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A Review of the Media Impact on Public Policy Process in China: the Failure of "Traditional Media Framework" and the Absence of "Social Media Framework"

Yan Zhang1*, Tianyu Li1, Kaining Chen2, Kairan Dai2

1PhD student, School of Journalism and Communication, Tsinghua University, Haidian District, Beijing, 100084, PR China

2Master student, School of Journalism and communication, Tsinghua University, Haidian District, Beijing, 100084, PR China

3Bachelor student, School of Foreign Languages and Literature, Shandong University, Licheng District, Jinan, Shandong, 250100, PR China

*Corresponding Author:
Yan Zhang
PhD student, School of Journalism and Communication
Tsinghua University, Haidian District
Beijing, 100084, PR China
Tel: + 8618518966937
E-mail: [email protected]

Received Date: Aug 10, 2018; Accepted Date: Aug 14, 2018; Published Date: Aug 20, 2018

Citation: Zhang Y, Li T, Chen K, Dai K. A Review of the Media Impact on Public Policy Process in China: the Failure of "Traditional Media Framework"and the Absence of "Social Media Framework". Global Media Journal 2018, 16:31.

Copyright: © 2018 Zhang Y, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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The times are in the midst of change. The media has gradually changed its social form through the gradual influence of policies. The impact of the traditional media on all stages of the public policy process has not yet been thoroughly analyzed. Social media has already launched a "color revolution" in the world and has influenced the "American election." In the face of change, the Chinese academic community has not been able to get rid of "path dependence" from the "traditional media" framework. This paper starts from the theory of public policy process, and uses frame analysis and comparative research methods to summarize the two reasons for the failure of the "traditional media" framework and the four shortcomings of the "social media" framework for the impact of media on the public policy process in China.


Social media; Traditional media; Public policy process, Research review

Background and Origin

The word "media" comes from the Latin "Medius", transliterated as a medium, meaning between the two. The media is the medium for disseminating information. In the context of the West, both media and media translations are media, and they are often used interchangeably in the context of domestic terminology, referring to the tools, channels, vectors, mediations, or technical means through which people pass information and obtain information. This article adopts the concept of “media” to explain the similarities and differences in the features and ways in which traditional media and social media are involved in various aspects of the public policy process. It focuses on the concept of “media” in the various organizational relationships of society and taps it as a new medium. The created social public space or public domain highlights its social attributes rather than its tool attributes.

Changes in Social Patterns: Begin with the Influence of Media on Policy

The process of human development is at the same time the process of media development. The invention of language and writing has led to an increase in human abstract thinking ability compared to the previous language era; in ancient Roman times, Julius Caesar used a piece of wood plastered with plaster (later People call it the "Daily Chronicle," using public opinion to counterbalance the pressure on the opposition in the Senate; East Han's Cai Lun papermaking and the movable printing in the Song Dynasty brought precious inspiration to the Europeans Johannes Gutenberg. He is In the middle of the fifteenth century, the printed version of the "Gutenberg Bible" catalyzed the dream of Renaissance; radio and television allowed the spread of "far-reaching era"; the era of the Internet kept the center of communication dispersed, enabling ordinary people not only to listen to the world. It also gives them the possibility to "talk" with the world.

Benedict Anderson said in the "Community of Imagination" that the concept of contemporary nation is imagined by nationalists, and the core element that contributes to this imagination is the "print media of capital." From the perspective of the evolution of media development, from the former media era to the print media era, to the era of electronic media, and further to the current Internet era, the power of broadcasting has constantly shifted from monopoly to relative democracy, from centralization to decentralization, and from elite participation. With the participation of the people, the speed of communication is slow to fast. Such changes have even led to changes in social patterns.

The reason why the media leads to changes in social formation is that the media has an important influence on the internal policies of the country. This kind of influence also produces more profound qualitative changes as civil society continues to fight for the use of power by the media. In the contemporary era, behind this qualitative change is the deepening of values such as democracy, fairness, the rule of law, and freedom. Citizens' participation in the public policy process in the Internet age represented by social media will continue to increase, and participation will also be different from the previous three media types (newspapers, radio and television). This is a historical trend that cannot be shaken off.

