Why do we need mass media 1

Mass media

Udo Branahl

To person

teaches at the Institute for Journalism at the Technical University of Dortmund. His research areas / work focuses are media law and judicial reporting.

Contact: [email protected]

Patrick Donges

To person

is professor of communication science at the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University of Greifswald. His main research interests are political communication, organizational communication, media structures and media politics.

Contact: [email protected]

The task of the mass media is to inform the public and to convey public opinion to decision-makers. In addition, they help shape opinion through control and criticism.

A Pakistani journalist speaks through a megaphone during a rally against military ruler Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad. (& copy AP)

Why do we need media?

A look at the media landscape shows a colorful picture: the offers range from the daily news to the spread of gossip. What is produced is what can be sold on the market. The content of the media is not determined by the state, but ultimately by the audience, because in the long run only what is sold is produced. Everyone can decide for themselves what they read, hear or see. He can find out about current events, but does not have to. Instead, he can also watch entertainment programs or switch to music videos.

This state of affairs is protected by the fundamental right to freedom of the press and broadcasting, which can be found in Article 5 of the Basic Law. It protects the production and distribution of the media in general against state interference and, above all, against those that would prevent them from performing their "public duties".

The media fulfill their "public function" by participating in the free, individual and public opinion-forming by collecting and disseminating news and information on matters of general importance that each individual needs to find their way around society. The "programming mandate" for public broadcasters is particularly comprehensive (see p. 29)

The core of the public task is the participation of the media in the formation of political opinion. For the sake of this task, free media are an indispensable part of every free democracy. The functioning of a democracy in which all state authority comes from the people (Art. 20 (2) GG) presupposes that its members have the information they need in order to be able to form one's own opinion on all political issues in a rational way. Most of this information can only be obtained from the media. Their task is therefore primarily to obtain the necessary information, to select it and to put it together and, if necessary, to comment critically, so that the audience understands it and can form its own opinion. In this way, the media also establish a connection between the people and their elected representatives: Parliamentarians and the government learn from the media what the people think and want, and the people learn what parliament and government are planning and doing. After all, the media exercise a control function over those in power by also disseminating information that they would have liked to keep secret and by taking a critical stance on this information. Because of this control function, the media are also referred to as the "watchdogs" of democracy or the "fourth estate".

A second starting point for the selection and processing of information in the media is the personal benefit of the individual reader, listener or viewer. The range of "service" contributions has grown considerably and now accounts for a considerable proportion of the overall range of media. It ranges from product or service tests and tips on how to spend your free time to discussing critical life situations.

The range of articles that are primarily or exclusively for entertainment, such as "Lifestyle" offers about the lives of celebrities, has grown even more. Such contributions also enjoy the privilege of freedom of the press as long as they do not violate the rights of the persons treated, for example to protect their privacy.