The increasing importance of the mass media has become apparent with each presidential election. When the first televised presidential debate was held on September 26, 1960, between the Democratic nominee, Senator John Kennedy (who later went on to become the president) and the Republican nominee, Vice President Nixon, it was a novelty of sorts. However, the debate between these two was thought to have played a decisive role in an otherwise closely fought election. The charismatic personality of Kennedy came across much better than Nixon and it was the for the first time that television played a role in determining popular attitudes.
The mass media have since come a long way from the era of the televised debates to a situation where one candidate (Obama) goes on air directly and on all networks to buttress his point. And the fact that Obama could muster hundreds of millions in contributions from supporters via the net is a sign of things to come. And his ability to reach out in the initial days of his campaign where the mainstream media was not giving him much airtime is largely due to the internet and his deft use of tools like YouTube to spread his message.
And with the growing usage of mobiles in the US, it may not be long before we have a situation where the next generation of the campaign may well be on the mobile telephony front given the advances in technology in this sphere. National television networks reach 99 percent of all American homes. A look at current research also shows that American people spend from 18 to 35 hours per week watching television.
It is 'normal' to spend 3 - 4 hours per day in the company of a television set. This makes contact across the entire socioeconomic spectrum and makes TV the biggest form of mass communication. The downfall to this is that television tends to emphasize entertainment while, weeding out less entertaining topics. Coverage of public events, politics, and even law that are not considered to fall within the requirements of ‘ good television, ’ tend to be the ones that are left out.
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