Two Reasons Why the "Traditional Media" Framework's Impact on the Public Policy Process has Failed

The public policy process, or public policy cycle, is a different functional stage from the formulation to the end of a public policy. The Lasswellian Approach is the main research method in the field of public policy. The Lasswell research approach believes that the public policy process includes seven stages of intelligence, promotion, prescription, invocation, application, termination and appraisal. Under this research path, domestic scholars have divided the public policy process into functional stages. Jinshan and Tuo [1] considered that the public policy process included seven stages: problem construction, agenda setting, policy planning, policy decision, policy implementation, policy evaluation, and policy termination; Yapeng [2] thought that the public policy process was divided into problems. The five stages of construction, agenda setting, policy construction, policy decision-making, policy implementation and policy evaluation; Liming and Huifang pointed out that the complete public policy process includes four stages, namely policy formulation, policy implementation, policy evaluation and policy termination. There is policy supervision throughout the entire process

As for the role and influence of the traditional media on the public policy process, the academic community has a more mature conclusion. Kai [3] divides the role of the traditional media in the public policy process into four types, as follows (Table 1):

Table 1: The traditional media in the public policy process into four types.

Mode 1: Mobilization mode Political leaders put forward policy initiatives - mobilization and organization of traditional media - recognition of organizations and people - formal establishment of policy agenda
Mode 2: Burst (Crisis) Event Mode Sudden (Crisis) Incidents - traditional media Reports - Public Concerns - Public Opinions Produced - Policy Claims - Policy Agenda Established
Mode 3: News Survey Mode traditional media news survey - public concern - public opinion production - policy appeal - policy agenda creation
Mode 4: Public opinion mode Extensive public opinion - Intensification and guidance of traditional media - Policy appeal - Establishment of a policy agenda

However, Professor Tong Bing, School of Journalism at Fudan University, pointed out that the impact of the news media on the policy is: “The role of the news media in policy advocacy and in the implementation of some policies is quite significant, while in others, such as policy issues. The actual impact that can be caused by the determination, the design and debate of the policy plan, the evaluation of the value of the policy itself, and the termination of the policy is not obvious [4]."

Professor Tong Bing's assertion that the traditional media “is not significantly affected by policy announcement and partial implementation” mainly includes political and economic interests:

The first is that China’s traditional media is “the party’s eye and mouthpiece” and “political correctness” is the fundamental principle. The attributes of “universal units” have not changed. Therefore, apart from the government departments, other interests have been voiced in the traditional media for a long time, even The use of traditional media to intervene in policy formulation and decision making is extremely difficult. Therefore, the interest structure of the traditional media first manifests itself in its administrative affiliation. This kind of administrative interest structure relationship is reflected in two aspects: geographical or (and) industry (or departments, groups).

The second is that the operating mode of traditional media in China still has one side of “enterprise management”. In the golden period of China's traditional media in 2002, when social media had not yet emerged, the “National Advertising Industry Development Report for the First Half of the Year” issued by the State Administration for Industry and Commerce showed that the newspaper’s advertising business volume was 6.443 billion yuan, accounting for 16.97 of national advertising revenue% [5] ranking first in absolute advantage. Interest groups not only penetrate the relationship formed by the market interest structure of the media, but also penetrate into the media. Advertising, investment and other market links are an important way for interest groups to influence the media.

The Lack of Research on the Impact of the "Social Media" Framework on Public Policy Processes

In order to illustrate whether the traditional media's influence on the public policy process still applies to the social media era, this article uses the Shannon-Weaver model of communications and Schram's 5W communication model as the analytical framework, and adopts Hall's “coding-decoding”. Theory and Marc Granovetter's "Strong Relationship-Weak Relationship" theory, which decomposes the first-class index "communicative effect" into "transmitting the strength of the relationship between the two parties," "propagating directionality," and "feedback [6]." "Immediate" three secondary indicators for analysis; the "noise" part is divided into "political influence", "influence of other interest groups", "power of information decoding" and "the role of the gatekeeper" four The indicators are analyzed and the results are shown in the following Table 2:

Table 2: Classical mode of communication studies to analyze the traditional media and social media.

