Impact of Radio and Television:
Public Opinion, Public Participation
Technology results in new media--how do those media
affect our culture?
- does watching violence on TV cause
people to be more violent? Why would it have that effect more
than books or magazines?
- how does TV change politics? What is
it about the technology that causes it to have that effect?
- is the cause of these effects the technology or the
- people make the programming decisions but what the
can do may encourage particular kinds of material
The War in Vietnam
Impact on public opinion
- we are much more aware of the world
- News coverage--the "global village"
- people see TV as their prime source of
national and international news, but they also read newspapers (much
influenced by satellites and computers) and news magazines.
- Seeing makes it seem realer--television
coverage of the war in Vietnam was a major factor in the development of
public feelings against the war
- Newspaper reporting is impersonal (and
usually includes background information), while TV reporting is more
like storytelling, often presented as much as entertainment as as
information. Volti quotes
a study that says 20% of people who watched a newscast remembered
an hour later and the average viewer retained 20% of the information
The potential of news via internet is not very clear yet.
- who controls the news? Is it
politically biassed? does that actually change public opinion?
- The real answer isn't liberals, but the
educated establishment, which happens to be somewhat liberal
that TV tends to favor conservative ideas )
- has cable tv (public access and Christian
channels) reduced this effect by reducing the cost of access?
- does the technology have anything to do with
why the press gives people less and less privacy?
excellent links on this topic )
- candidates spend millions (in the case of
presidential candidates tens of millions) of dollars on television
advertising--something like 1/3 of the campaign budget.
dissect an ad )
- candidates need to raise more money because
TV advertising is expensive, so they end up more beholden to special
- television advertising is based on impact,
and doesn't give you much sense of the candidate's policy views (
- You add this to a system where voters have
less loyalty than they used to to political parties and you get people
on the basis of sound bites.
- on the other hand, more is decided by the
people and less by party bosses in smoke-filled rooms.
- Volti says the greatest threat to our
political process may come from the trivialization of the political
process by television
- would you want to have a system where people
made more decisions directly--the electronic town meeting?
Town meeting form of government still works pretty well in
New England towns.
- we have the technology now to go back to a
purer form of democracy
- tendency already visible towards putting
more decisions directly in the hands of the public through referendums.
- can the public be educated?
- public opinion makes a big difference--eg.
- can you educate public opinion on complex
technology (Florman ch. 11)? Lewis Thomas's view as a patient:
it to me. Go ahead and fix it." In the end we mostly decide
which experts to trust.
- There are so many complex technological
issues that our society much face that it seems hopeless to educate the
on each one, plus you have the problem that the ones that come to the
public are the controversial ones, and people just end up confused by
the conflicting opinions of different experts.
- Florman: "I do not fear the coming of a
sinister technocratic cabal, mainly because on consequential issues the
technicians invariably give conflicting advice, and the politicians end
up making the decisions whether they want to or not."
- other models of public participation, eg.
- rebellion against regulation, such as pirate radio
discussion: how television changes
- televison makes the public more knowledgeable (eg.
- commercials just talk about the negative aspects,
- makes appearance more important than reality
- people are more independent, listen less to political
- tv commercials are misleading
attacks and oversimplified policy issues
- ads only deal with certain subjects
- television encourages drama, visual impressions rather
than facts, sound bites rather than detailed information
- the public is turned off by nasty
- twist the facts, tell them out of context
- ads are by definition biassed
- TV news is biassed, picks
stories that will appeal to voters,
doesn't give much detail, emphasizes news not background
does television change our way of thinking?
- Marshall McLuhan--less
linear, less abstract ways of thinking
- children develop their imagination less
- students expect to be entertained.
- the potential for distance learning.
- When MTV televised a song by jazz singer Gil
Scott-Heron it changed a critical word. The line had read "The
will not be televised." MTV changed that to "The revolution will
more on "the revolution will not be televised" )
this page written and copyright Pamela E. Mack
last updated 11/2/2005