The simplest definition of mass communication is “public communication transmitted electronically or mechanically.”In Mass communication messages are transmitted or sent to large, perhaps millions or billions of people spread across the world. They are different forms of mass media such as newspapers, magazines, films, radio, television and internet. Media is the plural for the word medium or ‘means of communication’. Means of communication is also called channel of communication.
Mass communication can therefore also be defined as ‘who’, ‘says what’, ‘in which channel’, ‘to whom’, ‘with what effect’.
Who’ : refers to the communicator sender or encoder.
‘what’ means the message. What the communicator has written, spoken or shown is the message.
‘In what channel’: The channels are the means through which messages are sent. These may
be newspapers, films, radio, television or the internet.This refers to the medium or channel like the newspaper, radio, or television.
‘To whom’ : This refers to the person receiving the message or the receiver.
“With what effect”: This refers to the impact or effect r feedback of a message on a channel or medium.
Elements of Mass Communication
Mass communication is characterized by the transmission of complex messages to large and diverse audiences, using sophisticated technology of communication. Mass media refers to the institutions that provide such messages such as newspapers, magazines, television, radio, film and Internet.
Here are some distinguishing characteristics of mass communication.
1. The source of mass communication message generally is a person or group operating within an organizational setting. Examples of these sources are news reporters, television producers and magazine editors. Likewise, the source generally is a multiple entity, For example, producers, writers, actors, directors and video editors copyeditors, typesetters, graphic designers and photographers together produce a magazine article.
2. Mass media messages are sophisticated and complex. Mass media messages are quite elaborate. Examples of mass media message are a news report, a novel, a movie, a television program, a magazine article, newspaper columns, a music video, and a billboard advertisement.
3. Channels of mass media, involve one or more aspects of technology. for example, Radi involves tape machines, microphones, devices that digitize sound waves, transmitters that disseminate them, and receiving units that decode the sound waves and render.
4. Audiences generally are self-selected, people who tune in to a particular television or who read a particular magazine. Mass audiences also 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.
5. Feedback is minimal in mass media, and no real give-and-take is practically possible. Message flow typically is one-way, from source to receiver. Traditionally, feedback has been minimal and generally delayed. A newspaper reader could write a letter to the editor; a television viewer might respond to a survey. With the Internet, new possibility are being found to increase feedback, but it remains limited.
6. Noise exists in the mass context. Noise may be semantic, environmental or mechanical.
ORIGIN OF MASS COMMUNICATION
There was a time when men on horseback travelled long distances to convey news , Pigeons were used as postmen to deliver messages. We may heard of Kalidasa who was one of the greatest Sanskrit poets describe in his poem ‘Meghdoot’, a Yaksha (celestial singer) sends messages to his beloved through the clouds.
The invention of paper and printing, and later newspapers, were the first steps towards mass communication. Before the invention of paper, writing was done on rocks, leather, palm leaves etc. The Chinese are credited with the use of some sort of paper in 105 AD, the word ‘paper’ is derived from the name of a plant Papyrus, that grows on the banks of river Nile in Egypt.
It is believed that Johannes Gutenberg of Germany was the first to develop printing around 1439. With printing, there was a revolution in the way communication developed. The printing process that Gutenberg developed later underwent much changes and mechanization. Computers have further improved printing operations. You will learn more about printing in your next module on ‘print media’.
History of Mass Communication
The first communication revolution came with the invention of writing. This allowed people to communicate over time and distance.
The second major communication revolution came with the invention of mass writing by the printing press. This allowed people to communicate in larger numbers. The printing press spurred the transition from medieval to modern society and the concurrent growth of education and discovery.
The third communication revolution was led by the invention of the telegraph in the 1830s. Prior to that time, people could communicate only if they could see or hear a message presentation – read a book, hear a speech, observe smoke signals, receive a message by horse or carrier pigeon. The telegraph made possible two-way communication at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) in real time. It also made possible communication that was not bound by distance, quickly spreading across continents and oceans. The telephone enhanced this technology, and both inventions brought not only new communication opportunities.
The fourth communication revolution involved what today can be categories as electronic media devices such as radio, photography, film, television and sound recordings. These communication devices had major social consequences, creating new opportunities for learning, sharing and discovery, as well as new patterns of entertainment and information.
The fifth communication revolution was twofold. It involves the invention of both the computer and the communication satellite. Computers serve as the storehouses and transmitters of vast amount of information, virtually the sum of all human knowledge. Satellites make possible the instantaneous transmission of messages throughout the world. Features associated with both include wireless technology, fiber optics, digitization, miniaturization, data compression and interactivity.
Historians identify four basic roles for the mass media: surveillance, interpretation, socialization and entertainment. .
Surveillance refers to the news and information role of mass media. This role can be subdivided into warning surveillance associated with the news media information about such as floods, military attack, and depressed economic conditions and instrumental surveillance associated with transmission of useful information about news products, entertainment guides, stock market prices, etc.
