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Mass Media and Society
Mass media are the means of public communication reaching to the large, scattered, heterogeneous and anonymous audience at the same time. Mass media have been proved a boon to human society. Mass media is communication that is to a large group, or groups, of people in a short time. This can be written, spoken or broadcast communication. Some of the most popular forms of mass media are newspapers, magazines, radio, advertisements, social media, television, internet, and films/movies.
Mass communication refers to the technology that is used to communicate to a large group or groups of people in a short time frame.
Types of Mass Media
Mass media is not a new way of mass communication. Since starting of civilisation, messages or information used to convey through Dhol, Nagara, etc. Now, the medium has been changed but still, the functions are same i.e. convey the messages to masses. Mass Media can be classified according to their physical form, the technology involved and the nature of the communication process. They are:
- Traditional Media
- Print Media
- Electronic Broadcasting Media
- Outdoor Media
- Transit Media
- New Media (Digital Media)
Traditional Media is considered as the oldest forms of media, which transfers culture and tradition from generation to generation. Communication tools have been developed over some time from customs, rituals, beliefs and practices of society.
There are various forms of Traditional media:
- Folk Arts and Music
- Theatres and Drama
- Fairs and Festivals
Print Media is the print form of information which is provided to the larger audience.
There are various forms of Print Media:
- Magazines, Periodicals and Journals
- Books, Novels and Comics
Electronic Broadcasting Media
Distribution of content and information through audio and visuals using the electronic broadcasting medium is called Broadcast.
Broadcast media is a useful medium of the spread of news and information to even illiterate people and persons having a listening problem or eyesight problem as well.
There are various Electronic Broadcasting Medium:
Film: The Lumiere brothers made their first film La sortie des usines Lumiere (Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory) using the camera patented by them in 1895 at the Eden Theatre in France.
The first feature film made on the Indian soil is Raja Harischandra, directed by Dhundiraj Govind Phalke in 1913. It was based on the story of King Harischandra.
Television: The word television literally means seeing things from distant places. In April 1925 John Logie Baird of London had set up his television apparatus in a London department store and demonstrated the first crude functioning of television.
Television was started as a modest affair in India on September 15, 1959, when the AIR set up an experimental television service in Delhi. Later, it was converted into full-fledged TV station. In 1993, Asianet, the first private television channel in India began telecasting.
Radio: Guglielmo Marconi of Italy invented the mode of transmitting sound signals without using wires. By 1901, Marconi succeeded in creating a wireless communication link between Europe and North America. Later in 1906, Lee Forest and John Fleming invented a vacuum tube, which made clear transmission of voice possible. This led to the first-ever radio broadcast in 1906 in the USA.
In India, radio broadcasting was started by amateur radio clubs. In June 1923, the Radio Club of Bombay made the first-ever broadcast in the country. In 1927, the Indian Broadcasting Company (IBC) was formed. In 1930, the government took over their transmitters and formed the Indian State Broadcasting Service (ISBS). In 1935, Lionel Fielden of BBC assumed charge as the first Controller of Broadcasting in India. In 1936, the Delhi station started functioning. The same year the company was renamed as All India Radio (AIR). From 1956 onwards AIR got another name ‘Akashvani’. The Sanskrit word ‘Akashavani’ meaning ‘celestial announcement’ was coined by M.V.Gopalaswamy
Media Convergence is the process where several media channels or formats come together to exist and operate in synergy in a single device. It is a merger of different mass media. The convergence of media is visible in everyone’s life. For example, now we use mobile phones to talk to friends, listen to music, watch movies, send emails, surf the web, read newspapers, take photographs or videos and to do more. Earlier we used separate devices like a tape recorder, radio, newspapers, television, still cameras and video cameras for these activities
Transmitting information and news when the public is outside their homes are also known as Outdoor Media or Out of Home Media. The importance of outside media is that it provides information related to new products, social information or advertisement purposes to the masses.
Various forms of Outdoor Media are:
- Signs and Placards
- Banners and Wallspace
Transit media revolve around the concept of advertising when customers are out of home and are going through any transport or on the go to public places. Advertisements are displayed on the public transport and vehicles on which brand promotion of a product and services take place.
Forms of Transit media are:
- Bus Advertising
- Taxi Advertising
- Rail Advertising
New Media (Digital Media)
The invention of the Internet and the World Wide Web opened up several new avenues for mass communication which include e-mail, websites, podcasts, e-books, blogging, social networking sites, Internet Protocol Television, Internet radio and the like. These kinds of online and digital means of producing, transmitting and receiving messages are called new media.
With speed and higher digital technology, the Internet has taken over all mediums of communications. Digital media is a two-way communication as users being active producers of content and consumers of content and information.
Digital or new media can be text, audio, graphics and video. This media is increasingly getting popular medium of exchange of information due to ease of accessibility with a computer and Internet Connection.
Digital Media (New Media) forms are:
- Social Media and Networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.
- Blogging and Vlogging
- E-forums and E-books
- IPTV (Internet Protocol TV)
- Digital Videos
- Virtual world and Reality
- Webcast and Podcast
- Internet Radio
Mass Media and Society
In a society like ours, mass media have a responsible role to play in fostering democracy, plurality and communal harmony through the functions listed below.
- Information and Education.
