It is difficult to imagine our lives without listening to the radio, watching TV, reading the magazine or surfing the Internet. All these media communications are a significant force of the world as they can reach large audience. Media communications history is relatively short although different forms of mass media have a great impact on the technological, political, social, and cultural aspects of any society.
Media communications or mass media do not have a long history. Although first books appeared thousands of years ago, they can hardly be called mass media. The media which could really reach masses came into existence only six centuries ago. However, the term “mass media” was coined not earlier than in the twentieth century. The mass media refer to the organized means of communicating openly, at a distance, and to many people in a short space of time (Mcquail, 2010). Mass communication’s power enables to share the materials with millions of people. This sharing is possible due to the industrial nature of the activity and its technology of production and distribution. Thus, mass communication can also be defined as the “industrialized production and multiple distribution of messages through technological devices” (Turow, 2011, p.14).
Media communications have undergone many changes in the course of time, but still it is possible to discern several milestones. I consider that, mostly, technologies gave rise to the appearance of new media and possibilities. Therefore, the first milestone is the invention of printing in the fifteenth century. This event influenced the media communications development as well as the whole civilization. First of all, printing caused the distribution of books. As a result, literacy increased and masses were given one of the most powerful tools – knowledge. Moreover, printing of newspapers laid the foundation and became the starting point for the development of mass media.
The second cornerstone is the spread of the Internet. The matter is that the Internet provides a different model of media communication. It offers a unique manner of use, range of content and services. Computers can incorporate all the previous media technologies in a single meta-medium (Jensen, 2002). Correspondingly, there is no need any longer to buy newspapers and magazines or to turn on the radio and TV, because everything can be found online. Furthermore, the Internet is not owned, ruled or organized by anybody; it is simply a network of internationally interconnected computers (Mcquail, 2010). The Internet gives a wide range of choice, and it enables people to become journalists and authors themselves. All in all, the Internet has definitely reached the highest penetration into the lives of people.
Whatever the changes are under way, there is no doubt in the significance of mass media for the contemporary society. Firstly, mass communication is an extremely powerful political force. Media communications were always used by parties and politicians for propaganda and even manipulation of grassroots. Mass media are effective in shaping opinion and influencing behaviour. Hence, totalitarian countries, for instance, Soviet Union, kept the media under strict control and imposed censorship.
Furthermore, media communications have the power to integrate people and even nations. Immigration, urbanization made people lonelier and more scattered. In this case, media help people to feel the part of the society.
Secondly, mass media also draw public attention to the social issues of the society and even disclose some flaws like corruption or forgery. The problem is that media can be biased covering some news and events.
Thirdly, mass media are an inseparable part of the cultural life as they always performed educational and informative functions. They are the main channel for people to get knowledge, ideas, images and models of behaviour. Media communications help to know what happens round the world. On the other hand, mass media often turns into a scapegoat responsible for all the misfortunes. Nowadays, everybody has access to the media communication, even children. People blame media for popularization of violence, crime and moral disorders (Mcquail, 2010).
Besides, we cannot imagine our daily routine without mass media. Media communications cater for all tastes and any person can choose what he or she likes. Mass media entertain, help to relax and escape from the reality to another world, whether watching a movie or listening to the favourite song.
Media communications continue to develop. Mass media irrevocably changed under the influence of new technologies like printing, television or the Internet. However, media communications will hardly change the function which they perform for the society as their role in politics, culture, and social life of people remained invariable during six centuries.
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