The Mass Media

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  • Created by: Revisonf
  • Created on: 11-01-14 18:25

What are the mass media?

Mass media: forms of communication that reach a large audience.

Mass media is constantly used in social life; listening to the radio in the morning, watching TV in the evenings, surfing the Internet, etc. 

The mass media is also key in economic life; for example, online shopping - the use of this has increased rapidly over the last 10 years. Many businesses now rely on the internet/mobile phone/e-mail to connect with their customers. The mass media has a big effect on our every day lives and play a central role in society.

Mass media can be divided into traditional and new media;


  • Traditional media include; radios, newspapers, book, television, magazines.
  • New media include; Internet, mobile phones, cable/satellite TV, video games.

Mass media can be split into press, broadcast and electronic media.


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The press in Britain

The 'press' includes magazines and newspapers. These are privately owned and are run a profit making businesses. They are funded through advertisements and sales; this means there's competition between them.

Some are published daily whilst others are published weekly. Some are published nationally - The Guardian - whilst some are published regionally - London's Evening standard.

Newspapers can be divided into 3 groups:

  • Quality broadsheets - The Guardian, the Times, ect.
  • Middle-market tabloids - the Daily Mail, Daily Express, ECT.
  • Mass-market tabloids or 'red tops' - the Sun, the Mirror, ect

All quality newspapers used to be published as broadsheets - where their pages are twice the size of middle/mass market tabloid pages. However, recently quality newspapers have introduced compact versions.

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Broadcasting in Britain

Broadcasting refers to television and radio. In Britain, some broadcasting is publicly funded, but most is financed privately. Public service broadcasting operates through the BBC - this is funded by television license fee. This means it's expected to deliver quality TV that deal with a range of subjects ad satisfy the interest of different audiences.

Commercial broadcasting is mainly funded by advertisement. Advertisers pay channel to promote their products. Additionally, the channels may sponsor TV programs by paying for their company’s brand to show up before and after each segments of a TV show.

Satellite and cable television are funded partly by advertisers. They are also funded by income from subscription fees, Pay Per View, and income from audiences who vote in to participate in the program.

Television broadcasting - there are range of different networks that provide many TV channels. Ground transmitters not satellite ones deliver terrestrial channels.

The digital switchover was where they change the analogue television signal into a digital signal so it gave off a clear and better picture.

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Electronic media

The Internet is the main electronic media that was introduced in the 1990s. The Internet is a huge interconnected set of computer networks scanning the globe. The WWW is a collection of documents, video, and sound, ECT.

Anyone can put things on the Internet - you do not have to be an expert to generate content. We can create media output such as blogs, website and upload stuff. We can also contribute towards pages such as Wikipedia and the online Encyclopaedia. Additionally, we can join social networks such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and ECT. 

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Technological developments

Television has changed dramatically; in 1980, there were only 3 channels - BBC1, BBC2 and ITV, these were all terrestrial channels. Now there are many more channels, in addition to receiving Channel 4 and Channel 5, there are a range of subscription services.

Digital broadcasting provides multi-channel television in with HQ pictures and sounds. It can be received by either subscriptions or a digital cable service. More modern TVs now have a built-in Freeview tuner. It has also introduces interactivity. People can now vote for shows and get involved. Some televisions has cross-media dimension; this means you can use other forms of media to interact with the shows. For example, in X Factor, you can vote by sending a text.

Digital technology allows images, sounds and information to be delivered across the Internet. When multiple types of media come together - it is know as convergence.

Digital radio now allows more stations to broadcast with better sound quality. 

Newspaper production now involves the use of the latest technology. Also, electronic versions of newspapers can be accessed via the Internet.

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Uses of the internet

Reasons for accessing the Internet:

·       Look for information

·       Send/receive e-mails

·       Browse generally

·       Buy and sell

·       Online banking

·       Play games

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Effects of the Mass Media

The 'hypodermic syringe' approach;

Earlier on, it was believed that the mass media could have power over the audience. The press was regarded as a powerful means of controlling and persuading people.

The idea of the hypodermic syringe model is that the audience receives daily doses of messages from the Internet and the media. These messages work like a drug; they are seen as having a direct and powerful effect on the behaviour/attitude of the viewers.

The uses and gratifications approach;

This model focuses on what the audience se the information provided by the mass media. It examines the individual’s needs that are met by the media. The 4 main needs that needed to be satisfied were:

·       Information - we watch daily news to find out what's happening around the world

·       Personal identity - watch programmes that enable us to gain insight on our selves.

·       Personal relationships - we watch soap operas because they're an escape from real-life companionship 

·       Entertainment - watch comedy shows to escape our problems, fill time or to relax.

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The decoding approach

This approach suggests that content of particular televison programmes have several meaning and can be interpreted in many ways. 

Different sections of the audience may decode or interpret the contents of a TV programme in different ways. The way it is decoded may differ to people of different cultures or different social backgrounds. For example, a worker involved in a strike may interpret a news program differently to a senior manager.

How we decode a television program depends on our social or cultural background, age, gender and ethnicity.

