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HZT4U Philosophy Questions and Theories : Role of Media

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Discuss your chosen form of communications technology in relation to ONE of the following quotes from the Unit 1 lecture notes: 
A. For Habermas, the growth of the commercial mass media has had a hand in turning the public sphere (a powerful, critical public) into a passive public once again – a passive consumer public. Mass consumption and the search for leisure time replaces rationalcritical debate. 
B. “By the public sphere we mean first of all a realm of our social life in which something approaching public opinion can be formed. Access is guaranteed to all citizens. A portion of the public sphere comes into being in every conversation in which private individuals assemble to form a public body”
C. The state and the public sphere do not overlap…[r]ather they confront one another as opponents. Habermas designates that sphere as public which antiquity understood to be private, i.e. the sphere of non-governmental opinion making. 
2. “The distinctions between news, entertainment and advertising are becoming blurred in today's media”.

Discuss the ethical implications of the above quote in relation to either Anne Dunne OR William Babcock and Virginia Whitehouse.


Statement C and the medium is the TV

In the year 1925 when scientist J.L.Baird invented the Technology behind the transmission of the pictures and the receiver to see the picture, he was not aware of the fact that his invention one day will become the most powerful medium to communicate the opinions of the masses and play a crucial role in making and breaking the fortunes of the players running in the race of the democracy. In the last nine decades prior to the emergence of the Internet, Television as a medium completed a journey of a sort in the framework of Jurgen Habermas.

In the 18th century, Jurgen Habermas propagated the idea of the Public sphere and private sphere. In the present context, we can understand it more clearly with the help of some legal definitions(Habermas, 2015a). The legal systems of the world identify two types of justice patterns. First is “justice in the society” and the second is “justice among the individuals.” Justice in society refers to a condition where a person follows a set of laws because he is a member of any particular society. The concept of “justice among individual” comes in existence when a group of people comes together and sets some rules for the small community for the working conditions among individuals. It refers to a condition where a subgroup of the society set different norms for dispute settlements and other functions.

The concept of a public sphere and private sphere also follows a similar definition. Under a public sphere, the state or the sovereign dictates certain terms and conditions and educate the society about them. It is expected from the society members that they should follow the norms and opinions prescribed by the government or the centralized body and abide by them (Habermas, 2015b). The private sphere, on the other hand, can be termed as the subgroups. It is not necessary that private groups are against the norms set by the public sphere representatives, however, they can add some sub-sections and additional conditions based upon the nature and the business of the group ( Habermas, 2015c).  

During its initial run, Television was a medium of mass entertainment and source of news. It was owned by the state completely. The state was commanding a censorship over the medium; however, they were not preventing the radical views or the views that were different to come in the open air. Television became a public sphere where state and public sphere representatives confronted with each other for the betterment of the system and the society (Ingram, 2010). Gradually many societies saw a flood of news channels and other channels, most of these channels were carrying out the voices of private groups because they were catering to a particular set of people. Most of the social engineers welcome this new change in the society because the river of the democracy flows smoothly on the surface of diverse opinions and representations of the small group.

Television as a medium supported the concept of non-governmental opinion making and processing of the thought process of a society. The statement made by Habermas clearly says that public sphere and state never overlaps, however, in the case of the changing role of the television for the society we find that Television acted as a strong medium to express the truth that state and public sphere are intertwined under the setup of a democracy. They are required to work in tandem otherwise the system or the arrangement will collapse (Johnson, 2006).

Live debates on television and other informative software allowed the state to convey their messages to the last miles. The same debates also allowed them to listen to the woes of underprivileged members of the society. During the last few decades of the previous century, TV became a medium of the masses. Although the respectability of the print mediums was high because of the accuracy and censorship, still TV as a medium left its mark in the processes connected to democracy. It was an easy medium for the masses. Where they were able to participate more freely and more frequently, it was a rapid medium, concepts like Breaking News and editorials also changed the pace of the information traveling for a common man. It became a direct medium of connecting between the state and the masses (Holub, 2012).

TV enriched the sphere of the non-governmental opinion making; there is no doubt about it, more importantly, it also developed a communication channel between the public sphere and the states. It created a bridge among the civil society and the government, it was not overlapping, they were not forcing anything on each other, instead, they were listening to each other and trying to find an amicable solution for the problems.

The fragmented face of a public sphere and the role of Media

President Abraham Lincoln never won an election prior to the fateful election that made him the president of the United States. Many experts believe that it happened because his strong opinions connected to the nationalism were not received well by the masses. It is true up to some extent because as a human being we don’t want to lose certain liberties and sacrifice a few things (Babcock, 2005a). Author duo William Babcock and Virginia Whitehouse captured the same essence of the human nature in their article “Celebrity As a Postmodern Phenomenon, Ethical Crisis for Democracy, and Media Nightmare.”  

