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Media Bias and its Effect on Culture-Explaining through Two Steps Flow Theory and Agenda Setting Theory

Media Bias

Media bias is the bias of news producers and journalists that they make while reporting and covering any particular event. When the media portray a piece of biased news, the audience gets an unbalanced, inaccurate, and unfair view of the world around them. The scholars of political communication identified two types of bias in media reporting. The first type is “Partisan bias” which means the media reporting in favor of a particular political party. The second type is “Structural bias” which means the bias arises from certain structures e.g., reporting routines, customs, and commercial pressure.

Two Steps Flow Theory and Media Bias

According to the “Two steps flow theory”, mass communication messages do not directly transfer from sender to receiver, but they use indirect means. Some small groups reshape these messages and transmit them to the masses. Opinion leaders have a great role in this flow of messages. The opinion leaders first choose the media contents which serves their interest and in the second step, they interpret and filter the messages transferring to individuals with shared ideologies.

Considering the two steps flow theory, we can trace many examples of media bias in Pakistan. Take the example of a media analyst and a Pakistani host named “Hamid Mir”. He is an influential media person and opinion leader in Pakistan. Most people follow him, consider him a credible person, and share his views. He criticizes the PTI (A political party) and their previous government and is more inclined towards PMLN (A political party). He also has a critical view of the establishment and armed forces. He analyzed the negative aspects of operation Zarb-e-Azb and most of the people took his opinion and started criticizing the armed forces. His views on the missing person and Baloch's rights are also influential. Most people follow him to form an opinion on missing persons and Baloch's rights.

Agenda Setting Theory and Media Bias

This theory suggests that what the public thinks about is set by the media. The media’s influence affected the issues and presentation of the reports. The issues made in the news affect the public mind.

The media made the news reports in such a way that the audience will consider some news more important than others and the sequence of news is also set by the media according to how people think. Agenda setting takes place through a cognitive process known as “accessibility”. Media provides relevant information as food for thought and only describes society’s major issues and reflects people's minds.

Considering the agenda-setting theory, we can trace some examples of media bias in Pakistan. Take the example of a news media named “ARY News” and “GEO News”. The ARY news only portrays pro-PTI narratives and criticizes political parties in the government. Their news, opinions, and analyses revolve around Nawaz Sharif’s corruption and most of the programs and talk shows are based on criticizing the parties in government, particularly their policies. Most of the guests invited by ARY news belong to PTI and the host also somehow inclines toward the PTI party. The ARY news focuses on the money scandals and corruption of government officials particularly the PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement).

So, ARY has set an agenda and most of the people follow this news to know about the corruption of PML(N) members especially, the money scandals of NawazSharif and his family. On the other hand, GEO News portrays anti-PTI. In their talk shows, they invited most of the guests who belong to PML(N) and criticized the PTI party.

Globally, some news agencies only give pro-Israeli narratives and one of them is CNN. Considering the news headlines, talk shows, and analysis, we can say that CNN's way of explaining depicts only pro-Israeli narratives and undermines the Palestinian cause.

Its Effect on Culture

Media bias has a greater effect on our culture. It manipulates your way of thinking and has a greater impact on your behaviors. It influences our opinion-making. Sometimes Media bias is considered good, such as the mixing of racial characters in dramas and movies. In our culture, there are various issues like poverty, unemployment, corruption lack of basic human rights, insecurity, and many more, but the media specifies a particular issue like corruption and give less importance to other issues like unemployment and poverty due to which it makes a huge impact on our culture where our main issues are poverty and unemployment. Today, due to climate change, we are experiencing climate disasters in the form of floods, heatwaves, earthquakes, and melting of glaciers but the media gives priority only to the news related to world powers and their conflicts.

Sometimes the media put some unneeded and misguided thoughts in uneducated people which affected the culture. The influence of the political party on media and its bias also has an impact on our culture. Take the example of Geo news which is more inclined towards the PML(N). This media criticized the PTI and armed forces. Due to this, we have seen a negative opinion of people regarding the armed forces.


Media bias is increasing day by day and it is influencing people’s minds and affecting our culture. In Pakistan, the political instability is more heated by the biased narratives of big news channels which have affiliations with some political parties and only portray their narratives. Today, Pakistani society is more polarized than before. People lose their patience while discussing political issues concerned with political parties. In Pakistan, people blindly follow the news channels, and even their thoughts and opinions are shaped by these biased news channels. People are unaware of the fact that these media houses are used to further the interests of a few elites of society. Pakistani media is showing only the political issues concerned with a few political parties while it is undermining various issues concerned with the public like lack of education, health problems, unemployment, climate disasters, and intolerance in society. Media need to portray the problems concerning with public and should try to overcome intolerance and polarization in society.

Picture Credit: The Trailblazer

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