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Media and the Public Sphere

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Media and the Public Sphere

Maury Navarrete

Mr. Amador        


27 March 2014

Media and the Public Sphere

        An attempting to understand the role of the media in society, it is useful to use the concept of the ‘public sphere’ as an ideal, serving as a model or guide for what the media could potentially be. In this exploration we need to examine the following: What does an ideal public sphere look like and what purpose does it serve? What is needed for its success? How much of our current media can be described as a genuine public sphere? Is the internet leading the way? How each member of society can influence public sphere? Can a media with private interests truly be an effective public sphere forum, and what duty or obligation does it have to be one? Is it possible to increase the degree to which the media play an ‘ideal public sphere’ role, and if so how do we create significant media reform? 

        Habermas has stated that newspapers and magazines, radio and television are the media of the public sphere. Today of course we can include the internet as part of this media. The internet is perhaps the best example of a modern day public sphere. It is a global space that gives ordinary people the opportunity to express and share opinions, news and information. Never before people have had the opportunity to gain previously unavailable information, share opinions and news so rapidly, and challenge authority so openly; however, So far it doesn’t measure up to Habermas’s “ideal speech situation” which requires freedom and equality not always in existence in every society. It is though a step toward the direction of the ideal. Access is steadily increasing and it remains to be seen how much of humanity will eventually be included under this ‘public sphere’ umbrella. Habermas’s theory makes clear that “the public sphere is not a given for every type of society; nor does it possess a fixed status.” (Holub 3)

        Millions of people marched on the world’s streets in protest about military

 action in Iraq, primarily as a result of the power of the internet to inspire action, with sites like MoveOn.Org taking the lead. This call for action is also used for personal causes. In April last year it took only a few days before millions of people around the world had received an email urging them to write to the Australian Foreign Minister to increase his assistance in the Schapelle Corby case, a young Australian at risk of being put to death in a Balinese jail allegedly falsely accused of importing drugs into the country. It has the ability to unite the global community like never before with the recent crisis in many counties such as Venezuela, Ukraine, Syria, Egypt, and Crimea as a prime example. The internet allows for connection that is immediate, providing a tremendous potential for the empowerment of society, taking back control over their own voice and movement forward.

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