Media bias, past, present, and future

NYU – New Presence Journalism Intern

The manipulation of bias is a local problem that operates on a global scale. Nowhere is this more evident than in media.

The role of traditional media is to provide the public with factual information as well as individual opinion. While bias is inherent to any opinion, corrupt politicians and corporate giants strategically use bias to manipulate public perception, often causing progress to stagnate.

The first point regarding bias is to look at its source. Single author sources may project individual and personal perceptions; such bias may in fact be productive, as it provides a platform for dialogue and creates the room for new ideas. Bias on a societal scale may not be willing to accept or discuss all types of information, due to historical and cultural forces. This is the type of bias often reflected in media, and can become negative when it leads to exclusion, racism and bigotry. Such bias exists on too large of a scale for a single person to manipulate or overcome, but can be manipulated by owners of media and by politicians and financiers, leading to “planned bias.” Planned bias floods the media with a proliferation of the negative societal opinions while omitting any opposing opinions in order to promote dialogue.

Societal bias is the most widely used manipulation tool, since it relates with the population as a whole. For example, it is easier to accept an opinion if a person has heard it previously, thus over time, even discriminatory stereotypes are normalized by the majority. Planned bias utilizes this by omitting dialogue and presenting a limited viewpoint as the truth. This method is used most by media owners, financiers and politicians.

In the Czech Republic, many view media bias as a big problem. Andrej Babiš, the current Finance minister of the Czech Republic, owns two large daily papers, the country’s most popular radio station, and a television news source.

Then there are the cultural and stereotypic viewpoints of the country as a whole. Taking the refugee crisis as a current example, rather than providing information on refugees in need of help, Czech news sources consistently present them in terms of the harmful potential impact on Czech society.

In the United States, manipulative bias in the media comes primarily from corporate-controlled media sources. A media corporation which supports a presidential candidate can filter information provided on all candidates to skew public opinion. As is the case now, with elections coming up, the candidates that poll the best are those that get to appear in the media, which in turn helps their standings. This gives corporate owners a powerful political tool.

On the global level, because of similar tendencies held by local news providers, historical stereotypes are upheld globally. This creates an arguable lack of progress, due to the public not receiving enough balanced information to promote new and perhaps “unpopular” solutions. Media corruption and bias have become a problem that detrimentally affects the public’s ability to generate diverse opinion.

But is this problem limited to media, or does it reflect unsolved societal issues or prejudices?

Following 1989, the Czech Republic experienced rapid privatization of facilities that were public under communism. It was during this time that Babiš was able to strategically create the empire he holds today. His course of privatization can be traced to today’s media bias, as well as the proliferation of outdated societal viewpoints that hold back the ability to fully access or appreciate the network of global opinions and practices.

The United States meanwhile, is pinned down by a combination of bipartisan political system and corporate domination of finances. The bipartisan system not only limits the public’s ability to form diverse, moderate opinions, but also negatively limits the flow of information. Corporate giants operating for purely financial reasons ignore the human factor in lieu of corporate profit. In doing so, they disrupt humanity’s path towards the future while undermining the essence of democracy and progress.

Yet, as already mentioned in the case of the single author, all bias need not be negative. Dialogue creates new ideas, acceptance, and social consciousness. At the public level, public public media sources still present news simply with the aim of providing content, not opinion. Sources such as these are reliable and contribute to the growth of knowledge in a positive way. Further solutions may naturally be created as society progresses. And finally, there is the internet. Though it is somewhat uncontrollable nature, at least at this time it is not under the influence of traditional media. The effect of this dichotomy is yet to be seen.

published: 28. 12. 2015