Thursday, March 6, 2014

TV And Public Opinion In Russia And How It Is Different In The US

The media in Russia reflect the views of the state.  Public opinion in Russia about Ukraine is pretty consistent with the policies of the state.  The media play a very different role in the US but the effect is similar.  Public opinion is consistent with the diversity of views presented by the media.  The state is not  the dominant source of news and opinion in the US.  The owners and managers of the media operate a business.  They depend upon advertising revenue to run their business.  Advertising revenue, in turn, is dependent upon on the size and mix of the audience.  When there were only three major networks in the US, each of them reflected the central tendencies of the national audience.  The news shows also reflected the views of those in the news room.  They were trained as reporters and they did their best to report the news.  They also tended to reinforce the dominant themes in the country.  Lyndon Johnson knew that the war in Vietnam was over when he saw that Walter Cronkite had turned against the war.  Walter Cronkite was a barometer for enlightened public opinion in the US.  The government in the US is dependent upon public opinion and the news media reflect and help to determine public opinion.

Things changed with the advent of cable news in the US.  The news anchors are no longer reporters.  They are primarily talking heads who read the news which is fed to them.  Each of the cable news networks has carved out the audience which it targets with its news reports.  At one extreme there is Fox News which is owned by Rupert Murdoch.  The media which he owns in the US, Britain and Australia reflect his style of journalism.  The news must be sensationalized to attract a large audience.  It also reflects the political and economic views of Rupert Murdoch.  The managers that he hires understand how he wants to run his business.  They provide yellow journalism to its selected market.  Politics in the English speaking countries is shaped to some extent by Rupert Murdoch.  He shapes the state rather than the other way around as it is in Russia.

At the other extreme are cable shows like The Daily Show and the Colbert Report.  Its audience is smaller and different from the Fox audience.  In fact, it would be hard for them to operate without Fox News.  They devote much of the time on their shows making fun of what is reported on Fox News. The other cable news networks have been influenced by the market success of Fox News.  They have had a difficult time determining how much they want to be like Fox, and how they want to be different.  MSNBC has tried to be the alter Fox News but it has been less successful than Fox in building an audience.

The major news networks are also important but it is telling to observe the advertisers that they attract.  Their advertisers understand the mix of their audience.  It is large, but elderly and very much in the political middle.  The guests on their shows are carefully selected to present an equal dose of  center right and center left political viewpoints.  The center has also shifted over time.  As the right wing has moved further the right, the left has moved in the same direction.  The center left in the US today looks pretty much like the Republican Party used to look before it became dependent upon right wing populism. 

In the last analysis the media in Russia and the media in the US do a poor job of educating the public.  The media in Russia is controlled by state, and the state in the US is dependent on popular opinion that is created by commercial enterprises.  We have more diversity in the US, but with few exceptions, the meals are pretty bland.

No comments:

Post a Comment