The market-driven mechanism has marked some significance of journalism in Hong Kong. As the term “market-driven” has suggested, journalism becomes business-oriented in Hong Kong. While some people consider market-driven journalism a good change, a lot of problems are also arisen due to this practice. In this paper, we are going to examine the advantages and disadvantages of market-driven journalism in Hong Kong to see whether citizens can benefit from it. Before talking about the pros and cons of market-driven journalism in Hong Kong, let us first give a clear definition of the topic. Citizens” in the topic means readers or audience. The term “market-driven”, in this context, means act in order to obtain the maximum profit. According to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, “journalism” is “the work of collecting and writing news stories for newspapers, magazines, radio or television” (699). In market-driven journalism, “the reader or viewer is now a ‘customer’. The news is a ‘product’. The circulation or signal area is now a ‘market’ ” (McManus 1). In fact, market-driven journalism is a response to the fast-changing nature of media. Over the past decades, many different new forms of media appeared.
Thus, the competition becomes keener among different media institutes. Therefore, they need to find a way to make themselves stand out and can sell well. Most people believe that the biggest benefit of market-driven journalism is that readers can get what they want because media institutes will “serve” them accordingly as they are the “customers” who buy news. Yet, this might not be as good as what general public thinks. When practising market-driven journalism, the news selection process will be focused on business interests but not according to the importance of the news itself.
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As a result, citizens sometimes will be misled because media agenda have a great influence on public agenda. Sometimes, in order to make the news sell well, media organizations use words or pictures with strong sensations to arouse readers’ interest. This is sensationalism, which will lead to a subjective viewpoint of the news as the vocabulary chosen is already containing some kind of feelings in it. Apart from that, the problem of media ethics is also raised. When conflicts between the market and the profession of journalism occur, “market norms will dominate journalism norms” (McManus 21).
Since one of the roles of journalism is to educate the public, citizens therefore will receive the wrong ethical concept when media organizations neglect media ethics. In a long run, the market-driven journalism may lead to the deterioration of ethics in society. Since different media institutions are making “products”, the news, for their “customers”, the audience, they will try their best to respond to consumers’ demand. Yet, as they are so “market-driven” that market norms is always put at first priority, they will fit for the majority’s preference basically. Then, the minority group of people will be neglected.
What is more, the number of media forms of different styles might decrease which result in a narrower choice for citizens. As Kovach and Rosenstiel mention, journalism should offer voice to the voiceless (111-130). When the minority group is the voiceless ones, the market-driven practice however goes against this principle. Thus, the rights of a group of people are deprived. Apparently, the term “market-driven” means that it is audience-based. However, this is not completely true. Audience is of course a component of the “market”, still, the major concern of media institutions is the profit matter.
So, when it comes to a conflict between among readers and profits, for instance, the advertisements want to promote a message that conflicts with the readers’ interests, the media may still go for it and choose not to report the case impartially as “investor direction is for maximum profit” (McManus 27), which sometimes is a “responsibility” to the stockholders of the company. This violates media ethics as media “should report news without regard to its own interest or viewpoint, and without favour to its advertisers” (Retief 41).
After seeing the general advantages and disadvantages of market-driven journalism, we are now going to examine this practice in Hong Kong by looking at specific cases of media institutes. The first example is Apple Daily, a newspaper of Hong Kong. It is a significant newspaper in Hong Kong as it brought changes to the newspaper market. Before its appearance, newspapers in Hong Kong tended to use words more than pictures. Moreover, in-depth content of an article is the usual practice. After it was set up in the early 1990s, newspapers gradually changed their styles and contents.
In response to different readers’ needs, the variety of content is greatly increased such that technology, fashion, horoscopes and much more information is contained in the newspaper. This is a piece of good news to citizens as the newspaper provides all sorts of information. Moreover, it uses a huge amount of pictures for illustrations and is printed on papers with better quality, i. e. papers that will not have the ink fallen off easily. On the other hand, there are also some weaknesses due to this change. While having greater variety of information, the details of some information that was originally present has to be omitted.
So, the analysis of current affairs becomes rarer and rarer. In response to readers’ interests in gossip, it puts the main focus on entertainment news which leads to invasions of privacy of public figures. Besides, political news is on a decline and audience are ignorant about that. Moreover, it uses sensational headlines which cause a decline of professionalism in journalism. The newspaper prefers attractive news to important news so that it sometimes misinforms the public. Worse still, the attractive news, most of the time, is something negative like crime, sex and violence.
While it is playing its informative role in reporting the issue, it is also bringing negative messages to citizens “because the media have enormous influence” (Retief 5). Another example that we are going to see is Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB), a television station. It links up with China Central Television (CCTV) so as to create a global alliance and thus, gain more profits. Since TVB has a close relationship with CCTV, TVB’s news has been criticized that it is impartial. Only part of the whole truth is revealed to the audience.
Sometimes, it even chooses not to report the negative news stories that are related to China or put that in a much milder way than it is, for instance, the twentieth anniversary of June Fourth incident. It did not show the historical video clips of the incidents while reporting on the candlelit vigil. Therefore, some people consider TVB as an irresponsible media organization as it did not “report news without regard to its own interest or viewpoints, and without favour to its advertisers” (Retief 41). Base on the above points, we can say that citizens can benefit from market-driven journalism in Hong Kong to a limited extent.
The majority of them can be served with what they want because media institutes are changing themselves to fit in the market. While having advantages of this practice, a lot more problems also exist. First of all, it’s the deterioration of ethics in reporting news because media organizations want to sell news and they will use all sorts of ways to make themselves stand out. Secondly, the interest of the minority group is neglected as journalism turns into market-driven. Thirdly, news reported may not be impartial. When there are conflicts etween advertisers and readers, the institution concerned will put its profits at first priority, which is probably to favour the advertisers. As a result, news value is no longer objective. Last but not least, when news becomes entertainment-oriented, the importance of serious issues like politics may be diminished. In short, citizens can enjoy only a few benefits from market-driven journalism in Hong Kong. However, the problems arisen outweigh the benefits. Therefore, the topic “citizens can benefit from market-driven journalism in Hong Kong” is valid but incomplete.
When knowing that the public can gain advantages through the practice of business-oriented journalism, it is far more important to know the negative impacts brought by this practice. Works Cited “Journalism. ” Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. 6th ed. 2000. Kovach, Bill, and Tom Rosenstiel. The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and The Public Should Expect. New York: Crown Publishers, 2001. McManus, John. Market-driven Journalism: Let the Citizen Beware?. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1994. Retief, Johan. Media Ethics: An Introduction to Responsible Journalism. Cape Town: Oxford University Press, 2002.