According to Gordon Marshall, mass media is a medium through which a message can be transmitted to a large number of people. Mass media is one such form of communication in which there is no personal contact between the senders and receivers of the message. The message is generated from one source and communicated to multiple audiences at the same time. Examples of mass media include; radio, television, movies, advertising, internet, newspapers, magazines, so on and so forth. These medium are increasing rapidly with the technological advancements. Over the period of time it can be said that the importance of different mediums changed. For instance, at one point in time, newspapers were the main source of information but the trend shifted and televisions became the dominant source. (Marshall, 1998). The history of mass media is long, but in general is dated back to the innovation of printing press in the late fifteenth century. With the rise in printed material, it became easier to communicate with large number of people like never before. In the period of post world war II mass media saw a sturdy introduction of radio, television and the video technology. They instantaneously became popular among the masses. Lately, world witnessed the revolution of internet. This medium over took the popularity and place of all others introduced before it. The progression in technology, lined the way for the evolution of mass media in general, (Bhattacharya).
The history of mass media in Pakistan begins with the print media, as it was the first medium of mass communication in the country. Jang, Dawn and Anjam were the very first newspapers that were published for the masses. The period from 1958 to 1988 press was subjected to strict government regulations. Almost all of the content needed government approval during the dictatorial rule. After this regime ended, some of these constraints were lifted up, but still press was not completely free of scrutiny. In 1949, Radio Pakistan was officially launched in Karachi which was controlled by the government through Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation. The early decades of Pakistan’s television history were subjugated by PTV (Pakistan Television), which was launched in 1964. For many years television broadcasting was monopolized by the state owned network. When the private television broadcasters were permitted, Pakistan saw a boom in the television channels.
Functions of the Mass media
In any society the mass media plays an important role, one that includes a number of related aspects, although we can perhaps characterize these roles in terms of three primary aspects:
The linking-theme of the above is “information” and having established the fundamental importance of the idea of the mass media as “information-providers” or “educators” (a source of secondary socialization), it means that we can concentrate on this idea when considering the way information about the social world is both selected and presented. The mass media links the government of a nation and its people together. The government tries to get support of its people through media by explaining and promoting its policies, for example Musharraf used media to gain support for his referendum. Almost every single person accesses the different forms of media in order to get updates on the current world situation. The media also performs surveillance, that is, it informs us about terrorism, natural disasters and transmits information that is useful in daily lives. The media is also said to perform mobilization function which is very important for developing societies both culturally and technologically. It also socializes people and provides entertainment and according to Functionalists media encourages solidarity among its members and promotes national advancement, while Social Conflict says it manipulates individual so that they can be kept under false consciousness by the bourgeoisie.
Let us now take a look at different sociological theories regarding the content of the mass media.
From this perspective, the mass media involves different forms of bias, since in any situation where there are differing viewpoints which cannot all be effectively represented, bias is bound to occur. Pluralists does not see the mass media advocating any single ideology or point of view in the society but instead stresses on the diversity of views and opinions represented in the mass media, the multiplicity of forms they take and the range of opportunities the general audience or public has to influence their content.
In general terms, the range of media available in society covers most of the possible viewpoints in the society. The audience selects those views that most closely accord with their own and declines those that don’t. The media responds to audience’s demand. In this respect, if the audience is politically conservative then the media will have to respond to this. From this perspective, the main sources of media bias come not from the ideological beliefs of owners, but simply from technical constraints imposed upon various media. In this way media is similar to any other commodity in a market-led society, where the consumer is sovereign, and the products on sale reflect the general laws of market forces and respond to the needs of the consumers.
The Pluralists suggest that there really is a plurality of different views on offer to the consumer. Consumers are free to select those views they agree with and reject those with which they disagree. In basic terms, if you don’t like watching Geo, you can definitely shift to Express’s version for the news of the day. Secondly, there is no clear evidence that the mass media directly changes people’s beliefs or attitudes. On the contrary, from this perspective the role of the media is of the one confirming the prejudices and views of the consuming audience. For example, the television dramas we see today often reinforce the prevalent views on women in society. They usually portray the role of women as a submissive one who has to conform to whatever rules imposed on them. Usually the Pakistani women like watching it as they relate to the actor’s portrayal of helplessness.
