Roman citizens were fanatics for their games (their news and media?}, but maybe not if they were starving (the bread in bread and circuses). Twenty years before, when Rome momentarily lost control of North Africa in 410, Rome was starving; that's when a Roman mob at games in the Coliseum took up the chant: "Set a price on human flesh!" (They wanted to slaughter slaves for meat).
There were no newspapers, no news and media per se in Rome in the late fifth century when Rome fell (476), but the Senatorial elite kept the urban proletariat from rebelling by providing the fabled "bread and circuses."
Now we have TV, and Major League sports. In Rome, every major appointment of a wealthy Senator's son (actually a purchase by the appointee's family) required celebratory games "given" to the people of Rome, or, if the appointment was more local, games were held in the regional capital: Trier, Carthage, Narbo.
Senator Symmachus complained in 401 that a Saxon gladiatorial team he purchased had strangled themselves rather than fight to the death in the Coliseum. He had laid out the equivalent of nearly a million dollars for his show, which also included wild animals, to celebrate his twenty year-old son's appointment as Procurator (Imperial prosecutor and judge, combined). The games fizzled.
Support of the games and the chariot races were important to the government and to the wealthy Senators, because through providing patronage they gained support of the mobs and gangs that ran the cities; they could call on the mob to riot when they needed them.
Now we have Fox News and entertainment--and the other only slightly less propagandized TV news and media--supported by large corporations who pay to win "brand loyalty" and to keep the masses of couch potatoes mesmerized. "Entertainment" is their business, not information.
By the fifth century, Rome was organized by color gangs, mafia-like bands established around support for a particular chariot team, which was identified by its racing colors: green, blue, red or yellow. These became like political parties, something our political parties should consider--affiliating with popular baseball or football teams, for example.
In any case, look at the genesis of George W. Bush's successful political career: building support (collecting money from his wealthy friends) for a new coliseum for the Texas Rangers; that's what spread his name around Texas prior to his running for governor. Reportedly, his highest ambition was to be Baseball Commissioner, but Sports leads to politics.
Even before Augustus established the Empire, the elite knew that the way to blind the poor to their (very real) problems was to provide entertainment.
TV today is much more effective than the Romans' games in doing the same thing. Romans scoured North Africa and northern Europe for ferocious wild beasts, driving many animal species into extinction, simply to stage the games in their coliseums. They also sent teams far beyond their Empire to capture slaves to fight the beasts and for gladiatorial combat, decimating whole tribes, yet still they couldn't provide coverage 24/7.
Now we have hundreds of channels; we can choose wild beast shows if we want, or Comedy Central, or Science Fiction, or Crime, or sports in any variety, including horse racing. We even have a gladiatorial channel, although, of course it's staged.
We have news and media .
Newspapers, made possible by the printing press, actually created something new under the sun, vehicles through which citizens could learn what their leaders were doing. They didn't have to receive all their information about their leaders from the occasional sycophantic address by a local elite--that's how Roman rhetoric was used--but through reports by people who were not always beholden to the government, who claimed objectivity, and sometimes even achieved it.
The news and media are reverting to an earlier form, however. The equivalent of news in fifth century Rome was the panegyric, long poems written by a professional panegyrist, whose role was to praise the Emperor, the noble appointed as consul, and so on. It's the kind of role taken on by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, now, and followed by most other major news and media outlets, but of course we're more sophisticated, now. In the fifth century, critical coverage was impermissible; the Emperor, no matter how incompetent, was God's Vice-regent on Earth, even if he spent more time with his chickens (Honorius 393-423) than with governing (a bit like George retreating to his ranch.)
If we continue to follow the late Roman model, however, it won't be long before the only "news" will be long poems in praise of the President. Or meaningless debates, in which little of importance is covered.
But now we have things like facebook and twitter, so, I suppose we can follow anyone of importance, any time, all the time.
For more on this, or to view sources: go to Media Distraction: Blues, Greens or the Boston Red Sox