In October, the Institute for International Communication hosted Dr. Marko Milosavljevic who discussed his cutting-edge research on media capture . A group of undergraduate students of International Communication reflected on the theme. This is a post in the series, by Holly Hutchison.
As the introduction of new media becomes a regular phenomenon, it must be noted that despite the frequency in which media appears, which may seem to promote accountability of those in power, the connection between the government and media are closer than we may have previously thought. In simpler terms, more media does not necessarily mean more accurate information, or more freedom.
This effect is known as media capture. Although a bit of a broad term, it covers the relationship between elites who hold political and economic influence and the media who report upon them. When we, as a general public in the United States, think about media, we incorporate the idea that the first amendment is one of the most fundamental principles of how citizens interact with these channels. We see journalists and news anchors as in a position of power to hold large companies or politicians to a higher standard, and see it as their duty to reveal any wrongdoings amongst the elites. However, this may not be the case. Here, we can think about media capture as governmental control, political influence, and the business interests that reign over what we tend to think of as free and accurate media.
Capture is a term that simplifies the idea of a media being controlled by those who seek to benefit from that control. Whether advertisers, corporations, or the government, the freedom and accountability that society expects from the media are owned by those entities that have an agenda to push. Media capture, therefore, occurs in nearly all aspects of media. Even in countries we would deem quite liberal, capture still exists, and “as long as capture exists…then the media are not truly free.”
Obviously we recognize that censored countries have a significant amount of governmental influence amongst the media. In the most extreme circumstances, governmental control is all that is known amongst the general populous, to the point that the integration of governmental ideals and influence is widely accepted, and not questioned. But, even the very liberal country of Norway, a seemingly near opposite, has experienced media capture.
With the rise of new media, such as different outlets of digital technology, political influence is not lost. With election campaigns seeking to gain a polling advantage, the use of social media to gain influence strikes a power imbalance. Any election requires some form of persuasive content, so naturally politicians seek to gain a lead by influencing content across various media. Although this is not necessarily exploitative by nature, as seen in other countries around the world, it still indicates that with the growing presence of technology media capture will only continue to increase.
As digital technology evolves, so does the way an influencer interacts with the public. In order to gain authority, these powerful entities manipulate the public into perceiving the corporations interests in a brighter light, or more in favor to the public eye. Media capture is on the rise and looks as though it will continue to grow alongside emerging media. Despite this development, the public can take steps to increase awareness and expose the media that is being influenced. By advocating for policies to control capture such as promoting “diversity of ownership, requiring transparency of ownership, and strengthening media regulators,” capture can control or expose the power that influencers have on the content we receive. In the digital age, in which sources are not always necessarily checked and a plethora of media biases fill every channel, taking measures to encourage the protection of free expression is essential in moving forward and ensuring media capture is controlled.
Karlsen, Rune, and Bernard Enjolras. “Styles of Social Media Campaigning and Influence in a Hybrid Political Communication System.” The International Journal of Press/Politics, 27 Apr. 2016, journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1940161216645335.
Schiffrin, Anya. “Media Capture: Introduction.” Center for International Media Assistance, 2017, www.cima.ned.org/resource/media-capture-introduction/.