The book The Problem of Media: U.S. Communication Politics in the Twenty-First Century written by Robert W. McChesney discusses the issue of media Reform. He argues that, “The Policies, structures, subsidies and institutions that are created to control direct and regulate the media will be responsible for the logic and nature of the media system whether their content is good, bad or a combination, the media therefore presents a political problem for any society, and an unavoidable one at that” (16).
He contends that there are two main issues on this problem. The first problem is the structure that creates the content of the information and the second is the structures themselves. He believes that the way society makes it decisions on how to structure the system and how it decides to solve this needs reformation. Debates, he believes, will direct shape and create value to the media system.
McChesney writes of how media will exist in all societies. But their structure and content is determined cultural, economic and political and this determines the amount of solutions each society has to choose from. In different societies the controlling government decides how this is structured. He mentions dictatorships and authoritarian regimes will create the type of media that will influence and give him more power and stopping any chance of opposition. With a democratic society the problem exists between those with power and those with none. In this society the power is with the media and it is this power that gives a strong support in the building of democracy making media a political tool.
The problems with media being a political tool in a democracy, he states is well known. The foundation of this is that in order to have a democratic society the citizens must be informed and the media is the tool for this. It is not that the media is to create the democracy but help to make it more effective to members of that society. The issue in the reform is all about content. If it is balanced with views that express both sides of the road. Giving an opposite stand to democracy, equally important for the society members to make choices on how to structure their society and even more important is how media affects economics.
Media’s beginning influences were in economics and soon spread to politics. McChesney believes that, “In the United States the starting point for grasping the problem with media is seeing where the media fits in the broader capitalistic economic system” (117). The problem is between the role media has in the profit-making commercial structured organizations and the need for information that deals with information needed for a democracy. “It is this tension that fuels much of the social concern around media and media policy making” (17).
The author gives great attention to the meaning of problem and how it relates to what is deemed the problem of media. I thought this to be kind of repetitious because he gives meaning to the word problem often throughout the book. I thought that maybe he was trying to make a point at how media will take something and give it so many different meanings as he did. He then goes on to give a history of the media to give the reader a sense of where it was coming from to see where it was going. Giving a good historical account of the affects of broadcasting in the 1930’s that created the way our society makes media policy.
He then moves into an analysis into how media became corrupt, deceitful, and missing ethical bases just within this century. McChesney believes that the United States has not faced these problems making media a servant to those in society that are self-servant. These are usually the ones that make any decisions in private such as the media corporations that are driven by profits, ignoring what society needs.
“This system has contributed to a political crisis of the highest magnitude and unless it is confronted directly will severely limit our ability to make progress on any of the other major social and political problems that face the nation” (21). Media should help to give the society an ability to have informed debates on issues that arise from that society.
After reading the book it gave me much to think about, but really no clear solution. Granted he did talk of reforms but in what sense? In my opinion reform should come in the way we educate our society. Now with new technology freedom of speech is a whole new attitude. Everyone has something to say, whether right or wrong. I do think there should be some kind of reform, but I’m not sure what kind of reform would be effective. Education society more on what the meanings of context and content would be more effective than trying to define the problem in multiple ways.
I really didn’t understand context or content until I went to college. It’s pretty simple but applying it everyday wasn’t something I did until college. Now everything I read or see on television I take with a grain of salt, until I research it a little more I don’t hold it true. This kind of education needs to be applied in primary learning structures. This would help greatly with structuring a well informed society.
I felt the book was very informative, but difficult to read. I believe that this would make a very good book for educational structures to use. It awakened an issue in me that I knew was there, but really didn’t think about too much. I believe this to be pretty true with much of society. Just yesterday a friend had mentioned something he had heard on the radio about making young school children in Australia stop sing a Christmas song that used the phrase “Ho, Ho, Ho” because of the implications of it’s meaning, whore.
At first I was shocked and angry but after thinking awhile I first thought, the content wasn’t probably reliable or it was taken totally out of context and if it had to do with a more important issue I would have researched the information to find the truth. This is why I believe media reformation is something that needs to be addressed but the key to the solution is education.
McChesney, Robert W. The Problem of Media: U.S. Communication Politics in the Twenty-First Century. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2004.
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