Notes on Mass Media- sociology 300 (Hijazi)

Download 65.14 Kb.
Date conversion02.06.2016
Size65.14 Kb.
Notes on Mass Media- Sociology 300 (Hijazi)
I. What is Mass Media?

1. Sociological Significance of Mass Media.

2. A Brief History of the Mass Media

3. Main Sociological Theories and Mass Media

II. Sociological Theory. Functions and Dysfunctions of Mass Media

  1. Functions/Dysfunctions:

    1. Cohesion, Social Bonds, and the Collective Conscience.

    2. Choices within a Heterogeneous Democratic Society.

    3. Global Communication and Connection.

    4. Reflection of Social Change: Visibility and Inclusion of Minorities and Media Representations.

III. Political and economic Structures of Mass media

1. The propaganda model (Herman and Chomsky) - Filters:

A. Ownership

B. Funding

C. Sourcing


E.Anti- ideology’s

2. Synergy, Vertical Integration, and Horizontal Integration.

III. What Impact Does Mass Media Have On Us?

-Interesting Statistics.

-Media Effects Theory and Critique.

I. What is Mass Media?

1. Sociological Significance of Mass Media.
Mass Media: refers the means by which information is communicated to a large audience. The mass media refer to print, radio, television, and other communication technologies. “Mass” implies that the media reach many people. “Media” signifies that communication does not take place directly through face-to-face interaction. Instead, technology intervenes or mediates in transmitting messages from senders to receivers. Furthermore, communication via the mass media is usually one-way, or at least one-sided. There are few senders (or producers) and many receivers (or audience members). -Brym and Lie.
The mass media is one influential socialization agent.
Brief History

1450 Printing press (Gutenberg)

1702 First daily newspaper (London Daily Courant)

1833 First mass circulation newspaper (New York Sun)

1837 Photography (Daguerre)

1840 Telegraphy (Morse)

1875 Telephone (Bell)

1895 Movies (Lumiére)

1906 Radio

1941 Commercial TV

1948 Long playing records

1952 VCR

1961 Cable TV

1969 ARPANET (US Dep’t of Defense)

1975 Microcomputer (Apple)

1983 Cell phone

1989 World Wide Web (Berners-Lee)

Summary of the Four Theories

  • Functionalism identifies the main social effects of the mass media: coordination, socialization, social control, and entertainment. By performing these functions, the mass media help make social order possible.

  • Conflict theory offers a qualification. As vast moneymaking machines controlled by a small group of increasingly wealthy people, the mass media contribute to economic inequality and maintaining the core values of a stratified social order.

  • Interpretive approaches (symbolic Interactionism) offer a second qualification: audience members filter, interpret, resist, and sometimes reject media messages according to our own interests and values.

  • Feminist approaches offer a third qualification. They highlight the misrepresentation of women and members of racial minorities in the mass media.

Media Stats-

Mean daily TV viewing time for individuals is 4 hours. That translates to 28 hours a week, or 2 months of non-stop T.V. viewing per year (A.C. Nielsen, 2006). A 1996 study by Dale Kunkel (of U.C. Santa Barbara and sponsored by the National Cable Television Association) reported that 57% of all shows sampled contained violence, including 85% of premium cable shows, 44% of network shows, and 18% of public television shows. Of violent shows 73% presented violence with no negative consequences to the perpetrators.

98 % of American households have at least one T.V. and 82% have a cable connection or satellite dish (U.S. Census Bureau 2006).
A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that those between ages 2 and 18 average about 5.5 hours a day consuming media. This includes about 3 hours of watching television and the rest watching movies and playing videogames (Nielsen Media Research, 2005).
In 1996, the American Medical Association (AMA) issued a statement that violence in television and films had reached such high levels that it posed a hazard to our health
By the time a child graduates from high school, he/she would have spent more time in front of a T.V. than in class. Is this possible? Where are all these T.V. viewing hours coming from?
Media Usage, U.S.A., 2005 (hours per capita, projected)

Number of hours in a year: 8,760.
Number of hours in 365 eight-hour nights: 2,920 (33% of the total number of hours in a year).
Number of hours per year the average American uses the mass media: 3,649 (42% of the total number of hours in a year; 63% of waking hours assuming eight hours of sleep per day).
Increase since 1996 in number of hours per year the average American uses the mass media: 11%.
Time spent at live performances is

only 0.3% of the total and is therefore not represented in the graph.