- Political awareness
- Cultural transmission
- Catalyst to development
After having a discussion on these ideal functions of mass media in any society, you will be able to analyse how our mass media perform their functions in our own society.
Information and Education functions
Mass media carry a lot of information which are essential for our daily life. We get benefited through examination results, weather forecasts, current affairs, traffic regulations, alerts, precautions, government policies etc. from mass media. The core of the media’s information function is performed by the media content called news. Good media try to carry accurate, objective and complete information since biased or incomplete reports will keep the audience away from the media.
Media provide education and information side by side. It provides education in different subjects to people of all levels. They try to educate people directly or indirectly using different forms of content. Distance education program, for example, is a direct approach. Dramas, documentaries, interviews, feature stories and many other programs are prepared to educate people indirectly. Especially in the developing country, mass media is used as effective tools for mass awareness.
Mass media function as an agency for socialization. Socialization means empowering people to acquire norms and experiences of the group as a whole, to maintain cultural consensus and communal harmony. It is through mass media that we know the cultural and social norms of various groups in our society. Based on this information, individuals honour others and behave according to the common values and thus create an integrated society.
We all need the entertainment to break the monotony of our hectic, stressful life and divert our attention from the troubles and tensions. All media have entertainment content. Newspapers publish cartoons, comics, puzzles and special weekend supplements. The lion’s share of magazine content such as short stories, novels, satires and comics are also intended to entertain the audience. Movies are another big stock for entertainment. Broadcast media such as television and radio primarily concentrate on entertainment function through their programmes based on sports, film, serials, music, dance, comedy, animation and fashion shows. Nowadays, entertainment has become a big industry comprising motion picture companies, music firms, theatre groups and game developers.
Political (Persuasion) functions
In television or newspapers, most of their content, especially news, is centred on politics in our society. We notice on a regular basis that panel discussions, reporting, editorials etc. focus on some issues for better living conditions, pro citizen policies, inflations, corruptions etc. Journalists also expose corruption, show up developments, and condemn or praise political activities considering their merits. These actions of the media make our democracy vibrant. Thus, mass media assume a key role in setting the agenda for the entire political system and policymaking by forming public opinion on various issues. This process is called the agenda-setting function. Mass media do this by highlighting some issues and avoiding others.
There are instances in which business tycoons and political leaders misuse this agenda-setting ability of media to keep their vested interests. Likewise, the media keep themselves alert about misdoings and violations. We call the mass media as watchdog or guardian angel of a democratic society. This function is as important as that of other estates of democracy – the legislature, the bureaucracy and the judiciary. Thus, the media is regarded as the Fourth Estate of Democracy.
Mass media are the bridge between our past and present. They report day to day affairs which will become the history of tomorrow. The best records of modern history are newspapers of yesteryears. We get our cultural tradition from history and we follow the best of them. In keeping our culture flowing, the media play a vital role. It focuses on the genuine aspects of our culture and points out the undesirable trends.
Media have a role in introducing new lifestyles and values. We all imbibe new fashions from films and fashion magazines and television programmes. You might have watched various programmes that introduce fashions, gadgets, food items, vehicles and the like. In short, media enrich our culture in two ways:
- transmitting culture and heritage from generation to generation and
- introducing and spreading cultural values across various segments of society.
Catalyst for Development
Mass media report problems faced by people in different walks of life and make the administrators aware of them. Media also make people aware of their rights, the details of government subsidies, development policies etc. They point out the merits and demerits of certain projects. In short, the media support development either being the advocates of government-sponsored development or critics of development projects which needs to be amended. This development-oriented function of media is termed as Development Communication. Thus, mass media work as a catalyst for the development of the society.
Effect on Society
If mass media function in a perfect manner, socially desirable acts like cooperation, tolerance, sharing, communal harmony and patriotism will bloom in the society. But there are criticisms that mass media can provoke behaviours that violate the prevailing desirable social norms. For example, some communication media carry contents featuring pornography and violence.
- Research studies show that overexposure to media contents, especially visual media contents, featuring violence and criminality can provoke violent behaviour in viewers, particularly among youths and children.
- Media can reinforce sex-role and communal stereotypes that lead to sexism and communalism.
- Excessive advertising may manipulate people into buying things they don’t really want.
- Overexposure to media can have an impact on our most intimate and valued relationships since it consumes more and more of our available free time. Excessive use of television may reduce community involvement in various day to day issues and too much of social networking may displace face-to-face relationships. Communication media may affect physical health also.
- Over watching of television is associated with obesity in children. Cartoons with rapidly changing images and extreme colours may cause damages to the brain and eyes.
Media literacy is the ability to understand how mass media work, how they produce meanings, how they are organized and how to use them wisely. The goal of media literacy is to develop a literate person, who can read, analyse and evaluate communications in a variety of media.
Media Literacy involves:
- learning to use media wisely and effectively
- engaging in critical thinking while evaluating media messages
- evaluating the credibility of information from various sources
- recognizing media’s influences on beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours and the democratic process
- achieving greater understanding and appreciating multiple perspectives
- learning to express one’s ideas using different forms of media.
Reputed media analyst, James Potter says that in this media-rich world we live in two worlds: the real world and the media world. The media world bombards us with messages, often with sublimity, that invade our real-world space. Media messages are multi-layered and not always what they seem to be. A media literate is able to unwrap these layers and choose what he/she wants to believe, reclaiming the ability to perceive the real world.