The most important function of mass communication is dissemination of information to the public primary through news media-electronic and print. Information diffused through these channels (media) is about new events, products, changes in policies, ideas, philosophies and so forth. Mass media are particularly effective to spread current information having news values.
Interpretation is the function of mass media that provides a context for new information and commentary about its significance and meaning. Traditionally, newspapers provided such interpretation in their editorial and commentary sections. Reporting was said to be objective; that is, free from comment and interpretation. The idea was that reporters would offer factual information untainted by commentary, and readers would decide for themselves the significance and meaning of that information. Such a quest for objectivity is vast amount of television reporting seems to have blended the news-reporting and commentary functions.
SocializationThe media also have a role in socialization, the transmission of values within a society, particularly the modeling of appropriate behavior and attitudes. This in turn helps create a stable society with common social values. In its simplest form, the socialization role of the media gives people a common discussion topic. Television and film 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 behavior as well as fashion, grooming styles, and other aspects of social interaction can be presented through television and film.
Entertainment: . Entertainment is the most common function of mass communication, sometimes called the diversion function because it diverts us from the real world. Entertainment always has been part of society. Through sound recordings, film, radio and television, entertainers have been able to attract audiences around the globe. Painters, sculptors and poets reach mass audiences through books and magazines.
The entertainment function of the media has been subdivided into three categories: stimulation, relaxation, and release express anger, hostility or fear. When used for entertainment, the mass media publicize such programs as are pleasurable to the consumers or at least they provide the audience with some sort of escape of diversion from anxieties of daily life. For example, Newspapers for this purpose may include comics, crossword puzzles and the like. Televisions may show situation comedies, drama, variety shows, etc. Radio entertainment primarily consists of music, talk shows, etc
Persuading: Persuasion is another function of mass media. Because of its having persuasive potential, both electronic and print media are used for advertising products, services, business, charities, or for political campaign.
THE MASS COMMUNICATION-Mass Media Classifications
Communication scholars have approached media studies from several different perspectives, each focusing on a different aspect of the media. This variety is helpful to gain a fuller understanding of mass media. Canadian theorist Marshall McLuhan identified hot media and cool media on the basis of how much they engage the user and the intensity of a user’s connection with the medium. This distinction also deals with the duration of the relationship between the audience and the medium, and the level of audience participation needed to access information.
Hot media require a high degree of thinking from media users, who have to fill in missing information from their own imagination. Examples of hot media are books and to a lesser extent magazines and newspapers. Among electronic media, radio is a hot medium when it engages listeners’ imaginations, such as in radio drama.
Cool media allow audiences to be passive spectators because others have made the creative decisions. Television requires little intellectual involvement; radio played simply for background music also is cool. McLuhan saw movies seen in movie theaters as hotter than television because movies have huge screens and darkened screens that serve to engage the audience. But movies seen on home VCRs lack the heat of theatrical presentations. Likewise, while live theater is quite hot, a video-recording of concert falls into the cool category. Another way of categorizing media is through their intended use. Entertainment media such as books, magazines and television dramas are significantly different than information media such as newspapers and television news programs. They appeal to different audiences and serve different functions.
Still another categorization of media is in the elitist-populist model.
Elitist media are those that serve to uplift society and contribute to culture. Examples are serious-minded magazines, television programs focusing on art or history, recordings of classical music or contemporary jazz.
Populist media are those that satisfy the baser expectations of the marketplace. Sensationalistic tabloid newspapers, reality television shows and music videos are examples of this. Pornography is the ultimate example of populist media.
Different form of Mass communication Media:
Media which are used for sending messages to a huge number of audiences at home and abroad are known as mass media. These media are so large in number that it will not be an exaggeration to comment that we are a media society. But we will notice here some important media only:
Print Media: Print media are most suitably applied to the literate section of our human society. These media usually carry the message of commercial, economic or political interest to the readers or consumers at home and abroad. The print media may be of different forms such as dailies. Weeklies, periodicals, leaflets, etc.
Audio Media: Radio is the best audio medium. Through these medium advertisements, government messages, circulars, etc. are widely spread for public consumption. Besides, microphones and record players also act as audio media. When messages are sent through these media, audiences receive them by the ear. So these media are particularly important for illiterate messes.
Audio Visual Media: Messages sent through these media are seen as well as heard simultaneously. A television, one of the audiovisual media, is the most powerful and influential mass medium. Varieties of programs such as documentaries, news, educational shows, adventure series, sports spectaculars, movies, cartoons and so forth, are presented through a television to meet the needs of all viewers. The other media in this group are movies, video cassettes, etc.
Traditional Media: In addition to these above-mentioned modern media, some authors have mentioned a few traditional media for mass communication. Important traditional media are ‘Jattra stage’. Theater stage, drama stage, drumming, etc.