THE ‘MAGIC BULLET THEORY’. ANALYSIS OF THE ZBC NEWS BULLETINS PRIOR TO THE
media environment in Zimbabwe has strongly shifted from how it used to be
before following the resignation of the country’s oldest President, Robert
Mugabe. Mugabe had been president for over 30 years and the coupe by the
nation’s military influenced his exit from the presidium.
ZBC television, the country’s only television channel had been used as a
propaganda tool by Mugabe and his party, Zanu-PF who have been in power since
independence in 1980. The news bulletin was popular for reporting news about
Mugabe and his party while discrediting any opposition.
purpose of this research is to assess how the ZBC TV news bulletins held on the
17th of November influenced the Solidarity March held on 18 November
in a bid to end Mugabe’s reign. It seeks to evaluate how that same bulletin may
have pushed the citizens of Zimbabwe to march together and have a unity rally
for one purpose as propounded by the Magic Bullet Theory.
called the Magic Bullet Theory or the Hypodermic Needle Theory, this effects paradigm
asserts that the media are powerful and act predictably on audiences the same way
a bullet or hypodermic needle would (..). The theory assumes that media
messages cause people to think and act in certain predictable ways. This study
intends to measure the application of the Magic Bullet theory to Zimbabwe’s
media and political environment paying close attention to the news bulletins
held on the 17th of November on ZBC TV.
AND CONTEXT OF THE STUDY
over 3 decades, Zimbabwe has had only one television channel, the Zimbabwe
Broadcasting Corporation television. The country also has a tense political
environment which was heightened by the emergence of Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) in the early 2000s. Since the country’s independence in 1980,
ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) had
been the most powerful party and hence the coming opposition posed to be a
threat to their hold on power and had to be ridden of at
all lengths. Various media messages were used to try and demean the MDC’s
ability to change things in the country. For years ZBC television has been
reported as biased and disseminating falsehoods about both the ruling party and
the opposition i.e. painting MDC black while painting the ZANU-PF as saviours.
Media Monitoring Project (ZMMP), who recently rebranded to Media Monitors (MM),
in 2002 reported that ZBC television carried 402 election campaign stories in
news bulletins monitored between December 1, 2001 and March 7, 2002, and of
these, 339 of them (84%) favoured the ruling ZANU-PF’s then candidate, Robert
Mugabe while only 38 (or 9%) covered activities of the MDC, that were virtually
used to discredit the party and its candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai. One alarming
statistic recorded by the same MM report was that out of a total of 14 hours
and 25 minutes that ZBC television news bulletins meant specifically for the
2002 presidential election campaign, ZANU-PF’s candidate was had a total of 13
hours and 34 minutes, or a little more than 94%. In contrast, the opposition’s
coverage was just 31 minutes and 30 seconds, an insignificant 4% to which it
was used to attack, vilify and discredit the MDC.
MM report that proved the bias of the ZBC was of the 2008 elections campaign
coverage. Of the nine hours and 20 minutes ZBC TV devoted to reporting the
contesting parties’ election campaign activities in its main news bulletins,
from the 1st March to the Eve of elections, eight hours and 44
minutes (an incredible 93.5 per cent) provided favourable coverage of ZANU-PF’s
activities in 189 reports. The remaining 36 minutes were divided among the
ruling party’s political opposition, which includes all MDC factions and independent
candidates. ZBC TV allowed ruling party authorities lengthy sound bites to
discredit the opposition, while also making it a habit to bury the little news
they did carry about the opposition deep in their bulletins and omitted
information that would help viewers assess the popularity of those opposition
2016 being the year of protests, from Beitbridge protest on the 1st
of July, taxi drivers protest against police road blocks on the 4th
of July, civil servants stay away because of unpaid salaries on the 5th
of July and the most popular Shutdown Zimbabwe on the 6th of July,
the state-owned media still found a way to blame it on the opposition parties. Reports
by the MM (2016) showed that government through ZBC and other state-owned media
blamed the social unrest to MDC and the west who want to “incite regime change”.
grossly partisan news coverage in favour of the ruling party over the years demonstrated
its total disdain for the public mandate it holds to provide a fair and
credible news service to the people of Zimbabwe.
unfair coverage of ZANU-PF and MDC on ZBC continued for years until November
2017 when then General Officer Sibusiso Moyo made a statement in the morning
news bulletin denying a coup. The news coverage between then and the bulletin
at hand (17 November news bulletin) showed fair coverage of both parties and
all the other political parties in the country without any distortion of
information unlike before.
spite of the extensive research on the power of media in society has been
inconclusive, it is still fundamental to examine the interface between the
media and political actors amid times of political crisis and vulnerability
because as scholars have argued, political processes in democratic societies
essentially rely on a solid, free, plural and diverse media (Christians et al.,
2009). Looking at the case under study, Zimbabwe has been in a never-ending
crisis for over two decades and the ZBC TV news bulletin, gave people hope and
the ability to exercise their right of freedom of expression through the
Magic Bullet theory was propounded by Frankfurt Scholars who include … the
1930s Payne Fund Studies was the first large-scale attempt to investigate the
media’s role in influencing people’s beliefs and attitudes about society, other
people and themselves. These studies were designed to assess film content,
identify audience size and composition and examine effects resulting from
exposure to the medium.
Hall (1973) exposes that audiences are not passive but they negotiate and
interpret media text differently and this go along with the encoding and
decoding model of Hall. Moreover Birmingham school’s Nationwide study by David
Morley (..) states that audiences of media text have the power to reject media
content or text.