II. Sociological Theory. Functions (Structural Functionalism) and Dysfunctions (Conflict Theory) of Mass Media


Functions: cohesion, social bonds, and the collective conscience- One function of mass media are that it they bring people together (Patriotism, moral codes, values…). This assumes some homogeneity and unifying principle. People watch American Idol, news, and use My Space and are able to connect to large social networks. The media also entertains and occupies our leisure time.
Dysfunctions: the media can also divide us; dehumanize us (stereotypes), and more. This was evident in the article by Glassner entitled Fear, the Media, and the Construction of Deviance (a divisive culture of fear, mass hysteria, and moral panic). Mean World Syndrome is a phenomenon where the perceptions of viewers of mass media with violent content, such as news or television, are altered by means of cultivation, so that they come to believe that the world is more dangerous than it actually is. People feel the need to protect themselves more than they need to (particularly evident with how the mass media presents blue-collar crime). Also could contribute to the “isms”- racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, etc.
Functions: The mass media allows for choices (products, programs) within a heterogeneous democratic Society. Within a capitalistic system that is said to stimulate competition, we see many niche markets arise that allow for particular products and programs to satisfy particular interests of consumers. There exist TV Channels for almost all interests and caters to a variety of social groups. “Television is democracy at its ugliest.”- Paddy Chayevsky.
Dysfunctions: As emphasized by Mc.Chessney in his article titled Oligopoly and in the film Rich Media, Poor Democracy, the media and its connection to our political and economic institutions allow for more products and programs that that work against the “public interest” and for “private interests.” Deregulation and concentrated ownership could lead to more channel selection but media ownership is highly concentrated and focused on profits rather than for example go journalism to create a healthy democracy. In addition could the fact that the public is watching such a variety of programming (due to market segmentation) lead to more separation rather than cohesion?
Functions: The structures of the mass media allow for global communication and connection. “The CNN Effect” is at play here where we see a 24 hour news network that is popular globally and brings news to people’s living rooms. Global communication through the internet is almost instantaneous and news can travel with the click of a button.
Dysfunctions: the above over-generalizes regarding global access to mass media components (TV, CNN, and internet). Nations and people differ in power and privilege and the above is not as universal as we sometimes suppose. Global diffusion of culture and ideas through media are also based on power. CNN for example does not simple air local news within most locals but deals more with national and global news, and thus, they are very selective in terms of programming. In addition, if one does not have first-hand experiences with a particular culture, we sometimes rely on the “idiot box” as our lens to new realities and this lens is at best very blurry (if one has not been to Africa or Ireland, what do they know of the continents or countries? National geographic, Brave Heart anyone?)
Functions: The mass Media often partially reflection of social change in society: For example the visibility and inclusion of minority group member and their representations. The acting roles of women, racial minorities, and gays and lesbians are now more varied as show in movies and on TV. Sometimes the media reflects ideals, values, and norms of dominant culture or sub cultures. American Idol, MySpace, reality TV shows, and law and order productions perhaps tell us something about our culture and our values (individualism, tough on crime attitudes, voyeurism, etc). New images and ideas in the media also allow for a redefinition of the self.
Dysfunctions: Although it might be appealing to connect more visibility of minority group members directly to more accurate representations of the groups, we still see many stereotypical representations especially of less powerful group members. Although we see many more programs and visibility of minority group members, some ethnic groups, women, and gays and lesbians are represented more often in particular parts (Tough Guise). What does MTV, Will and Grace, The L Word tell us about identity? When watching HGTV (Home and Gardening TV) what representations do we see of heterosexual “couples” versus homosexual couples? Boundaries of norms and deviance could be set my media representations. How has the mass media represented blue-collar crime (particularly street crime) as compared to corporate crime?
III. Political and Economic Structures of Mass Media

1. The propaganda model (Herman and Chomsky) - Filters:

A. Ownership

B. Funding

C. Sourcing


E.Anti- Ideologies
Propaganda Model (From their 1988 book titled Manufacturing Consent- The Political Economy of Mass Media)
The propaganda model is a theory advanced by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky that alleges systemic biases in the mass media and seeks to explain them in terms of structural economic causes.

