Mass media refers collectively to all media technologies that are intended to reach a large audience via mass communication. Broadcast media (also known as electronic media) transmit their information electronically and comprise television, film and radio, movies, CDs, DVDs and some other devices like cameras and video consoles. Alternatively, print media use a physical object as a means of sending their information, such as a newspaper, magazines, brochures, newsletters, books, leaflets and pamphlets. The term also refers to the organizations which control these technologies, such as television stations or publishing companies. Internet media is able to achieve mass media status in its own right, due to the many mass media services it provides, such as email, websites, blogging, Internet and television. For this reason, many mass media outlets have a presence on the web, by such things as having TV ads which link to a website, or having games in their sites to entice gamers to visit their website. In this way, they can utilise the easy accessibility that the Internet has, and the outreach that Internet affords, as information can easily be broadcast to many different regions of the world simultaneously and cost-efficiently. Outdoor media is a form of mass media which comprises billboards, signs, placards placed inside and outside of commercial buildings and /objects like shops amd buses, flying billboards (signs in tow of airplanes), blimps, and skywriting. Public speaking and event organising can also be considered as forms of mass media.
Definition and forms
In the late 20th Century, mass media could be classified[by whom?] into eight mass media industries: books, newspapers, magazines, recordings, radio, movies, television and the internet. With the explosion of digital communication technology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the question of what forms of media should be classified as “mass media” has become more prominent. For example, it is controversial whether to include cell phones, video games and computer games (such as MMORPGs) in the definition. In the 2000s, a classification called the “seven mass media” became popular. In order of introduction, they are:
- Print (books, pamphlets, newspapers, magazines, etc.) from the late 15th century
- Recordings (gramophone records, magnetic tapes, cassettes, cartridges, CDs, DVDs) from the late 19th century
- Cinema from about 1900
- Radio from about 1910
- Television from about 1950
- Internet from about 1990
- Mobile phones from about 2000
Each mass media has its own content types, its own creative artists and technicians, and its own business models. For example, the Internet includes web sites, blogs, podcasts, and various other technologies built on top of the general distribution network. The sixth and seventh media, internet and mobile, are often called collectively as digital media; and the fourth and fifth, radio and TV, as broadcast media. Some argue that video games have developed into a distinct mass form of media.
While a telephone is a two way communication device, mass media refers to medium which can communicate a message to a large group, often simultaneously. However, modern cell phones are no longer a single use device. Most cell phones are equipped with internet access and capable of connecting to the web which itself a mass medium. A question arises of whether this makes cell phones a mass medium or simply a device used to access a mass medium (the internet).There is currently a system where marketers and advertisers are able to tap into satellites, and broadcast commercials and advertisements directly to cell phones, unsolicited by the phone’s user. This transmittion of mass advertising to millions of people is a form of mass communication.
Video games may also be evolving into a mass medium. Video games convey the same messages and ideologies to all their users users. Users sometimes share the experience with each other by playing online. Excluding the internet however, it is questionable whether players of video games are sharing a common experience when they play the game separately. It is possible to discuss in great detail the events of a video game with a friend you have never played with because the experience was identical to you both. The question is if this is then a form of mass communication.
MMORPGS such as Runescape provide a common gaming experience to millions of users throughout the globe. It is arguable that the users are receiving the same message, i.e., the game is mass communicating the same messages to the various players.
Five characteristics of mass communication have been identified by Cambridge University‘s John Thompson:
- “[C]omprises both technical and institutional methods of production and distribution” This is evident throughout the history of the media, from print to the Internet, each suitable for commercial utility.
- Involves the “commodification of symbolic forms”, as the production of materials relies on its ability to manufacture and sell large quantities of the work. Just as radio stations rely on its time sold to advertisements, newspapers rely for the same reasons on its space.
- “[S]eparate contexts between the production and reception of information”
- Its “reach to those ‘far removed’ in time and space, in comparison to the producers”.
