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The agencies acting as elements contributing to building and communicating public opinion are the Press, the Mass Media, Political Parties and Interest Groups.
The Press: Newspapers, magazines, journals, periodicals and news agencies, called the print-media, today stands out as the most powerful single agency molding, influencing and dispersing public opinion. A free press has been a citadel of liberty and democracy. A printed word acquires greater sanctity, appeal and legitimacy in human consciousness than a spoken word.
Different newspapers have different points of view, varied political slants and ideological angles and political leanings. This reflects in the selection of their news items, headlines or news in boxes, in the type of cartoons they publish, but above all in the editorial and in their leading articles. Their readers constitute their first target-audience, in building their version of public opinion. Some of the major newspapers in India are owned by business houses and capitalists. Obviously in certain matters of public and political policy, they reflect the economic and political interests of those who own and control them. Similarly, there are papers and journals brought out by political parties and interest groups, which tend to reflect their point of view.
The Electronic Mass Media:The electronic revolution in India has penetrated every part, every locality and every household of the country. FM radio, digital TV and smart-phones have established a wider communication channel for dissemination of news, views, information, advertisements and entertainment. The audio-visual method which they employ can influence even the illiterates. From the privacy of the home to office to street corners, the electronic media has altered the entire pattern of communication and of social life.
Today, we are exposed the whole day to a variety of information – required and not so required, necessary and unnecessary, essential and trivial. Our mind and consciousness is captured. Electronic media plays a direct and indirect part in projecting and building public opinion by increasing the level of information, expanding awareness and making available many points of views and approaches.
Political Parties and Interest Groups: These are directly interested in building public opinion, and play the most crucial role in the crystallization of opinions and policies. They are the brokers of idea and mobilizers of opinion. Since parties are interested in capturing political power, and ideological and interest groups in influencing those in power, they focus attention on all the major issues and problems faced by the citizens, the society and the State.
They seek to rally people to their side by canvassing their point of view, encouraging them for popular action, motivating them for greater involvement in public affairs, and mobilizing them for political and electoral participation. They reach out to the legislatures and the parliament, not only by setting up candidates and fighting elections and winning seats, but also by maintaining a steady campaign on public issues to influence legislators even after elections as well.
Public Platform: Democratic societies provide a wide range of public platforms for different social, cultural, intellectual and political activities. Several associations work for different causes. They organize periodical talks, lectures, seminars, workshops and conferences in which public men – political leaders, legislators, academics, journalists, lawyers and members of other professional groups participate. Their proceedings are reported in newspapers and magazines, and sometimes brought out in the shape of pamphlets and books. These functions and their follow-up actions and publications provide an important input into the building of public opinion, by helping people to think.
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