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.