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Is 'One Voice' under threat?

Opinion : By Rob Nemala

"There is growing resentment over politicization of media from what used to be trusted news sources, and more so, the level of control on content accessibility and variety."
This is a brief look at media polarization and politicization of media in #PNG
Media in PNG is fast evolving into a powerful platform of propagating diverse views and attitude. For instance, the internet age recently brought socialmedia revolutionizing the way public opinion is polarized. Especially, in the context of political behavior, that is, motivation and ideology towards national and emerging issues of interest.
The PNG mediascape​ can be considered under variety (technology, content, program) and accessibility (barrier, law, infrastructure). Both at an ideal environment​, affect in a big way an individual’s ideological position, hence turnout decision.
In a challenging democracy like PNG with many cultures, inconsistency of ideas is also diverse, further complicating patriotic notion of (having) ‘one voice’.
In retrospect, traditional media in PNG was exclusive to NBC Radio, two print media (Post Courier, National) and EMTV, who proudly used to converge as one voice. Overtime, they are losing taste. The media environment is getting fragmented and the wider scope of media exposure has affected political behavior of citizens.
The one voice is beginning to diminish, posing some serious concerns in our democracy. However, with fragmented media creating explicit ideological outlets, can national consent be manufactured? Not easy. Left and right views seems unbridgeable, a long term challenge PNG will carry with.
This necessitates beginning of media polarization. Media polarization, is divergence (separation​) of so called 'one voice' PNG is familiar with to a position serving certain interest. Simply, it is the media outlet stance on given issues or policy that defines its identification.
In this instance, the targeted audience form their media taste, they create their own idea as intended by the media which than influences political behavior to shift public opinion. As a result, groups of identity like political parties or like-minded associations take advantage of media stance. That media source is politicized, it ensures there is sufficient exposure and distribution to exert over an individual’s prior ideological view.
Media polarization also allows diverse scope of views and attitudes.
Having many news sources, media polarization becomes natural inclination. In politicized media, people quickly lean to their self-reinforcing viewpoint, otherwise, alternate media source is sought.
By far in the last five years, socialmedia has played a significant role in providing that alternate view point. By not accepting other views, or even not understanding it better, reinforces the tendency for political differences. And so opponents resort to debate, vile criticism, protest, propaganda and grandstanding to woo popular support.
As said earlier, such ideological affirmation turnout to decision – PNG is voting this time.
Our society is getting more aware with information, henceforth, public opinion becomes a matter of nagging concern in the corridors of power. While political security is the prerequisite to development growth, development journalism comes under much scrutiny. For instance, growing informed citizens are getting tired of reading or hearing much about endless ribbon cutting.
Conrad Nyamutata’s critics on development journalism is relevant in our context. In his article ‘Let’s address media polarization in Zimbabwe’, he explicitly writes;
“And for years, ribbons were indeed cut — symbolism of opening of completed projects. New schools, hospitals, roads and so on provided justification for developmental dictatorship and development journalism. However, the concept of development journalism was narrow because it failed to probe failures of the State. When development stalled, development journalism failed to respond to the causes.” [1]
The modern world today is seeing increasing political media organization, both for domestic and international consumption. In PNG, there is growing resentment over politicization of media from what used to be trusted news sources, and more so, the level of control on content accessibility and variety. When media gets more politicized, informed society do not get affirmation of personal viewpoint. Instead, people resort to socialmedia to redirect national narrative.
One of the strongest critics of political polarization, former AP correspondent Matti Friedman, said this on AP’s biased coverage of Gaza war; “Many of the people deciding what you will read and see from here view their role not as explanatory but as political. Coverage is a weapon to be placed at the disposal of the side they like.” [2] This is an adequate discredit to politicized state of media today.
I am seeing both polarization of media and politicization of media playing out in our country. It is dangerous, journalists should not lose their integrity, and otherwise, we might to be heading to a dark future. The extensive politicization of main stream media has destroyed Syria, Gaza and Ukraine.
While patriotism can be the cause for one voice, disharmony in political views are still at large. Even dispensing one voice by restricting other independent media sources will further question media freedom and democratic check and balance.
Needless, politicians are quick to react to media-influenced views. “As a journalist, who you work for matters, now more than ever”, writes Ben Homer in his article, ‘The Growing Politicization of Media’ [3]
Maybe review development journalism, consider honest journalism and start patriotic journalism.
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