Media is a universal channel of sending and receiving information since time immemorial. There are a lot of aspects related to media that has kept it relevant so far by exposing it to the fruit of technology. This paper will deal with media to understand its journey from traditional media to new media, theories of media, the factors influencing its content and finally the article ends with a discussion on the impact of New media.
“Whoever controls the media, the images, controls the culture.” – Allen Ginsberg
Media being as old as civilization is a mirror of the society reflecting a vivid picture of the world and its day to day affairs. Media is a channel of communication carrying messages to and for through a medium. Human beings are a knowledge-hungry species who are always on an information collecting spree about anything and everything and in such a scenario, media is their ultimate provider. Let us give ourselves a food for thought – have we ever wondered why are newspapers distributed in large scale in the morning? Why there is a tendency to stick to the newspaper early in the morning with a warm cup of tea? – to fetch information about the previous day. This tendency has made media a part and parcel of human lives. Media in every form connects us to the wide world and make us feel an active member of it where we are free to place our views and opinions invoking in our minds a sense of belongingness and believing that the world is one family. Ever since the inception of media in the society, it has developed in its form which could be understood when one go through it’s evolution.
Traditional Media and New Media
History has witnessed how over the time, media has changed its forms and ways of production and consumption of information or communication.
Traditional media is an age-old form of media that could be traced back to earliest forms of communication. Traditional media refers to print media that includes paper, books, magazines and broadcast media that includes television, radio. Traditional media is transmits one-way information from the sender to the recipient with no feedback from the latter.
Today, in this modern world, with advancement in time and science, traditional media is complemented with New Media which is a digital form of media. New media is any media like newspaper articles, blogs, music, podcasts etc. but in a digital format. New media is facilitated by the internet that has remodeled this field with the creation of the World Wide Web by the British engineer Tim Berners Lee in 1991 and the invention of the first graphical browser, Mosaic in 1993. Further, with the coming of social media which is a subset of new media, its usage became manifold.
Trends affecting organization of media
- Cross media ownership
Cross media ownership is the ownership of multiple media sources by a single person or a corporate. For example, Australian-American business tycoon, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation is one of the world’s largest media groups with several newspapers, entertainment groups and publishing outlets in the UK, the US and Australia. Such ownership pattern commercialize media content and make it uniform.
- Media conglomerates
Media conglomerates refers to a company owning various media companies involved in multiple media enterprises. For example, Microsoft owns a social network called LinkedIn, a web portal MSN, search engine called Bing, cloud computing platform named Microsoft Azure, Outlook.com which is an e-mail service, Skype which is a video chat service and owns the largest US video game publisher called Xbox Game Studios.
Digitalization is the transmission of information via technological interfaces that transformed media production. Traditional media has been playing an important role in disseminating information to the public and moulding their perspectives. This function of media escalated with new media when digitalization occurred as people could have knowledge about any events in no time by exploring their responsibilities in real time situations.
- Popularity of social media
With the coming of social media, communication rose to another level. Being an internet based form of communication, social media has accelerated both personal and professional communication with the invention of networking sites, messaging applications, podcasts and many more. It not only improves social networks but promoted business ideas, political agenda, social issues etc.
There are quite a few differences between traditional media and new media like
- Traditional media is generally consumed passively, while new media is often consumed actively.
- Traditional media is typically accessed through broadcast or print, while new media is often accessed through digital channels.
- Traditional media can be quite expensive in production and distribution processes and targeting a specific audience is problematic but New media is quite affordable and more easily accessible to those with the facility of internet connection.
- New media is more engaging than traditional media
But it cannot be agreed that new media undermined the relevance of traditional media because both the forms of media are still in use. Both traditional media and new media are not competitive in nature rather it is complementary.
Theories of media
- Marxist theory of media
The centrality of Marxist theory of media is about the ownership of media. According to the Marxist theory, the media is owned by the bourgeoisie who control the journalists and the editors to publish only those articles that runs in their favour. Such publications are reflection of the dominant ideology of a powerful section of the society justifying their power and position. The journalists and the editors do not risk their job and do as the media owners say. This theory shows the game of power of the bourgeoisie and how the common people are bound to resist the dissemination of elite hegemony. Theodore Adorno, a renowned Sociologist of the Critical School of Thought criticized media to be a commercialized and standardized production while discussing about commercialization of music. Music production has been reduced to commodity as it is driven by profit maximization and lack artistic feels. Adorno contended how music and the entire cultural industry has merely become a tool for portraying the ideology of the bourgeoisie and has nothing to do with creativity or personal development.
- Neo-Marxist theory of media
Neo Marxists emphasize more in the cultural factors rather than economic factors in explaining media. This theory contend that the bourgeoisie doesn’t actively control media but they have an indirect hold over it. It is the managers of the media houses who very well know the intent of the bourgeoisie and serve content keeping that in mind. This theory centralized Hegemony that was first developed by Antonio Gramsci according to whom, the perpetuation of dominant ruling class ideology allow the social classes to accept the values and beliefs in that ideology considering it to be normal, forming a consensus that becomes a common sense. The media managers too apply this when they serve media content by subtly portraying the bourgeoisie interest without making the audience aware under the pretense of critically calling out the elite groups, be it government or private only with the intent of attracting the attention of the audience to make money for themselves and the owners of the media houses.