The Mass-manipulative Model
This model is usually associated with the Frankfurt School of the 1930s-1950s and with the work of Marcuse in particular. Their starting point is the phenomena of the “mass” which by the 20th century existed at all levels. This was the advent of the mass society (that is, a form of social organization in which the informal bonds of community had effectively broken-down under the blitz of mass economic production). In this complex, persistently-changing world the mass media are considered to be the one social institution that can help the individual to make sense of the world. The mass media became a tool of the ruling class to intentionally manipulate and control the minds of the masses, effectively removing the possibility of critical thought from them and perpetuating their subservience. It presents a hazy, one-dimensional view of the nature of society and social relationships that supports a certain world-view that supports the Capitalist system.
Pakistan has a large history of being manipulated by the military dictators who according to their discretion kept media under emergency. These dictators define social reality by imposing their ideology, through their control of the media, on a mass of socially-isolated individuals and by excluding other possible interpretations from exposure through the media.
The most palpable evidence for the model comes in relation to patterns of media ownership. As we have seen, newspaper, television and radio, books and magazine publishing is dominated by a relatively small number of owners. Where competition between companies exists it is likely to be over market share rather than over fundamental ideological disagreements about the nature of society. On the contrary, all of the major forms of media conform to a relatively narrow, consensual view of social reality that can be characterized as politically and socially traditionalist. There is evidence to suggest that owners do try to directly control the content of the media, as Lord Northcliffe stated, “God made people read so that I could fill their brains with the fact and later tell them who to love, whom to hate and what to think.” Selling is at the heart of the mass media and has been since its beginning. Recently the Omore ice cream was launched in Karachi. To win sales from Walls, Omore was publicized in various soaps.
The Hegemonic Model
The hegemonic model represents an attempt to create a much suppler Marxist model of news production and media content, one that avoids some of the rigidities of the manipulative model while also being highly critical of the role of the mass media in Capitalist society. Antonio Gramcsi used it to describe the ideological leadership that is achieved through winning consent rather than through force or coercion.
From this perspective, the role of the mass media, as a cultural institution is not to help maintain the position of any individual or group. Rather, its role is to police the cultural system and to help maintain rule boundaries. It reflects the values of the ruling class not because of the intervention of the owners but because of the fact that most of the editors and journalists are drawn from the ruling class. One way this is carried-out is through what hegemonic Marxists call “agenda setting” (certain facts are prioritized more than others which are considered trivial) and “Gate keeping” (certain facts are deliberately ignored and kept under cover).
According to functionalists media plays an important role in the society. It occupies leisure time, helps in the socialization process, it enforces social norms; confers status and media increases social solidity by presenting common view of a society. Socializing can promote religious as well as patriotic interactions, uniting believers. Media often endorse proper behavior by showing what happens to people who violate societal expectations and mass media confer status on people, organizations, and public issues and singles out one issue or person to become significant from thousands of others.
Media and secondary socialization
The Mass Media assists communication between the sender of information and the children. Media, especially television, effect children’s and adult’s behavior in different ways. Some programs like Sesame Street or Dora the explorer are very helpful with lots of information for the children. Children can learn to speak and also do things such as singing, reading and pronouncing words in English. The media can teach norms and values by way of symbolic reward and punishment for different kinds of behavior as represented in the media. It stresses on what is acceptable and what is not. Another view is that it is a learning procedure whereby we all learn how to act in particular situations and the expectations which go with a given role or status in a society. Thus the media are continually offering pictures of life and models of behavior in advance of actual experience. (McQuail, 2005)
Media and Sensationalism
Whenever image building has been in question, the media has at all times been an exclusive and sophisticated ground to play on. However, these days, the media has become only the storytelling medium and journalists have become the key players in tale-making and identity building. Sensationalism in media is commonly defined as changing the emphasis from facts to sensation that is how the news is conveyed or reported now focuses more on sensationalism than actual research. However, now in Pakistan media is known only for exploitation and manipulation of the issues that are of national interest and consequently, the public has come to distrust the media of Pakistan. Going to media for your daily dose of news and entertainment is a painful yet unavoidable task, unavoidable because you have to turn yourself to at least one of the mediums daily and know where you stand, and painful because you cannot just accept that the media is treating society so harshly that any observer from any part of the world is reasonable in stereotyping us Pakistanis as ‘human cockroaches’ or ‘terrorists’. It is a delusion that media is playing a chief role in bringing about a positive change in society, or pressing or trying to press all the people in power to protect human rights, or even bringing about, or triggering the long awaited revolution. The reality is, that media most of the time attacks on the masses emotionally to divert their attention from the actual matter that should be catered. Taking for example Raymond Davis case: Mohsin Hamid’s article “The game preserve” in Dawn on 13th February, 2011 compared Americans to hunters who pay people with ‘diplomatic immunity’ to kill Pakistanis; “So what is going on? Who is Raymond Davis, and what are people like him doing in Pakistan? I’ve read articles likening him to Rambo and RoboCop. But I believe another Hollywood film franchise metaphor is more apt. Predator. The Raymond Davis affair has brought home what should have been obvious to us Pakistanis for a long time. Pakistan has become a game preserve, a place where deadly creatures are nurtured, and where hunters pay for the chance to kill them.”
