Role Of Media In Agenda Setting Politics Essay

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Media has a certain role in agenda setting process. Some believe media play a role in making issue turn into agenda. In this paper I would like to see what is the role of media in agenda setting process, how media turn an issue into agenda, and I try to explain media in agenda setting theory in the way to explain transportation policy in Jakarta.

Role of Media in Agenda Setting

In a country there will be some issues that appear. There are some issues which addressed by the government importantly than the others. In other words, there are some issues that become government attention. Howlet, Ramesh and Perl (2009, p.92) explained these issues originate in a variety of ways and must undergo intense scrutiny before they are seriously considered for resolution by government.

Among a lot of issues, how do issue become part of the agenda? Based on Puerites (2007) some issue succeed turn into agenda is depend on if the issue is critical, when the issue content information/evidence from evaluations and existing programs reveals that a situation requires attention, if the issue is a collective action of interest groups, lobby, social movement around a particular topic, and if the issue is part of media role.

Agenda setting is one stage in the policy cycle. In this stage government more concerned with some issue that emerged. What happens at this early stage of the policy process has a decisive impact on the entire subsequent policy cycle and its outcomes (Howlet, Ramesh, and Perl, 2009, p.92). John Kingdon defines the agenda as (Howlett & Ramesh, 2003, p.120) the list of subjects or problems to which government officials, and people outside of government closely associated with those officials, are paying some serious attention at any given time … the agenda setting process narrows [a] set of conceivable subjects to the set that actually becomes the focus of attention.

John Kingdon emphasizes the formation of policy ideas and the manipulation of "windows of opportunity" by policy makers over a number of years. His study of agenda-setting acknowledges the complexity of policy formation in general. Specifically, it is the interaction of three separate streams - problems, policies, and politics - that converge at critical times to create a "window of opportunity" that results in issues moving onto the "decision agenda", for legislative enactment (Eutis, 2000).

John Kingdon (Eutis, 2000, 21) separates the agenda-setting process into three streams (problems, policies, and politics) and analyses the conditions under which all three come together. According to Kingdon, policy makers recognize problems, suggest solutions and engage in political activities that oppose or promote policy change. The convergence or coupling of the three streams pushes issues to higher agenda prominence and onto the decision agenda, often as the result of the political stream (a new administration or a shift in national mood), they remain open for only a short period of time, and they offer opportunities for action (agenda-setting) by policy entrepreneurs. If participants cannot or do not take advantage of such an opportunity, they must bide their time until the next policy window opens. Despite how policy makers recognize problems and then elaborate the policy which will suit the problem, media held an important role also to bring the problem to the surface.

Cohen (1963) explained when mass media emphasize a topic; the audience/public receiving the message will consider this topic to be important (Walgrave, S and Aelst PV 2006, p.89). Political Scientists draw on it to describeand explain how political actors (government, parliament, political parties, etc) determine their priorities, give attention or ignore issues, and do, or do not, rake decisions or a stance concerning these topics (Baumgartner&Jones, 1993 in Walgrave et all, 2006).

McCombs (no year) explained that social scientists examining the agenda-setting influence of the news media on the public usually have focused on public issues. The agenda of a news organization is found in its pattern of coverage on public issues over some period of time, a week, a month, an entire year. Over this period of time, whatever it might be, a few issues are emphasized, some receive light coverage, and many are seldom or never mentioned.

Jakarta: The Overview

Jakarta is the name of capital city in Indonesia. Based on BPS statistic on 2005 (Mochtar and Hino, 2006) Jakarta is the most populous urban centre in Indonesia. Home to approximately 3.9 million people in 1970 and is projected to grow to 17.2 million by the year 2015, making it one of the most populous city in the world. The number of population also arise due to a lot of migrant from other area in Indonesia moving into Jakarta in hoping for better future.

Jakarta is the centre of activity in Indonesia. Susantono (1998) explained Jakarta is a dominant centre of economic, social, political, administrative, and many other activities. As the national capital and as a province of its own, bureaucracy (at national, provincial and municipal levels) is a major sector of employment in the city. Jakarta is also the residence of almost all Indonesia's largest private companies, almost all state-owned companies, all the largest banks, and all main branches of multinational companies in Indonesia.

The large number of population and also the complex activities in Jakarta lead this town into some of problems. The large number of population built problem for the government to manage the city, the number of crime and poverty arise, but the biggest problem that faced by all the people who live in and visit Jakarta is traffic congestion.

Transportation Situation in Jakarta

The number of registered car and motorcycles in Jakarta increases every year. Since the urbanisation number turned into the large number in Jakarta, the government concern about the vehicles increase as well. If many residents uses private mode of transportation it will increase the traffic congestion and also the pollution.

