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Chapter 18.doc

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Media Studies
Ted Petit

CHAPTER 18: The Mass Media THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE MASS MEDIA What Are the Mass Media? - mass media - Are print, radio, television, and other communication technologies. The word mass implies that the media reach many people. The word media signifies that communication does not take place directly through face-to-face interaction. - instead, technology intervenes or mediates in transmitting messages from senders to receivers - furthermore, communication via the mass media is usually one-way, or at least one-sided - there are few senders (or producers) and many receivers (or audience members) - usually, then, members of the audience cannot exert much influence on the mass media - they can choose only to tune in or tune out - and even tuning out is difficult because it excludes us from the styles, news, gossip, and entertainment most people depend on to grease the wheels of social interaction - to appreciate fully the impact of the mass media on life today, we need to trace their historical development - that is the first task we set ourselves in the following discussion - we then critically review theories of the mass media’s effects on social life - finally, we assess developments on the media frontier formed by the Internet, television, and other mass media - we show that, to a degree, the new media frontier blurs the distinction between producer and consumer and has the potential to make the mass media somewhat more democratic, at least for those who can afford access The Rise of the Mass Media - the print media became truly a mass phenomenon only in the nineteenth century - the newspaper was the dominant mass medium even as late as 1950 - however, change was in the air in 1844, when Samuel Morse sent the first telegraphic signal - from that time on, long-distance communication no longer required physical transportation - most of the electronic media are creatures of the twentieth century - the first commercial television broadcasts date from the 1920s Causes of Media Growth - the rise of the mass media can be explained by three main factors – one religious, one political, and one economic: 1. Protestant Reformation - in the sixteenth century, Catholics relied on priests to tell them what was in the Bible - in 1517, however, Martin Luther protested certain practices of the Church - among other things, he wanted people to develop a more personal relationship with the Bible - within 40 years, Luther’s new form of Christianity – Protestantism – was established in half of Europe - suddenly, millions of people were being encouraged to read - the Bible became the first mass media product in the West and by far the best-selling book - technological improvements in papermaking and printing made the diffusion of the Bible and other books possible - the most significant landmark was Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press - in the 50 years after Gutenberg produced his monumental Bible in 1455, more books were produced than in the previous 1000 years - the printed book enables the widespread diffusion and exchange of ideas - it contributed to the Renaissance and to the rise of modern science 2. democratic movements - a second force that promoted the growth of the mass media was political democracy - from the eighteenth century on, the citizens of France, the United States, and other countries demanded and achieved representation in government - at the same time, they wanted to become literate and gain access to previously restricted centres of learning - democratic governments, in turn, depended on an informed citizenry and therefore encouraged popular literacy and the growth of a free press - today, the mass media, and especially TV, mould our entire outlook on politics - TV’s influence first became evident in the 1960 U.S. presidential election - that was the year of the first televised presidential debate – between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon - it is commonly claimed that television and other mass media have over-simplified politics - some analysts say that politics has been reduced to a series of more or less well-managed images, catchy slogans, and ever- shorter uninterrupted comments or “sound bites” - from this point of view, candidates are marketed for high office 3. capitalist industrialization - the third major force stimulating the growth of the mass media was capitalist industrialization - modern industries required a literate and numerate workforce - moreover, the mass media turned out to be a major source of profit in their own right - the sources of the mass media are deeply embedded in the religious, political, and economic needs of our society - moreover, the mass media are among the most important institutions in our society today THEORIES OF MEDIA EFFECTS - as societies develop, they become larger and more complex - the number of institutions and roles proliferates - because of the sheer scale of society, face-to-face interaction becomes less viable as a means of communication - as a result, the need increases for new means of coordinating the operation of the various parts of society - the mass media perform an important function by coordinating the operation of industrial and postindustrial societies - families have relinquished their former nearly exclusively right to transmit norms, values, and culture - the mass media have stepped into the breach - they reinforce shared ideals of democracy, competition, justice, and so forth - a third function of the mass media involves social control; the mass media help ensure conformity - by exposing deviants and showcasing law enforcement officials and model citizens, the mass media reinforce ideas about what kinds of people deserve punishment and what kinds of people deserve rewards - the mass media’s fourth and final function is to provide entertainment Conflict Theory - conflict theorists say functionalism exaggerates the degree to which the mass media serve the interests of the entire society - they contend that some people benefit from the mass media more than others do - in particular, the mass media favour the interests of dominant classes and political groups - conflict theorists maintain that there are two ways in which dominant classes and political groups benefit disproportionately from the mass media - first, the mass media broadcast beliefs, values, and ideas that create widespread acceptance of the basic structure of society, including its injustices and inequalities - second, ownership of the mass media is highly concentrated in the hands of a small number of people and is highly profitable for them - thus, the mass media are a source of economic inequality Media Ownership - there are just five multimedia giants in the country - in order of size, they are as follows: 1. CTVglobemedia Inc. - owned by Bell Canada - CTVglobemedia controls the CTV television network, The Globe and Mail, CFCF (the biggest English-language television station in Montreal), CKY (Manitoba’s biggest TV station), Report on Business TV, TSN ( The Sports Network), national CHUM radio, and so on 2. Rogers Communications Inc. - controlled by the Rogers family and based in Toronto, Rogers is one of the country’s largest cable TV and broadband Internet service providers - it controls the Shopping Channel, CFMT (a multicultural television station in Toronto), Sportsnet, the Toronto Blue Jays, dozens of radio stations, scores of consumer and business magazines (including Maclean’s, Flare, and Canadian Business), and so on 3. Shaw Communications - controlled by the Shaw family of Calgary, Shaw Communications is another of the country’s largest cable TV and broadband Internet service providers - it also owns 49 radio stations, Global Television, and television specialty stations, including the Food Network, History Television, and Showcase 4. CBC/Radio Canada - the fourth-largest multimedia giant in Canada is the only one that is publicly owned - its most important assets are an English-language television network, a French-language television network, and four commercial-free radio networks 5. Quebecor Inc.
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