Media Theories-Introduction to Mass Communication-Lecture Handout, Exercises for Introduction to Mass Communication. Birla Institute of Technology and Science

Introduction to Mass Communication

Description: Main topics from this course are media effects, effects of tv and radio on society, communication and culture, film media and sub continent, media management and media theories, public relations, root of communication and print media. This lecture includes: Media, Theories, Democratic, Societies, Authoritarian, Governmental, Control, Printing, Libertarian, Journalists
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Introduction to Mass Communication – MCM 101
©Copyright Virtual University of Pakistan
The term media theory refers to a model that explains the relationship between media and social
reality. Media as an enterprise holds a unique status – from one way it is like an industry which gives its
products and service and earn money but from another way media is supposed to talk about society, people,
attitude, interaction, guidance and the most crucial and sensitive, criticism.
The criticism media does-on individuals, business sector and the governments, pinches many in many ways.
If media does not perform this function, it is rendered redundant.
How media is seen, controlled and dealt with, will be outlined in the following paragraphs through the study
of four distinct theories which generally command on media behaviour and its outlook in different societies.
Authoritarian Theory
Long before the democratic societies could think of matters pertaining to freedom of speech, there
existed a thought that the emergence of media should not challenge the writ of the government which were
more in dictatorial form and less they looked like democracies. The media was forced to remain under state
control. It had following features which, in non democratic governments still rule on media.
Direct governmental control of the media.
Typical to pre-democratic societies, where the government consists of a very limited and small
No printing that could undermine the established authority
No offense to existing political set up
The government may punish anyone who questions the state's ideology.
Media professionals are not allowed to have any independence within the media organization.
Registration of the media by the state.
This approach is designed to protect the established social order, setting clear limits to media freedom and
ensure that it is not the media which must talk about people and their problems in any manner.
Libertarian Theory
This is just in contrast to the authoritarian approach to media. Here media enjoys an absolute freedom
of expression. Its prominent features go like this:
Competitive exposure of alternative viewpoints.
Attacks on the government's policies are accepted and even encouraged: the media as a watchdog
Journalists and media professionals ought to have full autonomy within the media organization.
There is no explicit connection between the government and the media.
The press is free from censorship
It is accountable to the law for any consequences of its activities that infringe other individuals’
rights or the legitimate claims of the
The protection of dignity, reputation, property, privacy, moral development of individuals,
evens the security of the state no infringement accepted from media.
Such an extensive freedom is also a problem as all people have the right to speak and receive information
no one takes responsibility of the wrong doings. The ethics in multicultural or pluralistic societies
vary from place to place; hence there is always complaint against the media of each other’s society.
Soviet Theory
Introduction to Mass Communication – MCM 101
©Copyright Virtual University of Pakistan
With the revolution in Russia in 1917, and practice of Marxism, there appeared a very different
approach to deal with media. The media was tied to overall communist ideas and defined in a very different
way. The theory to control media possessed following features:
Closely tied to the communist ideology.
The media is collective agitator, propagandist and educator in the building of communism.
No private ownership of the media.
The government is superior to the media institutions.
The media is supposed to be serious
The soviet theory does not favor free expression, but proposes a positive role for the media, the society and
the world.
Social Responsibility Theory
This theory keeps certain areas free for the Press but at the same time puts lot of responsibility on
media. As discussed in the beginning that the media is not just seen as an enterprise like others in the
business sector
of any
society, but due to its unique nature, society expects a particular role which media
must play in getting rid of social evils, educating people, criticizing government policies and exposing other
wrong doings in a society. The sense of responsibility has been emphasized more in this theory as compared
to any other.
Media has certain obligations to society:
It must show truth, accuracy, objectivity, and balance
The media should be free but self-regulated (codes of conduct, and ethics)
The media is pluralistic: diversity of society, various points of view, forum for ideas
The media ownership is a public trust. The journalist is accountable to his audience / readers.
Theories and open debate on media
Not confined to the extent of theories, the media always faces (and is open to) criticism and social
scientists always keep this debate open as how best media could be used to improve functioning of civil
society and promotion of democratic sense and practices.
In their view If people's knowledge, understandings, capabilities, and actions are manufactured, it
simultaneously follows that they can be developed, improved, and individualized in proper (ideal-
democratic) circumstances.
Among these circumstances, proper communication networks are inevitable.
Because of new developments, the relationship among the state, private sectors, markets, and civil society
profoundly changed during the 1980s.
In politically and economically advanced societies the change is based on new information and
telecommunications technologies, which affected the media industries in terms of economic restructuring,
and on a new social and political environment, as reflected by media contents.
A basic question is: Who gave media the right to do the things they do?
Like to investigate wrongdoings by public officials, to delve into the private lives of public figures and to
report on the shortcomings of government and institutions are all forms of the criticism media face all over
the world.
Purpose of talking on this topic is to make people linked with mass media to understand the relationship
between media and society and how the media is understood by the scholars in the society.
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