- “[I]nformation distribution” – a “one to many” form of communication, whereby products are mass produced and disseminated to a great quantity of audiences.
Mass vs. mainstream
“Mass media” is sometimes used as a synonym for “mainstream media“, which is distinguished from alternative media by the content and point of view. Alternative media are also “mass media” outlets in the sense of using technology capable of reaching many people, even if the audience is often smaller than the mainstream.
In common usage, the term “mass” denotes not that a given number of individuals receives the products, but rather that the products are available in principle to a plurality of recipients.
Mass vs. local
Mass media is distinguished from local media by the notion that whilst the former aims to reach a very large market such as the entire population of a country, the latter broadcasts to a much smaller population and area, and generally focuses on regional news rather than global events. A third type of media, speciality media, provides for specific demographics, such as specialty channels on TV (sports channels, porn channels, etc.). These definitions are not set in stone, and it is possible for a media outlet to be promoted in status from a local media outlet to a global media outlet. Some lcoal media, which takes an interest in state or provincial news can rise to prominence due to their investigative journalism, and to the local region’s preference of updates in national politics rather than regional news. The Guardian, formerly known as the Manchester Guardian is an example of one such media outlet. Once a regional daily newspaper, The Guardian is currently a nationally-respected paper.
Criticism and Ethics
Lack of local or specific topical focus is a common criticism of mass media. A mass news media outlet is often forced to cover national and international news due to it having to cater for and be relevant for a wide demographic. As such, it has to skip over many interesting or important local stories because they simply do not interest the large majority of their viewers. An example given by the website WiseGeek is that “the residents of a community might view their fight against development as critical, but the story would only attract the attention of the mass media if the fight became controversial or if precedents of some form were set”.
The term “mass” suggests that the recipients of media products constitute a vast sea of passive, undifferentiated individuals. This is an image associated with some earlier critiques of “mass culture” and mass society which generally assumed that the development of mass communication has had a largely negative impact on modern social life, creating a kind of bland and homogeneous culture which entertains individuals without challenging them. However, interactive digital media have also been seen to challenge the read-only paradigm of earlier broadcast media.
Whilst some[who?] refer to the mass media as “opiate of the masses”, others[who?] argue that is a vital aspect of human societies. By understanding mass media, one is then able to analyse and find a deeper understanding of one’s population and culture. This valuable and powerful ability is one reason why the field of media studies is popular. As WiseGeek says, “watching, reading, and interacting with a nation’s mass media can provide clues into how people think, especially if a diverse assortment of mass media sources are perused”.
Since the 1950s, in the countries that have reached a high level of industrialization, the mass media of cinema, radio and TV have a key role in political power.
Contemporary research demonstrates an increasing level of concentration of media ownership, with many media industries already highly concentrated and dominated by a very small number of firms.
The history of mass media can be traced back to the days when dramas were performed in various ancient cultures. This was the first time when a form of media was “broadcast” to a wider audience. The first dated printed book known is the “Diamond Sutra“, printed in China in 868 AD, although it is clear that books were printed earlier. Movable clay type was invented in 1041 in China. However, due to the slow spread of literacy to the masses in China, and the relatively high cost of paper there, the earliest printed mass-medium was probably European popular prints from about 1400. Although these were produced in huge numbers, very few early examples survive, and even most known to be printed before about 1600 have not survived. The term “mass media” was coined with the creation of print media, which is notable for being the first example of mass media, as we use the term today. This form of media started in Europe in the Middle Ages. Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press allowed the mass production of books to sweep the nation. He printed the first book on a printing press with movable type in 1453. The Gutenberg Bible, one of the books he published, was translated into many different languages and printed throughout the continent. The invention of the printing press in the late 15th century gave rise to some of the first forms of mass communication, by enabling the publication of books and newspapers on a scale much larger than was previously possible. The invention also transformed the way the world received printed materials, although books remained too expensive really to be called a mass-medium for at least a century after that. Newspapers developed from about 1612, with the first example in English in 1620; but they took until the 19th century to reach a mass-audience directly. The first high-circulation newspapers arose in London in the early 1800s, such as The Times, and were made possible by the invention of high-speed rotary steam printing presses, and railroads which allowed large-scale distribution over wide geographical areas. The increase in circulation, however, led to a decline in feedback and interactivity from the readership, making newspapers a more one-way medium.
