agenda setting

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A situation where critics perceive inexplicit political motives (or an institutional tendency to overlook underprivileged perspectives) to lie behind the choice of topics covered (e.g. in news, current affairs, and documentaries), their relative importance (inferred from sequence and/or the relative amounts of space or time devoted to them), how they are presented, and what issues are backgrounded or excluded (see also selective representation). Media agendas are often set by ‘authoritative sources’ in government and industry upon which news organizations rely. The primary concern is that those in power thus call attention to issues that suit their agendas and distract attention from those that undermine them. It is usually argued that this influences or determines the terms and scope of public debate—not by telling people what to think but by telling them what to think about and influencing the salience for them of particular issues. See also framing; newsworthiness.

Subjects: Media Studies.

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