Media and Social Change: The Power To Create and Influence the Audience.


Media plays an important role in creating and influencing the opinion of the public. It does this by linking the ideas of the producers with their audience whereby the producers pass down their themes to their audience hence changing the way they perceive certain issues. According to Alia (2004), there exists a direct relationship between the change in society and what the media producers are giving the society. In this relationship, the role of media producers is to generate information from a chain of relations and influences and the role of the audience is to infer and evaluate the information from the producers and generate other information external of the media perspectives. The impacts and implications of the media account not just the way interesting events are identified, as Ricoeur in the From text to Action, states, but also to a wide range of cultural influences that function via the media (Ricoeur, 1990).

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Recent research efforts suggest that the media have powerful social and cultural effects on society. This is a result of their capability to reach a broad range of audiences with a powerful and transforming message. Alia in work tells us that the media is the message when trying to how the circulation of a message is more significant than what is in the message itself (Alia, 2004). The use of media elements such as films, radio, and printed media transmits the producer’s message to his or her targeted listeners. And as such the media have been very influential in shaping society’s everyday life and opinions. Particularly, the T.V has wide control over what the society watches and as such is capable of manipulating their opinions. Moreover, the internet provides room for more varied political ideas, social and cultural perspectives and as such it has increased the degree of audience participation.

It can be said that people will always be influenced by media in several ways but this hinges on what the target audience wants to get from reading an article or watching the film. The idea could be established that media elements such as new stories as seen in the television plays a significant role in society as it offers its target audiences with understandings which make them aware of issues that producers feel their target audience ought to know (Habermas, 1985).

For instance, a T.V program will at all times influence its target audiences in several ways since it is perceived as a trustworthy source of information that notifies them what they do not know and as such shows the truths in their midst. For this reason, it can then be argued that programs like the T.V news programs assist their target audience in creating a picture and an opinion of specific ideas and issues which time and again reflect the news’ beliefs. In short, there will constantly be an aspect of the producer of a T.V program that he or she wants his or her target population to take from the program. That is whether it is a program he or she wants to share with his or her target audience or it is information about particular issues that are not near to home to his or her target population, which the producer wants them to view to add their understanding on the subject matter presented by him or her (Ricoeur, 1990).

Literature review

Nothing can be further from when it is argued that, the producer of what to watched or read by its target has the power to create and influence his or her audience. This is because the producers’ intent customarily is to change and influence members of his or her target audience in a certain way. Whether is to encourage social change or is to claim history, the producer will always generate his or her work purposely to pass his or her opinions to change his or her audiences’ opinions (Alia, 2004).

According to Habermas, regardless of the producer’s motives, the motives themselves ought to be purported in a way that is interesting to the targeted audience to draw their interest and employ their thinking (Habermas, 1985). It is the role of the producer to manipulate his or her intended audience’s senses to get his or her needed effect. A few individuals may claim that a certain effect may not be desired, or that the producer may not even be aware of the manipulation. Whether this is true or not the producer still has to anticipate and acknowledge, the role of influencing the audience in a particular way. This is particularly fascinating because producers of literature and social changes more often than not produce their works with a specific audience in mind, and that is why the producers of both literature and history accounts are exceptionally linked to postcolonial literature (Ricoeur, 1991).

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According to Alia (2004), It is through the media where the producers pass their ideas to their targeted population. In their work, producers aim at conceiving their target audience about how they think about some issues in the society they are living in. For this reason, they generate their work with the idea of changing the society’s perception on s particular issues they think they should make the population aware of. This in essence changes the opinion of the society on those issues and thereby acts as an agent of societal change.

Alia (2004) observes that the media functions as a system of transmitting messages and representations to society at large (Alia, 2004). The media have the role of amusing, recreating, and educating, and instilling members of the society with the opinions, perceptions, and norms of behavior that integrate them into the principles of the society as a whole. In his opinion, Ricoeur argues that, on earth full of wealth and wars of class interest, it is the role of media to systematically manipulate people toward specific opinions. This is because, in providing only a very thin range of ideas on main issues affecting our society, the media persuades the general public that, there is no option to the solutions it provides to problems (Habermas, 1985). In this way, the media change the opinion of society members on where to get a solution to their problems.

A renowned scholar, Paul Ricoeur sees media as instruments for transmitting information, ideas, and opinions from the producer to the society at large and specific audiences (Ricoeur, 1991). Media are thus significant instruments for advancing producer goals to his or her target audience. He however cautions that using media can be counterproductive if the means employed for communicating the message are not fitting the intended population, or if the information to be passed is emotional, can cause fear or contentious (Ricoeur, 1991). He, therefore, advises that this adverse effect can be prevented through appropriate formative study, familiarity with the audience, experience in connecting media channels to the target population, and information content testing (Ricoeur, 1991).