The causes of media bias and how filters influence the content of information in the news media. What is a filter? Think of, to pass something through a filter and to remove by passing through a filter: information is discarded when it passes through the below filters. This occurs not as a result of conscious design but simply as a consequence of market selection. For example, news outlets are now run by large corporations, they are under the same competitive pressures as other corporations.


The first three are generally regarded by the authors as being the most important.

1. Ownership:

-the information presented to the public will be biased with respect to these interests.

- have extensive financial interests that may be endangered when certain information is widely publicized.

- news items that most endanger the corporate financial interests that own the media will face the most bias and censorship. Good journalism is bad business, bad journalism is good business.

-corporate/shareholder: a profit-oriented market economy.

- The theory then argues that maximizing profit means sacrificing news objectivity (refer to both Glassner and Mc.Chessney articles).

2. Funding

The media depends heavily on advertising revenues to survive, the model suggests that the interests of advertisers come before reporting the news.

The news itself is nothing more than "filler" to get privileged readers to see the advertisements which makes up the real content, affluent readers who buy the newspaper — who also comprise the educated decision-making sector of the population.
Stories that conflict with their "buying mood", it is argued, will tend to be marginalized or excluded, along with information that presents a picture of the world that collides with advertisers' interests.
Two Types of Products:

1. Businesses sell products to viewers

2. Audience is a product for advertisers.

In order for an advertising message to be perceived, the brain of the television viewer must be available. Our broadcasts are aimed at making that brain available: i.e. by distracting it, by relaxing it and preparing it between two messages. What we sell to Coca-Cola is time with this available human brain.".

3. Sourcing:

Government-Media Connection.

If a particular outlet is in disfavor with a government, it can be subtly 'shut out', and other outlets given preferential treatment.
A loss in news leadership, a loss of readership/viewership, a loss of advertising revenue, which is the primary income for most of the mass media (newspapers, magazines, television).
Due to above, therefore, outlets will tend to report news in a tone more favorable to the government and giving unfavorable news about the government less emphasis.

the mass media's need for a continuous flow of information to fill their demand for daily news.

In an industrialized economy, Consumers and citizens demand information, and those that can bring that information are businesses and governments that have the resources to do so.
4. FLAK:
"Flak" refers to negative responses to a media statement or program.
Unlike the first three "filtering" mechanisms — which are derived from analysis of market mechanisms — flak is characterized intentional efforts to manage public information
targeted efforts to discredit organizations or individuals who disagree with the prevailing assumptions which are favorable to established power. Flak from the powerful can be either direct or indirect.

Letters or phone calls from the White House to Dan Rather.

Inquiries from the FCC to major television networks requesting documents used to plan and assemble a program. Messages from irate executives representing advertising agencies or corporate sponsors to media officials threatening retaliation if not granted on-air reply time.

By funding watchdog groups or think tanks engineered to expose and attack deviations in media coverage that endanger vital elite interests. (FOX and conservatives,

By funding political campaigns that elect politicians who will be more willing to curb any such media deviations.
5. Anti-Ideology:

Anti-ideologies exploit public fear and hatred of groups that pose a potential threat, either real or imagined. Communism once posed the primary threat according to the model.

Chomsky more recently notes that one possible replacement for anti-communism seems to have emerged in the form of "anti-terrorism". They argue that such a portrayal was often used as a means to silence voices critical of elite interests.
Critique of Propaganda Model:

They see the idea of "Manufacturing Consent" as a misapplication of the Marxist idea of "false consciousness", where the masses have been so manipulated that they have neither the perspective or intellect to see beyond the propaganda and require "superior intellects" like Chomsky's to point out to them the real truth. People power and consumption, supply and demand: Desire is manufactured. Scientific theories must be falsifiable and some argue that Chomsky and Herman prematurely assume their theory is true and seek only evidence to support it rather than looking at other theories, or for evidence that contradicts the theory.

III. What Impact Does Mass Media Have On Us?

-Interesting Statistics.

-Media Effects Theory and Critique.

