Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Will you buy the agenda I'm advertising? (Part Three)

Advertising’s main goal is to “focus consumers’ attention on what values, products, brands, or attributes to think about rather than try to persuade consumers what to think of these.”

- Ghorpade, Shailendra (1986). Agenda setting: A test of advertising's neglected function. Journal of Advertising Research, Aug/Sept, 23-27.


If you still don't believe me, then I'll just make you remember my product through songs, dances, and gestures that don't really have anything to do with the product. (Though you have to admit, this tactic is very effective.)

If you don't get it, I'll even teach you how -- just so I can get my product into your head!

In conclusion, even advertisements create, isolate and manipulate different agendas in order to sell their products. The question now is, which of these agendas worked for the audience?

Will you buy the agenda I'm advertising? (Part Two)

Advertising’s main goal is to “focus consumers’ attention on what values, products, brands, or attributes to think about rather than try to persuade consumers what to think of these.”

- Ghorpade, Shailendra (1986). Agenda setting: A test of advertising's neglected function. Journal of Advertising Research, Aug/Sept, 23-27.


If you don't believe me, then I'll confuse you a little and challenge the logical power of your mind.

Even though you have a jar full of Paracetamol which is more than enough for you and your twin, you should still fight over one Advil.

Men, wear Bench - it will awaken even your grandmother's most dormant desires.

Biolink will make you so white you'll seem adopted.

Idolize your father who has had children with many different women. After all, as he drinks Emperador, tagumpay raw niya ang mga anak niya.

Give your whole Fita biscuit, not only half - otherwise your reward won't be "whole."

Jollibee will end your argument with another argument.

KFC is so delicious you won't mind if you don't even know who's sharing your meal.

Men: use Master Facial wash if you don't want oily cheeks. Women: don't wash your face or wipe the oil away to prove the point.

Use Master Papaya only if the other techniques didn't work.

Idolize Manny Pacquiao, our Pambansang Kamao, who eats at McDonald's, an American fastfood chain.

Pop Cola is so good you'd even forget about your father who welcomed you with open arms.

Remember: life is a soap opera. Rich women will always be bitches. Girls from the province will always be meek and mild and therefore abused. So use Rejoice to get even.

Guys, use Rexona so you can now be a cheerleader.

Will you buy the agenda I'm advertising? (Part One)

Advertising’s main goal is to “focus consumers’ attention on what values, products, brands, or attributes to think about rather than try to persuade consumers what to think of these.”

- Ghorpade, Shailendra (1986). Agenda setting: A test of advertising's neglected function. Journal of Advertising Research, Aug/Sept, 23-27.

I'll reinforce your positive values and make it seem that my product is the reason for your beliefs.

Masarap mabuhay dahil masarap ang Ajinomoto.

Let Jesus live in your heart by going to La Salle.

Because you get treated to McDo and your brother doesn't, both of you are equally loved.

You will become a strong athlete if you drink Milo.

Like your family, Rebisco stood the test of time.

Safeguard will safeguard you from all kinds of germs.

You will touch more lives if you gas up at Shell.

SMART is the way to connect with your loved ones abroad.

You'll like the Philippines because you'll like its singers.

You'll still like the Philippines even if Boracay is the only good place to go to and the only good schools here are UP, Ateneo, and the Asian Institute of the Philippines.

Even Celebrities Get Boxed by the Media

In a recent interview with David Letterman, actress/entrepreneur/singer/nude star Paris Hilton was cornered into talking about her prison experience. As this video will attest she obviously was uncomfortable with talking about it.

Remember the power relations between the media and outside sources? This is a perfect and direct example of a low-power source (at the moment) against a high-power media. David Letterman clearly knew what he wanted to talk about with regards to Paris Hilton and he pressed the issue to the point that the young actress couldn't take it anymore and asked that the subject be switched. Of course at that moment, Letterman could have chosen to continue on (the audience was clearly receptive to his comments and didn't seem unwilling to see Paris Hilton breakdown or whatnot) however he didn't.

In tackling this issue, the key concept of framing comes up. Earlier framing was defined as selective control over media content and information. This episode of the Tonight Show provides us a unique insight into how media can directly affect the issues to be discussed and how the audience should take it in. In this case, the audience was primed to respond jovially to Letterman's comments on Paris and surprisingly they still took the situation lightly despite the actress' discomfort. Despite this however, Letterman knew that even the audience has a limit with regards to manipulation which is probably one of the reasons he stopped before the situation could backfire on him.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Tabloid Journalism - An Alternate Agenda

Are tabloid newspapers a refreshing development or an abominable evil?

It wouldn't surprise me if most people would argue for the latter. Tabloid journalism had always been condemned for abandoning its social responsibility to society. It's even generally considered to be synonymous with bad journalism. However, this kind of harsh judgement doesn't seem to be fair or productive - at least from a social scientific form of view. In many cases, tabloid journalism - the aspect of journalism defined as “bad” - served the public good as well as the journalism considered to be more respectable. Tabloid journalism was able to achieve this by positioning itself, in different ways, as an alternative to the issues, forms and audiences of the journalistic mainstream – as an alternative public sphere.

Tabloid journalism’s function of storytelling unites journalism with popular culture. And storytelling both develops and restricts the possible range of a story’s meaning. The audience may either absorb the story and formulate their opinions about it – which occasionally may be the opposite of what the writer intended – or take the story at face value and support what seems to be public opinion.

Tabloid journalism is most famous today because of how it relates to the common man and how it speaks in his tongue. It interprets the world for its readers. It combines entertainment with informational articles that allow the reader to have fun and still be informed. And it often follows an angle divergent from the stories in the mainstream press, offering another perspective on the information presented.

The more sophisticated reader may greet this “press of the masses” with contempt because he knows its content is likely to be elemental and emotional. Yet perhaps tabloids don’t always deserve such scorn. Just as a child starts reading fairy tales before moving on to more serious reading materials, so is the public first reached by what the critics call “sensationalism.” The most important political problem facing us may well be that the marginalized groups in society feel that their issues and concerns are not addressed by political institutions or media outlets. As tabloids provide this alternative public sphere, it would then seem foolish to condemn tabloid journalism.

Yet there are divided views about tabloid journalism. There was one interesting article I found on the internet regarding this issue. It was highly debated at a Leader’s Angle presentation at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), an international business school in Africa.

Francois Groepe, chairperson of the USB Alumni Club and Media24’s General Manager for Finance, said that tabloid newspapers play various roles in society. Tabloids sensitize people politically while broadsheet newspapers merely try to be politically correct.

On the other hand, Professor Lizette Rabe, Chairperson of USB’s Department of Journalism, pointed out that tabloids capitalize on sexism, racism and human rights, and they also often objectify or commodify women.

“Traditional journalism is all about who, what, where, when, why and how. I guess for sensationalist journalism it’s all about sex, scandal, skinner [gossip], skin, sensation and sport,” said Rabe. “If journalism is about the maximum truth and the minimum harm, how is this applied in tabloid newspapers? If sleaze becomes the standard, how will it not erode the status of the media and undermine the credibility of the media?”

However, as she switched her focus on the good side of tabloid journalism, Rabe also said that it is an exciting new development. Tabloids add value to shareholders, create new jobs and add an element of fun.