This approach views the audience very differently compared to the hypodermic syringe theory. The hypodermic syringe theory views that the audience passively accepts media messages, whilst the decoding approach shows that the audience actively interpret these messages.

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The role of mass media in socialization

Mass media play a key role in socialization. They provide sources of information and knowledge about the world. Fro example, magazines provide information of relationship advice.

Sometimes, the media put forward messages about gender. For example, the Iceland quote 'that's why mums go to Iceland' suggests what role women play in society. This can be seen as the media playing a role in gender society.

Some of the media's influence may be subtle, however it builds up over time. For example, you generally see women promoting washing-up liquid, whilst you seen men promoting cars. This suggests that women should be in charge of cleaning whilst decisions are best taken by men.

The agencies of socialization play as key role in the development of our identities. Identity refers to how we see ourselves and how others see us; this includes, gender, age, ethnicity, social class, religion, sexuality. 

We make choices throughout our life that shape our identity. For example, getting tattoos, the way we dress. Also, decisions about our relationships, peer groups, political parties.

Traditionally, it was seen by sociologists that our social class and background have a direct link to our social and political identities. However, some argue that young peoples' identities cannot be understood in traditional categories of class and gender.

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The role of mass media in political socialization

During political socialization, we develop political views, beliefs and preferences. These views we develop affect whether we take part in the political process and the way we vote. The media play a significant role in political socialization as it is out main source of information about politicians and current affairs. In a democracy, the media is seen as having an important told during election campaigns.

Traditionally, most newspapers tent to side with one political party. For example, the Daily Telegraph has supported the Conservative party. A newspaper's outlook of political parties can influence the audience; this is due to the fact that newspapers can choose what stories are published and how they are covered. Some argue that it is unfair that audiences' decisions can be swayed due to the newspapers they read.

Since 1945, we can say that most newspapers are supportive of the Conservative party. This has led to the Labour party feeling as if they have an unfair disadvantage during elections.

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The press's influence on voting behaviour

Two main concerns on the press's influence on voting behaviour were:

·       The press has too much influence on how people vote.

·       The press's negative coverage of politics and cristism can lead people to not vote at all

However, the recent analysis from the British Social Attitudes has shown that newspaper readerships of popular newspapers has fallen sharply. However this decline may be healthy for democracies due to the fact that:

·       Newspapers’ ability to influence the outcomes of the general elections will also have declined,

·       Fewer readers will mean that the bad coverage of politics in the papers wont discourage people from voting at all.

However, this can be bad for a democracy; this is because popular newspapers will be less likely to play a role in providing information to people who aren’t particularly interested in politics.

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Patterns of ownership in the press

Newspaper ownership has been a long-standing concern for Britain. Critics fear that press barons can stop to the flow of information and debates. For example, they could use their power to:

·       Promote their own political beliefs 

·       Criticize politicians, political parties that they don’t agree with.

Newspapers in Britain are all privately owned and a small number of large corporations own the majority of them. This means that some individuals in certain corporations have a lot of power as they have shareholdings of the company. The independent was set up to avoid the situation in which powerful individuals are able to dominate.

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The pluralist approach to press ownership and cont

This approach suggests that there are a range of views in society and no single group dominates. There are a range of views and beliefs within newspapers and magazines available to us.

There are a range of magazines/newspapers that can cater everyone's views. For example:

·       The Sun

·       Gay Times

·       The voice

·       Viz

Those who support this approach state that these papers all give a variety of views that represent a wide range of content.

Pluralists argue there is no real link between ownership of the press and content. Newspapers simply give us what we want to read. Owners do not dictate the content of the newspapers, if they did, we would simply stop buying their product. For example, The Sun doesn't carry much international news because that is not what the readers what to see. In this case, firms that fail to provide what the readers want, can face decline and even bankruptcy.

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Pluralism and freedom of the press

Pluralisms support the idea of freedom in the press. They believe that the press should be free from control and interference from the owners. Pluralists argue there is freedom because:

·       The public control the market power; if they are unhappy with a newspaper, they can easily switch. 

·       Owners cannot simply dictate content; they have to provide what the readers want.

·       There is freedom to set up new newspapers if the existing ones do not meet demands.

·       We can put forward our views and have them published by writing letters to editors of a newspaper.

·       Generally, the newspaper editors and journalists exercise the content rather than the owners.

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The conflict approach to press ownership and conte

This approach views society on conflicting ideas and interests between different groups. The owners of newspapers are seen as part of a minority wealthy group. They're in a strong position to put forward their personal ideas and beliefs and they can control the contets of newspapers. They do so in their own interests.

For example, if a business that owns a chain of newspapers is falling into decline, it is likely to encourage the production of new stories that support the views of the business world. It is likely to discourage the stories that go against the big businesses. Articles written by trade unions are less likely to appear. 

Supporters of the conflict approach believe that these certain developments of the media back up their views:

·       There are mainly a few businesses that own the majority of the big newspapers.

·       More conglomerates have emerged; these are formed by different firms merging.

·       These media conglomerates operate on a global scale; this means that a small number of MNC now have interests in media across the globe.

·       Now, most of the media we see, hear and read about comes from a few huge MN empires.