- Pluralist theory of media
The Pluralist theory of media focus on the demands of the audience alone and produce content that their audience pay for and want to see. If any company fail to meet the expectation of their audience, it will incur great loss as the audience who are their consumers would go elsewhere to trade media. The consumers have the freedom to select or reject a media company as per their needs which is why, the media companies are always in a competitive mode to meet consumer expectations to keep money coming in.
- Post modernist theory of media
Postmodernism rejects objective reality and this theory of media argue how media brought varied opportunities to shape multiple realities. The mention of Jean Baudrillard could be made in this context who talked about Hyperreality when he argued that media can dominate our perception about the world when we fail to identify the real world and media images because of the realistic appearance of media images. He cited the example of Disneyland which is manufactured as something real whereas in reality it is not. Frozen is a good example of a Postmodern movie that deconstruct the grand narratives of all the previously released fairy tales . This movie deals with sisters love and not any romantic love between a man and woman like any other fairy tales. Also, the entire plot focus on the sister of the main character unlike the rest. Other than this, parodies of music pieces and movies also falls under post modern media.
Influence on media content
- Ownership and control of media
Ownership and control of media has become a business strategy to provide a market base for the production of the elite companies to boost their monetary growth. News that is in favour of the parent owner company gets coverage or else it is not covered at all. This has led to homogenization of news where dissemination of information remains under the influence of the powerful parent companies. For instance, in 1983, 50 corporations controlled the majority of news media in the USA. Again, the New York Times owns a few other newspapers, television channel and radio networks that disseminate information that favours it.
- Mass manipulation and hegemony
Manipulation and media hegemony is a serious issue in maintaining information and news authenticity. The powerful media house owners control the media and use it to maintain the existing social structure keeping in mind the demands of the consumers. The Marxists has pointed out the power game of the elites who manipulate media content promoting a conservative thought that goes in line with maintaining their status quo. For instance, during the Covid pandemic, the state media outlets in Russia and China circulated online news stating safety concerns on vaccine. The news portrayed a bad side of the vaccines developed by the West stating that it resulted in death of patients. However, these claims were proved baseless but the media manipulated their news content in favour of the Russian and Chinese government by developing a mistrust against the West in the minds of people.
- Influence political processes
Media plays an important role in shaping political decisions. This can be a two way process where on one side, political parties can inform the public of their political agenda through media, on the other side public can make use of media to express their consent or dissent over it. New media plays a giant role in political affairs. It not just inform public about the political events but people can themselves gather information about the political leaders, their previous works and agendas so that they could grasp an idea about the political party to know whether the party could meet with their needs. New media keeps people updated about the political happenings around them as well as the world.
Also Read: Noam Chomsky – Five Filters of Mass Media
Media content is always under the scanner of the regulatory bodies and laws through censorship that constantly review the published content on media platforms to make sure it doesn’t occur detrimental to public interest. Any content that seems offensive, illegal or threatening to the security of personal or public life, censorship takes a forefront to handle such content. For example, a Ukrainian website named Liga.net. was banned from publishing any posts as they were accused of promoting nudity. But censorship sometimes can also lead to limitation in freedom of speech and expression to silence the people who fight against a cause against the elites because the powerful one always have an upper hand on the activities of the media houses.
Impact of New Media
- New Media has led to globalization facilitating flow of information between countries through technologies, music, films, television programs, international news, broadcast etc. more specifically through internet. For example, social media is the best platform to make a global impact. Facebook, for instance, made communication all over the world easy that removed physical and geographical barriers among people and helped them to connect via technology. Facebook didn’t just globalized human relationships but business as well as it allowed brands to advertise their products and services on it at a global scale which led to global marketing.
- As media has become a ubiquitous part of our life, our identity is greatly being shaped by it. Creating an identity of our own is very personal but exposure to media has reduced it to a marker of social status. How we identify ourselves as a person is now a matter of how others judge us as per societal standards. The idea of presenting the best version of ourselves to the people we interact on media platforms draw resemblance to Erving Goffman’s theory of Dramaturgy where the actor deals with impression management to present himself in a suitable way in front of the people one interact with.
- Interpersonal relationships have taken a different turn with the coming of new media. Real life socialization and relationships has been transformed to a virtual one and our perception of establishing relations with people, for example, is now based on how many ‘friends’ we have on social media applications rather than our real life friends.
- Digitalization is at its peak owing to new media which has certain positive sides or digital optimism as well as negative sides or digital pessimism and we cannot do without both. Digital optimism throws light on how media has helped the world develop in every aspect and has empowered the entire population to make themselves visible in the world via media platforms. But digital pessimism too follows highlighting the fact life dependent on media is risky and temporary. It threatens security, identity and make one lose touch of the real world or the real self.
- New media has a democratic element and people can now easily participate in political issues showing their consent or dissent on any decision, offer suitable suggestions, form pressure groups and pressurize government through media to reconsider any decision, so on and so forth. New Media has transformed people from passive citizens to active participatory citizens who have a say in political matters.
Media is an indispensable part of our life that educate and entertain us and it has been a blessing to mankind as quality of life has increased with it. With the development of new technologies, media has transformed from traditional media to new media that converged the world. The society now depends upon media and media is a catalyst of social change and development. With development in new media and it’s availability to a large mass of people, raising voice in favour of constructive things has become easy leading to development in the society.
Also Read: Theories of Mass Media