“Certainly, it is the ‘voice of the voiceless, the paper of the people, the media of the masses.’ It has potential. We will have to see how it will use its powerful position,” she said. “If done well, developmental journalism must be the most important aspect of tabloids because it can lay the foundation for a new middle class to develop from a raw working class.”

Reverend Johan Symington, Communications Director of the Dutch Reformed Church, disagreed on this point. He said that sensational journalism with visual images devoid of any true context does not rightfully serve the public. The methods and languages used by some tabloids do not serve the interests of the public as they reduce these people to mere consumers.

“The consequence of subjective press coverage is the victim syndrome,” he said. “Readers are at the mercy of powers which they cannot themselves resist.”

However, Rhoda Kadalie, human rights activist and columnists, said that the public could not care less about all the uproar. She said she likes the witty headlines of tabloids and finds them cathartic, because these expose society for what it is. For her, tabloids play an important watchdog role and that these newspapers are pioneers in the media industry.

“People don’t want newspapers to leave out the juicy bits. They are all for free speech and fun. Besides, all of us like a bit of smart [grief] every now and then,” she said. “Tabloids promote reading and sensitize people politically. Other newspapers want to even out everything and be non-political. People don’t trust conventional newspapers any more because their content is biased towards the elite and their journalism is far removed from the people. Tabloids are reacting against the politically correct newspapers.” And with this she presented a challenge: “Do we give people what they want, or do the papers decide what should be published?”

And a relevant question that should follow that is: are the audience mere spectators who simply take whatever is churned out or are they clever enough to judge for themselves the content they receive? Tabloid readers – and newspaper readers in general, for that matter – have significant powers of good judgment. They do not need to follow a paper’s running order and can instead go straight to the entertainment pages while merely glancing at the other pages. Readers may even know what to expect – what types of characters and what kind of narrative twists there will be in newspaper stories. They may not agree with everything they read and may even consider a story worthless or out of touch with their own construction of reality, whether or not it is from a broadsheet or a tabloid.

The credibility of tabloids will always remain an issue even though they serve the function to entertain, inform and educate. However, it cannot be said for certain that tabloids compromise public interest because the public has a choice. The audience of today is a thinking lot and they know what they get when they pick up a tabloid. They read a tabloid because they want lighter stories that inform and entertain. What can be said for certain, however, is that the biggest achievement of tabloid journalism is their penetration into a market that was previously not well-informed in terms of news and was not adequately represented in the mainstream media. What these tabloids gave these people more than anything is a sense of ownership over the paper. And that is something even broadsheets aren’t able to give their readers.


Agenda Setting: How To Package It Right (Part Two)

PART TWO: Keeping The Audience

There's no doubt about it: media has incredible power and control over its audience. To what extent it is able to exercise its power is debatable, however. Time and again, the audience are able to prove that they are not easily duped and manipulated by the media - that they are capable of producing agendas which may not have been the media's primary intent. And this is why media makers have to make sure they utilize to its fullest extent media's ultimate power - the power of agenda setting.

I've discussed in my previous post one of media's power in agenda setting: determining when and how this agenda would be set. This ensures that media has an audience in which to set an agenda upon. However, even when media is able to capture an audience, it still has to make sure that it is able to keep this audience interested long enough for them to receive the agenda it would like to set. And this is where the idea of "packaging" comes in, where media makers have to be crafty and cunning in the way they will package a medium of media to make sure it captures the audience's interest.

As David Altheide says in Media Power:

“The idea I am stressing is not merely that people are involved with various forms of mass communication, or that some attitudes, opinions, and even behaviors are directly or indirectly influenced by mass media content. I am claiming that the explicit content of media is relevant, but is not the most important feature of media imagery, effect, and consequence. What strikes me as even more important is what may be termed the implicit content, the grammar, rhythm, pacing, style, and presentational mode. In this sense, it is the way things appear, look, shape up, and are configured if they are to be “right.” For example, TV news information has a certain look and rhythm to it. As long as this is associated with news and the contexts of these special effects are not explicated, then it looks fine, complete, good enough, even true. The problem, then, is to raise to consciousness how this TV form in a particular context has helped to generate this kind of format that is now widely shared throughout the world, can be regarded as a feature of rational ideology in its own right, and, therefore, is far more pervasive and consequential than run-of-the-mill political preferences. Thus, my interest is less guided by the query, “what is presented,” but more focused on “how is something presented?(Emphasis mine.)

- Altheide, David L. Media Power. London: Sage Publications, 1985.

Just as I have done in my previous post, I would again use the news programs of ABS-CBN and GMA 7 as examples. First up is "TV Patrol World," ABS-CBN's primetime news program. Here is a clip of how the program starts each night:

After it makes its audience watch Kris Aquino sashay in her evening gowns, and after it makes them scream "Deal!" or "No deal!" at their poor, innocent television sets, ABS-CBN keeps its audience's eyes glued to the TV screen by presenting them with this catchy opening of "TV Patrol World." Now, if you're a regular news viewer like me, a scene like this is probably common to you. So much to the point that you just watch it passively and simply wait for the news reports to begin - after all, there's nothing new with a scene like this, right? But that's exactly the point. We've been conditioned to watch news programs this way that we already find this acceptable; that we already find this real. But have you ever wondered just exactly why the opening scene is crafted this way? Aside from capturing the audience's attention, does airing a flashy opening scene like this serve another, covert purpose, especially for the media makers, the agenda setters?

Let's break the scene into parts and reflect on them:

I. Several clips of the news anchors in different situations flash briefly on the screen, followed by a quick flash of the globe's image.
II. Ted Failon, one of the program's three main news anchors, seemingly interviewing someone presumably at the ABS-CBN studio.
III. Karen Davila, the program's only female news anchor, sitting in front of a sari-sari store, talking with children in what seems to be a street in a poor area.
IV. Julius Babao, another of the program's news anchors, arriving at presumably the rooftop of the ABS-CBN studio in a helicopter bearing the network's name.
V. A quick flash of an image of the three news anchors together.
VI. A booming announcer's voice saying, "Live! Mula sa ABS-CBN News Center, Manila, ito ang TV Patrol World!" The screen flashes the title of news program as the announcer places special emphasis on the word "world."
VII. Julius Babao says, "Magandang gabi, Pilipinas!" followed by Karen Davila who says, "Kami ang nagpapatrol ng Pilipino!" and by Ted Failon who says, "Nagbabalita at naglilingkod sa inyo saan man sa mundo!"

What seems to be wrong with these scenes? Perhaps it's the fact that people start to perceive how real these scenes are even though these rarely happen in reality.

How many times do you see someone as well-known as Karen Davila out on the streets talking to ordinary people, much less children? How many times do you see someone actually go to work by riding a helicopter, like the way Julius Babao did? Why do the news anchors make it seem as if they are the ones really "patrolling" the Philippines when they don't do anything else other than stand in the center of the studio in front of the cameras and look pretty? And perhaps what I find both ironic and amusing is that, why do they claim that they broadcast news from anywhere in the world when in fact they're just broadcasting from the ABS-CBN studio in Manila, and that the international news they air on the show actually didn't come directly from them?

