Mass Communication Essay

 

Mass Communication
Human Civilization is passing through a crucial phase of its existence and survival. Mass Media as Purveyors of news & views have a decisive role of preparing the humans race for the 21st century. Due to the primacy accorded to information as social inputs, many developed societies have becoming information societies. The rest are on the verge of becoming so. With the growing importance of communication, the societies are racing against time to be in mainstream of the communication revolution.

Basically communication comes from the Latin Word “Communism” meaning common. When we communicate we are trying the establish commonness with someone. That is, we are trying to share information, an idea or an attitude.

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The process of communication started with travelers and letters. The transformation in European Societies following the Renaissance, reformation and industrial revolution resulted in a sea change and the Modernization process began spreading to newer areas beyond Europe. Due to rapid development in technologies the process of communication was fast and receipts of communication and feedback was ensured. What we call mass media communication today, are the product to technologies operating directly in our society. Mass media and communication technologies have become integral parts of our life and our society. While the principal focus in the studies of communications in organizations is on formal organization such as political parties, business enterprises or labour union, some of the observations apply to social units that are not ordinarily thought of as organization family groups, neighborhoods or nation sates ((Davidson, 1974). More commonly, an effort is made to relate patterns of internal communication to the effectiveness of the organization in carrying out its purpose. Most such studies have been concerned primarily with interpersonal or inter unit communication. By contrast, relatively little effort has been devoted to exploring the role of mass media in organizational life. Mass communication researchers have been more interested in the impact of Media on individuals than on organizations. Riley noted “the traditional approach to mass communication has been largely concerned with the content of the communicated messages and the response of isolated individuals (1959).” But it does not mean that the functions of mass communication for collectivities have been completely ignored.

In planning for utilization of new communication technologies, for example, one is forced to ask about their significance not only for the individual but also for all types of social organization from political parties, police departments and industries to families, neighborhoods and voluntary associations. It is possible that mass communication channels can substitute for face-to-face channels in Medical, educational, organizations, thus decisively altering their structure. Communication and organizations, which are traditionally been regarded as individually self-contained units, now viewed as complement and supplement each other. The major three areas such as communications in business organizations, political communication in general and on the way parties (Government) with pressure groups and communication in development process in particular with the way in which mass media can help to establish or strengthen political, economic and cultural institutions are the focal point for mass communication studies. Small organizations usually find face-to-face or point-to-point communication adequate but as organizations grow larger and more complex they tend to rely increasingly on mass communication. Mass communication, as an organizing force performs certain important functions such as to create organizations by focusing attention on an issue and revealing to individuals who share common attitude about the issue and desirable to form an associations or purposeful groups, help diverse people in recognizing their common interests and usefulness of working together towards shared goals, to help nation building, or recruiting member for almost any political party or voluntary association etc. In every larger and most loosely organized organizations, mass communication facilitate the internal functioning such as to ensure coordination of the organizations various parts to provide technical information to perform specific jobs, to furnish intelligence for decision making and foster group morale and a sense of belonging. Communication is any imparting or exchange of information. It may be verbal or non-verbal, intended or unintended. Communication can also be defined as the message(s) or units of information communicated. There are various conceptions of what communication involves. There are four main conceptions of communication in the field of mass Communication i.e. Transportation Model, Participatory Model, Meeting of Minds Model & Construction of texts model. Such other models as Lasswellian formula, propounded by Harold Lasswell, an American political Scientist studied propaganda and attempted to find a theoretical explanation for the effective operation of propaganda campaigns in democracies as well as dictatorships. Another major development that reinforced the research effort in the field communication was the formulation of cybernetics by Norbert Weiner. He said, “The information carried by a set of massages in a measure organization (1967). The concept of entropy underwent a rather strange transformation in the hands of information theorist Claude Shannon. After the 1949 publication of the mathematical theory of communication by Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver, communication theory has been open to endless debate. To date, there is no consensus on one theory of communication. However, communication theory is generally understood to mean “highly interdisciplinary, behaviorally-oriented field of research dealing with the constituent process of human communication” (Mortensen and Sereno, 1970) or the process of delivering information, ideas, and attitudes from one person or group to another (Cobley, 1996). From the plethora of ideas emerging from the debates, All the existing theories clarify four distinct aspects of the communication process as: 1) human interaction as a system of behaviour, 2) the decoding and encoding processes, 3) the interaction process, and 4) the context of interaction (Mortensen and Sereno, 1970; Severin and Tankard, 1992). Thus within the social behavioural context described by these four aspects, communication occurs. Communication is achieved once a message or information elicited by a source (a journalist) is transmitted using a medium (newspaper) to the receiver (audience), among whom it signals or enhances actions, which qualify that the message is accurately received. According to Agee, Ault, and Emery (1991), this communication process occurs under various conditions: deliberate preparation and delivery of the message; common experience such as language or other mode of communication between the sender and the receiver; ability of the message to meet the receiver’s personality interests; and the attends to group needs. Communication theory identifies the concerns of the mass media practitioner as “to have a news story read and understood – that is to achieve exposure and comprehension” (Severin and Tankard, 1992). However, this is not wholly true when dealing with research articles because they require analysis, evaluation, and application, in addition to reading and comprehending. In fact earlier hierarchical models of communication theory by Lavidge and Steiner (1961), and McGuire (1973) concur that reading and understanding is only the first step towards achieving higher cognitive stages of analyzing and evaluating articles, including those that appear in newspapers.  Audience looks for a wide range of things in the mass media, including news, leisure, entertainment, commercials, and education features, among others. While it is difficult to determine precisely the concerns of the audience, it is up to the journalists to communicate their stories in the most accessible form in order to avoid rendering the audience as mere victims rather than receivers of information. The subject matter of mass communication research is the people who make up the audiences of the different media (Agee et. al. 1983).

