Agenda Setting Theory in the Wake of Kenyan Politics.
This theory was introduced by Maxwell McCombs and Dr. Donald Shaw in 1972. The theory holds that mass media determine the issues that concern the public rather than the public’s views. The media does this by the way they frame, present or even disseminate news stories. This means that, when the media fails to highlight certain issues in the society, however important they are, they end up becoming marginalized or less important in the minds of the people.
People would think an issue is highly important depending from a position and its amount of information. For instance, most people take front page news in newspapers to be more important than other pages from the middle to the back pages.
This also means that when more than two different media sources like Tv and radio put an emphasis on a certain issue, the people think is more important. This is because at least 4 different media houses are talking about it, so the assumption that it is important is psychologically created in the minds of the citizens. If the people affects a large group of people like fuel price surges in France, it will be given mass coverage by different media outlets.
This theory has two core assumptions: (a) the press and the media do not reflect reality; they filter and shape it; (b) when the media focuses on just a few issues the public tends to perceive those issues as the most important ones.
In reality, in the Kenyan setup, this theory applies in what we have been seeing in the news lately; the 2022 succession politics. We are three years away from our next general election, but at the moment we are more concerned about who should & should not occupy the office on the hill. This is because the issue dominates our news headline, talk shows and newspaper stands. The public tends to think this is the main issue at the moment, yet they forget the blossoming rate of unemployment yet the current regime promised to create one million jobs a year, we even do not talk about our foreign debt and how to repay it.
There are some criticisms associated with the Agenda Setting theory. For instance the theory assumes that if people are exposed to the same media information at a particular time,,they will place importance on the same issues. This might alway be true. This is because people have a different perception on how they perceive information that has been filtered the media. Some people might find what the media is presenting as most important but other have their own issue they feel and consider to be important.
The other criticism is based on the personal interest. People choose what excites them, it might not be the same across the board. This theory assumes that as long as the media presents an issue as the most salient, the public opts for it. Someone may be interested in politics and the other one in sports, so if the media flaunts political stories as most important, the later might not be affected or concerned.
This is my personal opinion about the Agenda setting theory as a media student. Let me know what are your thoughts, next week I will write about the Gate-keeping theory.