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This course examines the mass media as a social institution. In an era of globalization, it is

increasingly crucial to view the mass media through the lens of sociology. In recent years,

sociologists have studied significant changes in public policy that regulates the mass media,

concentration of ownership of traditional mass media, and technological innovations that

have given rise to new forms of mass media.

It is important to apply a variety of sociological perspectives to understand how media and

popular culture is produced and experienced in both everyday life and in a broader social

context. Particular attention will be given to theories about the social organization of the mass

media industry. Topics include the organization of major media institutions, social forces that

shape production of mass media news and entertainment, selected studies in media content,

and the effects of media on society.

What Is Mass Media?

Think about this for a second: whenever you want to hear your favorite song, watch your

favorite show, or see the latest current events, where do you go? You more than likely turn on

your television, radio, or computer. The source that the majority of the general public uses to

get their news and information from is considered mass media. The mass media can be

categorized into four:

Broadcast media transmit information electronically, via such media as film, radio,

Digital media comprises both Internet and mobile mass communication. Internet media

comprise such services as email, social media sites, websites, and Internet-based radio and


Outdoor media transmit information via such media as; billboards; blimps; flying billboards

(signs in tow of airplanes); placards or kiosks placed inside and outside of buses, commercial

buildings, shops, sports stadiums, subway cars, or trains; signs; or skywriting. [1]

Print media transmit information via physical objects, such as books, comics, magazines,

Mass media means technology that is intended to reach a mass audience. It is the primary

means of communication used to reach the vast majority of the general public. The most

common platforms for mass media are newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and the

Internet. The general public typically relies on the mass media to provide information

regarding political issues, social issues, entertainment, and news in pop culture.

History of the Media

entertainment, and news in pop culture. History of the Media ago (cave painting). This is from

ago (cave painting).

This is from a 16,000 year old cave painting from Lascaux, France

is from a 16,000 year old cave painting from Lascaux, France  1st dated book. Printed
is from a 16,000 year old cave painting from Lascaux, France  1st dated book. Printed

1st dated book. Printed with wooden blocks Printed in China 868


book. Printed with wooden blocks Printed in China 868 C.E.  Johannes Gutenberg invented 1st printing

Johannes Gutenberg invented 1st printing press. He printed 180

copies in Europe 1455 C.E.

printing press. He printed 180 copies in Europe 1455 C.E. - 1640  With mass printing

- 1640 With mass printing available newspapers could be made. 1640 in

England The London Gazette in 1666 was the 1st commercial newspaper

The London Gazette in 1666 was the 1st commercial newspaper – home audio  Patented by

home audio Patented by Thomas Edison in 1877 We can finally store and

transmit audio

 The idea is more than 1000 years old. George Eastman made it more available

The idea is more than 1000 years old. George Eastman made it more

available to the public in 1888 and founded the Eastman Kodak Company in 1892.

- 1894  Finally wireless and paperless transmission of information is available. Finally wireless and paperless transmission of information is available.

The history is clouded. Many people claim to have done it first. Nikola Tesla was most likely


to have done it first. Nikola Tesla was most likely 1st  First public movie show

First public movie show in New York, 1896 Now we can store And

transmit video The first full length film (12 minutes) was The Great Train Robbery made in


live action in home 1936  First black & white then colour Allows us to live action in home 1936 First black & white then colour Allows us to transmit

more media to more people 1st Colour TV Philo Farnswoth in 1928 was the inventor

1st Colour TV Philo Farnswoth in 1928 was the inventor  Not for homes. They were

Not for homes. They were gargantuan machines. IBM Business

Computer 1964


The word ‗communication‘ is derived from the Latin verb ‗communicare‘, which means "to

share" or "to make common". It may be defined as the meaningful exchange of ideas or

information. Communication is also is an activity associated with distributing or exchanging

information, thoughts or messages. It involves a sender and a receiver.

Mass communication is "the practice whereby which a person, group of people, or large

organization creates a message and transmits it through some type of medium to a large,

anonymous, heterogeneous people." Mass communication is the process of how individuals

and entities transmit information through mass media to large segments of the population at

the same time. It is usually related to newspaper, magazine, books, radio, television, film, the

internet etc as these media are used to propagate information, news and advertising.

The importance of communication

Communication, in all its varied forms, is a topic that is of great interest to sociologists. This

is because communication is crucial to the very existence of a society. Thus it is to be found

even in the simple societies of insects such as bees and ants. Mass communication is a recent

development made possible by modern technology. It is a product of industrial techniques

such as the steam-powered printing press, cinematography, and radio and TV broadcasting

and receiving equipment.

As Marshall McLuhan (1964) has argued, the mass media can be seen as ‗extensions of our

senses‘— they allow us to see and hear beyond our normal sensory limits. But, unlike our

predecessors, the bulk of our knowledge is not based on our own direct experience. It is

mediated, or received second-hand, via the media. We may know more about drug-takers,

film stars, the problems of the Third World, or the national economy, but we have to rely

largely on the information on these topics provided by the mass media. As George Gerbner

writes: ‗Never have so many people in so many places shared so much of a common system

of messages and images and have the assumptions about life, society, and the world

embedded in them while having so little to do with their making. The fabric of popular

culture that relates elements of existence to each other and structures the common

consciousness of what is, what is important, and what is right, is now largely a manufactured


Communication and Technology

In the olden times communities would communicate through the gong-gong beater, through

lighting fire, drums, the conch, horns etc. In Ghana after independence came the wired radios,

the wireless, films and TVs.

New communications and information technologies have created a global revolution in

patterns of communication and society. Modern communication technology makes it possible

to stay connected anywhere, all the time, and the flow of information is nearly limitless.

Communication makes us feel that the world is at our finger tips. Modern communication has

brought a revolution to our present lives from education to medicine. In the future we will get

more benefit from the modern communication since it will develop day by day, thus bringing

more development to our world in all the areas.

Along with all the benefits, however, some mass media some potentially negative

consequences. Though our computers, televisions, and phones have its own advantages, they

have a negative impact on the way we communicate and interact. The more advanced

technology becomes, the more it seems to have control over our lives. Recent developments

in technology such as the internet also led to a decline in ―normal‖ social behaviours.

Modern technology has improved multiculturalism and the communication between cultures.

With modern communication technology such as TVs and phones, we can see what people at

the other end of the world are doing. This will greatly help us understand the cultural

diversity of this world, and we will learn to appreciate the cultural difference of people from

different part of the earth. Modern technology increases the communication between cultures.

By communication, one culture can learn from other culture and evolve.


