What is a media system?

Every nation in the world has a media system that reflects the nature of that nation. Different interest groups and individuals struggle for media attention and appearance in order to dominate the society with their ideas and interests. When groups and individuals with various interests become prominent in the media, this provides an opportunity to affect the political agenda and influence the content of ongoing debates as well as political decisions. The media system is a mirror of what any society looks like, the nature of activities in that society and relationship between government and the people, among others. Comparing media systems involves looking at the relationship and differences between the nature and operations of the media in different countries, that is, the type of media ownership in the countries you are looking at, the kind of media that exist in these countries, the nature of media audience in the countries you are comparing, how many newspapers or magazines are printed, the number of broadcast media that exist in these countries, the impact of social media in these countries, government influence in these countries, the challenges faced by the media in these countries, among other factors. First of all, let us look at the meaning of media system.

What is media system?

A media system refers to the entire media in a country, the ownership structure, interest groups and other influences that give the media sector an identity. Media system is used to describe the coordinated set of principles, laws, ideas, and procedures relating to the media sector in any country. It consists of the nature and operations of the media in a country, including the media landscape (that is the kind and number of media that exist in a country, where they are located, nature and structure of ownership), relationship between and among the media in a system and with other institutions in the society. Other things that make up the media system are the nature of the audience, how the media make money, media ownership, control and regulation, and to some extent journalism training and professionalism. The term media system looks at the number and spread of the mass media in any society – newspapers, magazines, radio, television, the Internet media (blogs and other society media), including how alternative media (traditional or indigenous media) influence the society.

There is a relationship between the media system and other structures, systems and institutions in the society. This relationship also influences the media and this is why it is said that media systems reflect the nature of the society within which they exist. Politics, culture, religion, and the economy are among some basic societal factors and forces that influence a media system. The single most influential factor on a media system is the political system. The political system largely creates the model or ideology within which the media in various countries operate. This is because of the power of government and politics to shape the media, determine how the media operate, create laws to control and regulate the media, and also create enabling environment for the media to survive. There are certain things you use to know what a media system looks like in any society. They are called indicators of a media system. They are the features of a media system; that is, the characteristics that indicate what any media system looks like. Let’s briefly discuss them.

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The Author

Chinenye Nwabueze

Nwabueze is a communication researcher with several years of lecturing experience in Nigerian universities.

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