The media in the context of this essay can be defined as a channel of communication by which information is transferred through print or electronic means to the society. Besides information the media also educate, entertain and promote commerce in the context of its operation. This to a great extent has aided in the understanding and perception of a globalised world within reach coupled with advance in technology.
However the media here is classified under the following operational categories:
1. The electronic Media which consist of Radio, Television and cable networks.
2. The Print media such as Newspapers, Magazines and journals of various forms.
3. New media of online and mobile phone networks.
Although the print media has been the oldest form of communication, the introduction of the electronics media has not been able to diminish its ability to effectively inform but has enhanced it the more. On the other hand the new media is a perfection of the electronic and the print media through the use of broadband and mobile technology within reach of the individual.
Operators of the media include the government who create the enabling environment for the media to thrive through regulation. Others are individuals and organisation that have the means of setting up such media for commercial gains and the public. All of them subscribe to guidelines and regulations governing the establishment of such media.
Brian O’Neill et al, describe two types of media namely the public service media and the independent media. He asserts that “In the contemporary context, institutions like public service media and independent media regulation are central to defending the public interest involved in media literacy promotion”.
Over the years the media has been influenced by “social factors, specific policy interventions, regulatory conditions and market forces”, based on rights of expression which is fundamental in building and sustenance of a democratic society.
The activities of the media industry is public oriented and as such do not just stop at information but entertainment. The RTE which is the dominant broadcasting media in Ireland is a Public media and non-profit organisation whose functions include providing up-to-date news, current affairs and entertainment “providing comprehensive and cost effective free-to-air television, radio and online services, which are of the highest quality and are impartial”.
However, the concentration of this essay would be on the electronic media of radio and Television which has its sustaining power from the public license tax, while mention would be made where relevant to the other forms.
Commercial and Public Sectors:
The creation of regulatory organs for the media industry makes their activities to focus on the community which has a say on how the media is run. According to Brian O’Neill et al, the role of regulatory policy is to safeguard public interests, such as cultural
diversity, the right to information, media pluralism, the protection of minors, and consumer protection. Also the media have the obligation to empower and strengthen the democratic structures of the society. This is further supported by the EU’s recognition of the values of the internet as well as strategies for a total realisation of “democratic potential of the information society and the development of appropriate public spaces and information as a public good”.
Funding of the media depends on the frame work that establish it, some depends on Radio and TV license fees which is a public tax while others, like the independent media are commercial oriented thereby sustaining itself on advertising fees and subscriptions. Other means of sustenance include sales from publications and shares to the public.
Regulation and Censorship:
Today countries are more unified in the pursuit for a free and democratic media based on several legislations aimed at regulating and control of the media and its contents. The EU’s policy is centered on the citizens’ rights to protection, democracy, rule of law, right to information and freedom of expression. Deregulation in itself has created a broad base media that is limitlessly enhanced with improved technology thereby reducing the world to a global village where distance is eliminated completely. Ford foundation report described effect of deregulation as leading “giant media corporations to seek greater scale and integration, acquiring vast amounts of content and the varied distribution channels needed to market that content”. Content here connotes competition and quality of information that is given to the public and the level of censorship inherent.
In the past governments have used censorship to suppress sensitive information from reaching the public, while propaganda has been used to canvass support for political adventures between nations from its public. Consequently most situation where censorship has prevailed, democracy has been absent with dictatorship thriving especially in communist countries and African democracies. This has also shaped reaction from the public either in support or against such. Today this is still being used to a varying degree to protect nations and the public. Such include those term offensive and the ones that are un-offensive in content.
The US Iraq war is a common example where the issue of propaganda has played an important role in the escalation of the war. Writing on global issues the author noted that “People's support was gained due to propaganda”.
The regulatory bodies to a great extent make such rules that protect the rights of the individual to expression and the consumer who are the public. In its bid to promote freedom of expression and information, the EU also insist on transparency and reliability as crucial elements of human rights within our information space. This rights include affordable access to ICT infrastructure, information as a public service, standards and strategies of reliability, flexible and transparent processing of information. This also considers the new media, its access and usage in communication.