The phrase “the media” began to be used in the 1920s. The notion of “mass media” was generally restricted to print media up until the post-Second World War, when radio, television and video were introduced. The audio-visual facilities became very popular, because they provided both information and entertainment, because the colour and sound engaged the viewers/listeners and because it was easier for the general public to passively watch TV or listen to the radio than to actively read. In recent times, the Internet become the latest and most popular mass medium. Information has become readily available through websites, and easily accessible through search engines. One can do many activities at the same time, such as playing games, listening to music, and social networking, irrespective of location. Whilst other forms of mass media are restricted in the type of information they can offer, the internet comprises a large percentage of the sum of human knowledge through such things as Google Books. Modern day mass media consists of the internet, mobile phones, blogs, podcasts and RSS feeds.
During the 20th century, the growth of mass media was driven by technology, including that which allowed much duplication of material. Physical duplication technologies such as printing, record pressing and film duplication allowed the duplication of books, newspapers and movies at low prices to huge audiences. Radio and television allowed the electronic duplication of information for the first time. Mass media had the economics of linear replication: a single work could make money. An example of Riel and Neil’s theory. proportional to the number of copies sold, and as volumes went up, unit costs went down, increasing profit margins further. Vast fortunes were to be made in mass media. In a democratic society, the media can serve the electorate about issues regarding government and corporate entities (see Media influence). Some consider the concentration of media ownershipto be a threat to democracy.
Professions involving mass media
Journalism is the discipline of collecting, analyzing, verifying and presenting information regarding current events, trends, issues and people. Those who practice journalism are known as journalists.
News-oriented journalism is sometimes described as the “first rough draft of history” (attributed to Phil Graham), because journalists often record important events, producing news articles on short deadlines. While under pressure to be first with their stories, news media organizations usually editand proofread their reports prior to publication, adhering to each organization’s standards of accuracy, quality and style. Many news organizations claim proud traditions of holding government officials and institutions accountable to the public, while media critics have raised questions about holding the press itself accountable.
Public relations is the art and science of managing communication between an organization and its key publics to build, manage and sustain its positive image. Examples include:
- Corporations use marketing public relations to convey information about the products they manufacture or services they provide to potential customers to support their direct sales efforts. Typically, they support sales in the short and long term, establishing and burnishing the corporation’s branding for a strong, ongoing market.
- Corporations also use public relations as a vehicle to reach legislators and other politicians, seeking favorable tax, regulatory, and other treatment, and they may use public relations to portray themselves as enlightened employers, in support of human-resources recruiting programs.
- Nonprofit organizations, including schools and universities, hospitals, and human and social service agencies, use public relations in support of awareness programs, fund-raising programs, staff recruiting, and to increase patronage of their services.
- Politicians use public relations to attract votes and raise money, and, when successful at the ballot box, to promote and defend their service in office, with an eye to the next election or, at career’s end, to their legacy.
Publishing is the industry concerned with the production of literature or information – the activity of making information available for public view. In some cases, authors may be their own publishers.
Traditionally, the term refers to the distribution of printed works such as books and newspapers. With the advent of digital information systems and the Internet, the scope of publishing has expanded to include websites, blogs, and the like.
As a business, publishing includes the development, marketing, production, and distribution of newspapers, magazines, books, literary works, musical works, software, other works dealing with information.
Publication is also important as a legal concept; (1) as the process of giving formal notice to the world of a significant intention, for example, to marry or enter bankruptcy, and; (2) as the essential precondition of being able to claim defamation; that is, the alleged libel must have been published.
