Agenda-setting theory and the underdogs


In the saga between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr., the Filipino was the underdog but was the media darling in what is a clear demonstration of the agenda-setting theory in mass communications.

The website clearly defines agenda-setting theory: “Also known as The Agenda Setting Function of the Mass Media, it was first put forth by Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw in 1972 in Public Opinion Quarterly. They originally suggested that the media sets the public agenda, in the sense that they may not exactly tell you what to think, but they may tell you what to think about.”

The agenda-setting theory has resulted to more attention given to Pacquiao like his being robbed of a decision win against Mayweather.

On the other hand, issues such as the Philippine Stock Market index increasing to 7,816.27 in May from 7,714.81 index points in April of this year were not given much play by the media.

The local media also has a penchant for publishing stories that denigrate Mayweather.

ABS-CBN on November 20, 2014 published an article online titled, “Mayweather’s son calls his father ‘coward.’” “Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s son didn’t hide his disgust toward his father when he recalled how the boxer beat up his mother, Josie Harris, four years ago,” the first paragraph of the story said.

And on March 19, 2015 GMA News online published an article that compares Pacquiao’s and Mayweather’s expenditures on food. It said Pacquiao sticks to his “humble tinolang manok,” while Floyd got himself a personal chef that “cooks him meals for $1,000 – about P44,000–per plate.” The report obviously tries to expose the flaws of the American boxer, and portray the Filipino as humble.

And mere hours after the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, witty memes and slogans were published chastising or denigrating The American’s over Pacquiao, even if boxing experts in the United States still saw the Mayweather winning fair and square.

On the other hand, a meme about index points rising to an all time high from 29 years ago does not stand a chance next to the attention given to the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight. And GMA News online floods itself with twitter posts from ordinary people to celebrities that emphasized the disdain among Americans toward Mayweather. One post echoes a headline that reads, “Americans jeer Mayweather, express disappointment online,” as if that would change things.

There may be hundreds more samples of how the media seem to have made a circus out of Pacquiao and Mayweather.

Perhaps Filipinos are easily star-struck, which explains why love teams like Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla, and Nadine Lustre and James Reid are saleable, even if the most bankable attributes they have are their looks.

Perhaps Filipinos being easily star-struck is the reason why celebrities or those who really famous parents win easily when they run for public office.

But it cannot be ignored that the agenda-setting theory in mass communications is responsible for how Pacquiao and Mayweather literally eclipsed the more important issues of the day.

“In choosing and displaying news, editors, newsroom staff, and broadcasters play an important part in shaping political reality. Readers learn not only about a given issue, but also how much importance to attach to that issue from the amount of information in a news story and its position,” said.

While Pacquiao was an underdog in his fight against Mayweather, the more important issues that need to be aired more by media literally became an underdog, because of how media establishments used, intentionally or unintentionally, the agenda-setting theory in favor of the “Pambansang Kamao.”


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