The Media and Power


You could say I hate the news. I watch it all the time to keep updated, but I never believe what is reported as most people do. I simply see the media and its 'news' reporting as a somewhat commercialized state function.

Many consider the media a 'third power.' It supposedly has the means and possibility to control whatever the government and state are up to. In a democracy, the media, closely connected to the generally advocated 'free speech' concept, symbolizes and embodies the source of critical control of government and limitation of 'bad' politics.

The left and the right both agree on the role of the media in modern democracy; it has the power to control government. They agree the media is getting stronger and that politics depends on the media and in cherishing public relations via journalists to succeed. While the left may consider the media a threat to its goals to expand government, the right may suggest the media is a conservative restraint on such growth, forcing politicians to publicly state their 'real' goals and policies.

Political science theorists generally agree with the political left and right in that the media serves as a 'spontaneous' controlling power in politics, and that it is the people's main source of and function to get information about the state of the world and politics. Investigating, analyzing journalism is also conceived as a threat to any policy depending on secrecy.

The media plays its role very well and sometimes exposes suggested policies which may be harmful to certain groups in society ' or which may violate (or limit) important individual, group, religious, cultural or economic rights upheld by the state. And both the Left and Right consider themselves being treated unfairly by the media, so the media is probably neutral ' at least towards the Left and Right in party politics.

I don't agree with this. The media is not free to report news to anyone interested in consuming their news. The government is not dependent of the media more than the media is depending on what is offered by the state. In countries like Sweden the media's close relation to the government is obvious and explicit: In order to uphold the 'neutrality' of news reporting, the Swedish government has managed to get all television networks, newspapers, radio stations, etc. in a situation where they depend on government subsidies to survive.

And even though 'free speech' is considered an important part of democracy, Western governments still control the rights to speak. In order to start a newspaper, television network or radio station, one will have to file with and be approved by the government (or its bureaucrats).

These limitations of 'free speech' are all easily recognized since they are explicit, formal requirements forced upon the media by the government. Even statist free speech champions recognize these drawbacks of the implementation of the 'free media,' but they are usually considered 'necessary' to uphold the manifold of opinions and news reporting.

But this is not the main reason I do not trust what is reported in the media. From a libertarian point of view, it is much more terrifying to discover what is reported in the media. It is obvious the government trusts the media to 'inform' the public of its achievements and influence or mold the popular opinion.

The symbiosis between the media and the government is the main reason I distrust whatever is on the news. Next time you watch the news on television, take a moment to count how much news originates from the government or bureaucracy, and how much is really a result from investigative, trustworthy journalism.

Most news originates from the government and different branches in the bureaucracy. The reports are usually not questioned or investigated further ' the state is considered a 'reliable' source of information. And there is really no way of controlling that which the government supplies. Thus, the media is only forwarding whatever the government wants to get to public attention ' and it is reported as if it was neutral reporting. Different journalists and different networks may comment on the news from different points of view, but the original news is the same and is carefully put together to fit and support whatever purpose.

Today's news market is huge ' the government actually sells the rights to tell the public whatever the government wishes the public to 'know' (true or not). News networks such as CNN and BBC cover the globe, and even small countries like Sweden with only nine million people have television channels broadcasting only news ' around the clock.

As I see it, the news reporting media of today is for the most part simply a function of government having been outsourced to private corporations. News about government and government policy is simply advertising for the politics in action.

News reporting in a free society, i.e. without a government, would have to be investigative, analyzing and 'digging' for its own facts. There simply isn't as much news worth reporting to support all these news television networks, newspapers and news radio stations in a society without government. The news market is thus a fraud; it is for the most part created by the government and for the government.

The reason I do not trust most of what is on the news is that I simply do not trust government.

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Per Bylund's picture
Columns on STR: 63

Has a passion for justice.