Therefore, mass communication is understood as “the process of delivering information, ideas, and attitudes to a sizable, diversified audience through the use of media designed for that purpose” (Agee, Ault, and Emery, 1991). The mass media tend to inform rather than to change attitudes. Information derived form media may direct attitude one way or another and it is only when nothing competing from one’s own past experience that media experiences become real and their values are adopted as one’s own. This, however, happens very infrequently in our multi media society (Agee et.al, 1991).

Mass media communication is an effective way to influence people, nation, policies and almost all aspect of life and nation. Some of the function of mass media could be changing the way of education (spread, upgrade, information, knowledge) enrichment, resulting economic growth with standardization of educational and change in people life style, entertainment, public decision making process development, quick feedback. Mass communication develops with the development of technology. The different modes for mass communication are print media, Audio-visual media i.e. Radio, Television Electronic Media i.e. newer visual media like satellite TV, Cable TV, Video Magazines. Recent development occurred in the field of Internet and cyber revolution, which is changing the mass communication media very rapidly. The use of stationary satellites provides the means to broadcast television globally, potentially providing access to all members of the human race. The Internet and wireless telephones are gradually being used throughout the world.

Mass Media communication reaches to almost every corner of the world. The mass media have brought distant events into the homes making their audiences a part of national and global communities. The expansion of mass media communication meant expansion of allied sectors such as news agencies and syndicates. Similarly the circulation of newspaper in the world can gauge the reach of the print media. The expansions of mass communication methods have added a new dimension to the art of persuasion. As carriers of commercial messages with form of advertisements, mass media have made techniques more sleek & sophisticated. Approximately 50 to 60 percent of every daily newspaper consists of advertising, an important service that gives readers information for purchasing Goods(Agee et.al, 1997). Mass communication generally attract large groups, big cities but the local media increased its participation and makes free flow of information therefore democratic process acquires more meaning and relevance. It helps to generate and publicize alternating ideas and provides a forum and influence decision-making.