Media Effects Theory
Media Effects Theory: A very popular theory that states that exposure to representations causes (or tends to cause) a specific response from audience and consumer.
Media influence refers to the way in which the mass media in all their forms (television, film, advertising and similar forms) affect the way we, as an audience, behave and act in our everyday lives.
The hypodermic needle model is a theory that has been held by media theorists since the early 19th century and suggests that the media can be seen as an 'intravenous injection' of message. In other words, any message conveyed by the media is willingly and unquestioningly accepted for its preferred reading by the audience. Refer Madness anyone? So, for example, long term exposure to a violent message will result in desensitization to that degree of violence.


Rock 'n Roll

On August 9, 1969 Charles Manson and his cult killed several people, inspired by songs of The Beatles (Piggies, Helter Skelter).
Bobo Doll

This classic study, in 1961, exposed two groups of nursery children to a new play area and dealt with modeling and violence.

The Columbine Killings and teen subcultures

In 1999 two boys shot several students to death in Columbine High School in Colorado. Afterwards they committed suicide. Accusations were made that they were influenced by violent videogames and/or films or goth music and Marilyn Manson.

Issues of justice

Guilty before proven so: Many famous trials about celebrities and people, whatever the outcome of the trials, ended in such bad publicity and negative depictions of the people involved that their reputation was damaged sincerely forever. The general public had already formed their opinion even before the trials where held. Even if the celebrity remained out of jail or was proven not guilty his career or popularity could have turned out for the worse due to this.

In politics

Joseph McCarthy's hunt for communist infiltrations in the US was broadcast frequently on television and other media. Therefore influencing the negative attitude of Americans towards communism, without a neutral viewpoint.

The election of many politicians since the 1960s, most notably John F. Kennedy in the US have been influenced enormously by media exposure, such as television. Kennedy's victory in the presidential race of 1960 against Richard Nixon has been described as the result of his more handsome and good looking appearance on television, especially when compared with Nixon.

Also Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger whose fame as actors helped them to gain more media attention and eventually the victory in their elections as governor or president. This trend however, can be seen internationally.


  • Some criticisms focus on hidden assumptions, flawed experimental design, and prejudicial interpretation of results of studies claimed to support Effects Theory (like Bobo Doll Study). Historical criticisms situate the Effects Theory within a long history of distrust of new forms of media. A hesitation to acknowledge and embrace change.

  • Humans as rational, critical subjects, who are alert to genre norms and adept at interpreting and critiquing media representations, not passively absorbing them. Do we all get the same understanding of watching Saving Private Ryan on the news?

  • However, these critics do point out that while the media could have an effect on people's behavior this isn't necessarily always the case. Critics of the Media Effects Theory point out that many copycat murders, suicides and other violent acts nearly always happen in abnormal upbringings. They were raised in a violent, emotionally neglected of aggressive environment which influenced their behavior more rather than watching certain programs, films or listening to certain music.

2. Synergy, Vertical Integration, and Horizontal Integration.

Synergy: refers to the dynamic where components of a conglomerate work together to produce benefits that would be impossible for a single unit of the company to do.
CLICK ME (Figure on Horizontal and Vertical Integration) or look at the bottom of the document).
Vertical Integration: refers to the process by which one owner acquires all aspects of production and distribution of a single type of media product. Ex: a movie company might integrate vertically by acquiring talent agencies, production studios, theater chains, DVD manufacturing plants, and a chain of video rental and sale stores. Here, they have control over creating, producing, marketing, and distributing their products.
Horizontal Integration: refers to the process by which one company buys different kinds of media, concentrating ownership across differing types of media rather than just one industry. Here, the media conglomerate has magazine, TV stations, book publishers, record labels, sports teams, and more to support one another’s operations. In 2001, Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone was released by Warner Bros. AOL, the parent company of Warner Bros. used their online services (AOL) to advertise, Time, People, and Entertainment Weekly (All AOL entities) all praised the book, AOL used it’s cable network to promote the film, and another AOL’s Music Group released a Harry Potter soundtrack.

What are some positive and negative impacts of the above? Products created and news?

Go to the below link and explore the ownership patterns of a few companies (Disney Viacom, Time Warner, etc).
Global Media Giants, 2005 (rank and annual revenue)

Rank and name US $b

  • AOL Time Warner (U.S.) 42.1

  • Disney (U.S.) 31.9

  • Vivendi Universal (France) 25.7

  • News Corp. (U.S./Australia) 22.7

  • Viacom (U.S.) 22.5

  • Bertelsmann (Germany) 20.9

The database is protected by copyright © 2016
send message

    Main page