It’s hard to imagine our society today without there being a means of mass communication, i.e., the media.
For people all around the world, the media is their main source of information. The forms of media range from the internet, newspapers online and off, to television and radio. There’s one thing we haven’t studied too closely, however.
How does this mass consumption of media function in relation to politics and the democratic system? This article will explore the relationship between media and democracy in this new age.
How media works in democracies
In more restrictive regimes, media is controlled by the state, which means that it reinforces the status quo. Think about North Korea and its state propaganda. It works by maintaining control of the narrative that citizens see and hear.
The other side of the coin is the media’s contribution to the spread of democracy. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the media played a vital role in Eastern Europe’s development. These two roles are constantly at war. Now in the time of the digital revolution, the roles are changing and evolving at a rapid pace.
Media’s first role is to provide information. Sometimes this is done with bias and other times from a neutral standpoint. Its second role is to act as a kind of forum for the people and citizens. It can be theorized that in more democratic societies, there is a greater freedom of the media.
Elections and digital media
For political parties and candidates, it’s important to reach people on the right forms of media. Facebook, for example, has 1 billion active users. It’s obvious then that they should start using this and other social media platforms as campaign tools.
They do this in several ways. Number one overall is the use of paid ads that target specific segments of the voting population. Secondly, there’s using grassroots methods such as having party members share their political views with their friends and wider networks.
After a scandal in early 2018 that showed how companies were targeting users on social media, it’s expected that the way elections are run will change. Predictions are that social media companies like Facebook will make the process behind targeting and advertising more transparent to users.
Does digital mass media help or hurt democracy?
While digital media can improve democracy, there’s also significant evidence that it can hurt it. The prevalence of “fake news” is an issue that many countries have not yet tackled in a major way. These news stories can influence and change the direction of an election and a democracy’s future.
In order to determine the role that digital media will play in the future; more research is needed. The social media companies have a role to play in being more open about where the source of any media comes from. In part two, we will discuss social media’s role in the democratic process.