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Sample Essay on Media Intrusion Theory


The assertion that media is intrusive is indeed true and this has been felt in various quarters such as politics, private lives and the government. In order to accomplish effective intrusion, media create productions that will impact political, private, commercial and governmental interests. Media have a way of manipulating audiences in a very subtle way and interestingly enough these audiences will knowingly or unknowingly subject themselves to manipulation. Thanks to well crafted targeted media products.

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Media intrusion theory therefore attempts to explain what the intrusion is all about and the reasons for it. Media intrusion theory according to Baran and Davis (2010) is “the idea that media have intruded into and taken over politics to the degree that politics have become subverted”.

This theory is mainly focused on the political arena and has been derived from research in political science and communication. This theory therefore, according to me, is all about political communication.

Assumption of the media intrusion theory

An assumption of this theory that is well captured by Baran and Davis is that the political process works well only when a responsible and informed elite mediates between the masses and its elected leaders.

In our society, the elite who are persons who actually control the means of production (bourgeoisie) manage politics so that their interests are well taken care of by the elected leaders. “Most members of this elite don’t hold political office but work behind the scenes serving the interests of the groups they lead.”Political leaders on the other hand fight hard to get to political offices through being in touch with the grassroots through participation in social organizations. In Kenya, they do this by actively taking part in organizations that aim to impact the society positively. From this participation they win the favour of people who will then vote for them. It is clear then that politicians gain support as they take part in social organizations or as they engage in activities that are deemed to benefit the society.

Media (especially TV) becomes a problem because it prevents people from attending social events or taking part in local organizations by creating products that will keep them at home. People will stay at home as they are being offered entertainment by TV thus social groups lose membership. Because of this politicians lose people to TV. In this theory potential voters being members of social groups are referred to as social capital.

Consequently, as a result of loss of influence on people resulting from declining membership in social groups (which has been attributed to media), politicians resort to advice of shrewd political consultants. These consultants devise ways of enabling the media make news on the politician thus getting the attention of media consumers. This could be through advertising or cleverly designed activities that will capture media attention. Davis as qtd in Baran & Davis (2010) says that “influence of political consultants has grown…. Political consultants have developed very effective strategies for obtaining favourable news coverage for their candidates”.

Certainly, the hiring of these consultants’ costs a lot of money that the elite have to fork out and more often than not they are not sure if the communication campaigns are effective as they are difficult to monitor and evaluate.

Media intrusion into Kenyan politics

TV is the second most popular source of political news (Herzenberg, Aling’o & Gatimu, 2015). According to PWC (2013), the total of 232 000 pay-TV households at the end of 2012 is expected to more than double to reach 531 000 by the end of 2017. These statistics shows that TV audience is growing thus it will soon be a medium of choice for politicians and their communication consultants as they seek to bombard viewers with political advertisements and stage managed events that will project them as the best leaders.

Media intrusion theory

Many people would rather watch TV than engage in some activities that would place them in the path of politicians. Some people generally distrust and dislike politicians and thus they will not attend any functions where they may likely be present. This is what is meant by erosion of social capital.

Due to this the TV brings the politician to the viewers. Thanks to clever political and communications strategists. The TV then becomes the stage and actors in the world of Kenyan politics.´” … some media platforms become powerful electoral actors” (Herzenberg, Aling’o & Gatimu, 2015).

Mutiga (2015) says that “another key facet of the Kenyan campaign was that it continued the gradual globalization of the political consultancy business”. He further says that Odinga and Kenyatta used huge sums of money in hiring western PR consultants. Greenberg Quinlan Rosner consulted for Raila Odinga while BTP for Uhuru Kenyatta. In fact, Mark Pursey, managing partner at BTP Advisers, said the firm had been giving “strategic advice on the election campaign and providing international media relations support since there’s an enormous amount of international interest in this election.” (Jacinto, 2013). From this we can confidently claim that one of the PR firm’s role is to provide media relations or manipulate media.

