Pictures in our Minds

Hey lovlies! We’re drawing near to the end of the communication theories that I’ve been taught during the course of this semester.  Today i’ll discuss Agenda Setting Theory.

The pioneers of the Agenda Setting Function of Mass Media are Dr. Maxwell McCombs and Dr. Donald Shaw. According to them, agenda setting is a theory in mass communication which describes a very powerful influence of the media. It is the ability to share what issues are important. It refers to the idea that there is a strong link between the emphasis that mass media place on certain issues (e.g., based on relative placement or amount of coverage) and the importance attributed to these issues by mass audiences.

Have you ever noticed certain issues in the news being covered and not others? Well that’s the agenda media sets. Everyone involved in a news house is responsible for setting the agenda to the public. They achieve this by using two methods – framing and priming. Griffin describes framing as “the selection of a restricted number of thematically related attributes for inclusion on the media agenda when a particular object or issue is discussed”. Meanwhile, priming is the process in which media focuses on some issues and not others

Core Assumptions

  • Agenda setting are that the press and the media do not reflect reality; they filter and shape it.
  • Media concentrates on a few issues and subjects which leads the public to perceive those issues as more important than other issues.

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This diagram represents the cycle in which agenda Setting works. There is reality, then there is the media that constructs a reality by putting “pictures in our minds”. This then creates the public perception of reality due what we constantly see in the media. The editors in a news house must decide which issues they believe are of more importance and what topics are not newsworthy. The criteria for prominence are position of the news article and the length. According to Griffin, the media not only set the agenda for what issues, events, or candidates are most important they also transfer the salience of specific attributes belonging to those potential objects of interest. Agenda setting mostly affects people who have a high orientation and a high index of curiosity.

A Glimpse of Brazil

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You see, the media is a very powerful tool and the people working in the media have the upper hand on what we consume. One country that I know for sure that is highly influenced by the power of media is Brazil. You see friends, the citizens of Brazil have more TVs than they do fridges… just let that sink in (wow, astonishing isn’t it?) The owners of the largest, most powerful media conglomerate in Latin America is owned by a very powerful family, the Marinho’s.

The network is called Rede Globo and their television reaches almost every home in Brazil. The television industry has used its influence to push certain political agendas and candidates. TV Globo is known for manipulating the communications industry through state relations because the president was the sole provider of broadcasting licenses. The 1989 elections in Brazil showed just how monopolistic TV Globo could be as it showed how the popularity of the presidential candidate was directly influenced by television. This video below will explain it all.

I hope the video was interesting! 🙂

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Moving on smartly… Don’t you guys get tired of seeing and hearing the same topics covered in the media over and over again, the constant repetition? I always say that CNN really knows how to stretch a story to capacity! Have you guys been following the U.S Presidential Elections 2016? I sure have! I’ve been keeping up for 2 reasons –  1) it is crucial for us in Caribbean to know what is going on in America and other places. 2) The news channels haven’t really given me much of a choice. The race to the white house became the most important news for American news media and it trumped (no pun intended) any other pressing world issues. The media has the power to guide discussions in whatever direction they choose in order to accomplish the goals which they set out to achieve. The elections became all about Donald Trump, in my opinion. Every time I put my TV channel on ABC or any of the other news channels, the topic of discussion was always about Donald Trump. His name even filtered into the daily talk shows I watch. Probably because he was such a controversial candidate to begin with. All in all, with the help of the media Donald Trump won the elections.

 Finally, to bring this very long post to an end, the Agenda Setting theory is mapped under the socio-psychological tradition. This theory meets the criteria for assessing a social science theory. Also, it is a good interpretive theory because it explains the past and present but also predicts the public agenda for the salience of attitude objects and key attributes will follow the media’s lead. This theory examines how media is used as a powerful source to be a channel of persuasion in some circumstances by explaining why people are more susceptible to media influence than others, by having a high index of curiosity. This theory can be put to practical usefulness as it highlights what to look for and how the media may modify the pictures in the heads of those who engage in media use.

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