Before we try to make sense of these questions, let us see what GMA 7 has to offer its audience as well. Here is a clip of how "24 Oras" opens the program each night.:

As with TV Patrol, let us break the opening scene of "24 Oras" into parts and see what we can deduce from them:

I. The words "Dahil hindi natutulog ang balita" flash on screen with an image of a wall clock which hands are moving fast.
II. Fast forwarded clip of a traffic scene, followed by an image of a sunrise over an urban city and the words "24 Oras."
III. Mel Tiangco, the main female news anchor of the program, staring at the heavens along with several people and then interacting with them afterwards. The words "Maaasahan" appear in this scene.
IV. Mike Enriquez, the main male news anchor, talking on the phone while walking amidst ruins of a burned house. The words "Lumalaban" appear in this scene.
V. Images of urban roads flash on screen.
VI. Mel Tiangco, Mike Enriquez and Pia Guanio, the news anchor for the Showbiz section of the program, talking inside an office and going over some papers. The words "Pinagkakatiwalaan" and "Laging Patas" appear in this scene.
VII. The words "24 Oras" appear again, this time followed by an image of the moon rising over an urban city, and then followed by the three news anchors together.
VIII. A booming announcer's voice says, "Mula sa GMA Network Center, narito ang walang kinikilingan, walang pinoprotektahan... Mel Tiangco! Mike Enriquez!"
IX. Mel Tianco says, "Magandang gabi po, ito ang 24 Oras!" and Mike Enriquez says, "Dahil hindi natutulog ang balita!"

Now what's wrong with this scene? The same critique as with "TV Patrol World." And the fact that the words being flashed along with the news anchors seem slightly dubious.

Paano mo masasabing maaasahan si Mel Tiangco samantalang ang pinakita sa eksena'y nakikipag-usap lang naman siya? Paano mo masasabing lumalaban si Mike Enriquez samantalang pinakita pa ngang naglalakad siya palayo sa mga natatarantang tao sa likuran niya? At higit sa lahat, paano mo mapatutunayang pinagkatitiwalaan (mali pa nga yata ang gramatikang ginamit ng programa), laging patas, walang kinikilingan at walang pinoprotektahan ang "24 Oras"? Kagaya ng mga natalakay na ng iba kong mga kasamahan, paano kung may anomalyang naganap sa loob mismo ng o kasapi ang GMA 7? Ang GMA 7 na siyang nageere ng "24 Oras"? Kaya pa rin bang panindigan ng "24 Oras" ang sinasabi nitong wala siyang pinoprotektahan?

(Pardon my sudden shift to Filipino. I needed to use the words "24 Oras" flashed in their opening scene, and it just didn't seem right to use both English and Tagalog in a sentence.)

My point in making this blog entry is not so much as finding the answers to the questions above as finding out why opening scenes of news programs are supposed to be this way despite the questions about them. It seems as if news programs are supposed to be "packaged" this way because this is only when the audience will accept them, much in the same way that regardless of its content, a child will more easily accept and be pleased with a beautifully packaged gift than with a plain-looking one. In the case of media, an agenda would be set more successfully upon the audience if the audience deems the giver of this agenda as worthy and acceptable.

Despite the fact that they rarely go out and actually mingle with ordinary people, both Karen Davila and Mel Tiangco have to keep an image of being caring and "motherly" in order to present an image of news anchors - and of all the other people involved in broadcasting news - as people who are approachable and who look after the welfare of the "little people." It appeals to the masses because these news anchors make them feel special, that they are not as left out in society as they believe they are.

Despite the fact that their coverage is just not that wide and encompassing, "TV Patrol World" has to continously assure its audience that their coverage reaches into even the farthest corners of the world. It has to assure the audience that they aren't being kept ignorant or in the dark about what is happening in the world, that the media is not (yet) powerless against these life-changing events, and that the media is (still) in control in each situation.

Despite the fact that socialites, politicians and big businessmen - who each has his own "businesses" to protect - run and are behind GMA 7, "24 Oras" has to constantly prove to its audience that it is fair and just. That even amidst this era wherein no one can be sure of who to trust anymore, amidst this sea of suspicion and doubt, news programs like "24 Oras" will still be there to serve as a life vest to keep people from sinking into society's whirlpool of veiled chaos.

Despite the fact that they're telling little white lies, news programs have to be this way for them to be able to deliver the truth.

And this is the media's second power in being an agenda setter: not only does it decide what the agenda for the society should be, but it also gives its audience reason to believe that the source of this agenda - even before they receive the agenda itself - is right.

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Flip Side.

Because what you read isn’t real.

More than five million Filipinos leaf through various newspapers everyday, hoping to be informed of the goings-on in the country and around the world. Amidst pictures of scantily dressed starlets and gory mutilated bodies, the average Pinoy reads through every article, confident that the newspaper lives up to its battlecry, be it ”The truth shall prevail,” or “balanced News, Fearless Views.” In a world where perception becomes reality, it is crucial for newspapers to mirror exactly what is happening in society. Unfortunately, what we read is not really what is.

Money Matters.

In the beginning of the 20th century, our American colonizers introduced the concept of a profit-oriented press. With a fast growing readership and advertising market, newspaper publishing suddenly became a lucrative business. Noted American historian Lewis Gleeck even claimed that the most important innovation in Philippine journalism was “the conversion of Filipino journalist of opinion run by politicians into newspapers run as business enterprises.”

In 1938, J. Amado Araneta bought the Philippine Herald from the Elizalde clan and used it to lobby his sugar enterprise for a larger U.S market. Nine years later, another sugar mogul, Eugenio Lopez, Sr., bought the Manila Chronicle to augment efforts in pursuing a congressional act benefiting his sugar planters. Meanwhile, the 1980s witnessed the ascendance of Chinese- Filipino capitalists in the newspaper industry, where their publications became symbols of legitimacy and political authority. This sudden control mirrored their rising influence upon the important sectors in the country.

Hence, the domination of the newspaper industry by business conglomerates has offered such vulnerability to newspapers as their publishers use journalism to promote and protect their economic interests.

Chink in the Armor.

In February 1999, the Manila Times headlined a story on a Machiavellian power supply contract arranged by former President Joseph Estrada. In the same month, the Manila Times ran an expose asserting that a mysterious BMW used by the same president belonged to Quezon Representative Danilo Suarez. Shortly after the reports were put into print, the publishers, Robina Gokongwei- Pe and Enrique Razon, Jr. respectively, found themselves apologizing for the offending stories.

The almost instantaneous apology was only expected of the two publishers. For one, Razon was wary of disappointing the previous administration since he had government contracts (to service government ports) on the line. Gokongwei- Pe, on the other hand, is part of a diversified business empire that covers banking, shipping, agribusiness, and real estate. With so many transnational corporations, she had every reason to fear that state regulators and tax auditors may come barging in any given day. Due to the pressure, Gokongwei- Pe had to release a front- page apology to the President. The editorial board eventually resigned in protest.

The Prieto –owned Philippine Daily Inquirer also had a similar experience when presidential allies pulled out their business advertisements after it reported on the involvement of a presidential kin in a textbook fund scandal. Fearing that a tax audit may be underway, the Prieto family had no recourse but to force its editors to tone down its stand on the issue.