The traditional wisdom explains the definition of the public sphere as a sphere where information can travel freely. Where anyone can get an access to it and finally it is about a space where many private bodies can come together and form a public body because they are sharing the same opinions. Postmodern media certainly has the speed and reach to support such type of private bodies during the stage of the formation. The inception of various social media communities is a poignant example for that (Babcock, 2005b).

In principle it sounds good, however, in the current article the author duo raised a valid point when they said that post-modern media is not depicting the real truth, rather it is depicting an ornamented and manufactured truth for their audiences. They raised a simple question when they said that if movies can create an illusion of truth then why news media should stay deprived of it. This article also raises another issue, it is connected with the plea made by the owners of the media houses, and this plea says that media houses are creating programs for the gratification of the viewers (Babcock, 2005c).

These two statements raise a concern over the ethical values of the postmodern media. In the absence of a censorship and proper ethics, it has the power to create some chaotic public domains and private domains. It can further cause a clash between diverse types of private spheres. A particular group of people promoting hatred with the help of a hate song can be considered a great example of it. According to the authors, the postmodern media is deliberately underreporting certain necessary issues and trying to divert or brainwash the people (Roudakova, 2017).

The presence of phenomena like underreporting clubbed together with the manufactured truth always have this potential to malign the thought processes of groups and force them to create a private sphere with radical thought processes or anti-establishment thought processes.  Private individuals are bombarded with information; they are bombarded with fake truths about the celebrities and others. Democracy anywhere promotes a free will thinking this freewill thinking comes from a framework of education. The media of the postmodern era is trying to manipulate this educational framework. We can understand it with the help of an example, the basics of political science clearly say that social service is the primary qualification to join the politics (Babcock, 2015d). A person involved in the sphere of the social service has all the good reasons to represent a particular stratum in political corridors. The media of the postmodern era is trying to change this notion; Arnold Schwarzenegger won the election and become a politician because he was a film star. Nobody in the media bothered to talk about his contribution to society in the form of a social servant. He doesn't hold an educational degree that can help him in developing an understanding of any social issue (J.A.Ward, 2015).

Media is promoting some celebrity tactics for certain politicians and trying to add a fake distinction in their personality. They are taking the support of the fake equivalency, postmodern media is promoting them is the righteous person.  Another argument is connected with the entry of the culture of the consumerism in the postmodern media. It is working for the consumers, by the consumer goods sellers and it became a consumer good in itself. In order to maintain their higher ranks, they are now taking the support of unusual elements instead of rational elements, they are promoting the novelty factor and declining the traditional values (Babcock, 2005e).

It is true that post-modern media is trying to thrive on the value systems set by the consumer market where customer satisfaction and the satisfaction of the stakeholders is primary. The conventional media cannot afford to please consumer forces with the help of the special interest messages. Traditional ethics of “welfare of the community first and profits later” can help media houses in surviving good virtues and responsible reporting of the events and facts.  


Babcock, W. (2005a). Celebrity As a Postmodern Phenomenon, Ethical Crisis for Democracy, and Media Nightmare.”. Journal of Mass Media Ethics,;jsessionid=027DCC4C1F8E99FDE2146F2278A6B4F7?doi=

Babcock, W. (2005b). Celebrity As a Postmodern Phenomenon, Ethical Crisis for Democracy, and Media Nightmare.”. Journal of Mass Media Ethics,;jsessionid=027DCC4C1F8E99FDE2146F2278A6B4F7?doi=

Babcock, W. (2005c). Celebrity As a Postmodern Phenomenon, Ethical Crisis for Democracy, and Media Nightmare.”. Journal of Mass Media Ethics,;jsessionid=027DCC4C1F8E99FDE2146F2278A6B4F7?doi=

Babcock, W. (2005d). Celebrity As a Postmodern Phenomenon, Ethical Crisis for Democracy, and Media Nightmare.”. Journal of Mass Media Ethics,;jsessionid=027DCC4C1F8E99FDE2146F2278A6B4F7?doi=

Babcock, W. (2005e). Celebrity As a Postmodern Phenomenon, Ethical Crisis for Democracy, and Media Nightmare.”. Journal of Mass Media Ethics,;jsessionid=027DCC4C1F8E99FDE2146F2278A6B4F7?doi=

Habermas, J. (2015a). The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry Into a. New Jersey: Wiley.

Habermas, J. (2015b). The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry Into a. New Jersey: Wiley.

Habermas, J. (2015c). The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry Into a. New Jersey: Wiley.

Holub, R. C. (2012). Jurgen Habermas: Critic in the Public Sphere. Abingdon: Routledge.

Ingram, D. (2010). Habermas: Introduction and Analysis. Cornell University Press: Cornell.

J.A.Ward, S. (2015). Radical Media Ethics: A Global Approach. New Jersey: Wiley.

Johnson, P. (2006). Habermas: Rescuing the Public Sphere. Abingdon: Routledge.

Roudakova, N. (2017). Losing Pravda: Ethics and The Press in Post-Truth Russia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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