The world over, the media in most countries acts as the fourth estate. In every country, there are politicians and the market (business people) thus, the politicians and businesses form the other estates. The media came a long as the fourth estate in the mid-nineteenth century. The media was established with a mission and a vision of checking the other powers of the state. It had the aim and objectives of ensuring that politicians and businesses did not violate human rights.
For instance, the British Press in the United Kingdom checks its politicians and other super powers to ensure that there is liberty in the nation. Thus, the media is considered to be the fourth branch of government since it checks powers of the judiciary, executive and the cabinet in democratic nations. (John, 1991, 62).
The media acts as the fourth estate by ensuring that the mass society is kept informed with both current and historical news affecting them either directly or indirectly. Thus, the media uses both the electronic and the print media to see to it that the diverse society is well informed. This helps check the market and politicians powers through informed citizens. When citizens of a nation are well informed, they can actively participate in giving their opinions and comments on political and business matters affecting their lives. Thus, they have room to criticise or recommend on certain behaviours of the powers governing them.
Most newspapers, magazines and other printed materials provide columns where readers are given a chance to give their views. No one can comment on an issue which he does not have sufficient information to back up his claims and support his views. Media practitioners will only publish a news story which is based on facts and not hearsay. Without the relevant information, citizens cannot actively participate in rejecting or reversing unjust or illegal acts against innocent people in their nation who cannot speak for themselves. Thus, the media acts as the spokesperson for the marginalised and less powerful people, communities, groups of people or even nations. (Kieran, 1998, 72).
Freedom to speech and express oneself is one of the fundamental human rights in most democratic countries. People are given the right to speak and air their views and opinions provided they are based on facts and that they are not geared towards inciting the public. Since the public does not have a right to publish and distribute information since it is against a country’s laws, the media practitioners who are registered to do so gives the public a chance to exercise their freedom of speech. This is effected by senior editors who go through all the articles send before they are published. (Colin, 1998, 31).
The media is not effective in serving its role of acting as the fourth estate. Globalisation has adversely affected the media’s role of checking the super powers in most nations. Gradually, the media’s potential to serve the public interest has diminished. Over the past decade, the facts about globalisation has left the media with no choice but to embrace them. For instance, financial capitalism which is based on speculation arose, misunderstandings between the market and the powers, parastatals and private sectors, not to forget disagreements between individuals and societies which has put the media in a delicate position of deciding whose interests to serve. This has made the media to compromise on the public’s interest many a times. (McQuail, 2003, 78).
The media is also not effective because of the restructuring process. For instance, the classic media i.e. the press, TV and radio were merged. In addition, the media’s activities like the culture of its mass audience, communication and information were brought together. This led to a situation whereby it was not easy to distinguish between the elements of news, communication and mass culture.
In addition, digital revolution has led to a confusion between the three earlier forms of communication; sound, text and images. This led to creation and expansion of the Internet. To most people, the Internet is being used as the fourth aspect of communication. Most people are using the Internet to express themselves, access all forms of information and news and entertain people. (Negrine, 1994, 46).
In our modern society, hyper-enterprises in the globe have a lot to achieve and have consequently interacted with many media sectors in various countries across the globe. Media houses have a lot to play in economies and ideologies. This has made them become key players in globalisation. Nowadays, the media can be categorised among the heavy industries across the globe since communication has integrated information technology, telephony and electronics. Thus, globalisation has also affected the media since media houses have gradually undergone the process of globalisation. (Show, 1996, 99).
The media is not effective in its role of acting as the people’s watchdog in that media houses have grown and expanded to become big companies. Media houses have become profit-making organisations in that they have goals and objectives on the average returns they expect to get within a specific period of time. For the media to survive in this competitive society, it has realised that it has to develop and establish relations with the other three estates judiciary, legislature and the executive. Developing relations with the other powers implies that the media’s role of fourth estate with objectives of serving the public interest and being dedicated to denounce abuses of human rights cannot be effected. Thus, the media has compromised its independence by relying on the other estates. (Scannell, 1992, 27).
Nowadays, the media is not interested in playing its role of speaking out in a bid to correct the social, economic and political malfunctions and upheavals prevalent in today’s world. The media is not striving to check the powers of the political systems and the democratic forms of governance in their nations. Consequently, it is evident that the media is not performing its role of acting as a countervailing power since it is a supplementary to the other powers. (Plunkett, 2003, 38).
News from the most media is not a reliable source of information. News stories are not based on facts but on rumours. They have been distorted and facts misrepresented. Evidently, the media has been disseminating lies and propaganda to the mass society. Consequently, people have began to realise that they cannot rely on the news media to act as their watchdog and the powers governing the people. This led to the setting up of the media watchdog global whose aim and objective was to judge whether the media is being honest in adhering to the ethics governing its performance and see to it that it brings to an end the shortcomings of the media, carry out studies and write reports. (Green, 1992, 51).
In some countries like Venezuela, the media has not defended its citizens. Instead of fighting to the rights of the mass society, the Venezuela media has gone ahead and betrayed the people who look up to them. The media in Venezuela manipulated, fed its people with lies and brainwashed them in a bid to poison their mind so that they could not speak out and have a chance to air their opinions and views. Thus, the media in Venezuela has acted as a force acting against the citizens and the civil society. (Ellul, 1965, 47).
In conclusion, the media has not been effective in its role of acting as the fourth estate whose aim is to check the other three estates and ensure that the public interest is served. It has failed the mass society and turned its back from the people who once depended on them. As a matter of fact, the media has acted as an additional power which has gone ahead to support and back up the powers is once opposed. Consequently, the media has compromised its powers and allowed the other powers to undermine its activities of serving the public interest. Finally, the media should come to terms with the drastic steps it has made by compromising its potential of checking the other powers.
Colin & Anna (1998) Communication, Capitalism and the Mass Media. London: Sage.
Ellul, J. (1965). Propaganda: The Information of Men’s Attitudes: New York.
Green, Lelia et al (eds.) (1992). Framing Technology: Society, Choice and Change 1st Leonards.
John, K. (1991) Mass Media and Democracy. Cambridge, U.K. Political Press.
Kieran, M. (1998). Media Ethics, Routledge.
McQuail, D. (2003). Media Accountability and Freedom of Publication. Oxford University Press.
Negrine, R. (1994). Politics and the Mass Media in Britain, Routledge.
Plunkett, J. (2003). Queen Victoria, First Media Monarch, Oxford University Press.
Scannell, P. (1992). Culture and Power, Philip Schlesinger, Sage Publications.
Show, T. (1996). Eden Suez and the Mass Media. I.B. Tauris.
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