A software publisher is a publishing company in the software industry between the developer and the distributor. In some companies, two or all three of these roles may be combined (and indeed, may reside in a single person, especially in the case of shareware).
Software publishers often license software from developers with specific limitations, such as a time limit or geographical region. The terms of licensing vary enormously, and are typically secret.
Developers may use publishers to reach larger or foreign markets, or to avoid focussing on marketing. Or publishers may use developers to create software to meet a market need that the publisher has identified.
The sequencing of content in a broadcast is called a schedule. With all technological endeavours a number of technical terms and slang are developed please see the list of broadcasting terms for a glossary of terms used.
Television and radio programs are distributed through radio broadcasting over frequency bands that are highly regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. Such regulation includes determination of the width of the bands, range, licencing, types of receivers and transmitters used, and acceptable content.
Cable programs are often broadcast simultaneously with radio and television programs, but have a more limited audience. By coding signals and having a cable converter box in homes, cable also enables subscription-based channels and pay-per-view services.
A broadcasting organisation may broadcast several programs at the same time, through several channels (frequencies), for example BBC One and Two. On the other hand, two or more organisations may share a channel and each use it during a fixed part of the day. Digital radio and digital television may also transmit multiplexed programming, with several channels compressed into one ensemble.
When broadcasting is done via the Internet the term webcasting is often used. In 2004 a new phenomenon occurred when a number of technologies combined to produce podcasting. Podcasting is an asynchronous broadcast/narrowcast medium, with one of the main proponents being Adam Curryand his associates the Podshow.
‘Film’ encompasses motion pictures as individual projects, as well as the field in general. The name comes from the photographic film (also called filmstock), historically the primary medium for recording and displaying motion pictures. Many other terms exist — motion pictures (or just picturesand “picture”), the silver screen, photoplays, the cinema, picture shows, flicks — and commonly movies.
Films are produced by recording people and objects with cameras, or by creating them using animation techniques and/or special effects. They comprise a series of individual frames, but when these images are shown rapidly in succession, the illusion of motion is given to the viewer. Flickering between frames is not seen due to an effect known as persistence of vision — whereby the eye retains a visual image for a fraction of a second after the source has been removed. Also of relevance is what causes the perception of motion; a psychological effect identified as beta movement.
Film is considered by many to be an important art form; films entertain, educate, enlighten and inspire audiences. Any film can become a worldwide attraction, especially with the addition of dubbing or subtitles that translate the film message. Films are also artifacts created by specific cultures, which reflect those cultures, and, in turn, affect them.
A video game is a computer-controlled game where a video display such as a monitor or television is the primary feedback device. The term “computer game” also includes games which display only text (and which can therefore theoretically be played on a teletypewriter) or which use other methods, such as sound or vibration, as their primary feedback device, but there are very few new games in these categories. There always must also be some sort of input device, usually in the form of button/joystick combinations (on arcade games), a keyboard & mouse/trackball combination (computer games), or a controller (console games), or a combination of any of the above. Also, more esoteric devices have been used for input. Usually there are rules and goals, but in more open-ended games the player may be free to do whatever they like within the confines of the virtual universe.
In common usage, a “computer game” or a “PC game” refers to a game that is played on a personal computer. “Console game” refers to one that is played on a device specifically designed for the use of such, while interfacing with a standard television set. “Arcade game” refers to a game designed to be played in an establishment in which patrons pay to play on a per-use basis. “Video game” (or “videogame”) has evolved into a catchall phrase that encompasses the aforementioned along with any game made for any other device, including, but not limited to, mobile phones, PDAs, advanced calculators, etc.
Audio recording and reproduction
Sound recording and reproduction is the electrical or mechanical re-creation and/or amplification of sound, often as music. This involves the use of audio equipment such as microphones, recording devices and loudspeakers. From early beginnings with the invention of the phonograph using purely mechanical techniques, the field has advanced with the invention of electrical recording, the mass production of the 78 record, the magnetic wire recorder followed by the tape recorder, the vinyl LP record. The invention of the compact cassette in the 1960s, followed by Sony’s Walkman, gave a major boost to the mass distribution of music recordings, and the invention of digital recording and the compact disc in 1983 brought massive improvements in ruggedness and quality. The most recent developments have been in digital audio players.