According to Jakarta Regional Police, the number of motorcycles registered has increased by 60 per cent from 1,5 million in 1998 to 2,4 million in 2002. While, private car has increased as well from about 1 million in 1998 to 1,4 million in 2002 (Asri et al, 2008). In other hand, Total road length is 7,650 km with the road area is 40.1 km2 or just 6.2 % of total area of the city (Jakarta Local Government, no year). There is a big difference between the vehicles growth and the road length growth. Some expert predicted there will be uncontrollable situation in 2014 which cause massive traffic congestion. It is shows in the figure 1.

Figure 1


Source: Jakarta Local Government

From figure 1 we can see how unbalance the growth number between road length growth and vehicles growth in Jakarta. In some point there will be larger number of vehicles compare to the road length itself and the traffic congestion will be unavoidable. The road network is insufficient to meet the increasing vehicles and public transport demand. Beside traffic congestion, the high number of vehicles in Jakarta also leads to other problems. Based on Jakarta Regional there is Rp. 17.2 billion (equal with £ 1.1 million) lost annually due to traffic congestion which are loss of time, fuel, and health costs (Asri et al, 2008). Traffic congestion in Jakarta also cause by limited public transport. Compare to private vehicles the growth of public transport is remaining low. This is also the reason why private vehicles still dominated the traffic in Jakarta.

Transportation Policy in Jakarta

Based on the continuing problem that faced by Jakarta government, they came up with Jakarta transportation master plan which divided into some specific plan.

Figure 2


Source: Jakarta Local Government

Public Transport Development

This strategy develops four modes of transportation which consist of:


This mode of transportation doesn't apply in Jakarta yet due to some problems and unfinished agreement with the engineering. This mode of transportation is financing by Japanese government loan through JBIC (Loan No. IP-536, November 2006).

This project goes slowly because the government need to take a long process in administration and making agreement with many institutions. Some progress already being made in this project such as, the Loan Agreement Amendment currently being processed as a legal basis issued by Ministry of Finance on use of funds loaned by the Central Government as grants to the Jakarta Provincial Government and also the Detailed Engineering Design (DED) planning consultant tenders currently being processed by the Department of Communications (Jaya Raya, 2011).


The monorail has started in the construction phase. The monorail route planned to be integrated with Busway corridors in the future. However the onset of Asian Economic Crisis in 1997 delayed the project. In 1999 this project was revived with the revised basic design study aimed to reduce the capital cost. This project is expected to be the first modern public transport system in Jakarta, which will significantly increase the patronage of public transport that in turn will reduce traffic congestion (Susilo et al, 2007).


Busway is one mode of transportation that recently used in Jakarta. The government successfully implemented this policy. Although it has only been operating since 2004, it is already considered as a successful. Busway is typically bus-way corridors in segregated lanes. Busway itself tries to accommodate the passenger with the comfortable public transport and tries to replace the old bus system that running now in Jakarta.

A survey of Indonesian Consumer Foundation showed the shift from private cars to Busway users as much as 10.34% and the shift from motorcycles itself reach 24.94% (Jaya Raya, 2011).

Despite the success of Busway there are some problems such as insufficient network of gas station. Busway need special gas station because the size of the Busway itself and the it need special machine to fuel in. Another problem is development of a feeder bus system will take time due to the need to restructure existing routes.


Waterway is a mode of transportation that adopted from big cities such as Venice or Netherland. This mode of transport is still not working effectively in Jakarta due to situation in the Jakarta river which full of trash and some even dry in hot season.

Traffic Restraint

In this second strategy the government tries to minimize the number of private vehicles which mobilize on the road. The '3 in 1' system applied where in some main road in busiest time just car with minimum 3 people inside is allowed to pass. This strategy also includes road pricing system which currently still under study. In purpose to minimize the traffic, the government also applied parking restriction with special tariff mechanism in which some area in busiest time will charge more expensive than in the other area. The last action in this strategy is build more park and ride facilities to support the use of public transport.

Network Capacity Improvement

In this last strategy, government tries to maintenance the traffic by build integration of Area Traffic Control System (ATCS) and Traffic Light Control to increase Road Network Capacity (improvements to current system). The government also improve the road and construction of flyover and tunnels, toll road also the pedestrian facilities.

Agenda Setting in use to explain The Transportation Policy

Various transport problems in the city, such as: traffic congestion, services and public transport which still not meet the expectations of society, the problem of public transport fares which often contradictory, levels of traffic violations and accidents which are relatively high, the behaviour of the majority of road users are not orderly / no discipline, the problem of inadequate vehicle parking and disorderly, improper use of the road to the parking lot and street vendors, accessibility issues for persons with disabilities and other transportation issues. Many issues are mutually correlated; causing transport problems of Jakarta is becoming increasingly complex.

