Democracy and the media

Year level

Middle/Upper Secondary

Research topic

Investigate the role of the media in a democracy and consider this in the light of the rise of new media such as the Internet.


As the citizens of a democracy, Australians value freedoms which may not be enjoyed in some other countries. However, these same freedoms mean that we are faced with the need to make choices – choices which are often difficult and involve complex issues. Democratic government, after all, is about ‘government by the people’, and in order to make choices about representatives and hold them accountable, modern democracies require a well-informed citizenry. The media plays an important role in this process by providing information, commentary and opinion. In so doing, it shapes our understanding of the world and influences our decision making.

A ‘free press’, or ensuring that the media does not have any undue restrictions placed upon it, is a hallmark of democratic societies. Indeed, the right to freedom of speech would mean very little in modern societies without access to a free press, or a media that was free of government interference.

In this unit you will be asked to consider the factors that influence the role of the media in a democracy, namely media ownership, truth in media, political interference in the media, and the impact of new media, such as the Internet.

Overall aim

After working through this unit, you will have formulated a view of the role of the media in a democracy, analysed the factors affecting the role of the media in a democracy, and examined the circumstances in which access to information and its publication have been restricted. Formulating your view on the role of the media will enable you to explore your own views and values with regards to democracy, and develop your research and critical literacy skills. You may also be required to work with others, and to understand and empathise with their points of view.

Focus question

How does the media contribute to democratic government, and what factors influence its effectiveness as a ‘guardian of democracy’.



Introduction | Introductory activity | The Investigations | Investigation 1 | Investigation 2 | Investigation 3 | Investigation 4 | Investigation 4 Issue 1 | Investigation 4 Issue 2

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