Mass Media Influence in a Globalised World


All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.
William Bernbach (1911-1982) American advertising executive

The economic and technical resources available to big media organisations means that these organisations have established a decisive and fundamental leadership in the cultural arena and have linked countries of geographical disparities and cultural differences into proximity and increasing uniformity. Network systems such as cable and satellite TV and the Internet, which have been familiar to affluent industrialised countries for years, are now very much part and parcel of most of the developing countries of the world. The flow of critical event information in one part of the world is virtually known across the whole planet within a few hours. News reports, via newspapers, satellite or the Internet, reach people around the world and influence the actions of governments, militaries, humanitarian agencies and warring ethnic groups. The influence of mass media is growing stronger and stronger as time passes. Because of this, the competition among producers and advertisers gets tougher as they try to come up with new ways to catch people's attention through their newspapers, magazines, movies, shows, and commercials. Specific words and its psychological underlying tone in a headline influence views and impact decision making. Research and studies on the number of emotional words used in a headline (assigned with an emotional value score by marketing agencies and media), demonstrate that headlines with a higher emotional value score were shared more frequently than those with lower scores and which directly increases readership and views (as clearly demonstrated by the UK's "BREXIT" 2016 EU Referendum).

Mass media has a highly prominent role in our lives. It reflects our societies' beliefs, tendencies and moods and equally has great influence in shaping our opinion in direct and subtle ways. Nothing escapes the Media - politics, religion, education, sports, weather, travel, entertainment etc. Our NEED and trust on the media as an authority on news is enormous (and, quite unconsciously so for most of the time). Furthermore, there is not much choice except to trust the media.

Tabloids and the 24-hour news channels, in their eagerness in providing "breaking news" stories, all too often end up being public relations for celebrities or any politicians who happens to make an outrageous claim - though inconsequential enough in nature but made "breaking news" by virtue of their 24-hour news or tabloid status. The competition for ratings requires them to seek sensationalism in the name of "fair and balanced" reporting.

The media, specially television, is essentially a distribution service offering only a very limited set of choices, rigidly confined into pre-set time slots. The real product that commercial TV networks actually sell is the audience. In industry jargon, profitability is all about the number of "eye-balls" or "bums-on-seats" that can be delivered to an advertiser and with very few exceptions a big audience is much more profitable than a small one. This is the reason that commercial television is often described as a "lowest-common denominator" medium. Programs for niche audiences simply don't help the bottom line. And so, the advertising revenues amounting to billions of dollars for the media is an emphatic proof of the efficiency of the media machine as an influencing force on our minds, views, politics and religious orientations in our societies. It is a compelling influence, especially on minds which are more impressionable . However, whilst most thinking adults can retain his independence from the influences of mass media, our kids, teenagers and sadly, vast sections of our diverse society, cannot. Equally, there is no denying the fact that certain media messages are detrimental to our society. The media is a reflection of the society we live in but all too often, the media does much more than reflects the surroundings:

♦ It exaggerates and sensationalises issues of utmost importance in pursuit of ratings by maintaining reader's interest by pampering on its fears. In the race for ratings, media ethics are too often grossly ignored.
♦ There are some hidden editor's agendas.
♦ By making way for other money-making stories.

While objectivity is generally the goal, judgments and biased information all too often finds its way into broadcast. Because Networks owns the program, the news is often biased in how it portrays information or politics, religion, society, trends etc. (In the United States, this becomes more evident during elections, when some networks spend more time on one candidate over the other, or fail to report all sides of the story).

Both journalists and politicians have suffered from the apparent rise in public dissatisfaction with their performance and this has manifested itself in the declining size of audiences, readerships and electorates. It is often and not inaccurately suggested that politicians have lost some of their authority through journalist scrutiny and exposure in recent years. But at least their problem is more obvious and cannot, at least in the short to medium term, erode their constitutional powers. The news media, however, faces a threat to its commercial as well as democratic role from a variety of factors relating to industrial change, the proliferation of alternative media, peoples' changing social lives and importantly, increasingly audiences are becoming more sophisticated, discerning and promiscuous in terms of their media usage. As such they are less open to being influenced by anything they see or read.


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Representing The Unusual

It is the one great weakness of journalism as a picture of our modern existence, that it must be a picture made up entirely of exceptions. We announce on flaring posters that a man has fallen off a scaffolding. We do not announce on flaring posters that a man has not fallen off a scaffolding. Yet this latter fact is fundamentally more exciting, as indicating that moving tower of terror and mystery, a man, is still abroad upon the earth. That the man has not fallen off a scaffolding is really more sensational; and it is also some thousand times more common. But journalism cannot reasonably be expected thus to insist upon the permanent miracles. Busy editors cannot be expected to put on their posters, "Mr. Wilkinson Still Safe," or "Mr. Jones, of Worthing, Not Dead Yet." They cannot announce the happiness of mankind at all. They cannot describe all the forks that are not stolen, or all the marriages that are not judiciously dissolved. Hence the complex picture they give of life is of necessity fallacious; they can only represent what is unusual. However democratic they may be, they are only concerned with the minority.

Lord Chesterton(1874 -1936)
(Philosopher, Poet, Journalism)