An album is a collection of related audio recordings, released together to the public, usually commercially.
The term record album originated from the fact that 78 RPM Phonograph disc records were kept together in a book resembling a photo album. The first collection of records to be called an “album” was Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, release in April 1909 as a four-disc set by Odeon records. It retailed for 16 shillings — about £15 in modern currency.
A music video (also promo) is a short film or video that accompanies a complete piece of music, most commonly a song. Modern music videos were primarily made and used as a marketing device intended to promote the sale of music recordings. Although the origins of music videos go back much further, they came into their own in the 1980s, when Music Television‘s format was based on them. In the 1980s, the term “rock video” was often used to describe this form of entertainment, although the term has fallen into disuse.
Music videos can accommodate all styles of filmmaking, including animation, live action films, documentaries, and non-narrative, abstract film.
The Internet (also known simply as “the Net” or less precisely as “the Web”) is a more interactive medium of mass media, and can be briefly described as “a network of networks”. Specifically, it is the worldwide, publicly accessible network of interconnected computer networks that transmit databy packet switching using the standard Internet Protocol (IP). It consists of millions of smaller domestic, academic, business, and governmental networks, which together carry various information and services, such as e-mail, online chat, file transfer, and the interlinked Web pages and other documents of the World Wide Web.
Contrary to some common usage, the Internet and the World Wide Web are not synonymous: the Internet is the system of interconnected computer networks, linked by copper wires, fiber-optic cables, wireless connections etc.; the Web is the contents, or the interconnected documents, linked by hyperlinks and URLs. The World Wide Web is accessible through the Internet, along with many other services including e-mail, file sharing and others described below.
Toward the end of the 20th century, the advent of the World Wide Web marked the first era in which most individuals could have a means of exposure on a scale comparable to that of mass media. Anyone with a web site has the potential to address a global audience, although serving to high levels of web traffic is still relatively expensive. It is possible that the rise of peer-to-peer technologies may have begun the process of making the cost of bandwidth manageable. Although a vast amount of information, imagery, and commentary (i.e. “content”) has been made available, it is often difficult to determine the authenticity and reliability of information contained in web pages (in many cases, self-published). The invention of the Internet has also allowed breaking news stories to reach around the globe within minutes. This rapid growth of instantaneous, decentralized communication is often deemed likely to change mass media and its relationship to society.
“Cross-media” means the idea of distributing the same message through different media channels. A similar idea is expressed in the news industry as “convergence”. Many authors understand cross-media publishing to be the ability to publish in both print and on the web without manual conversion effort. An increasing number of wireless devices with mutually incompatible data and screen formats make it even more difficult to achieve the objective “create once, publish many”.
The Internet is quickly becoming the center of mass media. Everything is becoming accessible via the internet. Instead of picking up a newspaper, or watching the 10 o’clock news, people can log onto the internet to get the news they want, when they want it. For example, many workers listen to the radio through the Internet while sitting at their desk.
Even the education system relies on the Internet. Teachers can contact the entire class by sending one e-mail. They may have web pages where students can get another copy of the class outline or assignments. Some classes have class blogs in which students are required to post weekly, with students graded on their contributions.
Blogs (web logs)
Blogging, too, has become a pervasive form of media. A blog is a website, usually maintained by an individual, with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or interactive media such as images or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse chronological order, with most recent posts shown on top. Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images and other graphics, and links to other blogs, web pages, and related media. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs. Most blogs are primarily textual, although some focus on art (artlog), photographs (photoblog), sketchblog, videos (vlog), music (MP3 blog), audio (podcasting) are part of a wider network of social media. Microblogging is another type of blogging which consists of blogs with very short posts.
