The Qualitative Influence of the Independent Media (12)

Besides, the structure of understanding context for information is another important factor affecting how far a media influences society. For explaining this, we can first take a look at the typical form of the news reporting arrangement in television media. Generally speaking, the time period for news reporting of a TV media is not so long that is about two or three hours in a daily programme schedule (excluding the so-called “news channel” designed for a full-day news broadcasting service). Besides the news programmes, there are many other TV shows occupying the great part of the whole broadcasting content, including the advertisement. In every news programme, social news, which is for reporting people’s real life, would not be the major one. Through the short-time reporting, TV audience is unable to establish a full understanding on the present situation of society. For them, other news content and TV programmes are of the “diluting element” or distraction: the structure of understanding context for social reality given by general TV media is fragmented that the audience cannot effectively transfer the valuable news information into a concrete knowledge of evaluating the nature of the current social circumstance and create a distinctive attitude toward the development of society in their mind. Here, we can see the “influence” of media on people, on society is not to be a real, even though the population of audience is seen as “huge”.

(See: The Theory and Practice of Anti-Globalization Movement: Case Studies of the Independent Media in the Chinese Societies – Hong Kong and Taiwan. Bonn: Bonn University. 2014)

The Qualitative Influence of the Independent Media (11)

One more example here: a labour movement is reported by a media general and this movement is at the same time covered by an internet independent media too. According to the above reasoning logic, the general media’s reporting for the labour movement is to be recognized as having a significant social influence larger than the independent media’s because the population of audience of the general is greater than the independent’s. However, it is not right. Although there are more people catching the labour movement news through the general, they could ignore or forget the content of the reported that no influence on them would consequently be made. They are passive audience. On the other hand, there are fewer people getting the news from the independent media. But, this group of people, who are interested in the reporting, concern the potential development of the labour movement that they would, for instance, carry out supporting action as active audience if the labourers’ activism is suppressed. According to this analysis, we discover that there can be an illusion about measuring the “influence” of media by just making statistic figures. If we ask again: which media can help create larger influence on society? The answer is the independent media, not the general one because the independent media audience value and respect the reported content and are ready to “do something” for society betterment. Therefore, we have sufficient grounds to argue the “influence” of media should be understood based on the qualitative analyzing approach shown as the above.

(See: The Theory and Practice of Anti-Globalization Movement: Case Studies of the Independent Media in the Chinese Societies – Hong Kong and Taiwan. Bonn: Bonn University. 2014)

The Qualitative Influence of the Independent Media (10)

Before dealing with the task, we should first understand how people recognize the instrumentality of media and its influence. Here is a starting point for reflecting on the social influence of media. Generally speaking, scholars and researchers now tend to study the so-called “influential force” of any media based on a quantitative perspective: using huge amount of statistic figures including the ratings of the audience, the page view of the media website, etc. to justify the substantial existence of the force functioning in a specific society. According to this, they usually argue that mass media have a relatively huge social influence because this kind of media have a larger population of audience and more support from advertising parties – the “high ratings” evidence their “scientific” judgment.

For example, there is a research report which shows the rating of a news media “X” is higher than the rating of “Coolloud.org”. According to the shown data, we have evidence to conclude that “the social influence of the media ‘X’ is highly likely larger than that of ‘Coolloud.org’”. It seems no problem with the above conclusion on analyzing the influence of the two media. However, any knowledge made by this logic would conceal certain important points that can help us to further discover and understand the qualitative influence of media on society.

How do we define the “influence” of a media? The rating does prove that there is a large/small group of people who stay tuned on the media platform in a specific period of time. However, this fact does not reflect the exact influence of the running media on people’s thinking and behaviour. How do we measure the qualitative influence of a media on society? To analyze this aspect of influence of media, we cannot rely on the “evidence” made by the quantitative methodology of statistics for social science research.

(See: The Theory and Practice of Anti-Globalization Movement: Case Studies of the Independent Media in the Chinese Societies – Hong Kong and Taiwan. Bonn: Bonn University. 2014)

The Qualitative Influence of the Independent Media (9)

Also, Kuang’s comment implies that Taiwanese independent media are usually working separately. This kind of ecology of the independent media movement practice would probably hinder the development of the media’s influence on making a substantial public opinion against the Establishment’s power. If the independent media carry out their media activism collectively, for example, to publish the so-called “united report” for social issues revelation, an effective and practical approach to strengthening the media’s position as social power is to be built that it can be used to force the authorities to do more for improving the commons’ life in the local society.