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How are news stories selected and presented

There are a wide range of issues and viewpoints in society.

Agenda setting

The mass media have the power to 'set the agenda'; this refers to the way that media focus public attention on particular issues. This mean they tell us what is important at that moment in time. Some new programs do not directly tell us what to think but influence our views. They do this by missing out sections and discussing others.

In this sense, the media is able to dictate what is the main topic of public discussion by covering some and excluding others. This gives them a lot of influence over people's political views and the way they vote in elections.

The media 'gatekeepers' are the people that decided what to cover and how to present it; this includes - owners, editors and journalists. They can 'open a gate' to an issue and 'close the gate' to others. This means that media gatekeepers are in a strong position to influence the agenda setting and what people think.

Norm referencing - the way in which media outline the acceptable boundaries of behaviour. The behaviour of some groups/institutions are presented positively whilst some are presented negatively. Positive/negative images of some groups are created. Through this the media have the power to shape public opinion.

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What factors affect how news are selected and pres

News values - the media operate by what is 'newsworthy'; this is what they their audience will find interesting or topical. Editors allocate time and staff to make sure that everything they present is newsworthy.

On television news broadcast, items that can be filmed are more newsworthy than interviews and talking heads. As a result, items that can be illustrated with film are more likely to be included; this explains why some economic and financial news is often show using animated graphics.

The profit motive - newspapers exists as businesses and operate to make a profit; this means that the profit motive will influence content. Press gatekeepers take into consideration what stories are more likely to circulate more. Similarly, commercial broadcasting has to make a profit so it needs to attract and keep and audience

Advertisers - this is an important source of revenue for newspapers. Advertisers in the press may have an influence on content of newspapers because, if they want to withdraw their business, as they don’t agree with the paper's stand on the particular issue, the company loses money.

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The state and legal constraints on content

·       Complaints about media content are handled by Ofcom, the British Office of Communication. 

·       The media are subject to laws of libel that ensure they do not place false aims to people that may damage a person's reputation. 

·       During national emergencies such as wars, governments attempted to influence media coverage. 

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How are black people represented in the media?

Research shows that, in television shows, black people were often absent or under-represented. However, when they were present, they were employed with negative stereotypes such as criminals. 

Studies proved that media reports gave the impression that black people were more prone to crime. There are several reports linking black people to muggins, violent street protests and inner-city riots. An important element of this distorted coverage was that black people came to be defined as a threat to society’s values. The media, however, chose to ignore continuing social inequalities and the growing anger at police harassment. 

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How is gender represented in the media?

Research by Sue Sharpe focused on images of men and women in children's books. Also research has been made to show that women are presented in a stereotypical way. Cumber batch did research to show how men and women were portrayed in adverts;

·       Near 2/3 of people in advertisements were men,

·       The majority of voice-overs were men,

·       Women in adverts were more likely to be young and blonde,

·       Men were more likely to be shown in a work environment

·       And women were frequently shown with a male partner.

Particularly, the Iceland advert stated that it is mainly a mother's role to do grocery shopping.

Women in sports news

Previously, women were more or less likely invisible in sport news. Also, women's sports were often trivialised compared the men's sports.

Men's magazine - the key themes were masculinity. Also it highlighted key themes such as the following: men like to look at women; men like cars, gadgets and sport; men need help; men are fascinated by bravery and danger.

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Does the internet influence the distribution of po

One view is that the Internet could help democracy by spreading power more evenly between groups and individuals. Via the Internet, people had more access to information and could share their views of political parties. In this way, the Internet can empower people.

The Internet has also provided a way to communicate with politicians by emailing local councillors or MPs.

For example, individuals concerned about global earning can use the Internet to share their views and access communities who share their concerns.

Some researchers suggest that the Internet gives opportunities to citizens in democracies to become more involved in politics. It:

·       Provides quick and easy access to information about political topics

·       Allows people to respond to news reports

·       People can create their own content through websites and blogs

·       Allow people to take part in political actions on behalf of a cause.

Digital divide refers to the new divisions between those who have access to new media technology and those who do not. 

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The role of mass media in the process of deviancy

Moral panic involve exaggerating the extent and significance of a social problem. An important part of moral panic are the particular cast called folk devil. This refers to when something becomes a threat to society's values.

Cohen argues that the media exaggerate the events by:

·       Increasing the number of people taking part

·       The numbers involved in violence

·       The effects and amounts of any damage and violence

Amplification - this involves exaggerated or distorting the reality of what really happened.

Some argue that media can actually amplify deviance or provoke more deviant behaviour.

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Contemporary social issues related to mass media

There are a lot of concerns that the media tend to have an influence of people's attitudes due to the high amount of violent and aggressive behaviour shown. 

Bandura - completed an experiment with children to show how they copied what they had seen in a violent video. This research supported the hypodermic syringe approach of the effects of the media on audiences. 

Covers of DVDs such as Wanted could be seen as glorifying and glamourizing the use of guns. 

A research completed to compare the causes of behaviour showed a direct link. Comparing non-offending young people with young offenders found that:

·       They watched less television 

·       Had less access to technology

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