Mass media refers to the institutions that provide information: newspapers, magazines,

television, radio, film and multimedia Web sites. The term also is used for the specific

institutions of mass media, such as radio networks and television stations, movie companies,

music producers, and the Internet. Mass media is characterized by the transmission of

complex messages to large and diverse audiences, using sophisticated technology. Some of

the important characteristics of mass media are discussed below.

important characteristics of mass media are discussed below. One key characteristic of mass media is its

One key characteristic of mass media is its ability to overcome the physical limitations

present in face-to-face communication. While one person can engage in public speaking and

reach one hundred thousand or so people in one of the world‘s largest stadiums, it would be

impossible for one person to reach millions without technology.

for one person to reach millions without technology. within an organizational setting. Examples of these sources

within an organizational setting. Examples of these sources are news reporters, film

producers, television producers and magazine editors. Likewise, the source generally is a

multiple entity, and the resulting message is the work of several persons. For example,

producers, writers, actors, directors and video editors all work together to create a television

programmes. Publishers, reporters, editors, copyeditors, typesetters, graphic designers and

photographers together produce magazines.

designers and photographers together produce magazines. plex. Examples of mass media message are a news report,

plex. Examples of mass media

message are a news report, a novel, a movie, a television program, a magazine article, a

newspaper columns, a music video, and a billboard advertisement.

columns, a music video, and a billboard advertisement. erent aspects of technology. Radio, for example, involves

erent aspects of

technology. Radio, for example, involves tape machines, microphones, devices that digitize

sound waves, transmitters that disseminate them, and receiving units that decode the sound

waves and render them back into audio form approximating the original. Sometimes, as in the

case of musical recording, the channel of mass communication may even enhance the sound

quality of the original.

may even enhance the sound quality of the original. -selected people who tune in to a

-selected people who tune in to a particular television or who

read a particular magazine. Mass audiences usually are heterogeneous, meaning that they are

both large and diverse. They actually are made up of groups of people with dissimilar

background, demographics, and socio-political characteristics; they are spread over a vast

geographic area. Such audiences are brought together by a single shared interest in the

particular message available through the mass medium. Message sources generally have only

limited information about their audiences. Radio station managers may know audience

demographics such as average ages, incomes, political interests, and so on, but they know

little about the individual members of the audience. Indeed, one characteristic of mass media

is that the audience members essentially remain anonymous. However, the mass media can

target a certain part of the population, for example, reaching mainly children through


Another key characteristic of mass communication in relation to other forms offor example, reaching mainly children through cartoons. communication is its lack of sensory richness. Mass media

communication is its lack of sensory richness. Mass media draws on fewer sensory channels

than face-to-face communication. While smell, taste, and touch can add context to a

conversation over a romantic dinner, our interaction with mass media messages rely almost

exclusively on sight and sound. Because of this lack of immediacy, mass media messages are

also typically more impersonal than face-to-face messages.

Last, mass media messages involve less interactivity and more delayed feedback thanalso typically more impersonal than face-to-face messages. other messages. The majority of messages sent through mass

other messages. The majority of messages sent through mass media channels are one way.

We don‘t have a way to influence an episode of Akan Drama as we watch it. Traditionally,

feedback has been minimal and generally delayed. We could send messages to the show‘s

producers and hope our feedback is received. A newspaper reader could write a letter to the

editor; a television viewer might respond to a survey. With the Internet, new possibilities are

being found to increase feedback, but it remains limited.

Functions of Mass Media

1. Information: Dissemination of information is the major function of mass media. We

have a need for information to satisfy curiosity, reduce uncertainty, and better understand the

world. Since information is knowledge and knowledge is power, media offer authentic and

timely facts and opinions about various event and situations to mass audience. Information

provided by mass media can be opinionated, objective, subjective, primary and secondary.

Informative functions of mass media also lets the audience knows about the happening

around them and come to know the truth. Media saturation has led to increased competition

to provide information, which creates the potential for news media outlets, for example, to

report information prematurely, inaccurately, or partially. Being the first to break particular

news or the most interesting pieces of news and pictures, such as journals putting themselves

in danger to get juicy information is a result of intense competition amongst the various mass


(Christiane Amanpour, Persian Gulf War. Because of her emotional delivery from Sarajevo

during the Siege of Sarajevo, viewers and critics questioned her professional objectivity,

claiming that many of her reports were unjustified and favoured the Bosnian Muslims, to

which she replied, "There are some situations one simply cannot be neutral about, because

when you are neutral you are an accomplice. Objectivity doesn't mean treating all sides

equally. It means giving each side a hearing. Amanpour gained a reputation for being fearless

during the Gulf and Bosnian wars and for reporting from conflict areas.)

2. Education: 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. In context of Nepal, media have been successful

in eradicating various traditional and evil superstitious practices from society through

continuous advocacy. In Ghana, for example, the mass media is employed to educate the

public on preventing and treating cholera.

3. Entertainment: The other important function of mass media is the entertainment. It is also

perceived as the most obvious function of media. Actually, entertainment is a kind of

performance that provides pleasure to people. Mass media fulfil this function by providing

amusement and assist in reducing tension to large degree. Newspapers and magazines, radio,

television and online medium offer stories, films, serials, and comics to entertain their

audience. By entertaining, the mass media provides diversion function. It is able to take

people‘s minds off impending examinations, distract people from problems and enable them


But these days, media have comprised information and education in the entertaining

programs. The fusion of entertainment and information is called infotainment. Similarly, the

inclusion of education in entertaining programs is regarded as edutainment.

4. Persuasion: It is another function of mass media. Persuasion involves influencing people‘s

minds. Mass media influence audience in varieties of ways. Media content builds opinions

and sets agendas in the public mind. It influences votes, changes attitudes and moderates

behaviour. Using editorials, articles, commentaries and among others, mass media persuades

audience. Many of them become influenced or motivated unknowingly towards it.

Advertisement is the example which is designed to persuade.

Along with the above mentioned general functions, mass media performs some specific

functions too. Hence, the specific functions of mass media are explained below:

i. Surveillance: Surveillance denotes observation. Here observation means to watch the

society closely. The function of mass media is to observe the society closely and

continuously and warn about threatening actions to the mass audience that are likely to

happen in future in order to minimise their effects. Likewise, mass media also informs about

the misconducts happening in the society to the concerned authority and discourage

malpractices among mass audience in the society.

