Mass Media


The mass media can be defined as the means of communication that reach large numbers of people in a short time, such as television, newspapers, magazines, radio and the internet. In terms of reach, mass media can easily be accessible to people internationally and across continents.


Throughout the 20th Century, the arrival of mass media was driven by technology that allowed the massive duplication of material at a low cost. 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. Television and radio allowed the electronic duplication of content for the first time.


Mass media had the economics of linear replication: a single work could make money proportional to the number of copies sold, and as volumes went up, units costs went down, increasing profit margins further.


The purpose of the mass media is debatible; Some see it’s purpose is to inform or select information relevant to its large audience. Others see it having a “hypoderitic needle” effect. In brief, it is the idea that the makers of media messages can get up to do whatever they want us to do.


This last view has caused concern since the Orson Welles & The Mercury Theatre broadcast of “War of the Worlds” on October 30th 1939. He made an adaption of the book, except it was made like a live news broadcast of a Martian invasion. People packed the roads, hid in cellars, loaded guns, even wrapped their heads in wet towels as protection from Martian poison gas, in an attempt to defend themselves against aliens.


In the future, it seems media convergence will become more apparent. Already we have radio shows giving extra information and track listings through their website, TV news stations with their own broadband information services and I feel this is just the beginning. We will not have a media brand using one outlet any more, we are in a world where media conglomerates control too much of the media to avoid this. Companies like News Corporation, Viacom and AOL Time Warner own so much of it that not only will more of it become apparent, but also brands that have only one outlet will struggle greatly.


This issue of globalization is still contentious. For the western world, it poses a great threat as it means our information is from the one country. It has the potential to destroy cultures internationally, plus with the US being the only world super power, no one can compete or challenge their views and beliefs. Many countries may stop creating their own media for the public and simply but American media. The US can easily afford to do so, as their outlets will have made enough profit in the motherland. This means people will not fully have their native freedom of speech or viewpoints.


Global media conglomerates can often have a progressive impact on culture, especially when they enter countries that had tightly controlled corrupt media systems (as in much of Latin America) or nations that had significant state censorship over media (as in parts of Asia). The global commercial media system is uncompromising in that it will not respect tradition, custom, or balance, if it stands in the way of profits.


A problem is becoming more apparent is that, as Major American companies merge together, minority voices in society will quickly lose their “voice” in the public domain. In this country we have the BBC Asian Network, the communist newspaper “Morning Star” which give outlets to minorities but with globalisation and more specifically Americanisation, their views and beliefs will easily be erased from the public, purely if the media sees no substantial profit in them, rather than looking at ethics and freedom of expression.


Now that the British media is monitored by the one body, Ofcom, traditional worries about taste, decency, fairness etc are not being abandoned. However, there is a growing concern that the media is not giving us the full picture of news and information around us. The notion that Osama Bin Laden was sending “coded messages” in his video messages to terrorists does seem a bit far fetched, yet expressed journalists and reporters went along with the US Administration without question.


Also in the early 1992 where Bill Clinton ran