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News Democracy can only work effectively if the people voting

  1. May 9, 2009 #1
    A democracy can only work effectively if the people voting have a clear view of what the politicians are doing. However, the problem arises when the information passes through the media. Most of the media in the UK, and all of the media in the US is not state-funded, so they inevitably do whatever they can to increase the number of people who see what they're saying, by 'hyping-up' the most mundane and insignificant 'controversies'. In the UK, no television or radio stations are allowed to show a bias towards a specific party, but I believe they can in the US, but in all/most countries, the newspapers and the internet are, and all media providers give 'comment' alongside the news. This distorts the information reaching the public, and essentially dictates to many people how to vote. I do not believe in press censorship, but I do think that the media has far too much power for something/someone which/who is unelected. Perhaps the best way to solve this would be to ensure that all forms of media must show all political stories without any bias, but keep the 'comment' in a seperate, clear section. What do you think?
     
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  3. May 9, 2009 #2

    russ_watters

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    Re: Democracy

    The US has had something called the "fairness doctrine", which isn't in force today, but is still being talked about: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairness_doctrine
    I think the cure is worse than the disease. Enforcing fairness requires government intervention and is therefore subject to the biases of the people in government. It isn't possible to eliminate bias, so it is better to simply separate the media from the government as much as possible.
     
  4. May 9, 2009 #3
    Re: Democracy

    One of the founding principles of the BBC is:

    I don't believe in media censorship, but I feel that this idea works well. The BBC is really only there as a channel for information to pass from the politicians to the people, but it also provides analysis of the information to enable people to see through the 'spin'.

    I feel people should be allowed to express their views freely, but this should not be portrayed as fact, or used to force the same view on other people.
     
  5. May 9, 2009 #4
    Re: Democracy

    If the media is trying to get as many viewers as they can than they are going to tell people what they want to hear. But to think this will effect how people vote is to assume people are irrational. People should realize that the media is playing to their biases and discount the information accordingly.

    If you believe that the media does tell people what to think, and they listen, than there is also a big problem with State owned media. With Government control of media than bureaucrats and politicians will be using the media to gain more power, wealth, or influence.

    I do think that the media influences people, there is a concept in psychology called http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Availability_cascade" where there is a self reinforcing cycle. People have an availability bias, they estimate probabilities based upon how easy it is to think of examples. The interaction between availability bias and the media leads to a never-ending sequence of mass hysterias. They call these mass hysterias "availability cascades."

    It works something like this:
    1. The media gives massive coverage to shocking but rare events in order to get good ratings.

    2. The public watches. Watching makes it easier for the public to think of examples of the events the media covers.

    3. One effect: Public begins to think the problems are quantitatively serious, so it gets easier to sell the public similar stories.

    4. Other effect: Politicians begin trying to solve the "problem" to win votes.

    This story requires people to be systematically biased, essentially irrational or stupid, to make sense though. There is a great book I just read (and where I got much of this post from) that explains why people are sometimes irrational called https://www.amazon.com/Myth-Rationa...sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1241911732&sr=8-1", essentially the crux of the argument is that people behave more irrationally when the cost is low. So people consume more irrationality when engaging in a low cost activity like voting and can indulge in the irrationality of a media created mass hysteria. Mass hysterias provoke strong political responses but weak personal responses because the price of irrationality is lower in the former case.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  6. May 9, 2009 #5
    Re: Democracy

    How do you plan to enforce this. The commercial media will respond to ad revenue, they will air whatever generates the most profit. State owned media will respond to political incentives, whatever agency controls the media will air whatever gives the head of the agency the most votes if he is elected, or whatever will give the politician who appointed him the most votes.

    I don't think you can have the best of both worlds, you must choose which one you think is better, there are trade offs between the two. I'm more inclined to go with the former, but that's just me, I don't like political censorship.
     
  7. May 9, 2009 #6
    Re: Democracy


    The views or biases that the media has are only truly forced upon the consumers if the viewers at home take them as fact. Many people are aware of spin and political agendas of the media. People do express their views freely in "fair and balanced" atmospheres, but consumers are often aware that spin is implicit in such media.

    The government does not need to intervene or regulate; the people then become exposed to the government's biases instead of those of corporations or broadcasters as Russ said. It'd be great if we could have truly unbiased broadcasts, but unfortunately, that may not be possible without taking extreme measures.
     