RSS is a format for syndicating news and the content of news-like sites, including major news sites like Wired, news-oriented community sites like Slashdot, and personal blogs. It is a family of Web feed formats used to publish frequently updated content such as blog entries, news headlines, and podcasts. An RSS document (which is called a “feed” or “web feed” or “channel”) contains either a summary of content from an associated web site or the full text. RSS makes it possible for people to keep up with web sites in an automated manner that can be piped into special programs or filtered displays.
Main article: Podcast
A podcast is a series of digital-media files which are distributed over the Internet using syndication feeds for playback on portable media players and computers. The term podcast, like broadcast, can refer either to the series of content itself or to the method by which it is syndicated; the latter is also called podcasting. The host or author of a podcast is often called a podcaster.
Mobile phones were introduced in Japan in 1979 but became a mass media only in 1998 when the first downloadable ringing tones were introduced in Finland. Soon most forms of media content were introduced on mobile phones, and today the total value of media consumed on mobile towers over that of internet content, and was worth over 31 billion dollars in 2007 (source Informa). The mobile media content includes over 8 billion dollars worth of mobile music (ringing tones, ringback tones, truetones, MP3 files, karaoke, music videos, music streaming services etc.); over 5 billion dollars worth of mobile gaming; and various news, entertainment and advertising services. In Japan mobile phone books are so popular that five of the ten best-selling printed books were originally released as mobile phone books.
Similar to the internet, mobile is also an interactive media, but has far wider reach, with 3.3 billion mobile phone users at the end of 2007 to 1.3 billion internet users (source ITU). Like email on the internet, the top application on mobile is also a personal messaging service, but SMS text messaging is used by over 2.4 billion people. Practically all internet services and applications exist or have similar cousins on mobile, from search to multiplayer games to virtual worlds to blogs. Mobile has several unique benefits which many mobile media pundits claim make mobile a more powerful media than either TV or the internet, starting with mobile being permanently carried and always connected. Mobile has the best audience accuracy and is the only mass media with a built-in payment channel available to every user without any credit cards or paypal accounts or even an age limit. Mobile is often called the 7th Mass Medium and either the fourth screen (if counting cinema, TV and PC screens) or the third screen (counting only TV and PC).
Main article: Book
Brockhaus Konversations-Lexikon, 1902.
A book is a collection of sheets of paper, parchment or other material with a piece of text written on them, bound together along one edge within covers. A book is also a literary work or a main division of such a work. A book produced in electronic format is known as an e-book.
A magazine is a periodical publication containing a variety of articles, generally financed by advertising and/or purchase by readers.
Magazines are typically published weekly, biweekly, monthly, bimonthly or quarterly, with a date on the cover that is in advance of the date it is actually published. They are often printed in color on coated paper, and are bound with a soft cover.
Magazines fall into two broad categories: consumer magazines and business magazines. In practice, magazines are a subset of periodicals, distinct from those periodicals produced by scientific, artistic, academic or special interest publishers which are subscription-only, more expensive, narrowly limited in circulation, and often have little or no advertising.
Magazines can be classified as:
A newspaper is a publication containing news and information and advertising, usually printed on low-cost paper called newsprint. It may be general or special interest, most often published daily or weekly. The first printed newspaper was published in 1605, and the form has thrived even in the face of competition from technologies such as radio and television. Recent developments on the Internet are posing major threats to its business model, however. Paid circulation is declining in most countries, and advertising revenue, which makes up the bulk of a newspaper’s income, is shifting from print to online; some commentators, nevertheless, point out that historically new media such as radio and television did not entirely supplant existing.
