On the control of media by politicians: A new perspective

Dan Caspi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present article suggests applying a “uses and gratifications” approach to the study of media‐government relationships. According to this approach, the political impact of the media is related to its ability to gratify the cognitive needs of the members of the political elite. The study is based on data collected during the ninth Knesset (Israeli parliament) term. Ninety‐one of the 120 members of the Knesset (MKs) were interviewed and asked to evaluate the uses of each of five media—newspapers, radio, television, private conversations with newsmen and with acquaintances—in gratifying their own cognitive needs in each of seven spheres of political reality: the Knesset, one’s, own party, other political parties, the government, the state, the Arab states, and other countries of the world. The main findings were: 1. Newspapers were found to be the most relied‐upon mass medium for fulfilling an MK’s cognitive needs; 2. The mass media were helpful in providing MKs with information in those spheres which were outside the political establishment, while in the intra‐establishment spheres the interpersonal mediahad a relative advantage; 3. The patterns of evaluation of the mass media were complementary, i.e.,a given medium gratified cognitive needs in several spheres with the MKs finding two or three mediagratifying their information needs in each sphere; 4. On the other hand, the patterns of evaluationof interpersonal media were exclusory, possibly because not all MKs had the same degree of access to newsmen. The data reported in this article may clarify the differential impact of the media on the political process as well as one of the reasons for their impact: their capability to cope with the cognitive needs of the political elite and to gratify them. At the same time, the politicians are able to exert a certain amount of control over the media by the way they relate to their own contents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-275
Number of pages13
JournalPolitical Communication
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1984
Externally publishedYes


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