According to the fourth estate model of the press, the media’s job is to protect the public interest. Is this idea still relevant in the highly-commercialised environment of the 21st century? Discuss.
In the twenty-first century, we can distinguish different models of the press and more generally of the media. The Western model, or democratic model, is called the “fourth estate”. Its task is to protect the public interest and wellbeing, its views and opinions (Curran, 1997: 287). However, in reality, the media’s job and goal are not exactly the same as in the theory. For instance, they mostly serve minorities’ interests and work for money, and the public interest becomes secondary. Therefore this essay will analyse how the media’s role has changed and how this could be dangerous for democracy.
The “fourth estate” model of the press is the liberal theory’s ideal of how the media is meant to work in democratic societies. It represents the fourth section of the government whose job is to link the government and the population. It also prevents the government from hiding anything to them, especially thanks to the freedom of the press explains Curran (1997: 287) which “ensures that the press reflects a wide range of opinions and interests in society”. To do so, it informs and educates the citizens about current issues and their government’s actions on whom they keep an eye on and they communicate the public opinion (Curran, 1997: 287). In other words, the main job of the press should be, in the name of the common good, to emphasis discussions in the public sphere, where according to McKee (2005: 4-5) “each of us finds out what’s happening in our community, and what social, cultural and political issues are facing us.”
In contrast, in the authoritarian model of the press, the government controls the media and shows to the population what it wants them to know and remember about what it does, it “serves as a means of transmitting the ideas, instructions and...