in their self interest even if such interests go against the law and their oaths of office, if nothing is done to check their conduct. This watchdog function of the media is therefore important in ensuring that the leaders only make those decisions that are in the public interest rather than serving only their parochial whims (Center for Democracy, 1999, 3). In order to play its role effectively the media particularly focuses on important facets of governance, the economy, public education, infrastructural and social development, internal and international relations, human interest issues, public discussions, peace and consensus building and control of their own internal operations. Without balancing these important tenets, the media itself may become a victim of its own parochialism or pettiness that puts its operations within reproach (Lewis, 2005, 70). On governance the media has been known to play a great role in putting governors in constant check. This is mainly done through investigative reporting. Journalists usually do their best, sometimes at great risk to life and limb, to expose issues that are otherwise covered up by the leadership. Such issues include involvement in shady and corrupt deals (Lewis, 2005, 72). In the UK such investigations by the Telegraph in 2009 revealed the involvement of members of parliament in false cash claims of expenses and allowances to the exchequer which resulted in loses of substantial amounts of tax payers’ money (The Daily Telegraph). This resulted in the resignation of several legislators, sackings, de-selections and ...Show more
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The role of the media in any democracy is a concept that dates way back to the 17th century. The media was referred to then as the fourth estate, and today is being seen more as the fourth arm of government after the executive, the legislature and the judiciary…
What role should the media play in a democratic society What might prevent the media performing this role in Britain today
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