As classified before, mass communication impact on Business organization, political/public organizations and Government communication and social cultural psychological areas could be felt. Different modes of mass communication have its own importance but the most important mode is Print media, which include books, magazine and other printed materials. The printed world is carrier of knowledge, information and news stories.  Print media is viewed as a point of intersection of many disciplines that seek to have their knowledge, skills, and attitudes disseminated through a specialized skill – journalism – to expressly influence and modify human practice in ways that enhance survival.  Hence, in the presence of media ethics and professional practice of journalism, it is possible for print media, guided by sound principles of communication, to play a pivotal role in spearheading research.  The public views collaborative communication between journalists and higher education researchers as a way of re-reinvigorating research while at the same time enhancing journalism and affordable access to research findings. “The responsibility of editors is to strike the balance among the functions of informing, instructing, and entertaining.  Different ones do this different ways to suit what they believe to be the desires of the particular audiences” (Agee, Ault, and Emery, 1991). Apparently, the irrevocability of the editors’ judgment in matters of publication renders it difficult to consider interest areas of the diverse audiences, particularly those interested in specialized research. However, the publication of articles written by non-journalist authors specialized in other fields is a trend that not only acknowledges the interdisciplinary of journalism but also offers opportunity for dissemination of authoritative research work. Newspapers also reveal a new trend where a steadily increasing number of researchers publish their work as journalistic pieces for quick dissemination and consumption by the wider public. It seems that this is a strategy to ensure that the findings are not only used timely, but also that their worth is not overtaken by new research (Agee, Ault, and Emery 1991; Kasoma 1996). The publication of individual researchers own research is a major shift in the policy of professional journalism.  However, it not only adds to the newspapers’ credibility but also it works out the new trend towards enjoining research professionals from higher education to journalism in ways that mutually benefit them.  Further, it creates great advantages for the public through immediate access to new research and involvement in its discourses.  Needless to say government bureaucrats and technocrats studiously watch journalistic print media research reports and debates to understand the new trends and concerns of the society (Njau and Radeny 1995). For these reasons the bureaucrats and technocrats form task forces that originate numerous decisions and policy recommendations built on analysis of authentic research pieces reported in newspapers, alongside other sources. The trained “researcher-journalists” would then form part of the editorial staff at media houses, thereby adding credibility to research articles that feature in newspapers. Innovation in printing technology and commercialization proves detrimental to print mode of mass communication. Newspaper consists of news and News may be defined as “Anything timely the interest a large number of persons and the best news in that which has the greatest interest for greatest number.”  But news could not be properly defined “because the news in an abstract concept whose shape changes as the interest of humans change” (Agee, Ault & Emery, 1983). It largely depends on types of reporting i.e. objective, interpretative, investigative qualities and responsibility of a reporter or interviewing skills of a reporter. Presently newspapers have mainly editorial value. Similarly Radio is a medium of mass communication. Performer is communicating with vast mass of people collectively. It is a cheaper medium of mass communication. Television is audiovisual media but predominantly much more visual than audio. A TV broadcast directly affects two sense simultaneously, those of learning and seeing. The potential of TV to have greater effect or impact. TV is a supreme medium of mass communication. The power of television to influence contemporary life is astounding.  A prime example of this fact is found in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in 1991 in which Anita Hill accused Supreme Court nominee Judge Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.  The American people were plunged into emotional turmoil, often arguing passionately as they tried to decide who was lying. The hearing created a national debate about sexual harassment in the workplace and greatly increased male consciousness of the problem.  The explicit testimony carried into family living rooms a host of sexual terms and descriptions previously forbidden on television, contributing to a further loosening of traditional language taboos.  The judge’s claim that he was being subjected to a high-tech racial lynching also opened a frankness of racial debate previously avoided on television. As the Thomas episode indicates, what viewers see and hear influences their attitudes, their manners, their speech, and often their daily habits.  Thomas was confirmed.  Anita Hill, a law professor, became a frequent spokesperson for the feminist movement.

Television’s impact is strong in other areas as well, especially in sports.  It often dictates the hour at which events take place and when the game action will halt for commercials.   National political conventions are staged and timed like theatrical performances to lure a TV audience.  Protest demonstrations that would pass almost unnoticed gain national exposure when a television news crew arrives and photographs protesters shaking their fists at the camera. In the home, the program listings influence meal-and bedtimes.  Parents may use the TV set as a babysitter, relieved that it keeps the children quiet, and too often unconcerned about the ideas and images they are absorbing.  According to A. C. Nielsen statistics, the average American family watches television about seven hours a day. (Agee, Ault & Emery,  1997). With the support of the satellite technology to day, TV can reach all the corners of the globe. TV has turned world into a global village in respect of communication of information and ideas and thought exchange. It is a glamour, close-up living room, democratizing, and immediacy medium. It is a medium to reach out potential and actual customers than the newspaper, hoardings etc. TV advertisements or programmes sponsored by businessman can reach tens of millions of people.

