Skip to main content

Power without Responsibility

RISJ Admin

Contributing Author

Sampo Vaarakallio writes:Professor Jean Seaton highlighted the complex relationship between the media and the effect it has had on society. She pointed out that one main change in the last 70-80 years has been the visualisation of communication. The impact of images has risen hugely. All this has broken down walls and barriers to intimacy and has lead to seeing into others’ homes and lives. Also the wall between children and their parents' lives has diminished.
Celebrity culture is another consequence of this visualisation. People are willing to sell their privacy in public. That has lead to a phenomenon of "a transparent man". Celebrity culture and transparency has also spread to politics.
'In the UK we used to have fat, skinny, quiet, working class, middle class, evangelical, ideological, representative political leaders. Now our political leaders are slim 40-year old men,' says Jean Seaton. This homogenisation of political figures is partly the media's fault, she says.
These men – and they do tend to be men - have to have a clean public image. They show their families and, what is now important, they show their emotions publicly.
The third point in Seaton's idea of visualisation was the huge amount of security cameras recording our lives. Our identity is recorded online all the time. The use of credit cards leaves traces of our moves. Information on our health records, DNA and so on is also available online. Our existence can be seen and traced easily because of these new possibilities.
The power of the media lies still in its capacity to set agendas. The media don't tell you what to think, but they do set the agenda and give guidelines. For the last few years foreign news reporting has declined in television, and therefore in print media. Correspondingly stories of celebrities have taken more space, because “those stories are easier to sell". This is the agenda-setting power of the media, but you must remember that "you can open the discussion whether a story matters", Jean Seaton reminded her audience.