Outdoor media is a form of mass media which comprises billboards, signs, placards placed inside and outside of commercial buildings/objects like shops/buses, flying billboards (signs in tow of airplanes), blimps, and skywriting. Many commercial advertisers use this form of mass media when advertising in sports stadiums. Tobacco and alcohol manufacturers used billboards and other outdoor media extensively. However, in 1998, the Master Settlement Agreement between the US and the tobacco industries prohibited the billboard advertising of cigarettes. In a 1994 Chicago-based study, Diana Hackbarth and her colleagues revealed how tobacco- and alcohol-based billboards were concentrated in poor neighbourhoods. In other urban centers, alcohol and tobacco billboards were much more concentrated in African-American neighborhoods than in white neighborhoods.
Influence and effects
There are 3 theories to describe the influence of mass media. The website CliffNotes explains in detail the theories with examine the role that mass media plays in modern society. The limited-effects theory, which was originally tested in the 1940s and 1950s, states that “because people usually choose what media to interact with based on what they already believe, media exerts a negligible influence”. The class-dominant theory states that “the media reflects and projects the view of a minority elite, which controls it”. It continues by explaining that the people who own and control the corporations that produce media comprise this elite. The culturalist theory, which was developed in the 1980s and 1990s, combines the other two theories and claims that “people interact with media to create their own meanings out of the images and messages they receive”. This theory states that audience members play an active, rather than passive role in relation to mass media.
In an article entitled Mass Media Influence on Society, rayuso argues that the media is dominated by five major companies (Time Warner, VIACOM, Vivendi Universal, Walt Disney and News Corp) which own 95% of all mass media including theme parks, movie studios, television and radio broadcast networks and programing, video news, sports entertainment, telecommunications, wireless phones, video games software, electronic media and music companies. Whilst historically, there was more diversity in companies, they have recently merged to form an elite which have the power to shape the opinion and beliefs of people. People buy after seeing thousands of advertisements by various companies in TV, newspapers or magazines, which are able to affect their purchasing decisions. The definition of what is acceptable by society is dictated by the media. This power can be used for good, for example encouraging children to play sport. However, it can also be used for bad, for example children being influenced by cigars smoked by film stars, their exposure to sex images, their exposure to images of violence and their exposure to junk food ads. The documentary Supersize Me describes how companies like McDonalds have been sued in the past, the plaintiffs claiming that it was the fault of their liminal and subliminal advertising that “forced” them to perchance the product. The Barbie and Ken dolls of the 1950s are sometimes cited as the main cause for the obsession in modern day society for women to be skinny and men to be buff. After the attacks of 9/11, the media gave extensive coveage of the event and exposed Osama’s guilt for the attack, information they were told by the authorities. This shaped the public opinion to support the war on terrorism, and later, the war on Iraq. A main concern is that due to this immense power of the mass media (being able to drive the public opinion), media receiving inaccurate information could cause the public opinion to support the wrong cause.
In his book The Commercialization of American Culture, Matthew P. McAllister says that “a well-developed media system, informing and teaching its citizens, helps democracy move toward its ideal state.”
In 1997, J. R. Finnegan Jr. and K. Viswanath identified 3 main effects or functions of mass media. The Knowledge Gap: The mass media influences knowledge gaps due to factors including “the extent to which the content is appealing, the degree to which information channels are accessible and desirable, and the amount of social conflict and diversity there is in a community”. Agenda Setting: People are influence in how they think about issues due to the selective nature of what media choose for public consumption. After publicly disclosing that he had prostate cancer prior to the 2000 New York senatorial election, Rudolph Giuliani, the mayor of New York City (aided by the media) sparked a huge priority elevation of the cancer in people’s consciousness. This was because news media began to report on the risks of prostate cancer, which in turn prompted a greater public awareness about the disease and the need for screening. This ability for the media to be able to change how the public thinks and behaves has occurred on other occasions. In mid-1970s when Betty Ford and Happy Rockefeller, wives of the then-President and then-Vice President respectively, were both diagnosed with breast cancer. J. J. Davis states that “when risks are highlighted in the media, particularly in great detail, the extent of agenda setting is likely to be based on the degree to which a public sense of outrage and threat is provoked”. When wanting to set an agenda, framing can be invaluably useful to a mass media organisation. Framing involves “taking a leadership role in the organisation of public discourse about an issue”. The media is influenced by the desire for balance in coverage, and the resulting pressures can come from groups with particular political action and advocacy positions. Finnegan and Viswanath say, “groups, institutions, and advocates compete to identify problems, to move them onto the public agenda, and to define the issues symbolically” (1997, p. 324). Cultivation of Perceptions: The extent to which media exposure shapes audience perceptions over time is known as cultivation. Television is a common experience, especially in places like the United States, to the point where it can be described as a “homogenising agent” (S. W. Littlejohn). However, instead of being merely a result of the TV, the effect is often based on socio-economic factors. Having a prolonged exposure to TV or movie violence might affect a viewer to the extent where they actively think community violence is a problem, or alternatively find it justifiable. The resulting belief is likely to be different depending of where people live however.