The various media and almost all advertising agencies conduct advertising research to help them in their job of persuading people to buy.  Market research has been carried on since the start of the century and was the forerunner of other public opinion research.  It includes consumer surveys on potential markets for new products, dealer studies, customer attitude surveys, and studies of effectiveness of brand names and package designs.  Media use by advertisers is determined in part by market research results, and various media seek to point out heir usefulness by undertaking market research studies for particular advertisers’ products. There was a greater number of Establishments

Announcement/Informational advertisements. This served to reinforce the use that newspapers have within Integrated Marketing Communications. (Agee, Ault and Emery 1997).

Copy research includes analysis of advertisement readership studies, pretesting of advertisements, evaluation of printed advertisement campaign effectiveness, and graphics.  In broadcasting, commercials and programs may be tried out on small samples of listeners by means of response-recording devices.  Similarly, films may be tried out on small audiences whose responses are recorded (Agee, Ault & Emery, 1997). Film is another medium of mass communication. It is collaborative art medium. Films are also effective medium for development in a sense the growth of the individual and the society in all aspects. These include political, economic, social and cultural it can contribute to modernizing the traditional society by helping to change the attitudes of people. Films can bring a change in attitudes relating to work, religion, customs, communities, beliefs etc. In Recent years cable TV networks the cable programmer buys entire satellite delivered networks, such as CNN, ESPN and MTV and then tiers the networks and services according to a certain strategy. First comes a basic package of channels for a fixed monthly fee. On top of this package, the subscriber may purchase one or all of the supplementary channels, such as Disney and Zee TV for an extra fee. In addition, the subscriber may subscribe to one or all of the premium channels such as HBO and Cinemax. (Agee, Ault & Emery, 1997). So TV is becoming very potent media to influence public. In recent years Internet is now becoming the medium of mass communication. Due to extension of satellite communication this medium becoming very popular. Internet is a source of information and user of it could find the needed information of their use and could have lesser outside influences.

One of the main areas of mass communication is political communication, which influences mass. The ability to communicate has always been a useful skill for the political class. Deliberate political communication will always contain on element of intended persuasion. However, all political messages are not communicated intentionally. There are barriers to the effectiveness of mass media is socialization. According to UNESCO, in poor and developing countries, per 100 inhabitants, the standard to 10 copies of newspaper, 5 radios and 2 TV represents inadequacy of mass communication modes. Political communication is no longer confined to elections and campaigns; media appeals have become standard affair in day-to-day conduct of government and are used by private interests as well as candidates. The habit of playing to the public has even spread to policy arenas not typically associated with partisan politics. The reporting and investigations of 9/11 attacks or Katrina or President Clintons and Monica Lewinsky or findings of weapons of mass destructions in Iraq cases are the glaring examples of political reporting. It has the ability to change the public perceptions. So political communication as a mass communication system have prime importance. It has been evident and also perceived that mass communication media sets the agenda for politicians and politics. No one can believe that the press is powerless. The power of the press is implicit in the idea of harnessing mass media to perform important social, economic, military and political tasks- although that occurred to US Govt. in world War II, when it had to put together a huge citizen army in a hurry (Agee et. al., 1983). An experimental section was established under Psychologist I. Hovland to study among other things the differential effects and effectiveness of mass media (Agee et. al.,1983). The study dealt with the persuasiveness of the different media but was later continued by the same group of the psychologists, to include the effectiveness of various types of messages and communication (Agee et.al.1983). Most of them reached the conclusion that all other things being equal the more the personal a medium, the more efficiently persuasive it is. Thus, face-to-face communication is more effective than television, which is more effective than film, Radio and print in that order (Agee et. al., 1983). Especially cognitive dissonance theory of Leon Festinger puts that people like their beliefs and judgment about things to be consistent with one another. They might even selectively perceive or misperceive and selectively ration information (Agee et.al.,1983). A distinction has been made between informational communication and persuasive communication and mass communication had been weighed in balance towards persuasiveness. People don’t do things or change their attitudes or even opinions simply because they are asked to or told to by an individual, directly or through mass media (Agee et.al. 1983).