Warning or beware surveillance occurs when the media inform us about threats from

hurricanes, erupting volcanoes, increasing inflation or military attack or coup d‘états. These

warning can be about immediate threats or chronic threats. Similarly, news of increasing

deforestation, drug abuse, girls trafficking, crimes etc. are also disseminated which may harm

the peace and security of the society. News about stock market prices, new products, fashion

ideas, recipes, and so on are examples of instrumental surveillance. In Ghana the mass media

informs the police and concerned institutions about accidents, fires, armed robbery, dumsor


The benefit of this is instantaneous awareness; the disadvantage is that misinformation can

travel just as quickly as accurate information, and speedy dissemination often means that

accusations and supposed facts are not verified before they are transmitted.

ii. Interpretation: The mass media do not supply just facts and data but also explanations

and interpretation of events and situations. Media offer various explanations, correlating and

interpreting information to make the reality clear. Unlike normal reporting, interpretation

function provides knowledge. News analysis, commentaries, editorials, and columns are

some examples of interpretative contents. Basically, such types of interpretative contents are

prepared by those journalists who have a vast knowledge of background information and

strong analytical ability (journalists specialise in variety of disciplines). Although some of

them operate in ethical grey areas because they use formats that make them seem like

traditional news programs, most are open about their motives.

iii. Linkage/Bonding: The function of mass media is to join together different elements of

society that are not directly connected. For instance, mass advertising attempts to link the

needs of buyers with the products of sellers or people who share common values and interests

can gather on an online forums. Similarly, by broadcasting news of those suffered from the

disease or natural disasters, media can help in collecting aids and provide the collected

amount to the victims. In this way, media become bridge between different groups who may

or may not have direct connection.

iv. Socialization: Socialization is the transmission of culture particularly the models of

appropriate behaviour and attitudes. Media are the reflectors of society. They socialize people,

especially children and new-comers. Socialization is a process by which, people are made to

behave in ways that are acceptable in their culture or society. Though this process, we learn how

to become a member of our society or human society in greater sense. Television and film and in

recent times the internet have the greatest potential for socialization because they seem to be the

most realistic. They can be quite influential, particularly on young people; and images or role

models of social behaviour as well as fashion, grooming styles, and other aspects of social

interaction can be presented through television and film. Their effectiveness is evident in the

similarity of youth culture throughout the world, in which the only common influence is provided

by the media.

Though the process of socialization media help to shape our behaviours, conducts, attitudes and

beliefs. The process of socialization brings people close and ties them into single unit.

The Media as a Gatekeeper

In addition to the functions discussed previously, media outlets also serve a gatekeeping

function, which means they affect or control the information that is transmitted to their

audiences. This function has been analysed and discussed by mass communication scholars

for decades. Overall, the mass media serves four gatekeeping functions:

relaying, limiting,

expanding, and reinterpreting

. John R. Bittner, Mass Communication, 6th ed. (Boston, MA:

Allyn and Bacon, 1996), 11.

In terms of relaying, mass media requires some third party to get a message from one human

to the next. Whereas interpersonal communication only requires some channel or sensory

route, mass media messages need to ―hitch a ride‖ on an additional channel to be received.

We also require more than sensory ability to receive mass media messages. While hearing

and/or sight are typically all that‘s needed to understand what someone standing in front of

you is saying, you‘ll need a computer, smartphone, or tablet to pick up that stories.

In summary, relaying refers to the gatekeeping function of transmitting a message, which

usually requires technology and equipment that the media outlet controls and has access to,

but we do not. Although we relay messages in other forms of communication such as

interpersonal and small group, we are primarily receivers when it comes to mass

communication, which makes us depend on the gatekeeper to relay the message.

In terms of the gatekeeping function of limiting, media outlets decide whether or not to pass

information to the public. Because most commercial media space is so limited and expensive,

almost every message we receive is edited, which is inherently limiting. A limited message

doesn‘t necessarily mean the message is bad or manipulated, as editing is a necessity. But a

range of forces including time constraints, advertiser pressure, censorship, or personal bias,

among others, can influence limiting choices. Limiting based on bias or self-interest is not

necessarily immoral as long as those who relay the message don‘t claim to be objective. In

fact, many people choose to engage with media messages that have been limited to match

their own personal views or preferences. This kind of limiting also allows us to have more

control over the media messages we receive. For example, some websites (eg. On police

brutality in the US) and cable channels allow us to narrow in on already-limited content, so

we don‘t have to sift through everything on our own.

Gatekeepers also function to expand messages. For example, a blogger may take a story from

a more traditional news source and fact-check it or do additional research, interview

additional sources, and post it on his or her blog. In this case, expanding helps us get more

information than we would otherwise so we can be better informed. On the other hand, a

gatekeeper who expands a message by falsifying evidence or making up details either to

appear more credible or to mislead others is being unethical.

Last, gatekeepers function to reinterpret mass media messages. Reinterpretation is useful

when gatekeepers translate a message from something too complex or foreign for us to

understand into something meaningful. Given that policy language is difficult for many to

understand and that legislation contains many details that may not be important to average

people, a concise and lay reinterpretation of the content by the gatekeepers (the media

outlets) would have helped the public better understand the bill. Of course, when media

outlets reinterpret content to the point that it is untruthful or misleading, they are not ethically

fulfilling the gatekeeping function of reinterpretation.

In each of these gatekeeping functions, the media can fulfill or fail to fulfill its role as the

―fourth estate‖ of government—or government ―watchdog.‖

The Media as “Watchdog”

While countries like China, North Korea, Syria, and Burma have media systems that are

nearly if not totally controlled by the state regime, the media in the United States and many

other countries is viewed as the ―watchdog‖ for the government. This watchdog role is

intended to keep governments from taking too much power from the people and overstepping

their bounds. Central to this role is the notion that the press works independently of the

government. The ―freedom of the press‖ is guaranteed by most democratic countries. The

media is supposed to report information to the public so they can make informed decisions.

The media also engages in investigative reporting, which can uncover dangers or corruption

that the media can then expose so that the public can demand change.

Of course, this ideal is not always met in practice. Some people have critiqued the media‘s

ability to fulfil this role, referring to it instead as a lapdog or attack dog. In terms of the

lapdog role, the media can become too ―comfortable‖ with a politician or other public figure,

which might lead it to uncritically report or passively relay information without questioning


In terms of the attack-dog role, the twenty-four-hour news cycle and constant reporting on

public figures has created the kind of atmosphere where reporters may be waiting to pounce

on a mistake or error in order to get the scoop and be able to produce a tantalizing story. This

has also been called being on ―scandal patrol‖. Media scholars have critiqued this practice,

saying that too much adversarial or negative reporting leads the public to think poorly of

public officials and be more dissatisfied with government. Additionally, they claim that

attack-dog reporting makes it more difficult for public officials to do their jobs.

Influence of the Mass Media

Mass media is a significant force in modern culture, particularly in most societies

Sociologists refer to this as a mediated culture where media reflects and creates the culture.

