All the different tools that are used to assist the distribution and circulation of information and entertainment to the public come under the umbrella of mass media.
Radio, television, cable, newspapers, and theatre are all considered as ‘mass media’. These tools involve exchange of opinions, and public involvement.
Today the list of mass media also embraces pagers, satellites, electronic mail, internet, cell phones, and computers. These new additions, unlike the other tools of mass media that work as transmission technologies transmitting information from one source to many receivers, are basically interactive; working more on the person to person formula. As the name suggests ‘mass media’ revolves around the masses-the people.
Although cinema, radio, television, and press take centre stage in mass media; the role of books, magazines, posters, billboards, pamphlets cannot be discounted. The reach of these tools extends to enormous varied masses of the populace living across the spread of the country.
Television, radio, cinema, press are all very expensive media and are either run by private financial institutions, or the Government. These tools of media call for large groups of people to keep these large services running. There is much to be done: managing, running, controlling, manufacturing, allocating, and maintaining. They are centered on the idea of mass production and mass distribution.
Newspapers, television, radio all cater to mass audience and as such must accommodate the taste of the masses which might not be very refined or sophisticated. This results in mass media often showcasing and promulgating popular culture. With the television and radio having reached to the interiors, mass media in India today enjoys extensive coverage.
With the language of media not being restricted to Hindi and English and encompassing regional languages as well, mass media in India today really enjoys ‘mass’ status.
The function of mass media is to primarily reach out to the masses and equip them with information. Other than this mass media also works to scrutinize and observe the surrounding by giving us information in the form of news about the goings-on in society. The latest news updates keep the masses posted about the happenings in not just their own land but around the world as well. The media also helps to disseminate and interpret information. For example weather forecasts allow farmers to plan ahead.
News of tidal wave activities and storms keep fisherman from going from fishing. The media also helps to keep the fabric of our social heritage intact by organizing various programs that showcase our customs, our myths, and our progress as a civilization.
Advertising is another by product of mass media. It helps sell goods and services through commercials and sponsorships. The media also helps in spreading social awareness. Whether it is anti smoking propaganda or the empowerment of women, the promotion of a greener environment or the education of the girl child, media works relentlessly to put across social messages. The media remains unparalleled in its services as a mode of entertainment.
Television today, with its numerous channels in varied languages, serves to dish up entertainment to almost everybody. It provides millions with a cheap source of relaxation and a means to kill time as well. For many it is a momentary transportation from their sad ordinary lives in to the dream world of designer clothes and flashy cars.
Mass media remains the undisputed king in reaching out to the masses. Whether by means of a serial that subtlety passes on the message of the good triumphing over the evil or by a news relay that shows the nabbing of a terrorist, the media manages to put the message across.
However, one must understand that media is a tool and for this tool to be effective the involvement of the masses is essential. Change can be achieved by a medium only if the masses it targets will it to happen. Mass media remains therefore, just a means to an end.