The News Media have, arguably, one of the most important tasks of democracy. It:
- disseminates information to the voters. Without this information, voters would be in the dark and would not be able to make an informed vote.
- is the gate-keeper to information. It can decide what information to give the public and what not to give.
If a voter is asked to vote on two candidates and the only information that the voter gets about these candidates is from the News Media, the News Media has an enormous responsibility to ensure that the voter gets accurate information. Without accurate and honest information, the democratic process breaks down.
This means that the News Media has enormous power and is able to influence, sway and manipulate voters and therefore, shape politics and policies.
The challenge is that every TV network, newspaper or magazine are controlled by humans and every human has their own political biases and beliefs. Sometimes, the bias is so obvious that it is blatant, such as Fox's conservative views. If you owned a TV network and you are pro-choice, you would tend to lean that way with your news reporting. Every media has their own hidden-agenda. That is a fact of life.
Noam Chomsky claims that the elite institutions, which includes the government and large corporations, are able to "manufacture consent ". If the institutions want their own specific policy, they can manufacture consent from the public for their policy, by controlling the information that is disseminated to the public. At first, this sounds like a far-fetched conspiracy theory. However, the Iraq war proved that this "manufacturing consent" works. According to CNN in 2004, 70% of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein and Iraq were involved in 9/11, which is completely un-true especially when Saddam Hussein hated Al Qaeda. Through ingenious spin, the elite American institutions were able to manufacture consent to attack Iraq by associating Iraq with 9/11 and terrorism.
Almost every major TV network were beating the drums to war in 2003, with the exception of CBC. They helped the government manufacture the consent to attack Iraq. This has led to huge ramifications for Iraqis, Americans and many other countries including Canada.
After it became obvious that the Iraq war was a blunder and it became impossible to hide this, CNN adopted a new slogan in 2007: "Keeping Them Honest", where they attempt to investigate politicians and try to show the viewers that CNN is "keeping them honest". This is a joke. Where were they in 2003? They are four years too late.
CBC is one of the only News networks that was critical of the Iraq war from the beginning. It is possible that CBC maintained integrity because it is not as dependent on income from corporate advertisers and therefore cannot be as easily bought.
This seemed to be true with the internet, which seemed to have provided more accurate information than the mass media with regards to the Iraq war and George Bush. TruthUncovered.com is a good example. Everything they said in their 2003 documentary proved to be true. Almost everything the major news networks said about Iraq war proved to be false.
The News Media are such large conglomerates and control so much power, that they can control politics. This has proven to be very dangerous to the democratic process and their control of voters' information can easily thwart democracy again. We believe that people need to be educated to the biases of the News Media.