Communities and individuals are bombarded constantly with messages from a multitude of

sources including TV, billboards, and magazines, to name a few. These messages promote

not only products, but moods, attitudes, and a sense of what is and is not important. Mass

media makes possible the concept of celebrity: without the ability of movies, magazines, and

news media to reach across thousands of miles, people could not become famous. In fact,

only political and business leaders, as well as the few notorious outlaws, were famous in the

past. Only in recent times have actors, singers, and other social elites become celebrities or


The current level of media saturation has not always existed. As recently as the 1960s and

1970s, television, for example, consisted of primarily three networks, public broadcasting,

and a few local independent stations. These channels aimed their programming primarily at

twoparent, middleclass families. Even so, some middleclass households did not even own a

television. Today, one can find a television in the poorest of homes, and multiple TVs in most

middleclass homes. Not only has availability increased, but programming is increasingly

diverse with shows aimed to please all ages, incomes, backgrounds, and attitudes. This

widespread availability and exposure makes television the primary focus of most massmedia

discussions. More recently, the Internet has increased its role exponentially as more

businesses and households ―sign on.‖

What role does mass media play? Legislatures, media executives, local school officials, and

sociologists have all debated this controversial question. While opinions vary as to the extent

and type of influence the mass media wields, all sides agree that mass media is a permanent

part of modern culture. The main sociological perspectives on the role of media are


Direct Effects Theory (hypodermic effect)

In one of the earliest formulations of media effects, widespread fear that mass-media

messages could outweigh other stabilizing cultural influences, such as family and

community, led to what is known as the direct effects model of media studies. This model,

prevalent in the 1920s and 1930s, assumed that audiences passively accepted media messages

and would exhibit predictable reactions in response to those messages. For example,

following the radio broadcast of War of the Worlds in 1938 (which was a fictional news

report of an alien invasion), some people panicked and believed the story to be true.

Limited-effects theory

In contrast to the direct effect theory, the limitedeffects theory argues that because people

generally choose what to watch or read based on what they already believe, media exerts a

negligible influence. This theory originated and was tested in the 1940s and 1950s. Studies

that examined the ability of media to influence voting found that wellinformed people relied

more on personal experience, prior knowledge, and their own reasoning. However, media

―experts‖ more likely swayed those who were less informed. Critics point to two problems

with this perspective. First, they claim that limitedeffects theory ignores the media's role in

framing and limiting the discussion and debate of issues. How media frames the debate and

what questions members of the media ask change the outcome of the discussion and the

possible conclusions people may draw. Second, this theory came into existence when the

availability and dominance of media was far less widespread.

Class-dominant theory

The classdominant theory argues that the media reflects and projects the view of the

minority elite, which controls it. Those people who own and control the corporations that

produce media comprise the elite. Advocates of this view concern themselves particularly

with massive corporate mergers of media organizations, which limit competition and put big

business at the reins of media. Their concern is that when ownership is restricted, a few

people then have the ability to manipulate what people can see or hear. For example, owners

can easily avoid or silence stories that expose unethical corporate behaviour or hold

corporations responsible for their actions.

The issue of sponsorship adds to this problem. Advertising dollars fund most media.

Networks aim programming at the largest possible audience because the broader the appeal,

the greater the potential purchasing audience and the easier selling air time to advertisers

becomes. Thus, news organizations may shy away from negative stories about corporations

(especially parent corporations) that finance large advertising campaigns in their newspaper

or on their stations. Television networks receiving millions of dollars in advertising from

companies like Nike and other textile manufacturers were slow to run stories on their news

shows about possible humanrights violations by these companies in foreign countries. Media

watchers identify the same problem at the local level where city newspapers will not give

new cars poor reviews or run stories on selling a home without an agent because the majority

of their funding comes from auto and real estate advertising. This influence also extends to

programming. In the 1990s a network cancelled a shortrun drama with clear religious

sentiments, Christy, because, although highly popular and beloved in rural America, the

program did not rate well among young city dwellers that advertisers were targeting in ads.

Critics of this theory counter these arguments by saying that local control of news media

largely lies beyond the reach of large corporate offices elsewhere, and that the quality of

news depends upon good journalists. They contend that those less powerful and not in control

of media have often received full media coverage and subsequent support. As examples they

name numerous environmental causes, the antinuclear movement, the antiVietnam

movement, and the proGulf War movement.

Agenda-Setting Theory

In contrast to the extreme views of the direct effects model, the agenda-setting theory of

media states that mass media determine the issues that concern the public rather than the

public‘s views. Under this theory, the issues that receive the most attention from media

become the issues that the public discusses, debates, and demands action on. This means that

the media are determining what issues and stories the public should think about. Therefore,

when the media fail to address a particular issue, it becomes marginalized in the minds of the

public. When critics claim that a particular media outlet has an agenda, they are drawing on

this theory. Agenda can range from a perceived liberal bias in the news media to the

propagation of cutthroat capitalist ethics in films. For example, the agenda-setting theory

explains such phenomena as the rise of public opinion against smoking. Before the mass

media began taking an antismoking stance, smoking was considered a personal health issue.

By promoting antismoking sentiments through advertisements, public relations campaigns,

and a variety of media outlets, the mass media moved smoking into the public arena, making

it a public health issue rather than a personal health issue. More recently, coverage of natural

disasters has been prominent in the news. However, as news coverage wanes, so does the

general public‘s interest.

Social Action Theory

For most of the history of research in mass communication, content has been seen as a silver

bullet shot from a media gun to penetrate a hapless audience" (Anderson & Meyer, YEAR ?p.

48).The social action theory claims that people interact with media to create their own

meanings out of the images and messages they receive. This theory sees audiences as playing

an active rather than passive role in relation to mass media. Media audiences participate

actively in mediated communication; they construct meanings from the content they perceive.

It argues that meaning is not delivered in the communication process, rather it is constructed

within it.

Theorists emphasize that audiences choose what to watch among a wide range of options,

choose how much to watch, and may choose the mute button or the VCR remote over the

programming selected by the network or cable station. Studies of mass media done by

sociologists‘ parallel textreading and interpretation research completed by linguists (people

who study language). Both groups of researchers found that when people approach material,

whether written text or media images and messages, they interpret that material based on

their own knowledge and experience. Thus, when researchers ask different groups to explain

the meaning of a particular song or video, the groups produce widely divergent

interpretations based on age, gender, race, ethnicity, and religious background.

Cultivation Analysis Theory

The cultivation analysis theory states that heavy exposure to media causes individuals to

develop an illusory perception of reality based on the most repetitive and consistent messages

of a particular medium. It states that media exposure, specifically to television, shapes our

social reality by giving us a distorted view on the amount of violence and risk in the world.