Although most Chinese people, for the time being, do not have a clear understanding on the significance of the independent media social movement, this distinctive phenomenon motivates us to go further to think about the potential importance of the media activism catalyzing in the two societies.

(See: The Theory and Practice of Anti-Globalization Movement: Case Studies of the Independent Media in the Chinese Societies – Hong Kong and Taiwan. Bonn: Bonn University. 2014)

The Qualitative Influence of the Independent Media (8)

“Kuang Chung-Shiang[1] argues Taiwan has a population of independent media audience about ten to twenty thousand. If local independent media do more collective actions for developing people’s public consciousness (e.g. reporting particular social issues together at the same time), a dissenting power could be made for pressuring the authorities (to do more for tackling the concerned issues actively).”[2]

Kuang argues Taiwanese independent media have their basic audience. The fact of the existence of the audience proves that the activistic media in Taiwan do have certain social influence, meaning a group of locals is recognizing the media’s journalistic works. Especially, through the internet-based independent media people can follow the “real” news and share them with others easily. The point is how to effectively convert such influence into a concrete social power to pressure the authorities’ policy-making.

(See: The Theory and Practice of Anti-Globalization Movement: Case Studies of the Independent Media in the Chinese Societies – Hong Kong and Taiwan. Bonn: Bonn University. 2014)

[1] Kuang Chung-Shiang (Guan Zhongxiang管中祥) is Associate Professor of the Department of Communication, National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan (臺灣中正大學傳播學系).

[2] See: Chyng (2009). Farmers Get Nothing: Long Road For Independent Media (農再吃癟獨立媒體路迢迢). Retrieved 1 November, 2011, from the Chyng blog:
http://gaea-choas.blogspot.com/2009/06/blog-post.html

The Qualitative Influence of the Independent Media (7)

In Hong Kong and Taiwan, the two independent media movements are encountering a negative socio-political situation different from that of the “IMC”: for example, the social role of “Inmediahk.net” and “Coolloud.org” is generally not to be understood or recognized by most people living in the societies. Obviously, the form of this phenomenon is related to the historical developing context of Chinese political civilization. As mentioned, the main function of independent media is to create a social power against the dominative pressure from the Establishment on people that it is valuable for activists and dissentients wherever in the East or in the West. However, the point is that the basic attitude of the Chinese people and even of the rulings to the positive role of the independent media is not so clear in the two societies. The evidence of arguing this is that, for instance, “Coolloud.org” is still not to be legally recognized by the Taiwanese authorities as “media organization” for journalism, like a general media. This fact shows the current difficult development of the independent media that is connected with the relatively complicated socio-political circumstance formed in the Chinese societies.

(See: The Theory and Practice of Anti-Globalization Movement: Case Studies of the Independent Media in the Chinese Societies – Hong Kong and Taiwan. Bonn: Bonn University. 2014)

The Qualitative Influence of the Independent Media (6)

Internet independent media, however, have certain degree of limitation on influencing the globalizing circumstance, which depends on: (1) how much political pressure would be put on people’s daily life; (2) how the changing tendency of social atmosphere is going to be; and (3) what the distinctive nationalities or values held by the majorities are. For example, the “IMC” played an important role in catalyzing the “Anti-WTO Movement” in Seattle in 1999. During the movement, the U.S. government, the host of the WTO conference in the year, adopted a typical public security strategy (e.g. to deploy “sufficient” police forces at the locale of the conference, etc.) to suppress the activism on the street. However, the public, including the local and the global ones, is willing to respect and support the dissenting voices delivered by the independent media: the monstrous organization having the absolute power to make the rules to control the development of world economy must be criticized and reviewed immediately. At least, the “IMC” has room to clearly express its anti-Establishment stance by exercising the right of free speech to carrying out such kind of social movement that was recognized as a significant rise of global media activism.

(See: The Theory and Practice of Anti-Globalization Movement: Case Studies of the Independent Media in the Chinese Societies – Hong Kong and Taiwan. Bonn: Bonn University. 2014)