The special role of media corporations in the post-democracy

Colin Crouch — sociologist, Professor Warwick Business School and author of "post-democracy"

Influential corporations, which have a direct impact on policy (it is the media industry), in fact, are directly responsible for the degradation and the lack of alternative modern political language and communication — factors largely determine the current unhealthy state of democracy. , For two reasons. First, the press, as well as, increasingly, radio and TV are in the commercial sector of society, instead of, say, charitable or educational sectors in which they could very well be.

This means that news programs and other policy-relevant messages should follow the format of which is dictated by some definite ideas about market product. If a media company wants to lure customers from a competitor, it should quickly captivate the attention of the reader, listener or viewer. As a result, messages are extremely simplified and served in a sensational manner, which, in turn, reduces the level of political debate and competence of citizens. Oversimplification and sensationalism by themselves do not necessarily accompany market and commercialization: the markets of rare books, sports cars, expensive wines and things like that respect the customer need for carefully thought-out solutions and provide him a wealth of information.

Such markets exist to a limited extent even in the media, in the form of newspapers and programs for highly educated people who know how to take complex arguments without much mental effort. The mass market is not suitable for serious news products solely because of its special nature and the ephemeral nature of the delivered goods. As a result, politicians are forced to follow the same pattern, if they want to maintain some control over the formulation of their own statements, if they do not possess the ability to speak the concise, catchy platitudes, journalists completely rewrite what they wanted to say. Politicians have always hoped that their words would be cited in the headlines.

I propose to make a little thought experiment to understand the nature of this process. Imagine that the teachers tasked to convey to his students the information in newspaper style, and vice versa. Every day, teachers will face a risk that if they fail to quickly hold the attention of students, then the next morning they go to another school. It is doubtful that any of the students will draw algebra structure of carbon atoms or French irregular verbs. In fact, this kind of nightmare is already happening: teachers have to compete for students' attention to the TV in front of which they spend many hours of their leisure time. It is interesting that such a possibility is almost never mentioned in the complaints of the public to reduce the level of education. Perhaps this is due to the fact that such complaints are usually organized by the masters of the media?

It can be argued that sooner or later the parents and the students realized that the formation consisting of entertaining, easily digestible bits of knowledge, to what does not and, in particular, does not prepare students for what to take its rightful place in the labor market. Thus, the market knowledge will produce auto-correct, and good schools will be rewarded with an increase in the number of students. However, in the case of mass political communication, such a correction is not feasible. The analogue of students who find that their superficial education on what does not fit, there are people who find that newspapers and television programs did not prepare them for becoming politically savvy citizens. But such a test would never occur, at least in some tangible form. People can vaguely guess what they do not understand what is happening in politics and in government, and all that they hear about politicians, about the scandals surrounding inflated and sensations only confuses them stronger. But they will not be able to catch any connection here with the logic of certain market processes.

In order to move to the opposite analogy, when the media operate on the principle of the school, does not require much imagination. It worked well at first British Air Force and some other broadcasts of the democratic world. The purpose of these media in the formulation of the Air Force, was to "inform, educate and entertain." The rudiments of this model remained in the Air Force and, to some extent, in the controlled sector of private television. Different types of social control, far removed from political interference, on the one hand, provide a certain protection from the direct pressure of the market, and on the other — to require respect for purposes other than quickly attracting attention. But this model for quite a while is in the doldrums. Imposed on media workers from the public sector obligations to monitor the ratio of its audience ratings and their private sector competitors will inevitably push the first is to fight to attract attention. This process intensified after the technological advances have eliminated the previous restriction on the number of channels inherent in the system of broadcasting, creating opportunities for satellite, cable and digital services. In addition, the print and broadcast media are beginning to treat each other as a source of stories, but the process is one-sided priorities of print journalism and broadcasting penetrate the private sector and in public service, while bringing attention to the need to rapidly prevent the first two borrow a lot of news at last, if only those not yet taken the form that meets this requirement.

As a result, commercial model takes precedence over other methods of mass political communication. Politics and other news are increasingly viewed as a highly perishable commodities. The consumer has the upper hand over the citizen.

The second reason for concern about the role that the press, radio and television play in the implementation of political communication, is that the control of these media is concentrated in the hands of an extremely small group of people. Ironically, the development of new technologies of information did not lead to an increase in the diversity of its suppliers, if only not to take into account the extremely highly specialized channels. The problem is that the technology required to actually mass broadcasting, are extremely expensive, and they can take advantage of a huge corporation. In the UK, which represents an extreme case in this respect, one single company (News Corporation) monopolized the satellite (BSkyB), has so many different newspapers like The Times and The Sun, and has a close relationship with other providers of news. In addition, News Corporation — an international company with only partial participation of the British capital. In Italy, Prime Minister, is the largest, not knowing unparalleled figure in the private sector, the media (and in addition to that, he enjoys growing influence in the sector of public broadcasting).

Even where there is competition, it is unlikely to lead to diversity as a result of the economic conditions prevailing in the markets of the media. When news providers reveal a large, approximately homogeneous mass market of consumers, they are unanimous in seeking to make him a target of their efforts, which means that they all offer about the same thing. Variety appear only in one of two cases. First, there may be other forms of news, which is formally observed in the case of many public media, whose task was not included to cover as homogeneous audience. Second, commercial suppliers will produce a variety of products, if you are able to see a segmented market instead of smooth, accordingly, they may opt for the coverage of certain segments. Such is the case of "quality" of the press, which is aimed at a small but thriving layer usually highly educated readers.

Control over the policy-relevant news and information, which is a vital resource of democracy is in the hands of a very small group of extremely wealthy individuals. And rich people, however much they may compete with each other tend to share the same political views and is very much interested in how to use them under the control of the resources to fight for their beliefs. This does not just mean that one party will receive a more favorable media coverage than others, the leaders of all parties are aware of this power, and feel bound by it in formulating their programs. Of course, we observed the concentration of media in the hands of a few would not have happened if the government believed that their intervention is necessary in the interests of greater diversity and competition. Similar factors are handed out for now in most democracies calls sharply limit the role of social media in favor of the private broadcasting.

Chapter from the book Post-democracy

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