One problem with the media is that they are largely beholden to their advertisers. If they report something that an advertiser finds offensive or disagreeable, they risk losing the sponsorship money that company provides. While on a small scale this is not a problem, in some cases it can be a considerable issue.
For this reason, the media needs to be cautious about what they report. Domestically, this may mean a fluff piece about refrigerator reviews could be subject to editorial review if – for example – it recommends a product from Frigidaire when a major sponsor is Samsung.
When Samsung pays thousands of dollars to promote their fridge freezer during a new program, they are not going to be thrilled to see their advertisement followed immediately by a glowing referral for their competitors’ products. Clearly, the news channel may be encourage to play it safe and recommend the Samsung in their refrigerator review, even if true independent analysis may not support that claim.
Of course, sometimes it is good that the media is subject to advertiser pressure. Take, as an example, the recent incident between Rush Limbaugh and the law student regarding contraception. No matter what their politics, everyone agrees that Rushes comments were unacceptable.
Does he have the right to make them? Yes, of course, the first amendment is sacred. However, the public has the ability to threaten advertisers who support offensive programming with boycotts. If he truly feels his statements are worth suffering financially for, he is of course entitled to stand by them; but, the collective outrage of the public is a good carrot for encouraging ethical behavior amongst broadcasters of his type.
The media can be influenced by advertisers and the public alike. This means we should take that into account when analyzing what they have to say to us, but overall it is not a bad thing.