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The great power of the media should be balanced by an equally great sense of

responsibility. Discuss.
INTRODUCTION:
(Sexy Opening) In 1993, National Geographic magazine published a poignant, almost alienating photograph of a
starving Sudanese girl being watched silently by a vulture. Within a week, the photograph had made its rounds
on the cover page of almost every major magazine and had been featured on numerous international news
bulletins. The photographer of the iconic image, Kevin Carter, eventually committed suicide in 1994, as he came
under withering public criticism for not helping the dying girl. His regrettable death drew attention to the
ruthlessly profit-driven motivations of the modern media, and sparked calls for far greater media responsibility.
(Thesis) While it is undeniable that the media industry is ultimately a profit-oriented business, the unparalleled
influence it wields over billions of unsuspecting consumers has to be tempered by a strong sense of corporate
responsibility. Indeed, the great power of the media should be balanced by an equally great sense of
responsibility.
As the modern media allows news spreads further and faster, its impacts become more significant, drastic and
widespread, and therefore should bear responsibility for its content. With the internet and social media sites
such as Facebook and Twitter, information becomes readily accessible to all, regardless of geographical
boundaries and distances. The internet has enabled news channels such as BBC, and newspapers such as the
International Herald Tribune, to take advantage of its efficiency and convenience, to reach out to more
audiences worldwide, thus expanding its significant influence on readers. For example, KONY 2012 has been
ranked as the most viral video by TIME magazine, reaching out to millions of people over a few days. It appeals
strongly to the sympathies of the masses, influencing many to respond to the call for financial aid.

Opposing Views: Reasons that media does not need to be responsible


Some may argue that the media industry should not be fettered by any regulations other than the law, as it is a
profit-seeking business which is responsible to its shareholders. Modern media conglomerations exist to satiate
the demands of the public, and earn money by providing such a service. There is a spectrum of media outlets
which each cater to specific niche groups of consumers, giving consumers a choice. It is the responsibility of the
consumer to sieve through the array of information. For example, the BBC has diversified from being solely a
news channel to broadcasting sporting events, comedic sit-coms. Locally, the media conglomeration of
Mediacorp is similarly diverse, airing live news broadcasts, Chinese serial dramas, and even radio talk shows.
The trend observed is that the consumer should choose which media to consume, while companies focus solely
on making profit so as to provide the best form of media for consumers.

Counter to the Opposing View


However, it is an assumption that all consumers can discern for themselves what media to consume, as
impressionable or less-informed groups such as children may not have the level of maturity to exercise
discretion. While there is an enormous monetary incentive for corporations to treat children just like the
general consumer and expose them to a buffet of media options, the media industry should not solely gun for
the profit motive as this would neglect significant groups of vulnerable individuals. For example, the movie
"Aladdin" by Disney came under fire for perpetuating racist stereotypes of Arabs to children, who were unable
to detect such undertones. As many children cannot actively discern the reliability and veracity of the media
they consume, this leaves them vulnerable to the negative messages that the media may be sending. Therefore,
there are calls for the responsible self-regulation and self-censorship of the media.

Thesis / Own Arguments: Reasons for Media to be responsible


Furthermore, the media should exercise responsibility as it has the power to insidiously influence the way we
think. The media industry often plays off existing racial stereotypes and incorporates overtly sexual content into
its programming to boost viewership ratings. For example, the local sit-com "Police & Thief" produced by
Mediacorp has been criticized for entrenching negative perceptions of Malays and Chinese, thus inadvertently
ossifying existing racist stereotypes. The continual saturation of such racist and prejudicial, as well as other
sexually-charged or excessively violent content is harmful as it might lead to a situation where society is
desensitized to such material. This would then contribute to the formation of a new social order where violence
and a wildly promiscuous, unprotected sexual lifestyle is the norm. The media therefore has a duty to be
responsible for the quality of programmes which are aired; as such shows can shape public mindsets and
opinions very tangibly.
The media possess great power as a significant source of information in the world today, being able to
dramatically influence public opinion. As such, the media has a moral responsibility to society to report with
veracity and integrity, while maintaining basic respect for the individual's rights to privacy. In other words, the
onus is on the media to self-regulate to prevent active harm coming to the people it reports on. One example
that exemplifies the failure of the media to exercise its moral responsibility was during the media coverage of
the Chandra Levy case. 63% of Americans followed the story closely due to sensationalist reporting that
included lurid disclosures about her affair with Congressman Gary Condit. The media hounding of Condit for
more sizzling information about the scandal detracted from and was detrimental to the actual investigation of
her death. As society invests great power in the media, the media should never report at the expense of
common decency and the individual's rights to dignity. In other words, media should do no harm and should
also be held accountable for its actions.
The media, being a politically and socially influential force, has the obligation to act as the fourth estate. This
calls upon the media to become a beacon of objectivity in a highly subjective, political environment, as well as
to actively keep a check on and expose any evidence of bureaucratic corruption or falsehoods that are put forth
by governmental agencies in the form of propaganda. For example, during the investigations of the Watergate
scandal from 1973-1974, the media played a large role in exposing the corruption of the Nixon administration in
the cover-up. Magazines like The Washington Post, TIME Magazine and The New York Times, all provided
accurate investigative coverage of the political scandal. In serving as an objective watchdog for the general
populace with regard to the governmental workings and its transparency, the media has benefitted society and
the nation as a whole. As shown in past examples, the great power of the media has been and should
continue to be exercised with responsibility.

Conclusion
While the media is a profit-based industry, it is first and foremost a public service. As with any other service, it
has a responsibility to society to work with accuracy and objectivity, for the benefit of the people. The media
also primarily deals with people, and therefore should take steps to ensure that basic respect is accorded and
reports are not cheapened by sensationalist slants. Not all of its consumers have the discretion to filter through
bias; children and even some young adults, who are one of the biggest consumers of media, do not have the
discretion required. Hence, the great power of the media should be balanced by an equally great sense of
responsibility.