The Agenda-Setting theory presented by Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw (McCombs, 2004; McQuail & Windahl, 1993) was based on their studies of the role of the media during the 1968, 1972, 1976 presidential elections in the USA. Basically, the theory argues that mass media news, both print and electronic, have a great influence on public opinion in terms of what the public considers important or salient in their society, by choosing what events to cover, how much space and prominence to give them and in what way to frame them. They defined mass media salience transfer as the media capacity to transfer issues from their own agenda into the public agenda. More recent studies in this tradition, identified three different functions of media news: (1) agenda-setting which refers to the salience effect of a news story, that is the degree to which people think that this story is important; (2) agenda cutting which points to the fact that media are very selective in what they decide to cover in their newscasts, and that many events that take place in the world and in the local society get cut or dropped; and (3) agenda surfing, which indicates that media tend to follow trends and ”surf” on the news wave of the major media leaders.
220.127.116.11 Media Agenda-Setting and refugees Some studies have linked media reports on refugees to government discussions of refugee policies or public opinion concerns about how refugees create problems for Canada. Esses at al (2008) found that media create a state of panic within society when they describe the arrival of refugees as an “invasion” of Canada. Lacroix (2004) reports that when the number of Central American refugees in the 1980s increased and when a boatload of Sikhs arrived in Nova Scotia in 1987, these two cases, although unrelated were generalized in the media as a “refugee crisis” that led the public to believe that there was an overpopulation of refugees in Canada and that they will be burden to the society or create problems for the society. Pfeifer (1999) in his study on Vietnamese adaptation in the Toronto metropolitan area also found that mainstream media greatly helped the initial public’s positive response to the arrival of Vietnamese refugees during the 1970s “Boat People” crises. Toronto newspapers provided daily coverage and very strong support in favor of resettlement of those refugees, and thus influenced Canada’s decision to offer private sponsorship to a large number of individuals, and provided stimulus for public acceptance of this program.
2.3.2 The Uses and Gratifications Studies
Early qualitative studies from the perspective of the media user and his needs, done in the 40s and 50s, documented how people willingly engaged the media to advance their personal and social interests. For example, listeners used radio quiz programs and soap operas as sources of advice for their personal problems or to learn social roles (Herzog, 1944, cited in Lull, 1995). Radio was also used for companionship, entertainment and information (Mendelsohn, 1964; Suchman 1942; cited in Lull, 1995). Berelson (1949, cited in McQuail, 1983) demonstrated that people used daily newspapers to participate in public life, while television was employed to entertain oneself and family visitors, as well as a conversational resource (McDonagh, 1950; Riley & Riley 1951, cited in Lull, 1995). An ethnographic study conducted in the 1950s with the Italian population of a Boston suburb found that family discussions about television programs served to reinforce gender roles, help solve everyday problems, and express disagreement with social institutions (Gans, 1962; cited in Lull, 1995). The Uses and Gratification studies flourished in the mid 70s, challenging the media effects studies and their mainly negative impact on the audience. The proponents of this theoretical view (Katz, Gurevitch, & Hass 1973; Katz, Blumler & Gurevitch, 1974) did not see the audience members as