The Role of the Media in Combating Global Hunger

Begum Burak

The function of the media in the contemporary world cannot be underestimated while trying to understand on what bases the public opinion is shaped. First of all, it must be underlined that today mass media is perhaps one of the most important instruments in constituting and shaping public agenda. For all the news media, the repetition of a topic day after day plays a key role in determining the public agenda. The media, known as the fourth pillar of democracy, has a huge impact on the society.

It can be stated that, through a newspaper, readers learn not only about a given issue, but also how much importance to attach to that issue form the amount of information in a news story and its position. The agenda-setting capacity of the media can be analyzed from a variety of angles. For instance, during the period of elections, the election campaigns are most of the time reflected via media. It is generally accepted that the candidates that are supported by the mainstream media are much luckier than the ones that are not.

On the other hand, the globalization trend witnessed throughout the world plays a major role in strengthening the role of the media as an agent in influencing public opinion and agenda-setting. As known, globalization is a phenomenon characterized by the increasing unification of the world’s economic order through reduction of such barriers to international trade as tariffs, export fees, and import quotas. Apart from that, the globalization of the technological developments leads the people around the world to become more aware of one another.

As noted earlier, the media have a huge impact both on society and public opinion. The media can shape the public opinion in different ways depending on what the objective is. For example, after the attacks of 9/11 in the United States, the media gave a huge coverage of the event and exposed Osama’s guilt for the attacks as they were told by the political authorities. This shaped the public opinion, leading it to support the “war on terror”;  the same happened with the war in Iraq. In short, the way we think and perceive various issues about the world is also shaped up by the media.

In the contemporary world, global hunger is at the top of the world’s most threatening problems list. The perception of this issue is directly linked with the attempts of media in fact with its interest in the issue.

Hunger is a term which has three meanings (Oxford English Dictionary 1971)

  • the uneasy or painful sensation caused by want of food; craving appetite. Also the exhausted condition caused by want of food
  • the want or scarcity of food in a country
  • a strong desire or craving

Poverty is the principal cause of hunger. Here, the importance attached to the media can be seen in its ability to influence the political leaders’ agenda through presenting the poverty-related news and developments as one of the most striking issues. Moreover, as the media puts poverty and hunger-related news at the top of their agenda and share them with the masses, they inevitably become more aware of the issue and as a result, they want to take steps in order to put an end to this problem. In this context, it can be stated that, one of the most important steps that the masses can take in trying to eliminate this issue can be seen in their relations with the public authorities whether can they be political leaders or state institutions. In other words, they can put a considerable amount of pressure on political elites by becoming organized as civil society movements and so on.

Apart from that, the media by making the masses become much more aware of the starving people in different corners of the world play a key role in stimulating the non-governmental organizations (aid organizations) to get engaged in combating this problem worldwide. It could be said that media acts like a driving force in promoting global awareness in world-wide problems such as global hunger.

The United Nations or other international institutions can produce a variety of reports, but only when the images of starving people are televized or put on the front page of newspapers politicians take action. It is obvious that there is a correlation between mass media coverage and emergency assistance. On the other hand, global hunger is sometimes used as a tool by rent-seeking media organizations. Some media organizations increase world-wide awareness and provide a direct link between the people who suffer from famine and international aid organizations. While doing this, the media get  in fact engaged in some kind of hunger-selling.

In short, it can be said that, the media as one of the most significant actors in shaping the public agenda can play a major role in combating global problems such as global hunger. On the one hand, they may sell hunger as a world-wide commercial product and thus getting benefits, on the other hand, they increase global awareness and hence  help aid organizations provide much more assistance for those in need.

*The photo was taken from: internationalhealthrelief.wordpress.com

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