“Politics is often reported as a game between opposing teams, with the major politicians viewed as star players. Stories focus on media-hyped spectacles—on big plays, on life-and-death struggles to score points. These reports don’t help news consumers—in other words, citizens—develop useful understandings of politics. They don’t systematically inform people about issues and how candidates would deal with issues. Rather, they encourage consumers to become political spectators, content to sit on the sidelines while the stars play the game (Strupp, as qtd in Baran and Davis, 2010).what comes to the fore as concerns media intrusion is the total inability if journalists to discern the systematic tricks of political communication consultants. They simply play into their traps and report news the way the consultants wanted it reported.

Defense by journalists

One defense by journalist is that they have minimal influence over political processes and this is because they do not get involved in politics and that their reporting is being manipulated or even disrupted by political communication consultants (Baran & Davis, 2010).

Possible solution to media intrusion

The internet could be a way of this problem because through the use of media platforms the users interact and make their views on different political aspirants and their manifestos known. Interactive debate is allowed unlike the case f the mainstream media where communication is one way. That is from the TV station to the audience. Social media tools, which include Facebook and Twitter, have opened up new possibilities for politicians to engage with citizens with a view of winning more votes and this has facilitated fresh modes of civic engagement (McKinney & Rill, 2009).

Asemah (2011) as quoted in Ndavula & Mueni (2014) say that “interactive media allows politicians to gain insight about the reactions and concerns of the masses regarding their platforms and make known to the politician, the pressing needs and concerns of the people that should be addressed”.

During the campaigns leading up to the 2013 general election politicians in Kenya actively engaged the voters especially the youth in social media platforms. Tracey (2013) in an article for the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) mentions that President Kenyatta’s use of digital technology played a vital role in his election campaign. His facebook page had close to 500 000 likes.

Politicians are aware of the capabilities of social media as seen in twitter post by Raila Odinga where he said that ‘… social media is such an important tool for free speech; it creates avenues for as many varying voices to be heard ad possible”.

Strength of media intrusion theory

This theory highlights the faults in TV productions as concerns intrusion into politics and provides avenues for possible solutions

Weakness of media intrusion theory

Focuses on news production only and paints a negative picture of journalists (easily manipulated by varied interests).

Study that has utilized Media Intrusion Theory:

A study by Ian Ward titled “Media Intrusion” and the Changing Nature of the Established Parties in Australia and Canada looks at how social capital has declined because of media and the weakening of two major political parties in Australia.


Baran, S, J,. & Davis, D, K,. (2010). Mass Communication Theory. Foundations, Ferment and

Future. 6th ed. Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning

Herzenberg, C, A,. Aling’o P,. & Gatimu, S. (2015). Voter information in Kenya’s 2013 election.

News media, political discussion and party campaigns. Retrieved from on 16/08/2015

Jacinto L (2013. Kenyatta blasts UK – with a little help from British PR. Retrieved from on 13/08/2015

McKinney M.S and Rill L.A (2009). Not your parents’ presidential debates: Examining the

effects of the CNN/YouTube debates on young citizens’ civic engagement. Communication Studies 60(4): 392–406.

Mutiga M. (2015). The campaign revolution — on the road with Kenya’s candidates. Retrieved

from on 13/08/2015

Ndavula, J., O & Mueni, J. (2014). New Media and Political Marketing in Kenya: The case of

2013 General Elections. International Journal of Arts and Commerce. Vol. 3 No. 6. August, 2014

Tracey, L. (2013). Will social media influence election campaign in South Africa? Retrieved

from on 16/08/ 2015

PWC (2013). Kenyan entertainment and media outlook: 2013 – 2017. Retrieved from on 13/08/2015

Ward, I. (1993). “Media Intrusion” and the Changing Nature of the Established Parties in

Australia and Canada. Canadian Journal of Political science. Volume 26(3) 477-506. Retrieved from on 17/08/2015

Media intrusion definition

What is media intrusion?

Media Intrusion is when the media, with help from public curiosity, intrudes on the life of an individual or a family for the purpose of obtaining personal and private information.