  8. May 10, 2009 #7

    russ_watters

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    Re: Democracy

    And Fox News is "fair and balanced".... And I don't believe that either.
     
  9. May 10, 2009 #8
    Re: Democracy

    It is enforced in the BBC. Although it is state funded, it is kept very seperate from the government, and is often just as critical of the governing party as it is of the opposition parties. If many people feel the BBC is biased and complain, then it will be investigated.

    I think that there are a lot of people out there who, after seeing weeks and weeks of negative coverage for a particular politician, and after hearing so many people asking him/her to resign, would turn against that politician, without actually seeing the whole articles/programmes, and without really thinking about what they have actually done wrong.
     
  10. May 10, 2009 #9
    Re: Democracy

    If the BBC relies on state funding then I really don't see how it is separate from the government.
     
  11. May 10, 2009 #10
    Re: Democracy

    The BBC is funded by a 'license fee' paid by everyone in the UK who has a television. Perhaps you should do some other research as to how it works if you want to know.
     
  12. May 10, 2009 #11

    Dale

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    Re: Democracy

    Information passing through the media is inherently biased, but there is a wide variety of media and competing providers. With minimal effort you can look at a variety of biases and compensate for them. I don't really see the existing media bias as a problem and certainly not enough of a problem to risk censorship and government control in the way the OP proposes. I actualy think that such an approach would reduce the number of outlets and therefore lead to more media bias rather than less.
     
  13. May 10, 2009 #12
    Re: Democracy

    Thank you for elaborating, and no, I have no real interest outside of this discussion as to how the BBC operates.
     
  14. May 11, 2009 #13
    Re: Democracy

    Free markets show even distrubution only through competition. In the case of the US the government has imposed what could be considered implied biasness by supporting corporate monopolization of the media. Until the media itself is free of government control there will always be a heavy hand behind our news. I do not fail to see the paradoxical nature of what I've stated. Government control is suppose to protect us from monopolies however, not support them. So perhaps a better way to sum it up would be; Until the media itself is controlled by a government that is serving of the people instead of itself there will always be a heavy hand behind our news.

    One of the primary purposes of the US Constitution was to give the government a large amount of control over corporations, while little over the individual. We live in a world today where that has been flipped on it's head. Corporations dictate policy while the average citizen bears the greatest of burdens. This is not the Republic our founding fathers had in mind.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2009
  15. May 11, 2009 #14
    Re: Democracy

    Where in the Constitution does it the government power over corporations? The Constitution was created to be a restraint on government power, the whole of the Constitution is listing things government cannot do.
     
  16. May 11, 2009 #15
    Re: Democracy


    No. The Constitution lists the powers of the three branches and states in the articles. I have no idea what you are talking about.
     
  17. May 11, 2009 #16

    russ_watters

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    The only part of the Constitution that lists things the government can't do is the bill of rights. The rest of the constitution is a structural document, outlining the structure, functionality, and duties (powers) of the government.

    Anyway, yeah, the Constitution doesn't specifically discuss regulating corporations and none of the founding fathers ever mentioned it AFAIK. The US was originally based on a highly free version of capitalism, with the intention to have very little regulation. That wasn't much of an issue back then, as the industrial revolution hadn't happened yet and there was little need to heavily regulate corporations.
     
  18. May 11, 2009 #17

    russ_watters

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    Re: Democracy

    The BBC does seem to do a better job than average of limiting the influence of bias, but no organization composed of or run by humans can be completely free of bias.
     
  19. May 11, 2009 #18
    Re: Democracy

    Always found that funny. They show as much adverts as other channels but you have to pay the BBC, even if you don't want to watch it.
     
  20. May 11, 2009 #19

    f95toli

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    Re: Democracy

    Adverts?
    The BBC gets into trouble whenever they accidentally show e.g. a can of soda in a news segment (without showing ANOTHER can of soda from a competing brand, that is). There are no ads on the BBC.

    BBC World is a commercial channel, but that is a separate company (and not available unless you have cable/satellite in the UK, it is not intended for the domestic market)
     
  21. May 11, 2009 #20
    Re: Democracy

    This is untrue to say the least. There is no constitutional distinction between individuals and corporations.

    A corporation is just a group of individuals organized to pool resources and delegate decisions.
     
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