Had Any Decisive ‘influence’ On Everyday Life During The Last Essay, Research Paper
Media are channels through which information is transmitted. The media includes: television, radio, films, videos, computers, books, and magazines.Janowitz (1968) states that: “mass communications comprise the institutions and techniques by which specialized groups employ technological devices (press, radio, television, radio, films, etc.) to disseminate symbolic content to large, heterogenous, and widely dispersed audiences.” Mass communications are uniquely a feature of modern society; their development has accompanied an increase in the scale and complexity of societal activities and arrangements, rapid social change, technological innovation, rising personal income and standard of life, the decline of some traditional forms of control and authority. There is an association between the development of mass media and social change, although the degree and direction of this association is still unknown. Many of the consequences, either harmful or beneficial, which have been attributed to mass communications are almost certainly due to other tendencies in society. Few sociologists would deny the importance of mass communication as a major factor in the production and distribution of social knowledge and social imagery in modern societies. Whether television or radio has had a decisive influence on everyday life has been questioned by sociologists, psychologists and many other professions. The mass media provide an instrument for influencing people both more powerful and more flexible than any previously existing. Therefore, controls are placed on those operating mass communications, to ensure that laws and social norms are abided by. Technological determinists argue that the media play an important part in modern society, whereas empiricists or pluralists believe that social pressures overrule any independent effect. “Propaganda, propaganda, propaganda,” Hitler said after the unsuccessful Munich putsch in 1923. “All that matters is propaganda.” The Nazis were fascinated with the improvements in technology and mass communication in the USA and Britain. They saw radio as a means of demagogy. When Hitler came to power in 1933, a group of ‘Frankfurt School’ writers argued that the roots of the fascist or ‘authoritarian’ personality were to be found in the the nature of the family. However, in explaining what made a population potentially fascist, or why there was no revolt before the Nazis regime began to use widespread force, they also saw the press, radio, films, and even comics and popular music as reinforcing these early influences. The new mass media strengthened the habits and attitudes which made people susceptible to fascist arguments. By the 1920’s a generation of reformers who had been civil servants during the war were experienced in organising the centralised distribution of resources. For a brief period after the war the government accepted a more interventionist role. The BBC was formed in 1922. John Reith, the Director General of the BBC was tested during the General Strike in 1926. He knew that the survival of the Corporation depended on its conduct during the crisis. The strike created a national audience for broadcasting, and although there were only two million license holders these represented a far greater number of listeners, and the ‘communal listening’ was a feature of the crisis as people gathered in halls and outside shops to hear the news. This shows that the public’s everyday life had already been affected by the increased use of radios. During the General Strike the radio had a strong influnce on the general public due to the government’s intervention of the issues transmitted on the radio. In 1935 it was supposed to include talks by a communist and a fascist – Harry Pollitt and Sir Oswald Mosley, in a series on the British constitution. The Foreign Office protested, arguing that Pollitt could not be allowed to broadcast as he had recently made a speech supporting armed revolution. The BBC responded by referring the matter to the Governors, who declared that, “More harm than good could be done if a policy were adopted of muzzling speeches.” A BBC official told the Foreign Office, “We can’t chuck Pollitt unless, under our charter, we are given instruction from the government that he is not to broadcast.” Eventually, the Postmaster General wrote to Reith pointing out that as the Corporation licence was due for renewal, it would be wiser to comply with government demands. The BBC was not even allowed to state why the interview was cancelled. The information that the public received from the radio was therefore biased towards the government, and the “whole picture” was not heard by the listeners. John Reith also tried to use his control of broadcasting technology to wield great moral power over the nation. Being a Scottish Calvinist engineer, he wanted programmes to elevate and educate listeners, and this moral influence was directed especially at the family as a cohesive social form. Previously, solitary men sat with their headphones on, listening to the wireless. The BBC transformed these listening habits, and the radio became the focal point of family life, with the entire family listening to it most nights. The BBC gained the reputation as an essential institution of state. The influence of the BBC declind in 1931, when the listeners became tired of Reith’s pious and patronizing programmes. The listeners tuned into Radio Luxembourg and Radio Normandie for light music and soap operas. Therefore the power (or influence) of BBC radio weakened and the public made the decision to tune to another station. This suggests that although the BBC tried to wield power through technology, people are clearly able to resist this social power. Around all technologies there is generally some battle going on for power, and in the everyday life of the media, there is a dominant class which was the government in the case of the BBC. They used the radio to extend their power over the audience. Between 1939-1945, the new Director General, Frederick Ogilvie, saw a need for BBC broadcasts to meet diverse audiences. This led to the transmission of light music e.g. Vera Lynn, and a “Forces” service. Therefore, the public were no longer being influenced so greatly by the radio, due to the increased choice of radio stations. (BBC Radio 2, 3, and 4 were introduced in 1967). The media audience wants to resist being controlled, and use the media as a tool for personal empowerment. The listener chooses which radio station to listen to, which will only reinforce the views and inclinations that they already have. The radio declined when the television boomed after the 1953 Coronation. During the late 1950’s and 1960’s, radio became more background technology, even with the invention of cheap, portable radios from the USA and Japan. The influence of the television has been studied intensively ever since. The television is viewed as the most important media technology in the U.K., U.S. and Japan, offering entertainment, news, information etc. There are also more recent extended applications such as videos and cable satellites. Technological determinists believe that the television has altered the world, and it is an “evil thing that rots the minds of youth.” The television evolved from a combination of the radio and the cinema. Early television had the problem of synchronizing sounds and pictures, which was solved in 