This theory most commonly applies to analyses of television because of that medium‘s

uniquely pervasive nature. Under this theory, someone who watches a great deal of television

may form a picture of reality that does not correspond to actual life. Televised violent acts,

whether those reported on news programs or portrayed on television dramas, for example,

greatly outnumber violent acts that most people encounter in their daily lives. Thus, an

individual who watches a great deal of television may come to view the world as more

violent and dangerous than it actually is.

Cultivation analysis projects a number of different areas for research, such as the differences

in perception between heavy and light users of media. To apply this theory, the media content

that an individual normally watches, must be analysed for various types of messages. Then,

researchers must consider the given media consumer‘s cultural background of individuals to

correctly determine other factors that are involved in his or her perception of reality. For

example, the socially stabilizing influences of family and peer groups influence children‘s

television viewing and the way they process media messages. If an individual‘s family or

social life plays a major part in his/her life, the social messages that he/she receives from

these groups may compete with the messages she receives from television.

Media Dependency Theory

This theory states that consumers use the media to satisfy specific needs or desires. Many

people use the Internet to seek out entertainment, to find information, to communicate with

like-minded individuals, or to pursue self-expression. Each of these uses gratifies a particular

need, and the needs determine the way in which media are used. By examining factors of

different groups‘ media choices, researchers can determine the motivations behind media use.

Researchers have identified a number of common motives for media consumption. These

include relaxation, social interaction, entertainment, arousal, education, escape, and a host of

interpersonal and other social needs. By examining the motives behind the consumption of a

particular form of media, researchers can better understand both the reasons for that

medium‘s popularity and the roles that the medium fills in society

Reciprocal Effect

The reciprocal effect points to the interactive relationship between the media and the subject

being covered. When a person or event gets media attention, it influences the way the person

acts or the way the event functions. Media coverage often increases self-consciousness,

which affects our actions. It‘s similar to the way that we change behaviour when we know

certain people are around and may be watching us. For example, the Occupy Movement that

began on Wall Street in New York City gained some attention from alternative media and

people using micromedia platforms like independent bloggers. Once the movement started

getting mainstream press attention, the coverage affected the movement. As news of the

Occupy movement in New York spread, people in other cities and towns across the country

started to form their own protest groups. In this case, media attention caused a movement to

spread that may have otherwise remained localized.

The Boomerang Effect

The boomerang effect refers to media-induced change that is counter to the desired change.

In the world of twenty-four-hour news and constant streams of user-generated material, the

effects of gaffes, blunders, or plain old poor decisions are much more difficult to control or

contain. Before a group or person can clarify or provide context for what was said, a story

could go viral and a media narrative constructed that is impossible to backtrack and very

difficult to even control.

Sensitization effect

Use a Ghanaian example (Okudzeto and the judgment debt issue).

As a result of their relative social isolation, the police rely to a large extent on the mass media

as a barometer of public opinion. If particular forms of crime and deviance are presented by

the media as matters of great concern (urban crime and ‗mugging‘, drug-taking, or street

demonstrations, for example) then the police will respond by focusing their attention on such

people and activities. They become particularly sensitive to signs of such behaviour from

among all those they could attend to. And because within any community there exist a large

amount of undetected crime, such focusing produces more arrests. The courts also become

sensitized to issues raised in the media and respond with sentences of increased severity. The

public too are put on the alert for particular forms of deviance. Part of the process of

sensitization is the way in which certain styles of dress and objects are elevated into visible

symbols of deviance.

During a moral panic, news reports may carry stylized images that emphasize these symbols

of deviance. And of course the deviants themselves, and many others who ‗appear‘ to fall

into the same category, are spun out of the world of ‗respectable‘ society into the deep space

of the ‗outsider‘ by the accelerating spiral or moral panic. At each stage the mass media are

involved in fanning the flames of public concern.

Social Stability

When social change and conflict are high; and established institutions, beliefs, and practices

are challenged; people make new evaluations and choices. In such cases of instability,

reliance on media may increase.

Critical Perspectives in Media

Agenda-settingthe ideological role of the mass media

In this section we examine some of the recent research into the effects of the media which

shows how the media reproduce a dominant ideology. Marxist theory has made an important

contribution to the development of this work, described by Stuart Hall as the ‗critical‘

approach. The way in which ideas help the ruling class to retain their control over other

groups and create consensus within society is an issue that has received a great deal of

attention by modern Marxist writers. But even writers who would not place themselves

within the Marxist tradition have recognized that the media and their effects cannot be

studied in isolation from the other institutions and structures of society.

Neither is there complete agreement among Marxists concerning the existence of a dominant

ideology which is expressed through the mass media. Criticism of the ‗dominant ideology‘

approach has come both from within and outside the Marxist perspective. Marxist and

pluralist critics have questioned whether there is a unified dominant ideology. They also point

to cases where it appears that the media operate in ways that are in conflict with ruling class


The term ‗agenda-setting‘ refers to a process whereby the terms of reference for debate are

fixed to suit the interests of the powerful. It should be stressed that setting an agenda does not

prohibit all debate or disagreementit merely sets the boundaries within which the debate

should take place. A subtle form of ideological control can be successfully imposed on

people in that way.

It is in just such a way that the critical approach in media sociology sees the effects of the

mass media. They provide an illusion of ‗openness‘ as a forum for competing points of view,

but this is all circumscribed within an overall ‗discourse‘ or agenda which sets the limits to

what shall and, more importantly, what shall not, be discussed by society.

One approach which has been a strong influence on media sociologists in recent years is

based on the work of Karl Marx. Writing before the development of TV, film, and radio,

Marx did produce a number of useful insights into the role of the media in capitalist societies.

His own experience as a journalist was a useful resource in this (see Murdock, 1982).

In his view, all capitalist societies were split into two major sections. A small group of

powerful people (the ruling class), through their ownership of the factories and equipment

used to make the things needed by people in society, were able to dominate all other groups.

These other groups, to whom Marx referred collectively as the working classes, were put to

work by the dominant group as employees, although they were not allowed to receive the full

value of the work they performed.

