Agenda Setting Versus Society Criticism

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Agenda Setting theory was developed by Maxwell C. McCombs, journalism researcher and professor of University of Syracuse USA and Donald L. Shaw, journalism professor from University of North Carolina, USA. In 1968, McCombs and Shaw developed an approach. They studied Richard Nixon’s success in presidential election against Rubert Humprey.

Some people viewed that this political success could not be separated from Nixon’s habit in utilizing mass media. He always smiled kindly to journalists and he was often in the headlines. He became even more popular and received a lot of attention. His face kept showing in the newspapers or mass media.

His success in the election brought out an opinion on the important roles of mass media to make a figure or an issue stand out. Agenda setting theory assume that there is a positive correlation between mass media opinion with attention of the public. In other words, what is considered important by the media is also deemed important by the public (page 14).

Agenda setting approach started from an assumption that mass media filtered the news, broadcast, articles and published compositions. The selection was performed by the journalists. In it development, Agenda setting of mass media became a part of political communication mechanism in any democratic events.

It is closely related with mass media owned by political elites. It can be seen during legislative and presidential election last year. Media supported certain political candidates so it caused war of the news. Even now, some media still fight to shape the public opinion. The media brings out an issue selected as Agenda setting result. Furthermore, this agenda setting was managed to direct the public opinion to a certain side.

At that point, society criticism is needed. We should not let that public opinion shaping shackle the freedom of thoughts. The public must remain selective in getting information. All news can be read but we should not believe and refer to them entirely to make decisions especially regarding politics and power.

This book written by two experienced lecturers of Universitas Airlangga does not only discuss about political communication. With 292 pages, it also discusses about the relation of  media and the public in many aspects, from socio-cultural, life styles to economical.

Mass media in Indonesia is undeniably related to the economy. Media bosses always have reasons to commercialize news room or space they own. There are also national economical politics or political economy problems.   Political and market control is always a significant factor affecting media operation. As political and market interest prioritized, the public (media viewers or consumers) are the targets as well as commodity of media industry (page 158).

History of Press

The book also elaborates the history of press and mass media in Indonesia. There was an interesting moment when a pro media regulation issued as an effect of reformation especially on the freedom of press. There is no need for Press Establishment Business Permit (SIUPP), a permit from the New Order which was a curse for media practitioners’ expressions.

Law number 40 in 1999 regarding Press and number 32 regarding broadcasts were two ‘children’ of reformation. Media practitioners have more room and freedom from government regulations. For instance, radio and television which could not make news independently and obliged to relay information from TVRI and RRI, they have more freedom since reformation. They can even collaborate with foreign media like BBC and VOA (page 87).

Press in any forms: printed media, electronic, radio, television and other forms have more rooms due to reformation. The freedom has finally been achieved. They used to be forced but now they have their own wings to achieve their own objectives including political ones. (*)

Book details

Title                   : Komunikasi Politik, Media, dan Demokrasi
Authors             : Henry Subiakto & Rachmah Ida
Issues                 : II, 2014
Pages                  : xii + 282 pages
Publishers          : Kencana Prenada Media Group Jakarta
ISBN                  : 978-602-7985-75-9

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