mass media of communication
mass media of communicationthe techniques and institutions through which centralized providers broadcast or distribute information and other forms of symbolic communication to large, heterogeneous and geographically dispersed audiences. The first medium of mass communication arrived with the invention of moveable type in the mid-l5th century, but costs, government restrictions and low levels of literacy kept readerships both small and relatively specialized until the second half of the 19th-century, when the technologies and organizational forms devised to produce and sell goods were applied to the marketing and distribution of information and entertainment. First, the production of books and newspapers was transformed, and then in the 20th century, came the invention of the gramophone, radio, the cinema, and TELEVISION and video.
Today, the mass media are highly important economic, political and social institutions, in developed as well as developing societies. They are often large-scale organizations whose ownership is concentrated in the hands of the state or in the hands of a relatively small number of proprietors and shareholders, often with financial interests in several media. They make a significant contribution to the Gross National Product and exert a central influence on cultural forms. The occupational culture of media workers stresses the role they play in providing entertainment, information, and upholding the principles of free speech and the right to know, all of which are depicted as cornerstones of democratic societies. Critics, however, argue that the media do not operate simply as neutral channels of communication, but are actors in the cultural and political process and structurally allied to the powerful on whose behalf they can sometimes be seen as engineering consent. In reality, the influence of the mass media is complex and many-sided. See also SOCIOLOGY OF MASS COMMUNICATIONS, ADVERTISING, SEMIOTICS, CULTURAL STUDIES, GLASGOW MEDIA GROUP, CONSUMER CULTURE, POPULAR CULTURE, MASS SOCIETY, LEISURE, MORAL PANIC, HEGEMONY.