Mass Media, Campaigns and Elections

The election process in our country is the principal mechanism of democracy and of linking the public with the government to enable them to give basic direction to the government through their electoral choices. It apparently reflects not only the operation of a true democracy but it also mirrors the level of political discourse as well as the intensity of political participation in our country. Achieving effective political participation through suffrage, however, does not only depend on whether or not citizens vote but it also relies on the impacts as well as on the nature of various factors, like the mass media, that make voting possible.

For the longest time, the mass media have been considered as the strongest factor that generally influence political participation or voting behavior . What else has dramatically increased, over the same period, is the public's dependence on the mass media for information and impression on candidates and their campaigns, issues, institutional performance and on the parties themselves.The central way by which campaigns communicate to the masses is through the mass media. Campaigns, to a certain extent, are also fundamentally organized around the mass media, especially television. Schedules, appearances, themes and so on are geared to the deadlines, need for visuals and other factors characteristics of the making and presentation of the TV news - or the medium itself in the case ofpolitical ads. The same rule applies also, to a somewhat lesser extent, on the print media and radio. As Thomas Jefferson has once said: "Today's campaign is essentially a mass media campaign...It is no exaggeration to say that, for the large majority of voters, the campaign has little reality apart from its media version..."

The buying of the mass media to influence voters is, of course, not a new issue anymore. In the 1950s, politicians paid off journalists with cash. In the 1960s and 1970s, such payoff has become an integral part of the regular news beat. In the 1980s, the practice continued and worsened, with PROs or public relations officers and other go-betweens being hired by politicians to deal directly with the media and to address their needs. Needless to say, majority of the politicians in this country, or even in other parts of the world, have greatly considered the increasing power and influence of the mass media in the making and unmaking of public figures that are both politically and socially acceptable to the masses . Since the proportion of radio and TV owners in rural and urban areas has been continuously increasing, these politicians, therefore, are given more chances of delivering their messages and intentions to the voting public.


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