Complicated organizations rely on media in delivering their messages to society. In this regard, media can be seen as extensions of man due to its capability of extending what publishers want to tell, to communicate to individuals far away, to hear information, and view images that can not be accessed without it. As a result of the use of mass media in spreading news, the media has in essence made the world a global village.

It is worth noting that, the significance of media messages is directly linked to what is accounted for and how it is reported. In this vein, Alia (2004) observes that the media are a significant source of information on several issues that lead to a profound effect on society, and as such, there exists pervasive interest in the value of reporting (Alia, 2004). Media messages should thus be reported appropriately and if need be their sources should be revealed to their readers. This is very important as it helps in authenticating them.

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According to Ricoeur (1991), the media can facilitate short and lasting effects on their target audiences. Short-term goals can be effects such as revealing audiences health concepts as well creating attentiveness and knowledge among others. The lasting effects include such issues changes in positions, behaviors, and opinions on some social norms. The lasting effects integrate all of the above tasks that lead to a centered rebuilding of observed social values as well as preservation of behavioral transformations.

In causing a social change in the society the media informs, molds public relations, and acts as an advocate of promoting several specific points of view usually those of the producer (Habermas, 1985). Being agents of educating the society as a whole, the media spreads knowledge to a vast population and as such, it is part and parcel of a wide range of endeavors of promoting actions that are believed to have profound social transformations in that society. As public relations instruments, media help societies in attaining trustworthiness and respect among their opinion leaders and other stakeholders. As instruments of advocacy, the media help political leaders in initiating policy issues, building consensus on contentious issues, and achieving public support for certain perspectives.

Without question, the audience is very important to the producer of any form of media. Some studies consider society as a group of isolated persons subjected to media messages. This school of thought envisions the media messages as a needle syringe that infusion the opinions of the media producers into the minds of the target audience, who accept these opinions and principles (Habermas, 1985). This in turn changes their perceptions of different issues and beliefs. This in essence changes their social-political understandings. That is why media can be attributed to the widespread sharing of information from different producers.

Alia (2004) observes that the link between media and modern popular culture is usually conceived in terms of spreading opinions from the privileged few to the general public. The permanent outcome of this is important with regards to the ongoing concentration of media control and ownership by the privileged few. This is the cause of cultural dictatorship that is seen in the contemporary world. This is a situation whereby only the cultural attitudes and beliefs of the media elite are taken as standard attitudes and beliefs of the society. A case in the study is that HarperCollins’ press whereby the owner Murdoch refused to publish the work of Patten which was thought to be damaging to his interests in China media industry. In this case, Patten’s work was believed to be against china’s mode of leadership. Here we see even the book was a constructive criticism of China’s mode of leadership it could not be published as the owner of the HarperCollins’ press thought this can adversely impact his business interests in China.

Without a doubt, media has been utilized in a vast range by politicians to inform, plan and share cultural thoughts of their movements. A good example is the world trade center conference of ministers’ demonstrations that took place in 1999. This protest is believed to be a true portrayal of the utilization of media as an instrument for social transformations. In these demonstrations, media messages were used to plan the action, inform and organize all those who participated in the protests.

Without question, the media has brought significant social transformations over time in behavior models and cultural attitudes and norms. For instance, the media has brought remarkable social changes having lasting impacts such as the industrial revolution, the eradication of slavery as well as the feminist movement (Alia, 2004). These social movements have in turn played a significant role in inspiring the marginalized members of the society to cause a social change.

Furthermore, it is within the media whereby the authors/directors of media create awareness of thorny issues in the society. When a member of society understand such issues they change their attitudes and beliefs and the result is society’s social change. According to Ricoeur (1991), media function as an instrument for formulating and evaluating public opinions, linking the world with thinkers, and rebuilding the self-picture of society.


The mass media is also seen as a tool for control. Some studies suggest that most governments use media in controlling the public opinions of their citizens. It is through media where political leaders try to convince and manipulate the public toward the thinking that certain national undertakings are worth implementing for the good of the society at large. That is why in the contemporary world we see many world leaders advocating for the expansion of mass media in third world countries. This is thought to inspire them to work hard in their daily roles and as such develop themselves.


Alia, V. (2004). Media Ethics & social change. London: Rutledge publishers.

Habermas, J. (1985).The theory of communicative action. New York: Beacon Press.

Ricoeur, P. (1991). From text to action. Northwester: Northwestern University Press.

Ricoeur, P. (1990).Time and narrative. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press.

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