Those whom studied the history of French Revolution would know the three estates of the Realm.They consist of clergy (the class of priesthoods), nobility (the class of nobles and the honoured) and commoners (the class of the regular and the ordinary), and it had stayed that way until the merge of the fourth estate in the twenty-first century (Bainbridge, Goc & Tynan, 2011).
Throughout this entry, we will take a slightly more academic approach in examining the position of social media in the political-sphere by exploring the concept of the “fifth Estate” using the concept fourth estate as our foundation theory.
Fourth Estate is a phrase that refers to the profession of Journalism, specifically the press (Reference), And fourth estate played a crucial role in our history in the development of our democratic society we have today. Newspapers were, in the 19th century, merely tools used by politicians and governments for the purpose of Public Relations and little independence were given to the press. The information disturbed were rigorously controlled. (Reference)
However, since the late twentieth and the entire twenty-first century, the fourth estate, especially the press, started to gain independence and information freedom, and by the end of the twenty-first century arguable, the freedom of the press is almost unlimited.
However, when too much power and freedom is being given to the fourth estate, that is also when it starts to fall down hill… just like the three previous estates…
the press stated to select information that are beneficial to their institution over actual facts. The criteria they use to measure news-worthiness consists of entertain-ability, public exposure and “trendiness” rather than public interest, magnitude of the situation and the potential effect to the people.
No longer do they report news about things that really matters to us, rather, entertainment and amusement became a massive part of the fourth estate.
And it is for the precise reason of rating.
Most media institutions are privately owned, and in a capitalistic society, the primary goal for those institutions is profit. Rating means profit, and hence, it drives them to ignore the fundamental of the fourth estate: to maintain balance of the rest of the three estates.
Surely, since the downfall of the fourth estate, some traditional media had made the effort of skewing the negative image back to its original neutral position, such as Foxtel and its 24 hours Political and News Channel.
And yet, increasingly, we are seeing many negatives reports surfacing into our attention about the use of schedules, propaganda or even invasion of privacy, demonstrated by the Rupert Murdoch Media Scandal, a recent example of how a media entrepreneur can control the media unethically due to the intoxication of power.
For that, we cannot help but to question the concept of fourth estate the following questions;
– Are we witnessing the demise of the Fourth Estate?
– Has infotainment taken over the role of the Fourth Estate? (Banbridge, Goc & Tynan, 2011)
– Has the media no longer possess the power to control their power?
– What is the position of Social Media in this realm we are living in?
And this, lead into the Concept of Fifth Estate.
“Fifth state is the new media technologies, such as the internet, as modes of news delivery; originally applied to radio and television”. (Banbridge, Goc & Tynan, 2011), but its connotation also extend to anyone else that does not falls into the traditional four estates, such as twitter, youtube or blogs (Reference).
Although until now, the fourth estate is still remained as the most influential and the most powerful information medium, we are stating to see the demise of its power, and it is progressively taken by the fifth estate because more and more people starting to acknowledge the corporate nature of the traditional media institutions and starting to lose faith in its independence and neutrality.
Therefore, we started to look for new sources of information we need for different aspects of our life, including our political life.
And social media was just what we need.
See the image below;
In two years, 14% – 25% of the people using traditional means of gathering political information have switched to the internet-sphere, and the trend is that the amount of people switching on-line is only going to increase.
To us, the general people, there is an un-removable layer of latent distrust that causes us to have doubts to the corporate media, and hence we are seeking information online for the opinions of others, hoping to find some sense of neutrality and independence in the political information we seek.
And therefore, predictably, the fifth estate is going to be increasingly more powerful, especially when people are trying to find information they deemed independent, such as political information. Although the fourth estate will still remains its power in the world of entertainment, it is arguable that its power in the newsphere will soon be lost, and will be replaced by social media.
The fifth estate of the Realm is here, and it is real. It will replace the fourth estate in the world of political information distribution, leaving the traditional media nothing more than another centre of entertainment.