These incidences proved that the Philippine press is indeed susceptible to pressure from its proprietors. Thus, newspaper magnates interfere with the editing and publication of stories to avoid political ire. Given that most of these business conglomerates have interlocking contracts subject to government regulation, it is only natural that the Achilles heel of each newspaper is the business interests of its owners.

My paper, my weapon.

However, newspapers are not only limited to protecting their publishers from government pressure. They were, in fact, primarily acquired to back up business enterprises. Putting up a newspaper requires substantial capital investment and machinery, which only big businesses can provide. In a country where competition is intense among rival tycoons, businessmen will exhort all measures to get the best opportunities, journalism being one of the most favorable options. Having a newspaper enables a businessman to have influence over the general public, the government, and even the business sector.

This privilege is well manifested in the contents of national dailies. Take the case of Emilio Yap, publisher of the Manila Bulletin. He used his newspaper to condemn the awarding of the sale of the Manila Hotel to a Malaysian company. The headlines screamed injustice as several editorials were consistently adamant in claiming that the historic hotel was a national legacy and should therefore be awarded to a Filipino bidder. It did not take long for the Supreme Court to become frazzled of the media ruckus. Months later, it decided to award the bid to Emilio Yap.

Such power was also used in August and September of 1996, when the Manila Standard derided the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority for awarding a port service contract to Hong Kong’s Hutchinson Ports Company because its owners, the Razon family, lost the bid. Soon, other newspapers picked up on the controversy. To avoid further conflict, former President Fidel V. Ramos ordered the bid repealed.

From being pressured by the government, the power now shifts to the publishers, since newspapers are wider in reach and coverage, richer in connections, and more effective gaining public sympathy. This need to attach itself to the public roots from the desire to maximize profits. Majority of a newspaper’s profits is gained through advertising revenues. Newspapers have to attract audience that advertisers consider as “target markets.” Should the paper run stories unappealing to their target market, advertisers will certainly back-out. This is crucial to a newspaper’s survival.

As said earlier, newspapers need big businesses to mobilize them. When a newspaper is put up, it needs all the financial resources it can get. Members of the business sector will not miss an opportunity to “contribute” and “donate”. After all, the rewards far outweigh the amount they pitched in. A popular donor is Lucio Tan. He supposedly helped the late Betty Go- Belmonte put up the Philippine Star. In the heat of the Philippine Airlines (PAL) fiasco involving the Taipan, the newspaper was noticeably circumspect in its reportage. In addition, a column written by U.P. Economics Professor Solita Monsod about the PAL pilots’ unrest was prohibited from seeing print. When she complained, board member Teodoro Benigno could only reply, ”Why don’t you leave Tan off? There are some sacred cows! ”

What now?

Press freedom is not just limited to media practitioners functioning with relative freedom and minimal pressure. It also includes the perpetuation of the people’s right to know. When the press exercises its freedom, it is required that they make this information available to all sectors of society.

The majority believes that the newspaper is the closest that they can get to the truth. In the passing of time, television and radio stations have harbored public mistrust because of their nearly blatant subservience to the demands of sponsors. Newspapers, on the other hand, have become relatively stable sources of information. They have provided an assemblage of articles on the latest news in sports, entertainment, business and society in the convenience of a compact bunch of papers. Highly accessible and affordable, a newspaper is an average Filipino's melting pot for all the facts that he must know.

However, the problem with its ownership structure is that it poses a permanent threat to objectivity. Newspaper magnates can, and will interfere with the publication of stories in order to endorse their business interests. At the end of the day, these broadsheets are businesses. They need to earn---and we pay the price, at the expense of truth.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Agenda Setting and Altruism : Finding the Blend

Throughout our discussion in the implications of Agenda- Setting in the media, we have come across a myriad of deceptive ploys inclined to gain profit and benefit the hegemony. We have also witnessed the fleeting powerlessness of the audience as they subconsciously fall prey to the ideals of the ruling class. Lest that this blog become a full-blown account on how the media plays villain, it is only fitting that we flip the coin to see how the media makes room for altruism.

In 1985, Antonio Meloto joined the Couples for Christ movement to reassess his life and priorities. Moved by his renewed faith and the fellowship of the Christian organization, he devoted himself fulltime to the ministry in 1995. what was supposed to be a solitary house-build for a family of five turned into a “work-with-the-poor” ministry in Bagong Silang, a vast relocation area for the squatters of Metro Manila. This humble venture ushered the rise of Gawad Kalinga, the fastest-growing and most productive non-government organization in the Philippines.

After the success of the first GK village in Caloocan, Meloto identified new sites as potential GK villages. Entailing support from his brethren from the Couples for Christ, he began soliciting donations and inviting volunteers, using the “see-for-yourself” approach to gain assistance. In addition, he coordinated with the ANCOP foundation to encourage participation of expatriates.

Today, Gawad Kalinga has built 21, 759 homes in its 1, 253 communities. GK villagers are educated and introduced to health and livelihood components to equip them with skills and resources in life. Each community is self-sufficient too, as schools, mini-entrepreneurial centers, libraries, chapels and clinics are built as mandatory requisites for the completion of a GK site. Flowers and plants adorn the pathways; and houses are painted in bright pastel shades, symbolic of the neighborhood’s renewed hope for a dignified life.

The response of many sectors to the call of Gawad Kalinga has been astounding. When it was first featured (on television) in early 2003, numerous universities, private institutions and media outfits heeded the call for volunteerism. Tony Meloto became the ultimate philanthropist, and Gawad Kalinga became the nation’s living proof of bayanihan. The media’s continuing coverage and promotion of Gawad Kalinga has inspired Filipinos here and abroad to contribute to the organization’s cause. Members of the international community have also expressed interest, as the governments of China, France, Canada and Japan have provided financial support. In addition, American companies like AIG, Fedex, UPS and Proctor and Gamble have also sent funds from their headquarters.

All in all, the resources gathered almost outweighed government funding. What Gawad Kalinga has raised in recent years only slightly exceeds the combined budget of the Department of Education (2.9 billion) and the University of the Philippines (4 billion). Furthermore, GK has become home to over 200, 000 volunteers, outnumbering the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which is composed of only 130,000 members.

By priming the heroism of Meloto and GK as a whole, the media continues to encourage public support. To date, Gawad Kalinga continues to attract the best and the brightest---students who have given up scholarships abroad to serve as GK volunteers; professionals like lawyers, doctors, architects, teachers, and businessmen who have stepped out of their comfort zones to transform the lives of the forgotten.

By making altruism visible to its audience, the media proves the enduring existence of altruism amidst the never-ending dilemma of crime and corruption. By making its viewers witness the heroism of thousands of GK volunteers, the media moves complacent couch potatoes to dig ditches and carry hollow blocks. By highlighting the sacrifices made by the privileged few for the sake of nation-building, mass media inspires people to share a little of themselves to volunteerism. By showing its viewers that the spirit of bayanihan continues to live on, the mass media nurtures the dignity and pride of the Filipino---a race that is one of a kind, resilient, and giving.