  Traditional media Social media
Communicator Professional media organizations Individual citizens, interest groups, governments
Audience Community Create "linked" individuals or organizations
Channel Traditional media such as newspapers, radio and television Internet based technology for social media
Content production method PGC (professional production content) UGC (user production content); OGC (Organization of production content); PGC (professional organization production content)
Communication effect analysis Pass on the strength of the relationship between the two sides Weak relationship Strong and weak relationships
Directionality of propagation Scattering, one to many Mesh, many to many
Instant feedback Slow feedback Feedback Instant
"Noise" analysis Political influence Direct influence Indirect influence
The influence degree of other interest groups Weak Strong
Power to decode information Only official interpretation Everyone can post their own interpretation
The role of the gatekeeper Strong Weak

From the above table, from the classical mode of communication studies to analyze the traditional media and social media, there are essential differences in each indicator. This requires academics and industry to jump out of the traditional "traditional media analysis framework" to reexamine the role of social media in the public policy process [7].

The author used “social media” and “public policy process” as the subject keywords to search in the “HowNet” database [8]. Only 12 articles were displayed in the results, and it was further discovered that domestic studies on social media and public policy processes focused mainly on at the following levels:

• Research on the communication of government-affiliated social media after the formation of policies;

• Research on the use of government-affiliated social media by the public;

• Research on the establishment of systems and systems for the application of social media by governments at home and abroad.


Comparing the influence of the traditional media on the public policy process, this paper outlines the current lack of four aspects of the social media's impact on the public policy process [9].

• There is a lack of specific analysis of the public policy process from the "problem produced" to the "effectiveness evaluation" in stages. Did not take the "mass route" in the era of social media. The focus of the study is only on the analysis of the effects of public policy implementation.

• China lacks the research on "social media" as the research object of China's public policy information dissemination methods and approaches, and has not established a policy process dissemination framework corresponding to social media characteristics and applications. Immerse yourself in the "empiricism" of the traditional media framework. Traditional media, as the main media channel in the last century, has played a significant role in the public policy process. In China, there are very mature mechanisms for the management and application of traditional media.

• Has not yet transitioned from the "passive management" phase to the "active management" phase. The news information under social media is fragmented, and due to the lack of management mechanisms, the government can only consume public opinion by taking measures such as deleting posts and bans. Such “negative management” takes a long time to develop into the use of social media. The masses, the organization of the people's "active management."

• Compared to foreign governments in developed countries, our social media management system has not yet been completed. The U.S. government has issued numerous regulatory documents and measures related to the government's new media, which constitute the main rules for the administration of social media in U.S. government affairs. Today, the US government affairs social media has formed an orderly operating rules system that is worthy of study and reference.

The changes brought about by social media are "in progress." China needs to combine its own "national conditions and public opinions" to improve the aforementioned social media's predicament, and there is not much mature experience to copy. However, the academic community must pay attention to the lack of this part of the study and issues in order to propose a "China plan" for the development of social media and contribute Chinese wisdom to the "human destiny community [10]."

At the forum on cyber security and informationization, Comrade Xi Jinping clearly put forward the specific requirements of “building a good ecosystem, playing the role of the network in guiding public opinions and reflecting public opinions”. He demanded that "party and government organs at all levels and leading cadres must learn to follow the mass line through the Internet. They often use the Internet to see, dive, chat, and voice, understand the wishes of the masses, collect good ideas, and respond positively to the concerns of Internet users. And dispelling doubts and dispelling doubts, thus explicitly proposing the era proposition of the "Internet Mass Line [11-13]."

The essence of the "network mass line" is that the masses can express interest claims through the Internet. When formulating policies, the government needs to refer to the opinions of the people. It must proceed in the name of “people” and use “social media” in various stages such as “discovering problems, formulating policies, implementing policies, and evaluating policies” in the public policy process. The platform of the “people’s line” has changed from “passive management” to “active management” and has grasped the “strong hand” of Internet governance initiatives to formulate policies, implement policies, and evaluate policies more effectively and accurately [14,15].


This paper is a phased achievement of the “Network Good Governance Research” (Project No. 016XCB093) under the background of “Administering the Network in accordance with Law” in the Beijing Municipal High-level Talents Training Project for Promoting Culture.


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