This activity may also be undertaken with the help of social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter. In some cases it can be done to generate revenue for a celebrity or a company by putting images of products in their hands, or associating them with certain products or messages.

It is also called paparazzi (which means “a mosquito”), due to the fact that this form of media intrusion can be very annoying and bothersome, having some similarities with a mosquito bite.

In theory, privacy is guaranteed by law in most western countries, starting with The Magna Carta. In practice however, media companies and celebrities are often criticized for their excesses in obtaining private information about ordinary people. We can talk about media intrusion when this information is gathered and presented in a sensationalist manner, thus invading the privacy of ordinary people who are not famous and do not have public profiles on social networking sites, as well as celebrities that are not willing to be known for other reasons than their profession or job (like athletes).

Intrusion of privacy is a crime in some countries.

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits forced self-incrimination and mandates that all people have the right to be secure in their persons, houses, effects, and papers, against unreasonable search and seizure by government agents. In particular it forbids both forced disclosure of incriminating information (compelled testimony), and the seizure of any materials belonging to the suspect or that are otherwise in his/her possession. This extends to government agents who by means of coercion might extract information from a person during an interview.

The legal concept of privacy is generally regarded as including protection from intrusion into one’s personal or private affairs, as well as protection against unsanctioned public scrutiny of one’s persona and/or identity. Recent case law specifically recognizes, however, that there exist several classes of information considered to be so private that even the state is prohibited from forcing individuals to disclose them. In California v. Greenwood (1988), for example, the Supreme Court ruled that information found in garbage bags left on or next to a public street “for the express purpose of conveying it to the outside world” is not afforded Fourth Amendment protection.

Media intrusion on celebrities has often raised questions about privacy, constitutional law and freedom of speech. The fact that most people are not famous does not mean they should be deprived of their right to privacy if they do not want to be in the media spotlight. However, non-famous people are sometimes seeking publicity in order to advance their careers or cause (such as when political protesters seek publicity for their point of view). In other cases however, a person may not want any kind of attention from the public or press at all.

In this respect, anonymity has been an issue at the center of a number of high-profile legal cases and public debates. The right to privacy, in particular, is understood as protecting against intrusion into one’s personal life. In most jurisdictions however, this principle has been consistently and repeatedly upheld by the courts only in relation to private citizens or someone who wishes not to be identified owing to his/her occupation. In these cases, the right to privacy is generally deemed to be superseded by the interest of the general public in knowing (or wishing to know). However, some jurisdictions have established certain limitations on this principle with regard to celebrities and others who are famous or otherwise well-known.

In any event, the issue is further complicated where an individual involved in a case or on whose behalf others claim protection is a minor (a child). In general, minors enjoy fewer rights with respect to freedom of expression and media intrusion in particular than adults.

In many countries, the law is not well-developed in this respect and there is a notable lack of legislative acts on privacy. The United States Congress, for example, has adopted numerous laws (e.g., Freedom of Information Act, Privacy Act) that protect specific forms of sensitive information or activities; but where the issue of privacy and protection from unwanted intrusions is concerned, the law has only recently started to develop. Even today there are no laws that comprehensively protect privacy or prevent media intrusion.

There have been numerous cases involving issues of press freedom and rights to privacy in the United States. One notorious example was the disclosure by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of information about Richard Nixon’s involvement in Watergate, which ultimately led to his resignation. An equally notorious example involves Todd Lindh, the “American Taliban” who was captured and held by coalition forces in Afghanistan after 9/11 and subsequently questioned at length by authorities without initially being provided access to an attorney or other legal representation. In another case, a journalist for The New York Times named Judith Miller spent more than three months in jail for refusing to reveal her sources during the investigation of who leaked the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame. In this case, however, rather than leaking information that was damaging to another person’s reputation or sensitive personal information, Miller refused to reveal the identity of a government official who allegedly violated federal law by disclosing confidential information to her. The public furor that ensued as a result of the disclosure has led to a further tightening and extension of privacy laws in the United States, as well as greater government control over journalists’ access to sources and information.

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