Agenda Setting: How To Package It Right (Part One)

PART ONE: Capturing an Audience

I remember the time when I would browse through the pages of TIME magazine and would immediately flip towards the end where the Entertainment Section would be. Now don't get me wrong; I'm not exactly a fan of celebrity gossip, local or Hollywood may they be. However, I find myself amused with the way TIME's writers would make snide remarks and witty comments on the celebrities they were featuring (and criticizing.) So imagine my surprise one day when I picked up a new issue, flipped to the last pages, and discovered that the Entertainment Section was gone.

That's impossible, was my first thought. No matter how much one places a high value on journalism, nowadays, news can't survive without some form of celebrity gossip. So i flipped back to the table of contents and, sure enough, I found out that the Entertainment Section was still part of the magazine. What surprised me was that this time, TIME moved it to its front pages.

This sparked my interest immensely. Before, I had been under the impression that the reason why TIME featured their Entertainment Section last on its pages was because it featured the least important issues. And I assumed that its use was also to offer comic relief from the serious issues TIME tackled like politics, terrorism and poverty - kind of like having a light dessert after a heavy meal.

However, it seemed that the readers were like children - they were reaching for the dessert before they even had the main course. TIME seemed to have been aware of this. So instead of going through the trouble of persuading the "children" to "eat" the main course, they simply "lured" them to the table by giving them exactly what they first wanted - their Entertainment, their "dessert." It will then be easier to get them to eat the main course - the "important" news, the agenda TIME would like to set - because they're already at the table; it would have been more difficult to get them to go to the table in the first place if they weren't interested. In short, before effective persuasion can occur, one has to make sure that he first knows an effective way to capture the audience's attention. What better way to set an agenda successfully than making sure the agenda is packaged right? And this, I believe, is one of the most overlooked aspect of agenda-setting.

To quote David Altheide said in his book, Media Power:

A major question seldom addressed in the plethora of research that has been conducted on media messages, an [sic] especially TV news, is what must be done to package a message in order to make it appropriate for a medium and the temporal and spatial contexts in which audience members receive information. Interestingly enough, the concern for the audience – including trying to just get a lot of them to watch – is a key feature of the overall news process; if the news workers throughout the world were not concerned whether or not anyone watched, the way news reports are produced would probably be much different, albeit difficult to imagine. Now, it is certainly true that news producers throughout the world who want their audiences to “watch and listen” may be motivated by different reasons; e.g., to make money, to exert political power and control, to save the world. Nevertheless, the TV-news-communication-process is like all communications processes in one very important regard: it is interested in having an audience.” (Emphasis mine.)

- Altheide, David L. Media Power. London: Sage Publications, 1985.

And this therefore is my main point in this blog entry: news, as the primary form of agenda-setting for media, would never function as an agenda-setter if it doesn't have an audience in the first place. And therefore what the people behind the news have to make sure is that 1) they must capture the audience's attention and 2) they must keep the audience interested enough for the agenda to be set successfully upon them.

With this in mind, I will now try to tackle and prove this aspect of agenda-setting by focusing on how two of the largest and most-watched television networks in the Philippines - ABS-CBN and GMA7 - presents their news.

First up is ABS-CBN. Their primetime news program during weekdays is TV Patrol World. It is aired around 6:30 each night, after "Kapamilya: Deal or No Deal?" and before "Kokey."

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Here's the interesting part. Before, ABS-CBN's weekday schedule was like this:

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Before, as you can see, "Kapamilya: Deal or No Deal?" was being aired at 10 PM, after three of ABS-CBN's telenovelas. Though I couldn't get the source for its exact ratings, it's still pretty obvious that "Kapamilya: Deal or No Deal?" is one of the network's highest rating programs. ABS-CBN knows that many people watch the program, which is probably the reason why it used to air the program so late at night. The network knows how much these people are willing to wait just to watch the program, and in doing so, the audience were forced to watch the other shows lined up before the program, boosting the network's overall ratings in the process. It's a devious yet lucrative technique - kind of like the way mothers coerce their children to eat their vegetables with the promise of a sumptous dessert by the end of the meal.

The problem with this previous line-up of shows was that the agenda-setting "power" of "TV Patrol World" had been slightly undermined. All of ABS-CBN's interesting and high-rating shows were aired after "TV Patrol World." The program that was being aired before "TV Patrol World" didn't help either; "Pinoy Movie Hits" were usually just reruns of old movies that most people have already watched - or at least already have a pirated copy. Therefore, there had been a higher tendency for the audience to just skip watching news altogether and simply proceed to the lighter, more entertaining shows that followed. After all, as surveys continuously prove, Filipinos are optimistic by nature. Why would they sit through uneasy stories of crime and corruption in news programs if they have a choice not to watch them anyway? As with the analogy of the meal: kids wouldn't bother to eat tasteless veggies if they have a choice not to eat them in the first place.

The solution ABS-CBN came up with was very clever. It shortened the air time of "Pinoy Movie Hits" and moved "Kapamilya: Deal or No Deal?" before "TV Patrol World." This time, the audience now have a reason to stay tuned to ABS-CBN even before "TV Patrol World" is on air. And because the audience are also avid followers of the telenovelas that air after "TV Patrol World," it's more logical for them to just simply sit through and watch "TV Patrol World" than risk missing the start of "Kokey." In short, because "TV Patrol World" is now "sandwiched" between two of the network's top programs, it increases the likelihood that the news program will cater to a large audience. It's similar to the way TIME magazine moved its Entertainment Section to its front pages and sandwiched its main stories in the middle. It's a natural solution - after all, capturing and maintaining the audience's attention is every mediamaker's primary concern.

GMA 7 is not much different in its objectives, although it employs a different tactic. Their primetime news program during weekdays is "24 Oras." This is the network's schedule of shows:

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Before college life prohibited me from having a regular social life, I was a regular viewer of GMA 7. There were two things I noticed with the way the network ensures an audience for "24 Oras." Like ABS-CBN, GMA 7 sandwiches its primetime news program between two high-rating shows. However, GMA 7's tactic is slightly different from its rival.

One, it makes sure that the program being aired before "24 Oras" is a high-rating show that targets the media's most lucrative audience: the teen market. That's why the shows before "24 Oras" are usually asianovelas - romantic comedies about two teenage lovers tiptoeing around each other before admitting their feelings. One example is "Meteor Garden," as shown above. Other asianovelas that supposedly captures teens' lives (and therefore captures their attention and sympathy as well) are "Good Luck," "Great Teacher Onizuka," "Gokusen," and "Hana Yori Dango," (the Japanese version of "Meteor Garden") to name a few. What makes this tactic successful is that because teens are the biggest market of consumers, it's also likely that television sets in most homes are tuned in to these teen shows, ensuring that the TV is already on even before "24 Oras" is being aired.

So how does GMA 7 ensure the audience tunes in long enough to watch its news program? By employing its second tactic: placing its premiere shows after "24 Oras." I noticed that whenever GMA will air a new series, fantaserye or telenovela, it always adjusts the schedule of their primetime shows by placing the new program right after "24 Oras." And this is another successful tactic; because people are intrigued to find out what the new program is about, the audience is likelier to sit through "24 Oras" in order for them not to miss the new program's premiere. As shown in the example above, GMA recently launched "Zaido: Pulis Pangkalawakan" last October 1.