How is that, that whenever something goes wrong in the world, we are blamed? The international media portrays Pakistanis as a nation of people devoid of moral standards. And in turn Pakistani media adds all the spices to the recipes of international media and strengthens the bias by giving authentications against its own people. It is true that “a good government with an adversary press becomes a great government.” But an oppositional or adversarial role does not mean borrowing the viewpoint of others. Adversary press is a press that is ready to face those in power for the sake of those who are oppressed, exploited. Does Pakistan have such a media? Does it even fulfill the most basic thing that media caters to: mass communication?
In the days following this headline an article, “A day of thrilling developments likely,” by Amir Wasim was published on Dawn.com, which sketched out that the meetings had been full of “feverish political activities which showed no sign of slowing down.” The article went on to talk about the “fireworksâ€¦ predicted to start in the courtroom” with “part of the tense drama, played out at a meeting between Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and the army chief.”
This is not the only example of how the headlines in the newspapers say something and the actual article says something totally irrelevant. Unfortunately as the media’s cape is growing so is the wave of sensationalism. In this era every news is the ‘breaking news’ and every story is offered in the most dramatic and sensational way possible, whether it is justified or not.
As Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) came into being, it was believed that it is competent enough to reinstate the democratic pride of media as well as the people but in turn big media was taken to be business with big money. One example of this is the talk shows; to attract more viewership the appreciated talk shows have now turned into cockfights. It is true that every debate begins with the people and it progresses but then ends in abstraction. Anchor, having the last word, uses the opportunity to convey a personal message; sometimes summing up the fight and sometimes giving an absolute irrelevant end to the show.
Another example of extreme sensationalism and emotional stimulant in Pakistani media is of the murder case of Sialkot brothers. All the horrible things that were done to the brothers were recorded and broadcasted on various TV channels repeatedly to arouse the public. The headlines used to describe the case were also emotionally arousing which stirred up almost everyone, from the users of Facebook who made pages to condemn the act, to those who came out on streets to protest.
Also the fact that any and every footage is now broadcasted on television has given an edge to the wrong-doers, who now can make a video of anything and present their deed as something very noble and get it broadcasted on all the news channels. This is the media giving them new ideas to worship their god of grudges and distortion.
A lot of unrest is created and a lot of problems have worsened because of the sensationalism in reporting and selective reporting of certain issues by the media. A great deal of the mass media produces very one sided views on terrorism and extremism and also where Pakistan’s relationship with India is concerned. The ICC World Cup 2011 semifinal that was played between Pakistan and India was termed as ‘war’ and ‘Mohali takkar’ (Mohali Clash) instead of a game of cricket; many called it ‘war of peace.’
Just to make stories juicier, print and electronic media play around with certain facts and inflate issues. It is highly unfortunate that the Pakistani media has tilted towards making more and more money and for that focuses more on sensational issues, because they attract the most viewership and hence makes more profit. The media’s job is to make information available to the masses, and not to mislead them or spur violence and extreme measures. Due to corrupted and distorted information that media presents it is very much held responsible for extremist reactions and behaviors which are increasing by the day.
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