The Media and Australian Politics

The Media and Australian Politics

The Media and Australian Politics

The media is a key foundation in any political system. While it does not have the formal status of other institutions, such as the constitution federalism and the parliament, it nevertheless, like political parties, plays an integral part in the practice of politics. This is because it is the major source of political information for most people. Few of us participate directly in political activities. We are not members of political parties, we do not go to public meetings, and we rarely, if ever, communicate with our political representatives.

Most of us learn about politics, about the performance of politicians, the actions of government departments and agencies, and the activities of interest groups, from television, radio, newspapers and from the internet. This communication is not a one-way process because politicians also learn about the communities’ concerns and aspirations through the mass media. Beyond acting as a communications link between governments and politicians and the people they serve, it is also important to remember that the media is a political player in its own right, helping to set the political agenda.

What, then, determines the media’s role in politics?

Media is, in the first instance, big business. The major media corporations number amongst the biggest organisations in the world. They are businesses which depend largely on advertising to generate revenue and their ability to attract advertisers depends on the size of their audiences or readers. Bigger audiences translates into higher advertising rates, and this, in turn depends on providing material which appeal to the audiences that advertisers most want to reach. But the media is “not just another business”. Historically, it has embraced the role of “watchdog”, charged with the responsibility of monitoring politicians, scrutinising government activities, and identifying failings on behalf on the public. To fulfill this role, it has often demanded, and received, privileged access to the political players and laws to protect free speech. For many therefore, a free press, is a hallmark of democracy.

 

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