Agenda setting, therefore, is not only merely about isolating an agenda and deeming it important. Media has to first make sure it has an audience in which to set this agenda upon. And this is media's first power in agenda setting: before it even sets an agenda, it already determines when and how an agenda will be set upon its audience.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Media Infighting? Whose Agenda Is it Anyway?

What happens when media itself is in conflict over what to present to the public? In this video MSNBC reporter Mike Brzezinski stands up to her producers and co hosts. Watch on and decide for yourself.

Any thoughts? I myself admire this woman for her tenacity at standing up against the producers of the news program despite the obvious repercussions it may have to her career and reputation to her superiors. While more often than not we think of the media as having its own self-serving capitalist agenda, it is journalists like Mika that give hope to me that someone out there in the media world is truly out there to serve society as a public informant of issues that are relevant and have significant impact to our society today. Seriously, how much does the news of Paris Hilton in jail weigh more than news concerning the United States' plan of action on the war in Iraq? Isn't celebrity news meant to be in celebrity news editions and not as the head story of a morning program?

Again, it may be the media that has the power to dictate what we're going to think about, but in this case the obnoxious male hosts in the show only prove how media can be very shallow sometimes.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Is media control really such a bad thing?

Based on how we've been discussing the Agenda Setting Theory so far, both in Ms. Borsoto's class (*waves* hi ma'am! :D) and in this blog, it seems as though we're portraying the basic assertion of the theory as... a bad thing. I mean, all we ever talk about the theory is the control it has on the public, or how the people in media power have all the benefits, etc. But here's the thing. I've thought about it long and hard, and I've come to the conclusion that perhaps... media control is not a bad thing. We've become so used to criticizing theories (especially in class) that sometimes, we fail to see their actual usefulness, and how applying them to real life may not be as bad as we think it is.

What I've come to realize is that the Agenda Setting Theory's basic assertion, which is, to quote Diane's first post, to establish "the salient issues that society deems important," is not a bad thing in itself. If we take it out of the context of questioning who is in power and who sets the agendas for the public, the theory's assertion is actually a good thing. The way a person or an institution actually does something to determine what is supposed to be important for the public is in fact a necessity in any society. Think about it. What if no one sets an agenda? What if there's no agenda for the public at all? Chaos would ensue. Or at the very least, people would be entirely indifferent (and ignorant) of whatever is happening in their society. Shaw et al said, "...the mass media may not be successful in telling us what to think, but they are stunningly successful in telling us what to think about." It's a scary, intimidating statement in the sense that media has this much control over our lives with the way the theory implies that media even controls our minds. But again, think about it. without media, we won't have anything to think about. And that, I believe, is a much scarier thought.

In short, I think that the Agenda Setting Theory's basic assertion is a good thing in the sense that it actually guides the society. Again, let's take this out of the context of power and control. News is a perfect example of why setting an agenda is a good thing. It makes the people aware of what is happening in society, provides them guidelines of what to do about their society's current problems, motivates them to do something about these problems, and sometimes even provides the people a way to make these solutions happen. Setting an agenda is next to common sense. It would be ridiculous to call for and set up a meeting with other people, say in an org, without even planning what agendas should the meeting go over or be about. The entire meeting would be useless, and nothing would get done. It's the same with the audience of mass media. How would the people function in a society if they don't have agendas for that society in the first place?

With so many things happening in one place all at the same time, if you don't set an agenda, if you don't work out what you should focus on, how will you make sense of these events? It's like turning on the the TV and seeing a hundred different channels being broadcasted on screen all at once. As much as you want to watch all these channels, you know it's impossible because you won't understand a thing anyway. It's the same with society. As much as people want to be aware of everything that's happening around them, it's impossible to take all of these in at the same time. Information overload will happen. This is where news - one of society's main sources of "agenda-setters" - steps in. It sifts through and sorts out these multitude of events and topics and picks those which it thinks society should focus on. And logically, it seems better for society to be able to understand certain relevant topics - few may they be - than for them not to understand anything at all.

The entire criticism and elaboration on the Agenda Setting Theory, therefore, should focus not on media as an "agenda-setter," but should focus more on media's responsibility as an "agenda-setter." Media is a good thing. A society can never function well without it -- it's like taking away a person's eyes and ears and mouth. What should be taken into consideration now is how media can be a society's eyes, ears and mouth in a way that is effective, moral, and just.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Because Media Knows Best.

"The press may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about."
Bernard C. Cohen, 1963

“Parents may not be successful much of the time in telling their children what to think, but they are stunningly successful in telling them what to think about… like not getting pregnant, getting a stable job, the perils of smoking and alcoholism, and more.”

Diana Galindez, 2007

Think of this: the idea of going to school did not really occur to you until your parents told you that YOU HAD TO. School, as they told you, was a place where you would meet other children and learn about the things that you need to know. Early on in childhood, parents establish the necessity of education. We wonder, why is it such a big deal? Certainly, civilizations thrived in the primitive era even without formal education. In the olden times, people did not need teachers to show them how things were done. They had to learn, invent, and do things on their own.

However, the turn of the 19th century sparked a universal paranoia that instigated a boom in the education industry. Why did parents suddenly begin to nurse the fear of having illiterate children? Why did schools tailor their teaching strategies to appease the demands of parents? Furthermore, in the light of the agenda setting theory, how has the media shaped parental attitudes and values?

Majority of the studies conducted to gauge media effects have largely focused on children, overlooking both its direct and indirect influence on parents and their child-rearing techniques. In the past few decades, there has been an implosion of information and advice about parenting in the mass media. Books, magazines and shows have been created, as well as sites in the internet. Unfortunately, research has been insufficient in terms of looking into the quality and quantity of these messages, their implications, and the potential of transforming the media as effective agents for promoting better parenting.

Media shapes both child and parent. Parent brings the child to an encounter with the media and vice versa. In doing so, stereotypes are created to easily depict the ideal parenting virtues that will mold the perfect child. This is made evident by the establishment of parenting as a crucial issue in various forms of media. According to the symposium on media and parenting at Harvard University,

“Printed parenting materials have proliferated dramatically in the past two to four decades--books, magazines, newsletters, regional parenting papers, pamphlets, and parenting articles in newspapers. Over 1500 parenting books are estimated to be in print today, representing about 20% of the "psychology" market. Similarly, over 200 magazines are estimated to be devoted to aspects of parenting and family life, not including women's magazines and other more general titles that include significant parenting material. Controlled-circulation, regional parenting papers, typically distributed free to consumers, are now available in almost every major city, and controlled-circulation "baby" magazines, also free to consumers, reach almost every new parent. Child and family beat reporters have become quite common at major daily newspapers, and "child-related" stories are a regular feature of the news landscape. In short, almost every parent, regardless of socioeconomic status, is exposed to printed information about parenting, most repeatedly.”

