Academic journal article Journal of Development Communication

A Longitudinal Study of Agenda Setting and Environmental Pollution

Academic journal article Journal of Development Communication

A Longitudinal Study of Agenda Setting and Environmental Pollution

Article excerpt

The agenda-setting hypothesis looks at the relationship between relevant emphasis given by the media on various topics and the degree of concern that the same topics may have among members of the public. As stated by Dearing and Roger, 1996, the agenda setting hypothesis process is an on going competition among issue proponents to gain attention of the media professionals, the public and policy elites. Members of the public might have noted the amount of coverage of environmental issues and eventually it influences the amount salience issues of environment given by the concerned public.

However, it is not all the time members of the society get important issues from the media, but the media as usual mirror most of the so-called realities among members of the public. Study designs for agenda setting follow various patterns.

Some researchers established the relationship between media agenda and public agenda by correlating the results through quantitative method of particular issues in the media and survey of the publics' opinion on the same issues. The type of study design could be determined by the number of issues, type of issues and duration of the study. In such types of studies, there are two major variables: public agenda and media agenda.

Most of the studies have also examined the relationship among three variables, which include public policy agenda, media agenda and public agenda. However, studies involving more than three major variables are rare. What some researchers do is to substitute one of the variables in the three variable study designs with another equally important variable. For instance, recent studies have replaced public policy agenda with real-world conditions, that is the actual prominence of specific issue in reality.

Indicators of current conditions or the measure of importance of an issue in reality is usually based on statistics, such as number of polluted rivers in a particular year and particular country. Nevertheless, some Researchers recommend examining real-world conditions with public agenda and media agenda. In this way, the research design is strengthened as there is a control variable and the chances of getting significant relationship between the variables due to some exogenous variables is reduced.

This study examined the Media Agenda, Public Agenda and Real World Conditions for the issue of environmental pollution from 2002-2006, in Malaysia to determine if a relationship exists between the media agenda (newspaper coverage), the real world conditions (disposal of wastage, water quality and air quality statistics), and the public agenda (public opinion through survey).

The media agenda was determined by content analysing the New Straits Times. Environmental stories were measured by number of words and were coded into three categories of air pollution, water pollution and waste disposal. Survey data was used to determine the public agenda by examining the percentage of respondents who cited environmental issues as the most important issues facing the nation. Statistical data from the Department of Statistics Malaysia publications were used to determine the real-world conditions, using indicators such as air quality, water quality and waste disposal.

Though the concern and interest for the environmental issues is as old as the present Malaysian government, there have been little studies that investigated the relationship between media agenda and public agenda. The available studies on environment focused on knowledge of environmental issues among different groups of people such as teachers and the role of environmental issues in sustainable development.

The current study sought to fill that gap in the literature by investigating, not only the relationship between public agenda and media agenda, but by bringing the third factor--real world conditions to strengthen the relationships of the variables. It attempts to replicate various studies conducted elsewhere on the relationship between the media agenda and public agenda with real--world conditions. …

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