Media Theories-Introduction to Mass Communication-Lecture Handout, Exercises for Mass Communication. Birla Institute of Technology and Science
mobit16 August 2012

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

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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 an...
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Question No 1

Introduction to Mass Communication – MCM 101 VU

©Copyright Virtual University of Pakistan 135


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 ruling-class.

• 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 society.

• The protection of dignity, reputation, property, privacy, moral development of individuals, groups, minorities, 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 freely, but 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 VU

©Copyright Virtual University of Pakistan 13 6

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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