As a result, every parent, regardless of socio-economic status, is exposed to information on parenting regularly. Subsequently, electronic media such as television, radio and the internet has made room for family-oriented ventures, with parents as their target audiences. With this, the level of interest bolsters the demand for information from the media. Studies further suggest that the mass media is “commonly used as sources of parenting information, sometimes as extensively as, or more extensively than, interpersonal sources such as family, clergy, or counselors.” In addition, the presence of professional and academic opinion, as backed-up by years of research and experience, has provided the media with a great deal of influence on parents' views towards raising their children. The question now is, does the media contribute effectively? or is it just another classic game of quantity winning over quality?

The problem with media-cultured parenting is that it breeds on profit. The competition among companies through media networks has led to the segmentation of sources on parenting information. There may be a lot, but they are certainly strewn in various forms of media. There is a distinct paradox in this situation: in its effort to make information accessible, the media has extended its reach. Yet, the immense assortment of sources makes it inaccessible because parents do not know which one is the most reliable. In short, they are denied access to factual information.

In relation, the competition among constituents of the media has made information confusing and conflicting. Almost all endorsements are backed up by professionals and trusted personalities. All of them are claiming that they know what’s best. In doing so, the media creates trends in parenting. The information that it disseminates is largely affected by the values that it wants to inculcate. For example, the 1960’s valued authoritarian parenting, while the 1980’s promoted permissive parenting. At the turn of the new millennium, the media started to advocate a democratic approach to parenting. Though these shifts are brought about by socioeconomic and political forces, we cannot discount the role of both policy and corporate agenda in shaping these views.

Subsequently, trends lead to stereotypes. Regarded as the most powerful influence of the media in parental values, these stereotypes have enabled parents to define what is ideal and vis-à-vis. Here are a few prevalent parenting ideologies that are used here in the Philippines and around the world, as well as the propaganda behind them.

1. The world is a scary place and it’s going to come and get you!

Fueled by the people’s inclination towards crime stories, news organizations have depicted the world as a scary place, giving parents enough reason to keep their kids at home.

Products sold: security devices, self-defense lessons and weapons.

2. The Gifted Child

As mentioned earlier, education is a necessity. However, it does not stop there. You have to be immensely intelligent to get ahead in life. The media has always portrayed intellectuals as successful in both family and career, hence, parents immediately assume that this is the case in real life.

Products sold: PROMIL! educational plans, and “mushrooming” of educational institutions

3. The Perfect Family

Mom and Dad have nice children. They go to work and school respectively. They get into trouble once in while, but at the end of every troublesome situation, they will all have their happy ending. Mom and dad are rational and diplomatic; while the kids are obedient and smart.

This is how the media shapes the family—though quite unrealistic, parents are highly motivated to strive for perfect family relationships. Furthermore, recent studies claim that parents have accustomed themselves to patterning their conduct on the behavior of characters in family-oriented shows.


1. Hersey, Paul and Kenneth H. Blanchard. The Family Game. Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1978.

2.Redl, Ritz and David Wineman. Controls From Within. Illinois: Free Press Corporation, 1960.

3.Grolnick, Wendy S. The Psychology of Parental Control. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Media - Helping You Understand

Alright, this time we're going to look at the average media consumer. The average media consumer rarely has first hand news of the events that occur in society. The average media consumer usually gets his/her own information from media entities through news programs, newspapers, the radio etc. Now, consider removing the media entirely and leaving behind the average media consumer which we will now dub as your average reasonable person. Let's assume for the moment that this person has first hand access to these events, can literally be there and know every single event happening. To be quite honest, I wouldn't expect that person to understand what the hell was going on in each and every situation that he/she monitors unless that person happened to be personally knowledgeable about the context of the situation.

The Agenda Setting comes from the premise taken by Walter Lippman who talks about how the public perceives events through "pictures in their heads" which he calls a pseudoenvironment. He states this because the real world, in all its complexity, subtlety, hugeness, and variety is too much for a person to process information individually and convert into any useful form. In effect, the media finds a market by providing a broken down, simpler, and more manageable idea of current events so we may find how they apply into our lives.

Take for example the video below about the Daily Show with John Stuart, a satirical show, takes on the issue of an Intellectual Property Rights lawsuit involving Viacom and YouTube.

Here you find the topic of IPR much more simplified (and at the same time satirized) by the show and it enables the general public to have an understanding of the parties concerned in the issue. While the media is not always the best source of information out there, we cannot deny its usefulness to us all. The important thing is, we should always learn to be critical of the media that we consume and not become blind followers or simply take information at face value.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Power Relations - Who's In Control?

The media has always been a force to be reckoned with. It can influence almost every aspect of your life. From the way you choose your groceries, to the manner in which you pick who to vote in the next elections, media has in one way or another guided/influenced your decision. Such is the amount of power that media has over society today that it's not surprising that professionals who make out a living out of it go toe to toe with the other powers that be in society. Which powers are these? From political/religious leaders, to corporate leaders and business moguls, the media has in one way or another had a relationship with each and everyone of these. In this blog entry, I'll be detailing the types of power relations between the media and other sources of power in society.

According to the Agenda Setting Theory of Media, there are four different types of power relations that the media and other factions are involved in. Take note that these relationships are not stagnant and it is not uncommon for circumstances to change the balance of power in any given time.

First Type of Power Relations
High-Power Source and High-Power Media

In this relationship, the media and "insert entity here" have a symbiotic relationship that, in effect, exert a huge amount of influence over the opinion of the general public. What do we mean by this? Here you have the media and the faction concerned either seeing eye to eye with one another, or evenly clashing on a specific issue. In the case of the politics, when a certain political candidate is favored by a media entity, more often than not you will find the media backing up the views of the politician as well as featuring him prominently in their programs. On the other hand, in the event that the media and the faction concerned directly clash on a view and both of them have a considerable amount of influence over the public (i.e. a popular figure versus an equally prominent media entity) there is sure to be a clash of ideals and a struggle between the both of them.

An example of this relationship would be found in the video below.

While it is not implicit here, you have a member of the Royal Family actively suppressing the media from speaking or commenting about the scandal involving himself. While we don't know whether this is true or not, we see the media retaliating in equal force through the tabloids and here in John Stuart's show.

Second Type of Power Relations
High-Power Source and Low-Power Media

Now in this situation, the media is at the disadvantage and has a reduced amount of influence over society. The high-power source in this context will most likely co-opt the media structure to forward his/her own ends. In the Philippines this is quite common for corporate moguls who happen to own their own publications alongside their other commercial ventures. In the event that any of their assets are embroiled in a scandal (tax evasion, violation of environmental regulations, neglect of media/social ethics) they make it a point to order their publications to tread lightly on the subject and do some damage mitigation or abandon the topic altogether to avoid further damage. (Let's not name names for the time being) Another example would also be of media being used by dictatorial governments for propaganda or heavy censorship. The press would literally have no freedom unless the content is approved by government censors. This technique was employed by Marcos during his dictatorship, where there was little or no press freedom, and he might have learned it from the Japanese who occupied the country years before him. Both Marcos and the Japanese utilized the media to spread their ideals and dictates to the Filipino people, and for a time this was all the people had to rely on for information.