Since the ’50s, when cinema, radio and TV began to be the primary or the only source of information for a larger and larger percentage of the population, these media began to be considered as central instruments of mass control. Up to the point that it emerged the idea that when a country has reached a high level of industrialization, the country itself “belongs to the person who controls communications.”
Mass media play a significant role in shaping public perceptions on a variety of important issues, both through the information that is dispensed through them, and through the interpretations they place upon this information. They also play a large role in shaping modern culture, by selecting and portraying a particular set of beliefs, values, and traditions (an entire way of life), as reality. That is, by portraying a certain interpretation of reality, they shape reality to be more in line with that interpretation.
Mass media and racism
Mass media has played a large role in the way white Americans perceive African-Americans. The media focus on African-American in the contexts of crime, drug use, gang violence, and other forms of anti-social behaviour has resulted in a distorted and harmful public perception of African-Americans. African-Americans have been subjected to oppression and discrimination for the past few hundred years. According to Stephen Balkaran in his article Mass Media and Racism, “The media has played a key role in perpetuating the effects of this historical oppression and in contributing to African-Americans’ continuing status as second-class citizens”. This has resulted in an uncertainty among white Americans as to what the genuine nature of African-Americans really is. Despite the resulting racial divide, the fact that these people are undeniably American has “raised doubts about the white man’s value system”. This means that there is a somewhat “troubling suspicion” among some Americans that their white America is tainted by the black influence.
In an article by Peter R. Kann, Chairman of Dow Jones, he explains the 10 “disturbing trends in mass media:”
- The blurring of the lines between journalism and entertainment.
- The blurring of lines between news and opinion.
- The blending of news and advertising, sponsorships or other commercial relationships.
- The problems and pitfalls inherent in pack journalism.
- The issue of conflict and context.
- The exaggerated tendency toward pessimism.
- The growing media fascination with the bizarre, the perverse and the pathological — John Mark Karr journalism.
- Social orthodoxy, or political correctness.
- The media’s short attention span.
- The matter of [the media’s] power.
In 2002, Arnold Kling wrote that “the newspaper business is going to die within the next twenty years. Newspaper publishing will continue, but only as a philanthropic venture.” Jim Pinkerton said in 2006 of the future of mass media, “Every country with ambitions on the international stage will soon have its own state-supported media.”
Leo Laporte, founder of the TWiT network of podcasts, says that “there will always be a need for storytellers, poeple who dig up facts and explain them”.
A panel in the Newseum in Washington, D.C., shows the September 12 headlines in America and around the world
Mass media encompasses much more that just news, although it is sometimes misunderstood in this way. It can be used for various purposes:
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Not long ago, if you wanted to seize political power in a country, you had merely to control the army and the police. Today it is only in the most backward countries that fascist generals, in carrying out a coup d’etat, still use tanks. If a country has reached a high level of industrialization the whole scene changes. The day after the fall of Khrushchev, the editors of Pravda, Izvestiia, the heads of the radio and television were replaced; the army wasn’t called out. Today a country belongs to the person who controls communications.
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