The Impact of Technology:
To a great extent the new media has revolutionized the information dissemination and standards that reduced the world to easy access be establishing virtual communities through the broadband technology. In his writing Brian O’Neill et al, assert that “The massive changes in technological development, whether through mobile communications, digital radio and television, user generated internet content or the convergence of delivery platforms for media content, make enormous demands on users to keep pace with technological change”. The world has become a close community today that one can access and publish information from the comfort of one’s home or anywhere with either mobile broadband or phone. The new media combines the elements of the oldest form; the print media, the audio visual qualities of radio and television into a new digital form. The internet a wonderful media is fast spreading to every society and home spanning every age, infant to the aged and ease enabled by widespread computer literacy today. Ford reports posits that “the advent of cable, satellite and digital technologies, have created new industries and revolutionized old ones”.
A close study of the impact of technology can be summarised with the following statement by O’Neil et al; “Technological change and media convergence has also led to a change in the context for media consumption. The once relatively homogenous domestic media environment, based around established platforms of print, radio and television, is now made more complex, and more perhaps more accessible, through cheaper personal computers, mobile phones, MP3 players, games consoles, DVD players and televisions. Consumption is increasingly a personalised and individual experience, located around and increasingly beyond the home”.
The impact on the Society:
The way that people communicate today is at variance to what obtains in the 60’s or 70’s. This is the consequence of a dynamic technologically changing world and improved world order. The word deregulation and its establishment liberalized the media that the public now have a say or voice in their democratic world; for they now seek through this medium to participate in how their society is run. According to Ford report the public now have “a mission of reminding political leaders, the press and public that the media have unique privileges that carry corresponding responsibilities to help sustain democracy and civil society”. More so, the established regulations have also given protection to the consumer and further given the society the rights to expression through the various media available to him.
In the area of ownership deregulation brought with it increase public participation in media ownership and rights of the individual to participate in management of information. It also to certain degree reduced the government censorship of content in media communication.
Although there has been significant improvement in media trends a section of the society is still not able to avail themselves this technology. These groups of the society are the poor and those in remote rural communities. According to Ford “Cable and satellite fees, which for years increased faster than the general rate of inflation, are beyond the means of many poorer Americans, effectively cutting them off from the broadband revolution”. This situation is worst in the 3rd world countries where developments have relatively been slow and retrogressive as a result of conflicts and political interests of leaders rather than that of their society.
O’Neil et al, maintains that “as technologies become cheaper and proliferate, media such as television and video games are consumed and more internet time spent in relatively private settings, with fewer controls and generally less supervision or monitoring compared to traditional media”. This fact applies to urbanised society and among those who have the means to these technologies. Today an individual can sit in the comfort of his home, car, office, beach, air; publish and access any information with recourse to the old order.
Trends in media activities today is a world of constant change, upgrades, new models and packages depending on how we look at it. The writer believes that there is no end to the diverse nature of future developments in the media industry as long as there is a sustained urge by man for knowledge
The consequence of media proliferation has brought with it excessive knowledge and the society is better aware than before.
1. Brian O’Neill, Cliona Barnes. (July, 2008) Media Literacy and the Public Sphere: A Contextual Study for Public Media Literacy Promotion in Ireland..
Centre for Social and Educational Research Dublin Institute of Technology [internet] Available from: http://bai.ie/pdfs/dit_media_literacy_report_2009.pdf [Accessed 7 March 2010]
2. Ford Foundation Report, Volume 37, No. 2. (2007) Plugging in the Public Interest. [internet] Available from: http://www.fordfound.org/issues [Accessed 10 March 2010]
3. STUDENT HANDOUT.( 2010) Censorship in the Media [internet] Available from: http://www.mediaawareness.ca/english/resources/educational/handouts/tobacco_advertising/censorship_in_media.cfm
[Accessed 10 March 2010]
4. Anup Shah.(March 30, 2003) Media Spin and Official Propaganda During Gulf War in1991[internet] Available from: http://www.globalissues.org/article/400/media-propaganda-and-iraq [Accessed 10 March 2010]