The power of this ruling group or class arose from their control of the economy but,

according to Marx, it spread out from here to cover all other aspects of society. For such an

unequal system to persist it was essential that the exploited working classes were kept under

firm control. At its most basic level this was achieved through the power that owners had to

sack workers and deny them the means of earning their living, but this control extended

throughout the major institutions of society: church, school, family, and the state itself. For

Marx, the state was no neutral institution which represented in a democratic way the interests

of all. Regardless of the electoral processes that led to the selection of a government, the

state, in a capitalist society, would continue to represent, in the main, the interests of the

ruling class. For these reasons, he believed, it was impossible to change society gradually

through democratic elections. The control of the ruling classes extended also into the control

of ideas. ‗In every historical epoch‘, wrote Marx, ‗the dominant ideas are those of the

dominant class.‘ The mass media are to be included in this observation. It is to be expected,

from a Marxist perspective, that the dominant ideas that they express will reflect ruling-class


The Frankfurt School

The Frankfurt School theorists were among the first to examine the fundamental roles of the

media in shaping thought and behaviour, influencing politics, and managing consumer

demand in the twentieth century. The work of Theodor Adorno (190369) represents one of

the first sustained meditations on the effects of mass media on culture and society. Adorno‘s

account of mass media, or what he called the culture industry, was developed in the context

of the work of the Frankfurt School and their project of critical theory. The term "Culture

Industry" is intended to refer to the commercialisation, industrialisation and marketing of

culture under capitalist relations of production: commodification, standardization, and

massification. The Institute began from a broadly Marxist position, however, they recognized

that the direction in which Western societies were developing could not be accounted for by

orthodox Marxism. This was a response to the apparent divergence between Marxist theory

and the developmental trajectory of advanced capitalist societies, in particular, the integral

role of culture in this context. Various phenomena, such as the emergence and the burgeoning

influence of a range of technological media, raised questions that highlighted the inadequacy

of treating culture as a superstructural expression entirely determined by the economic base.

Cultural production and consumption were playing an increasing central role in capitalist

societies and, as a result, a new set of theoretical tools were required to analyse these

developments, as ‗individual consciousness and unconsciousness were encroached upon by

agencies which organize free time for example the radio, television, film and professional

sport industries the Frankfurt theorists stressed the urgency of developing a sociology of

―mass culture‖ ‘ (Held 1980, p. 77).

In the 1930s the Frankfurt School‘s continued existence in Nazi Germany became untenable,

and it was forced into exile, eventually re-establishing itself in the USA. This experience

proved crucial in the evolution of Adorno‘s media theory. In Hitler‘s Germany he had

witnessed the powerful role that mass media could play in shaping the opinions and

behaviour of populations, and arriving in America he confronted a society in which the mass

media‘s influence was ubiquitous but apparently benign. The veneer of democracy and

simple diversion that characterized American media did not convince Adorno. He believed

that a common logic underlay both the propaganda of the Reich and the mass entertainment

of the USA: both were manifestations of the capitalism‘s infiltration of everyday life, and

thus any adequate theory of capitalism must factor in the role played by mass media, or what

he and his colleague Horkheimer had come to call the culture industry. Adorno and

Horkheimer saw media reproduction as the ingression of the capitalism into the very fabric of

culture and life itself.

They highlight the presence of mass-produced culture, created and disseminated by exclusive

institutions and consumed by a passive, homogenised audience in both systems. The Culture

Industry is influenced by European politics and the war by which the continent was

consumed. Simultaneously, the American film industry was characterised by an

unprecedented level of studio monopolisation, it was "Hollywood at its most classical,

American mass culture at its most Fordist"

Adorno‘s vision of the culture industry receives its fullest expression in the Dialectic of

Enlightenment (Adorno and Horkheimer 1997 [first published in 1944]) in which they

proposed that popular culture is akin to a factory producing standardized cultural goods

films, radio programmes, magazines, etc. that are used to manipulate mass society into

passivity. Consumption of the easy pleasures of popular culture, made available by the mass

communications media, renders people docile and content, no matter how difficult their

economic circumstances. The inherent danger of the culture industry is the cultivation of

false psychological needs that can only be met and satisfied by the products of capitalism.

In their view, mass culture and communications stand in the centre of leisure activity, are

important agents of socialization, mediators of political reality, and should thus be seen as major

institutions of contemporary societies with a variety of economic, political, cultural and social



Media regulation is the control or guidance of mass media by governments and other bodies.

This regulation, via law, rules or procedures, can have various goals like intervention to

protect a stated "public interest", or encouraging competition and an effective media market,

or establishing common technical standards. The principal targets of media regulation are the

press, radio and television, but may also include film, recorded music, cable, satellite, storage

and distribution technology (discs, tapes etc), the internet, mobile phones etc.

Regulation refers to the whole process of control or guidance, by established rules and

procedures, applied by governments and other political and administrative authorities to all

kinds of media activities. Regulation takes many forms, ranging from clauses in national

constitutions and laws to administrative procedures and technical specifications. Regulation

can be internal as well as external. In the former case, we are usually speaking of `self-

regulation', where internal controls are applied, sometimes in response to public pressure or

criticism from outside.

Some general reasons for media regulation can be proposed, as follows:

reasons for media regulation can be proposed, as follows: with a very high dependence on all

with a very high dependence on all forms of communication.

with a very high dependence on all forms of communication. unrestricted use of public means of
with a very high dependence on all forms of communication. unrestricted use of public means of

unrestricted use of public means of communication.

unrestricted use of public means of communication. of technical standardization, innovation, connectivity and

of technical standardization, innovation, connectivity and universal provision.

innovation, connectivity and universal provision. universal provision as well as securing communicative and

universal provision as

well as securing communicative and cultural ends chosen by the people for themselves.

especially competition and access, protection of consumers, stimulating innovation and expansion. Some of the major


competition and access, protection of consumers, stimulating innovation and expansion.

Some of the major issues of media regulation are listed below

Issues of primarily public concern (either relating to benefits or harms)

public concern (either relating to benefits or harms) pect for public mores in matters of taste
public concern (either relating to benefits or harms) pect for public mores in matters of taste

pect for public mores in matters of taste and decency.

pect for public mores in matters of taste and decency. and public participation. language. undesirable content.


public participation.

in matters of taste and decency. and public participation. language. undesirable content. erest in media and


of taste and decency. and public participation. language. undesirable content. erest in media and communication
of taste and decency. and public participation. language. undesirable content. erest in media and communication

undesirable content.

and public participation. language. undesirable content. erest in media and communication industries. Issues of a

erest in media and communication


Issues of a more private or individual character

industries. Issues of a more private or individual character ting property rights in communication and information.
industries. Issues of a more private or individual character ting property rights in communication and information.
industries. Issues of a more private or individual character ting property rights in communication and information.
industries. Issues of a more private or individual character ting property rights in communication and information.

ting property rights in communication and information.

Media regulations have tended to reflect quite readily the historical and cultural contexts of

the societies in which they are implemented. What is defined as a regulatory issue or problem

can vary from one country to another.