Blumler and Gurevitch’s (1995) observation that the media can
restructure the timing and character of political events
OF THE PROBLEM
Service Broadcaster… The ZBC TV is required to serve the public and fulfil its
role as a Public Service Broadcaster as conceived by the … having failed to do
that for so many years, Zimbabwean citizens were thrilled to finally receive
news bulletins that are fair, impartial and factual. The research evaluates the
impact these bulletins made to the audience to the extent of persuading them to
engage in a solidarity march at Harare Grounds on the 18th of
How did the morning news bulletin
influence the solidarity march?
How did the evening news bulletin
influence the solidarity march?
Is ZBC TV still a mere tool for more
propaganda by Zanu-PF and has it been successful in influencing people’s behaviours?
To find out if the ZBC TV morning
news bulletin persuade citizens into doing the solidarity march.
To scrutinize how the evening news
bulletin influenced citizens into participating in the solidarity march.
To determine if ZBC TV is still being
used as tool of disseminating propaganda even after the news military take-over.
OF THE STUDY
forward the frankfurts and Birmingham school, david morley then other local
studies maybe 2. Showing how mgb is still relevant to effects
OF THE STUDY
numerous attempts to topple Robert Mugabe from the presidium by a few citizens through
poorly participated protests and demonstrations, November 2017 proved that a
lot is needed to get the people moving. The news bulletin that aired on 17
November 2017 had influential people such as Cornelius Mupereri, a spokesperson
for Zanu-PF’s Midlands region, endorsing the Solidarity March that then took
place the next day. The march had people from all races and all parties
participating in the call to get Mugabe to step down.
protests like the ones initiated by Tajamuka were poorly attended and caused
more mayhem than good in the CBDs as police riots’ method of clearing the
protestors was through teargas and water cannons. Most importantly, they were
not endorsed or broadcast on national television hence many were simply not
aware or afraid to take part in the demos. The march held on 18 November 2017 verified
that when the national broadcaster endorses a protest that benefits the entire
nation, people participate in unity and peacefully. Even the white people
participated regardless of the tense racial relations in the country and all
political parties in the country were part of it all with one goal, Mugabe to
step down as President.
OF THE STUDY
was a year filled with rebellious action towards the Zimbabwean government with
many protests, stay-away and marches nationwide particularly in Harare. The
most popular activism was #ThisFlag spearheaded by Pastor Evan Mawarire and his
Shut Down Zimbabwe campaign that took place on the 6th of July 2016,
that called for Zimbabweans to stay off work in an outcry for government
change. Although the initiative was successful as many businesses closed and
school children were asked not to attend school, unfortunately the media coverage
was divided. Unfortunately, state media, and this includes ZBC TV did not
report the truth but rubbished it off stating that it was unsuccessful as
people went about their usual business. In this sense, ZBC TV news was not
really relevant in influencing people’s behaviours as many took to social media
to get real time and accurate news. In this research, news bulletins that took
place on 17 November 2017 will be analysed looking at how the news headlines
and the reports persuaded Zimbabwean citizens to unite in the Solidarity Rally
held on the 18th of November 2017. The aforementioned will be done
through qualitative research i.e. interviews and focus groups. The sole reason
is replying the investigate questions which assesses the Magic Bullet hypothesis
in regard of these news bulletins and the Solidarity Walk.
TV was chosen for this study because it is the country’s only television
channel which is meant to serve the public interest. ZBC TV news was also
chosen as it is well known for reporting falsehoods, thus the two bulletins
prior to the Solidarity Rally may have made a difference to its reputation.
study focuses on one media i.e. television. Mpofu & Mhlanga
(2014) in their research assert that Zimbabweans are very active on other media
platforms such as digital space and radio. Zimbabweans also rely on newspapers
for news and these may also be influential in how audiences respond to media
sample size will be of 100 people all from both Harare and Bulawayo. The sample
size is small for the two cities and also geographically, overlooks other
cities with people who also attended the Solidarity Rally
data due to qualitative research, can contain several potential sources of bias.
to participants of the study as some people may not be available or comfortable
in giving an opinion. Politics is still a sensitive topic in Zimbabwe..##find
11. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
research is mainly based on the Magic Bullet theory (….). The theory is
considered by many media scholars as the oldest mass media communication
theories since 1930 during the Second World War (SWW) in both Germany and
United states. Fourie (2008) asserted that media messages which contains idea,
attitudes and value are directly injected into the minds of audience and
psyche, and cause change. The theory suggests that audience are passive and
cannot resist the media message. The media message can penetrate most people defences
and condition them to act in ways useful to propagandist (Stanley B; 2009).
Lippman (..) through …..observed that people see a world shaped primarily by
the media. During the world war, Harold Lasswell stated that people are victims
of these propagandist
messages which influences audiences’ behaviour prominently. Lasswell, in his …
defined the classical linear explanation that communication involves who said
what, in which channel, to whom and with what effect.
the contrary to this theory, Paul Lazersfeld in 1940 conducted a study called
“People’s Choice” about American Franklin D. election
campaign and the effects of media messages. Through this study, Lazarsfeld disapproved
the Magic Bullet theory and added that audiences are more influential in interpersonal
than a media messages because media messages are not really conceived by people
due to the stimulus effect it brings.
about the magic bullet theory, Walter Lippmann observed that people see a world
shaped primarily by the media. Harold Lasswell defined the classic linear
explanation that communication involves who says what, in which channel, to whom
and with what effect.
12. LITERATURE REVIEW
13. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
research is multimethod in focus, involving an interpretive, naturalistic
approach to its subject matter. This means that qualitative researchers study
things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or interpret,
phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them (Denzin and Lincoln;