When it comes up to transportation situation in Jakarta and how government eventually elaborate the policy to handle the transportation problem, it has connection with the role of media in giving the news to the public. Media which is newspaper or television is always come up with the transportation issue. It makes public paying more attention into this certain issue. Tankard et all (1991, 3 in Weaver, 2006, p.143) have described a media frame as "the central organizing idea for news content that supplies a context and suggests what the issue is through the use of selection, emphasise exclusion, and elaboration".

Media discuss often about how the transportation system in Jakarta is ineffective. Media explained how the failure of transportation system in Jakarta which bring into traffic congestion could cause other problem in economic, health and psychology. Since the media focus on sharing the news to the public, government start to pay attention on the issue.

Media often discuss about critical issue with stakeholders. The discussions even sometimes come to live in television. Based on some scientist expert there are some issue which became agenda when the media play a role in it.

Figure 3

Mass Media's Political Agenda Setting Power

Walker (1977)

Gilberg et al. (1980)

Light (1982)

Cook et al (1983

Kingdon (1984)

Protess et al. (1987)

Cook & Skogan (1991)

Protess et al (1991)

Pritehard (1993)

Wanta & Foote (1994)


Car safety,

Coal mine health, health act


Energy, defence, peace, human right, taxes, middle east, panama canal

Not specified

Health fraud

23 cases (health + transport)

Toxic waste

Crime against the elderly

Police violence, children rights, dialysis scandal


12 domestic and 3 international issues

Media agenda

New York times

Newspaper (2), TV news (3)

Not specified

NBC, news, magazine

Not specified

TV5 (Chicago)

New York times

Local NBC (Chicgo), CBS local newspaper

Local media (7)

TV news (3)

Political agenda




Government, interest elites, senate, budget, legislation, regulatory measures

Not specified

Policy elites, budget, legislation, regulatory, measures

Public spending, congress

Policy elites, regulatory measures

Public spending



Time series

Cross sectional


Field experiment


Field experiment

Time series

Field experiment

Time series

Time series


United states

United states

United states

United states

United states

United states

United states

Unite states

United states

United states

Media's impact

No impact

Strong impact

Hardly impact

Considerable impact

Hardly impact

Considerable impact

Considerable impact

Strong impact

Weak impact

Weak impact

Source: S. Walgrave & P. Van Aelst, 2006, p.90

Based on this model we can explain how media succeed bring transportation issue in Jakarta into routine agenda. The media agenda in this issue isn't just by TV news (TV one, Metro TV) but also local and national newspaper (Tempo, Kompas). The political agenda is Jakarta governor, legislative elites, and president. In June 2012, Agustinus Dawarja and Ngurah Anditya filed a a Citizen Lawsuit to the city government, the city council and the President through the Central Jakarta District Court (PN Jakpus) as unable to handle the traffic situation in the capital which give extremely impact to the Jakarta citizen (Green radio, 2012).

Every 5 year in the election season of governor Jakarta, the traffic issue always becomes the agenda. This issue always brought by the new candidate whose come with new solution on the same problem. They tried to offer best solution to handle the traffic problem, in aim also to attract public interest in choosing them. In 2012 election new elected governor Jokowi tried to come with the new solution, his rival is the previous governor Fauzi Bowo. The method that used by media to make this issue more important is always bringing up the issue to the surface in every interview with the stakeholder.

The agenda-setting influence of the news media is not limited to this initial step of focusing public attention on a particular topic. The media also influence the next step in the communication process, our understanding and perspective on the topics in the news. If you think about the agenda in abstract terms, the potential for a broader view of media influence on public opinion becomes very clear. In the abstract, the items that define the agenda are objects. For all the agendas we have discussed, the objects are public issues, but they could be other items or topics, such as the agenda of political candidates during an election. The objects are the things on which the attention of the media and the public are focused (McCombs, no year, p.5).

The implication of the media keeps remains until now. The discussion about the traffic issue becomes the main agenda in every Jakarta governor plan. Since the exploitation of the media in this issue, the government really think this collective issue need to handle as soon as possible. The public expectation on government action to tackle this problem also increases.


The media in agenda setting has significant implication to create what is in people mind. Media effectively turn an issue into main agenda. Government pay more attention in certain issue that have been exposed by media and also the public. Media helps the issue to appear on the surface and become the attention but no one would know until when the certain issue will still become the agenda and for how long.

The Agenda setting helps to explain metamorphose from issue into the agenda, and the media has role in it. But Agenda setting does not really explain the existence of an agenda. The media in agenda setting exposed an issue to make it an attention from government and public, but the media mostly focus on the issue but not into the solution. It seems like the media deliver the issue to the government and let the government find the solution on the certain issue. Despite all of that, the picture that captured by the media have big implication on how the government need to take action on those issue.