The Media and the State

The Freedom of the Press

In the West the freedom to publish is frequently regarded as one of the sacred values of

democracy alongside free speech and freedom of opinion. The freedom to publish is not

merely a protection for the individual from the excesses of government; it is seen as a

cornerstone of democracy and thus of benefit to society as a whole.

This flattering view of the role of the mass media is widely embraced by writers, journalists,

and broadcasters. They make up what is sometimes described as the ‗fourth estate‘ (the others

being the government, the judiciary, and the church), whose role is to seek out corruption and

stand up for the rights of the ordinary people: ‗muck-rakers, cross examiners of the great on

behalf of the common people, convenors of public debate and conveyors of hard fact…they

help to keep liberal democracy alive in societies too populous and too complex for face-to

face exchange to suffice.‘ (Westergaard 1977)

Included in this notion of a ‗free‘ press is the idea that between them the media express a

range of views that satisfy the tastes and opinions of all. The free press idea is an important

component of the pluralist view of politics, in which power is balanced between competing

groups and interests but where no one group is dominant. Such freedom is often contrasted

with the position of the press in countries like the Soviet Union where it is seen to be more a

lap-dog of the state than a watchdog of the people.

The view of the press as watchdog is criticized by Cirino (1973). Many matters of importance

to the public are effectively suppressed in the media by powerful interest groups. Issues like

the scale of hunger and malnutrition among America‘s poor, the hazards of motor vehicle

design, and the dangers of smokingissues uncomfortable for politicians and large

corporationsare systematically excluded from media coverage. Rarely, he claims, do the

media lead a campaign of protest, although they may be forced to adopt it once it is firmly


The reality of state intervention

But how valid is the claim that the media in western democracies are an independent force

one of the guarantors of liberty? The details of the relationship between the state and the

media will, of course, vary with time and place. But the freedom of the press is to a large

extent a mytha myth that is nevertheless much cherished by governments for the image of

democracy that it confers.

In practice no government, be it ‗democratic‘ or ‗totalitarian‘, has allowed the mass media to

develop unfettered by some form of regulation and control. The mass media have too

powerful an influence on citizens to allow them unlicensed freedom. One of the clearest

indications of this is the way in which invading forces now make the capture of the media

(especially radio and television stations) a priority goal.

But a desire to maintain the myth of the ‗free‘ press does force governments to act with

circumspection when dealing with the media. Despite the reality of intervention, governments

prefer not to be seen to be interfering with the freedom of the press.

Thus control is often disguised; it is made to operate indirectly through semi-autonomous

bodies or, most effectively, through mechanisms of self-regulation. There is no need to

‗police‘ a mass medium that is itself so well-disciplined that it never steps out of line. The

arsenal of powers that the state is able to deploy against the media is for the most part kept in

reservea deterrent to deviance and a spur to self-control.

National Emergencies (State of Emergency)

When the State is in danger, our own cherished freedoms, and even the rules of natural justice

have to take second place.‘ (Lord Denning)

During periods of crisis and ‗national emergency‘, governments are likely to resort to more

direct forms of control over the media. For example governments frequently possess

contingency arrangements for the control of the media during wartime.

At the beginning of the Second World War the British coalition government led by Winston

Churchill banned, for a time, the communist Daily Worker newspaper on the grounds that it

was a threat to a unified war effort, and the much larger circulation Daily Mirror was

threatened with similar treatment. In both these cases it has been argued (Curran and Seaton

1981) that the real motive for suppression was to muzzle political criticism rather than to

protect national security.

Control of InformationThe Official Secrets Act

In the modern state journalists and reporters are highly dependent on information provided

for them by the government. Control over this information flow provides governments with

an important means of influencing the media.

A major mechanism for this control is the classification of information as state secrets. The

British government, for example, surrounds its activities with one of the most impenetrable

blankets of secrecy to be found in the West. This is the much-criticized Official Secrets Act,

signed by two million British civil servants, which assumes every official activity to be an

official secret unless otherwise designated by a civil servant. The all-embracing nature of this

law was neatly expressed by Sir Martin James-Furnival, former head of the intelligence

department MI5: ‗It‘s an official secret if it‘s in an official file‘.

The Act has often been used by governments to silence their critics. A breach of the Act is

committed if a civil servant discloses, or a member of the public knowingly receives, an

official secret. Junior civil servant Sarah Tisdall was sent to jail in 1984 for passing on

information to the Guardian newspaper about the manipulation of Parliament by the Defence

Minister Michael Heseltine.

The ‗hunger‘ of journalists ‗starved‘ of information by state secrecy creates another

mechanism for manipulating the media—the government ‗leak‘. These are frequently not

genuine ‗leaks‘ but ‗controlled releases‘ of information that the government wishes to

become more widely known. Among the public relations sections of government departments

this has become a recognized method of news managementan essential part of the

negotiated agreement between journalists and government information officers.

Crime Reporters and the Police

In many areas of journalism the reporter has to rely on a particular organization for

information. The crime reporter, for example, cannot function without the co-operation of the

police. Recently media sociologists have come to recognize that the relationship a journalist

has with such official sources may strongly affect the stories that are written. It is one of the

subtle means by which the state, as a major source of information, can control what the media

report. It has been alleged, for example, that following a series of conflicts between the police

and young people in a number of

British cities in 1981 (the ‗riots‘), the police have refused to tell the press when similar events

have since occurred.

Whatever their reasons, this shows that the police can and do suppress stories about which

there is great public interest and concern.

Steve Chibnall‘s (1977) analysis of crime reporting in the British press illustrates this. A

reciprocal relationship develops, one that benefits both the police and the reporter. The

journalist can become a source of information for the police, in particular from the criminal

underworld. Similarly the police can use the crime reporter to appeal to the public for

information on, or witnesses to, a crime. False or misleading information may be released in

order to hoax a criminal into feeling secure from detection or to panic him into making a

mistake which leads to capture. In other cases stories may be created as a smokescreen to

draw the attention of the public away from some other ‗sensitive‘ aspect of police activity.

The crime reporter is, of course, often aware that these news management techniques are

being used by police spokespeople. But failure to co-operate with the police will make the

journalist‘s job much more difficult, if not impossible.

The police have a number of methods to ensure that the media are ‗helpful‘. Journalists who

produce stories critical of the police are likely to be ‗frozen-out‘. They will receive no

assistance from the police in their stories. But this often only produces more ‗hostile‘ stories,

and the journalist who is punished in this way will anyway be able to obtain information from

other journalists.

More effective is the technique Chibnall calls ‗buttering-up‘. Drinks, lunches, and exclusive

stories may be offered as inducements to toe the line. Reporters who remain critical may be

harassed directly by the policefollowed, questioned, and threatened with arrest.