Third Type of Power Relations
Low-Power Source and High-Power Media

Here, the media has sole responsibility over their own agenda. The low-power source has little or no ability to respond to the media due to lack of public support and influence. Examples of this would be the minority groups in the Philippines ranging from homosexuals, to communist rebels and Muslim extremists. The government and other powers in society usually leave the media to their own when it comes to dealing with these marginalized groups because of the little effect reporting on the matter will have on themselves. Even the media wouldn't care much about what these groups' agendas are and would only cover them when in times of conflict or controversy.

Fourth Type of Power Relations
Low-Power Source and Low-Power Media

This situation rarely happens, but it is most commonly seen in times of conflict or disaster. The media or public leaders do not have much in the way of control in what the public agenda would be in times of natural disasters such as typhoons or landslides, or times of war and conflict such as the September 11 attacks. Here the events themselves establish what the public is to think/talk about for days to come. Below is a video of the CNN coverage of September 11, 2001. The event was solely responsible for the shock and fear experienced by people around the globe.

Well, there you have it the four types of power relations outlined in the Agenda Setting theory. More on how this affects you and me in the next posts.

The Four Fiercest Fights.

On the lighter side: Ever wonder what goes on in the mind of a head honcho?


The Agenda- Setters of the Philippines.

Bets anyone?

Fight # 1: The Television Tycoons

Gabby Lopez, ABS CBN 2

One family. One station. One Kris Aquino to beat them all.


Felipe Gozon, GMA 7

Hindi namin kayo tatantanan!

Fight # 2: The Publishing Honchos

Emilio Yap, Manila Bulletin

Ako publisher, Ako editor.


Sandy Prieto, PDI

Balanced News, fearless views...
and endless libel suits.

and another contender...

Liza Gokongwei-Cheng, Summit Media

Magazines? I heart them ALL.

Fight # 3: The Mall Moguls

Henry Sy, SM Supermalls

We got it all for you!
We got ALL MALLS too!


Robina Gokongwei-Pe, Robinsons' Malls

Well, at least my malls are named after ME.

Fight # 4: The University Presidents

Bro. Armin Luistro, DLSU

The future begins by teaching our students how to spell.


Fr. Ben Nebres, AdMU

We are men for others: we have lives beyond basketball.

Disclaimer: these statements were made by the author for laughter's sake only. They were not, in any way, said by the authorities in the pictures.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Agenda Setting Theory for DUMMIES.

Hooray for the FIRST POST!

This is Agenda-Setting 101 for the caveman and/ or non communication major. Future posts will be on its applications in various contexts, so I thought it would be best if I give a background on the theory that we will be discussing as the days pass by. It would then be easier, for you, dear bloghopper, to understand the stuff that we will be blogging about. It may not make sense to you now, but as the blog entries pour in, we're pretty sure that you will soon understand not only what the agenda-setting function is, but also why we think you should know about it.

Basic Assertion

The media establishes the salient issues that society deems important. Society’s discourse and interaction is shaped by media influence, where premeditated values are unobtrusively acculturated in the majority’s lifestyle.



The agenda setting function of the media was initially based on the tenets of journalism. In the 1920’s, American journalist Walter Lippman criticized the inclination of journalists to generalize reality by patterning it on fixed, stereotyped concepts. In doing so, the public started to conceive truth not from what they saw, but from what journalism fed them. Lippman argued that though journalists were efficiently disseminating information, the issues that they featured failed to give a comprehensive view on the real state of society. Hence, society’s feedback is invalidated because it is not appropriately directed to the issues that need attention.

In 1970’s, Donald Shaw and Maxwell Mc Combs concretized the assumptions of Lippman through their groundbreaking “Chapel Hill” study. During the 1968, 1972, and 1976 presidential elections in the United States, Shaw and Mc Combs studied the media’s influence in determining the political issues that the community considered to be newsworthy. Through a series of carefully conducted experiments, they were able to deduce that there is a correlation between the rate that the media covers a story and the extent to how people respond to a particular issue. It further implies that the amount of time that news organizations allot for an issue is directly proportional to the level of involvement that the audience will have towards the issue being featured.

Dissatisfied by the propositions of the early theories in the effects tradition (e.g. hypodermic needle theory, limited effects theory), more and more researchers have gone beyond the effects of the media and now investigate on how the media shapes the issues that have predetermined effects on their audiences.

Kinds of Agenda:

A. Media Agenda

These are the issues discussed in popular forms of mass media like newspapers, television, the radio and the internet.

B. Public Agenda

These are the basic issues considered to be relevant by the public like issues of state, popular culture and religion.

C. Policy Agenda

These are issues that policy makers consider important. Policy makers may refer to law-governing officials like legislators (for the government) and legal counsels (for private companies).

D. Corporate Agenda

These are the issues that businesses and corporations consider important, as they are primarily profit-oriented.

Levels of Agenda-Setting

1. Establishment of Issue

Initially, the media establishes the general issue that should incite public interest. It does so by using objects or issues that are relevant to the majority in order to suggest matters that they should think about. The media starts to filter content by simultaneously using multiple media networks (television, newspapers, radio and internet) to zero in on an issue. This control over the selection of content discussed in the media is known as gatekeeping.

2. Issue Elaboration

After inducing the public on what to talk about, mass media delves even further by suggesting how they should think about it. Similar to the elaboration likelihood model, the public may be encouraged to think cognitively (central route) or affectively (peripheral route). The cognitive approach is usually used in grave matters that require elaboration such as issues about state, religion and societal attributes. On the contrary, product-centered campaigns use the affective approach because the audience must think only in terms of acceptance or rejection. Since the goal is to “set” the choice that they want the public to make, it is imperative that these choices are laid out attractively. For instance, the mass media constantly makes use of techniques such as priming and framing to boost product popularity and consumer interest. Priming occurs when the medium provides more time for a particular issue, making it more accessible and evident to the public. Meanwhile, the medium executes framing when it defines how an issue will be packaged to produce particular predetermined interpretations.

3. Intermedia Agenda Setting

In the final phase of agenda setting, salience transfer is coursed through different media channels or networks of a business conglomerate. Sister companies of a corporation will team up to effectively set the agenda and create what Lippman calls a pseudo-environment. This shall give the impression that the series of prefabricated circumstances is part of reality.


  • It gives an explanation on how and why there is a collective similarity among the issues or values prioritized or discussed frequently by a certain group.
  • It assumes that as long as the majority is exposed to the same sources of information or influence, they will uphold similar values.
  • The theory can be applied extensively, beyond the tenets of the mass media.
  • It allows researchers to identify and “compartmentalize” the effects of the media.
  • The theory allows further research.
  • It transcends mass media culture throughout different generations.


  • It has a tendency to be overrated. Issue awareness per se, cannot create, nor solve problems all the time. People will pay attention, but will they do something about it?
  • For people who have very strong positions on a given issue, agenda-setting may only backfire and create a boomerang effect.
  • People have divided attention towards the many issues that the media feeds them. The media does not set just one agenda. It certainly sets a lot. Hence, the predicted effects of the theory are diminished.


1. Infante, Dominic A. et al. Building Communication Theory. Illinois: Waveland Press, 1990.

2. Severin, Werner J. and James W. Tankard, Jr. Communication Theories: Origins, Methods and Uses in the Mass Media. Austin: Addison Wesley Longman, 2001.