The role of the media in shaping public perception of politics and policy is controversial and lacks academic consensus. The media is commonly understood as integral to facilitating the deliverance of information, but it is questionable whether this communication is objective and whether its effects are positive or negative (Young 2010). Scrutiny of the effects of political reporting has triggered the development of various and contentious media effects theories, such as Lasswell’s ‘hypodermic needle’ theory, limited/minimal effects theories, Gerbner’s cultivation theory, agenda setting theories. It can be asserted that although individuals have a level of personal agency in the consumption of news, political journalism and mass media
play an important role in telling the public what to think about, thus playing some role in the shaping of public opinion. The transformative evolution of news audiences, and consequently the media, is dependent on contextual cultural conditions. This essay will highlight the role the media play in shaping public opinion through discussion of key theories, highlighting the role of media bias as result of privatized ownership.
In discussion of media effects there has been identified a three-stage progression on the way the media, politically and otherwise, has effected the general public. It began with a theory of strong effects on the audience, followed by a negation of earlier work that asserted a model of minimal audience impact, which