Agencies For The Formation Of Public Opinion


Agencies for the Formation of Public Opinion

Opinions on political matters are slowly formed. The common people, as Bryce pointed out, have hardly any interest in the affairs of the state. Some agencies are needed to excite them. Of these agencies, the following are of special importance;

1. Press

For the facts relevant to the formation of public opinion, almost everyone has to depend on the newspaper. As the newspapers are available at a very cheap price, their influence in moulding opinion, with the spread of mass education, has increased by leaps and bounds. Most of the newspapers publish the details of legislative debates, speeches of eminent personalities, announcements of governments and parties and various other news. Not all of them are political; but still political facts are certainly the best for consumption. So, every newspaper takes pains to collect political news and make delicious dishes out of them. The representation of facts is not the only function; their interpretation and systematization into a particular view point are also undertaken by the newspapers. Almost every paper has ‘a tendency and dogma’. These are highlighted in the editorial columns. Even the manner of news flashing in headlines or elsewhere on the columns betrays the peculiar character of a newspaper. The readers avidly read the news and come to align themselves with a particular paper. Grievances are ventilated and views expressed by the public through the newspapers. For this purpose most papers earmark a few columns for its general readers. The news and views do not always go unheeded. The government takes note of them and carefully studies pubic reaction against its measures through the mirror of the newspapers play a vital part.

The press is, however, not immune from defects. In fact, it is frequently observed that now-a-days the newspapers have only one function. They are engaged in the ceaseless task of holding a particular type of readers on whom they are dependent for patronage. All possible ways and means are adopted to win the favour of the readers. Thus, every newspaper creates its own devotes who worship it on the supposed belief that it delivers the goods for them. Another significant criticism leveled against the newspapers is that their publishing has become big business; and they are mostly owned and controlled by the ‘capitalist class,’ the manifestation of an ‘uneasy relation between big business and democracy itself. As finer points out, “the amount of objectively true information and balanced opinion is, on the whole, small, and the press has acquired an extraordinary dominance over opinion, aggravating rather than correcting its defects”.
A free press is certainly an indispensable agency fro the formulation of public opinion and maintenance of democracy. But as it ceases to become an open forum fro the ventilation of all shades of opinion and is transformed into a tool of big business, it spells real danger. The remedy However, does not lie in governmental interference. For, as sorry rightly observes, ” to give a government agency power to censor fact and opinion would draw all the power hungry elements in the community into a struggle to get control of the government. Democracy needs press, but it cannot be found through governmental regulation of the press.” That, is fact, would pave the way for the rise of dictatorship. Hence, the solution, if any, can only be found in the inculcation of sound education that will enable the people to select the goods and reject the bad.

2. Cinema And Radio

For communicating ideas the motion picture and the radio are important agencies. Only educated people may be influenced by the newspapers. But, owing to the audio-visual method the cinema and the radio can influence even the illiterate. In the developing countries such as India where illiteracy is widespread, these media are very helpful in spreading mass education. Their potentialities are, however, not fully tapped. The cinema, for instance, has remained almost exclusively a means of entertainment. As it is privately owned, it usually serves commercial rather than educational purposes. Still, however, with the production of good documentaries and other educational films, the cinema may well be used as a means of education and opinion-formation.

The radio, too, is primarily concerned with the function of entertainment. Yet, it is a valuable aid to dissemination of information and formulation of opinion. “some observers have even gone so far as to suggest that radio has re-established that direct contact between political leaders and followers that characteristics Athenian democracy. In most countries as India the radio is however, under government control. Hence, it has frequently been criticized that the radio has served only the party in power. But, as finer points out, “on the whole, no country – whether, as in England, broadcasting by private enterprise, is really exploiting the educative potentialities of radio on the grand scale which is possible.”

3. Political Parties

The most important agency for opinion formation is the political parties. To use Lowell’s oft-quoted phrase, parties are brokers of ideas. Day in and day out they feed the people with the facts and ideas. Their sole purpose is to rally the people to their side. For, they want to get the majority in the legislature and hold the reins of government. Accordingly, parties ‘arrange the issue upon which the people are to vote.’ Canvass their point of view, nurse the constituencies, and set up candidates. The people farm the back bone of democracy. The valuable service rendered by parties is that they organize the people and amble them to choose between alternatives. Various indictments have been made against political parties. Their honesty and utility have often been questioned. Still, without them public opinion, which is the prime mover representative democracy, can never be formulated and put to its proper use.

4. Platform


For educating people and formulating opinion platform speeches are very useful means. Hence, every democratic government guarantees the right to freedom of assembly. The speeches delivered in public gathering sometimes leave indelible impression in the minds of the listeners. All sorts of oratorical skills are employed to influence the public mind. A Brututs may win temporary admiration, and an Antony, a durable fame. Nevertheless, eminent political leaders do set in motion the process of public thinking on important political issues.

5. Educational Institutions

In the creation of public opinion the educational institutions are of considerable importance. The way in which students are trained up in schools, collages and universities greatly influences the future course of their life. The ideas developed in the early ages condition a student’s outlook. These educations are intended to stimulate and increase curiosity. But a method of education that robs students of their open mindedness and drugs them with the number of political half-truths is certainly injurious.


Conclusion


This paper throws light on the concept of public opinion came to limelight in the wake of democracy. The governmental policies gradually became the function of opinion rather than of force, and the means for the expressions of opinion like constitutionally guaranteed liberties, elections, political parties etc., were at hand, the role of public opinion in the government came to be generally recognized. The theory of public opinion is thus a derivative from democracy as a form of government. It the field of political dynamics, the significance of public opinion lies in its ability to influence government.

The role of public opinion in a democracy is ultimately decided by the result of the struggle between belief and fact. Owing to subtle manipulation of the opinion-forming processes by interested groups, a fundamental distinction has taken place in recent times between what is and what people believe to be. Facts are misrepresented without scruple, and appeals are made frequently to the blind emotions and prejudices of the people. The process of corruption of facts becomes complete when exclusively a powerful group or a capitalist controls the major opinion-forming agencies like newspaper and radio. Thus public opinion helps to make the democracy and government to, for and by the people.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

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We are also running a series Inspirational Women from January 2021 to March 31,2021, featuring around 1000 stories about Indian Women, who changed the world. #choosetochallenge



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