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Do More Media Choices Translate to More Polarized Elections?

February 17th, 2010 by Irene Wu

In his book, Post-broadcast democracy: how media choice increases inequality in political involvement and polarizes elections (Cambridge, 2007), Markus Prior shows the following graphs. To simplify, he argues when people with little interest in public affairs lived in an environment with few media choices, they were more likely to hear the headlines – for example, catching a news reel while at the movies. With more media choices – cable and satellite television and the Internet – catching the news as a by-product of other activities declines. In other words, more Americans watched the news when there was little else to watch. Fast forward to today, this means that with more media, citizens who are not interested in politics live in an increasingly separate world those who are – thus elections and political involvement are more polarized. What do you think?

One Response to “Do More Media Choices Translate to More Polarized Elections?”

  1. Guest says:

    Are you sure the loss of news audience is due to more choices or censured irrelevant content. For example, the sale of advertising to Toyota may have affected the timeliness of reporting the accelerator flaws, and cost additional lives and loss of property. Toyota's blatant manipulation of the ABC affiliated television stations by canceling their advertising with these stations has gone largely unreported for fear of additional reprisals.

    There appears to be far more accuracy in describing politics in literature, than there is advertiser supported media. Unfortunately, the cost and access to such information is not yet comparable to the censured mainstream media.

    Moreover, the larger the conglomerate, the more likely intra-company conflicts exist. In addition, large conflicted entities make the largest campaign contributions and direct the actions of legislators. Hence, legislative results protect conflicted business interests and ignore the public interest. These results include the financial markets' melt-down, the burning of more fossil fuels to produce gasohol than gasohol saves, promotion of childhood obesity, record healthcare industry stock price gains while medicare is going bankrupt, importation of foreign oil when there is more than enough domestic supply and 90% of US households paying $350 per year for television channels they never watch.

    Readers have noticed the conflicts and the Tea Party movement is a symptom of this corruption. This movement appears to be organized via reporting from citizen journalists distributing their work via the internet, our modern version of the pamphlet. Main stream media should consider acting as they too are citizens, before more of the real citizens decide they are irrelevant.

    The chinese walls between corporate divisions, media sales departments and their journalist needs to be rebuilt to save the value of their media enterprises and our democracy.

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