1927, leading to “talkies” and newsreels. Primarily, John Reith (Director General) was not enthusiastic about the television, as he believed it was not good for morally “improving” the masses. Experimental trials were carried out between 1936 and 1939 with two to three hour daily broadcasts. However the long term effects on society were difficult to predict in 1939. Commercial interests were jealous of the BBC’s success with the Coronation, and advertisers lobbied Parliament for a commercial television channel. The BBC raised objections,and Lord Reith told the House of Lords that bringing U.S. television to Britain is like “bringing in smallpox and the bubonic plague.” Once again, the BBC had a great deal of pressure placed on them from the government to present “factual” information. The television reports on the General Strike of 1926, were controlled by the government in the same way as the radio was controlled, by broadcasting the government’s viewpoint only. During the Suez Crisis of 1956, the BBC refused the government’s request to support its invasion policy. The BBC wanted to present a balance by presenting the viewers with the Egyptian view, as well as the government’s. The broadcasting of the Falkland’s War of 1982, and the Miner’s Strike of 1984-1985 were also controlled. Therefore, once again, the information the viewers received was limited and biased. The viewing public is largely sceptical, and can identify government efforts at censorship, but many people developed prejudiced views and attitudes of certain situations. It is the attitudes that people bring to the television from other social environments and encounters, that mostly explain their subsequent behaviour. From a psychological viewpoint, when television first appeared, it was predicted that it would lead children to lose interest in books and school, to become intellectually lazy, more isolated, passive or, alternatively, hyperactive; and families would talk less. But television also has the potential to educate and inform. In a survey of 7-12 year olds Cullingford (1984), found that 80% said they watched television the previous night and typically watched between three and six programmes. Many 9-year-olds and almost all older children, at sometime watched after midnight. It was found that middle-class children watch somewhat less television, young adolescents watch more than other children. The affect of television violence has been studied thoroughly, which showed that 80% of television programmes are estimated to contain violence, increasing to 93% at weekends. A child watching four hours a day may see 13 000 murders by the age of 16. Studies have therefore been carried out to see if these findings make children more aggressive. For example, an 18-year-old student walked into a beautician’s in Arizona and shot five people. He explained that the idea came from news stories about a man who shot eight nurses. Also, a 9-year-old was raped by three older girls who had watched a similar crime in a film. In the case of a 15-year-old who shot his neighbour in the course of a burglary, the defence presented at his trial was that his addiction to television distorted his understanding of reality. Therefore, people do copy particular acts of violence, and television influences our norms and attitudes. As television characters are often seen as heroes who gain respect and other rewards through their actions, they are especially likely to be imitated. It may also act as a cue to aggressive behaviour, through desensitisation, disinhibition or arousal. Also, aggressive people may simply choose to watch violent programmes more. Friedrich and Stein found that aggressive-prone children are likely to become even more aggressive after watchimg violent television. The USA Surgeon General’s Report concluded that television violence is influential, as many as 25% of child viewers may be affected. On the other hand, Howitt and Cumberbatch (1974) concluded from their own study of over 2000 children and 300 other studies, that there was no direct effect of media violence, though there is considerable disagreement between different studies. Selfe (1987) concludes that violence can never be considered the sole cause of delinquent behaviour, it may reinforce or affect those already prone to such tendencies. These case studies are extremes of the effects of television violence, but the media also acts as a source of social stereotypes. Media present a stereotyped picture of life, which may lead to undesirable prejudices (and, in turn, aggression). Children’s programmes in particular tend to exaggerate stereotypes, presenting “goodies” and “baddies,” and children often have their only contact with some minority groups through the television. For adults, the confirmation of their stereotypes may make them feel more comfortable, programmes which try to present life against common perceptions may be unpopular. It is still the case that women, ethnic groups, the disabled, certain professions, the old and the physically unattractive are presented according to accepted stereotypes. However, the question is whether such biases affect the viewer. Greenfield (1984) found that “Sesame Street’s” use of ethnic and disabled minorities has had positive affects on children, particularly those from the minority groups who feel greater cultural pride and self confidence. Certain events are over-reported, such as violent or sex crimes, and this acts to alter public opinion. Cohen (1965) suggests that the media creates moral panics by widely reporting an initially minor event, which leads to further detailed reports, identification of causes or troublemakers. One example is the mods and rockers of the 1960’s. Studies have also been carried out to study the effects of television on political behaviour. Blumler (1970) showed that television had little discernible influence over the viewer. Later studies, while not controverting this, found some measurable influence on information about party policies and the persuasibilty of those with initially low party-political motivations or attachments. Of particular concern is the broadcasting and handling of the news and current affairs. Lewis and Rowe (1994) present two opposing arguments, as Lewis claims that the news is currently biased in a negative direction. Rowe counter-argues that any attempt to correct this would present a misleading picture. In conclusion, there are two views on the influence of the media. The first of which is the technological determinist view, which states that the media has the power to determine how people must live their lives. On the other hand, the empiricists view is that social pressures overrule any independent effect. Viewers of the television, and listeners to the radio are not a passive audience, and are able to switch the television or radio off. Therefore the television and radio are capable of influencing everyday life, but this depends strongly on the individual. REFERENCES Berelson, B. and Janowitz, M. (1966). Public Opinion And Communication. 2nd Edition. The Free Press, New York City. McQuail, D. (1969). Towards A Sociology Of Mass Communications. 1st Edition. Collier-Macmillan Limited, Great Britain. Flanagan, C. (1994). A Level Psychology. 1st Edition. Letts Education, Great Britain. Corner, J. and Hawthorn, J. (1980). Communication Studies. 1st Edition. Edward Arnold, London. Curran, J. and Seaton, J. (1994). Power Without Responsibility. 4th Edition. Routledge, Great Britain.