CCHU9047 The Press, The Public and the Public Sphere

So is media inevitably biased? Can we build a truly objective media outlet? (avoid the five filters?)

Despite the effort of different parties in building an objective media , it is still inevitably biased as it is difficult to avoid the 5 filters in the propaganda model, namely ownership, advertising, sourcing, flack and ideology marginalisation. The following will give a more detailed explanation.

Firstly on ownership, it is difficult for media to stay objective when it owned by large businesses. According to Business Insider, 90% the media in America was owned by only 6 big corporations in 2011, known as “The Big 6” conglomerate.

Another noteable example is how Alibaba recently bought the South China Morning Post. As the media are owned by businesses, it is likely that media only report in the business’ favour in order to reduce interest conflict. Business may manipulate the news market by putting down news infavourable to them before they are posteed instead of filling a lawsuit against the news published. This harms the objectivity of the media outley as business may exert pressure on filtering out news due to their ownership to the media.

Secondly, on sourcing, the adversity faced in retriving information is alreadly causing a huge hinderance in keeping the media outlet objective. This is even more serious in authoritarian countries as they believe that “ignorance is strength” since the “Big Brother” is controlling public opinion through media, as described in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-four. China is an prominent example for this as high ranking official circulate news within themselves and it is very difficult for media to obtain them. Even if information is given, they might already have been filtered and manipulated, just as President Mao stated that it is the “politicians running the newspaper”. Chinese web portals such as Sina and Sohu are not allowed to do their own news reporting and is only restricted to use official news sources. On the other hand, the Rashamon effect which states how the same incident becomes different versions when information is retrieved from different persons. This also make it difficult for news to be objective as people cannot even agree on the basic facts of an incident.

Thirldy on advertising, it is made more difficult for the media to stay objective when they have to serve the commercial market. According to the Digital News Report, there is only 3% in UK and 2% in Greece of the population is willing to pay for an ongoing subscription in 2016. It is observed that the public is almost treating news as a free commodity and has a low inentive to pay for it. The news media has no choice but to rely on income from advertisement to keep the company running. Modern capitalism made mass media to “have entered the sphere of commodity exchange”, as sciologist Jurgen Haberms stated. The news media became a business tool and the audience became consumers instead of citizens. The media is now depedent of their advertisers’ interests. For instance, HSBC and Standard Charter pulled funding from Apple Daily as their stanaces differ. Hence, media can no longer stay objective.

This leads up to the fourth filter on ideology marginalization, where the media is behaving like a sensationalist to attract a large customer base to keep their attractiveness to the advertisers. The media want to be consistent with mainstream ideology in their reports so that they can have more people reading their reports hence giving more exposure for the advertisements. On the other hand, ideology marginalization also harms the objectivity as news media works around stereotypes. As writer Walter Lippmann stated that all reporters cannot witness all the happenings in the world, they only act in pictures we have in our heads. This means that news reporters only subjectively choose news they judge to be “important” to report to their audience. Also, some news are underreported due to steroetype. For instance, techonological advancement of North Korea is never reported as this does not go in line with the stereotype that it is an authoritarian country with behind development. Media is not objective as only mainstream ideas and reports that fit into our stereotypes have the chance to be reported.

Last but not least, flack is another filter adding up to cause a detrimental effect on the objectivity of the media. The media is afraid of making reports of that is infavourable to the powerfuls and face consequences of being avenged by them through discrediting or filling in lawsuit etc.. For instance, Kevin Lau, Former editor-in-chief of the Hong Kong daily newspaper Ming Pao and has a liberal stance, suffered from a knife attack during his investigation on the suspicious death of Li Wanyyang in 2014 Local press considered this as China’s attempt to restrict Hong Kong’s press freedom. In the same year, Commercial Radio fired host Li Wei-ling who was a fierce government critic. These forces post threats to the media and it will be difficult for them to stay objective.

To conclude, it is sad to see how the media outlet is inevitably biased and the 5 filters of propaganda are unavoidable. It is unlikely to build a successful objective media if no party is not willing to take a step back and make a change.

Name: Ho Oi Ki; UID: 3035483079

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