The media, on the whole, faithfully reproduce these versions of events.


Laws of libel exist to protect individuals against unjustified or damaging public statements.

As such they are an important legal safeguard of the citizen‘s right to personal privacy—one

supported by many international bodies such as the European Convention. This law can be in

conflict with the activity of investigative journalismthe interpretation of libel in the USA,

for instance, allows much more freedom to the press than in Britain.

The most serious criticism of the working of the law in Britain is that it provides protection

only for the rich and powerful. Libel cases are very expensive and losers may have to pay the

legal costs of both parties. Legal aida system of financial support for the legal costs of the

pooris not available for such actions in Britain. In effect this means that most ordinary

people cannot afford the financial risk of a legal action against a national newspaper, for

example, even where they have a strong case. The law also inhibits journalists in what they

write about the wealthy, for they too may not be able to afford a legal action brought by a

wealthy plaintiff, however sound their defense.

But the law of libel may be a two-edged sword, even in the hands of the powerful. Curran

(1977) has shown that the use by government of this law against the emerging popular

working-class radical press in Britain was counter-productive. Juries seemed unwilling to

convict in such cases. But more importantly, even those cases the government won served

only to boost the circulation of the journal concerned.

The government turned instead to a system of taxes on newspapers, their advertisements, and

newsprint (the paper on which they were printed) in an attempt to price working class readers

and publishers out of the market.

Contempt of Court

This law constrains what reporters may say about court cases that have begun or are about to.

It is an important protection of the right of the individual to a fair trial. The US version of this

law gives much more freedom to the press and allows, for example, interviews with witnesses

and reconstructions of cases before the trial has begun. But the law of contempt has

sometimes served to ‗muzzle‘ investigative journalism by banning the publication of stories

of general public interest that are the subject of court proceedings.

A famous case of this was the ban on an article that was to have been published in the Sunday

Times in Britain. It had alleged negligence on the part of the Distillers Company, makers of

the drug Thalidomide. The article was ruled in contempt of court because of its possible

effect on the outcome of cases against the company due to be brought on behalf of the

children affected by the drug. It has been argued that the revised 1981 Contempt of Court

Act, although allowing more room for press comment on court cases, would not have

protected the Sunday Times in an equivalent situation today (Wallington 1984).

Public Service and Commercial Broadcasting

Two competing views have shaped the political and academic discussion of broadcasting.

One sees broadcasting as a public service not concerned with profit. The other holds that the

interests of the audience are best served if broadcasting organizations are commercial

enterprises. In practice both systems have coexisted in most countries.

The public interest theory claims state ownership of the press enhances civil and political

rights; whilst under the public choice theory, it curtails them by suppressing public oversight

of the government and facilitating political corruption.

However, the state has not relinquished an interest in broadcasting even in those countries

where the commercial ethos reigns supreme. In every country the state has attempted to

regulate broadcasting in some way by allocating frequencies to stations, and frequently

attempting to ensure that no one group of companies gains a monopoly.

In recent years the balance of arguments between the two competing views has shifted

towards the commercial model. Collins (1983) suggests two reasons for this. First there has

been an ideological shift towards views that are increasingly critical of notions of public

service, state control, and intervention. This has been associated with a strong swing to the

right in British and American politics. The second reason is the fact that new methods have

been developed for broadcasting signals which overcome the technical limitations of

conventional broadcasting.

Direct broadcasting by satellite and a new generation of cables which allow a broad range of

bands to be transmitted down them, mean that it is now possible to transmit an almost

unrestricted range of choices for consumers. These services offer the potential of being

increasingly interactive rather than simply one-way processes of communication. They are

expected to revolutionize patterns of work (which may now be done from home) and

consumption (shopping by direct order from home). The support given to these developments

by many governments is based on the optimistic belief that by nurturing the development of

these new technologies they will create the conditions for a new industrial revolution which

will generate an economic revival both nationally and internationally.

Two examples will be examined here. The case of French broadcasting is interesting because

until recently it was a total state monopoly. By contrast the development of broadcasting in

the USA has always embraced enthusiastically the commercial model and has in recent years

moved to a policy of almost complete non-intervention by the state. The US case is

particularly relevant because it is so often cited as an example for emulation by other


Example of Government Control

CIA made its own foray into news control in the 1940s with a programme to infiltrate the

media, with the idea to have select journalists parrot the official government line under the

guise of national patriotism. Some news members were simply duped, naively thinking that

they were helping America by disseminating important news. Others were simply

unscrupulous and morally deficient in their professional trade and were easily enough bought

out, spewing whatever disinformation and propaganda that they could cash in on.

This project was known as "Operation Mockingbird," the name alone was suggestive of the

mission's objective, total control of the U.S. media system. Many might naively scoff at such

an idea, until perhaps they hear it straight from the horse's mouth.

Commercial influences

Media organizations can be subjected to a variety of commercial influences. In the west the

majority of media organizations are themselves commercial undertakings. They are usually

part of some bigger industrial or financial group. In either case the need to maintain

profitability is likely to an influence on their activities. As we shall see there is debate among

sociologists about the extent to which profit-seeking is the prime motive in large modern

corporations (see pp. 647).

For many of the media organizations advertising is an important, and sometimes the most

important, source of revenue. Consequently the requirements of advertisers have been a

significant influence on the content and development of the media.

Not all media organizations are in private ownership. Many are part of the public sector,

sponsored and regulated by the state, where the main requirement is to provide a public

service: informing, educating, and entertaining audiences. The BBC in Britain and the French

RTF (Radio-telediffusion française) are examples of such organizations. There is discussion

among media sociologists about whether such arrangements leave the organization free from

government and commercial influence (see pp. 6978). They nevertheless have to exist

within a commercial environment and their performance is often assessed by commercial

criteria. Often they engage directly in commercial activities. The BBC supplements its

revenue from licence fees by the sale of books and recordings to the general public and of TV

programmes to broadcasting organizations in other countries.

Media are not simply technologies that organizations, parties or individuals can choose to use

or not use as they see fit.

A significant share of the influence media exert arises out of the

fact that they have become an integral part of other institutions‘ operations, while they also

have achieved a degree of self-determination and authority that forces other institutions, to

greater or lesser degrees, to submit to their logic

. The media are at once part of the fabric of

society and culture and an independent institution that stands between other cultural and

social institutions and coordinates their mutual interaction. The duality of this structural

relationship sets a number of preconditions for how media messages in given situations are

used and perceived by senders and

receivers, thereby affecting relations between people.

Thus, traditional questions about

media use and media effects need to take account of the circumstance that society and

culture have become mediatized.