Public communication is also the part of mass communication, which elaborates government’s policies and performances. It’s the government version of information, which could influence the public. Public relations practitioners are regarded as buffers and boundary spanners for and between their organizations and their news media. Public relations often sets the agenda for news media, simply because the source in source-reporter interaction is often either a public relations practitioner or a practitioner client. It is observed that journalists and sources cooperated and collaborated in the creation of news and there is extensive use of beats and a process for finding potentially newsworthy events and ides (Agee et.al.1983). Sometimes it has been manipulated in favour of governments and spin of information by established spin-doctors paint a different picture in front of public with the purpose of influencing masses in their favour. Recently U.K. Govt. press officer Jo Moore email on September 11, 2001 contains the phrase. “It now a very good day to get anything we want to burry created uproar and is good example of time of spin. The most well known person in U.K. often described as a “spin doctor” is Alistair Campbell who was involved with Tony Blair’s PR between 1994 and 2003. So from the above discussion it has been quite evident that mass communication has affected every part of the human lives and behaviour. In ever-changing scenario of the global situation mass media influences have been tremendous. It has affected mankind, socially, culturally, politically, economically, environmentally and personally. In global setting change in one part of the globe, communicated immediately to the other parts and influence the social political, economical, legal, environmental and personal change. Having such a broader affect on people, society, nations, and mass media communication should practice restraint and must adopt ethical practices. Though freedom of expression and speech is the right of every citizen, mass communication media thwart the attempt of any govt. which affect the citizens right directly. In 1991, UNESCO adopted a policy supporting “free, independent and pluralistic media.” Freedom, rather than control, was the issue then, as it is now (Agee, Ault & Emery, 1997).

But there is no such thing as absolute freedom. Freedom is always accompanied by responsibility. Freedom always entails an obligation, whether it is a nations freedom or individual’s freedom or a group freedom or the freedom of the press. Therefore, freedom of the mass communication is also linked with responsibilities. At least, the freedom should not be abused. Every Journalist and mass media worker must follow certain rules and guideless for professional ethics.

Mass communication can be tool of cultural enrichment, national cohesion and advancement; understating and peace among people; through a truer and more perfect knowledge of each other types or they can become the new opiate of masses.

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References:

 

1.      Agee, W. K., Ault, P. H. & Ewery, E (1997), Introduction to Mass Communication, 11/E, New York:  Harper Collins Publishers.

 

2.      Agee, W. K., Ault, P. H. & Ewery, E. (1991),  Introduction to mass communications. New York:  Harper Collins Publishers.

 

3.      Agee, W. K., Ault, P. H. & Ewery, E.  (1983), Perspective on mass communications. New York:  Harper row Publishers.

 

4.      Agee, W. K., Ault, P. H. & Ewery, E.   (1983), Reporting and writing news, Harper and Row, Publishers, New York.

5.       Cobley, P. (Eds.), (1996), The communication theory reader. London: Routledge.

6.      Davidson, W. Phillips (1974): Functions of mass communication for the collectivity in Davidson, W. Phillips (ed.) mass communication research: major issues and future directions, Praeger, NY.   Kasoma, F.P. (1996), Content analysis of AIDS stories in Zambian media,CAEJAC journal 8, 10 – 30.

 

7.      Lavidge, R. C. Steiner, G. (1961),A model for predictive measurements of advertising effectiveness, Journal of marketing 25 (6), 59 -62.

 

8.      McGuire, W. J. (1973), Persuasion, and attitude change. In I. D. S. Pool, W. Schramm, F.W. Frey, et. al. (Eds.), Handbook of communication, pp.216 – 252. Chicago: Rand McNally.

9.      Mortensen, C. D. & Sereno, K. K. (1970).  Foundations of communication theory.  New York: Longman.

10.  Njau, W. & Radeny, S. (1995),  Teenage school dropout in Kenya: Nairobi, Kenya: Centre for the Study of Adolescence.

 

11.  Riley, J.W., jr. and Riley, M.W., (1959): Mass communication and social system in sociology today (eds.), basic books, New York.

12.  Severin, W. J., & Tankard, J. W. (1992), Communication theories: Origins, methods and uses in the Mass Media.  New York: Longman.

 

13.  Wiener, Norbert, (1967), The human use of human beings: cybernetics and society, Aron books, New York.

 

 

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