Mass media doesn’t exist for a single purpose. With its evolution, more and more uses have developed and the role it plays in our lives has increased greatly. Wright characterizes seven functions of mass media that offer insight into its role in our lives.
Functions of Mass Media
- Information and Education
- Political Awareness
- Cultural Transmission
- Catalyst to Development
Information and Education
Mass media carry a lot of information which are essential for our day-to-day life. We get examination results, weather forecasts, current affairs, traffic regulations, alerts, precautions, government policies, etc. from mass media.
The core of the media’s information function is performed by the media content called news. Good media try to carry accurate, objective, and complete information since biased or incomplete reports will keep the audience away from the media.
Education is systematically organized information with predefined objectives. Schools and colleges are the primary sources of formal education in our society. After finishing their formal education, members of society depend on mass media for life-long education.
They provide society with updated educational content on a wide variety of subjects at the lowest cost. News-based contents like reports, features, photos, cartoons, and editorials and nonnews content like advertisements educate people about the newest trends in their surroundings.
Mass media assist the formal education system also, by publicizing information on educational programs, publishing special educational supplements, and inspiring society to acquire higher education. Educational supplements published by various Malayalam newspapers, educational television, and radio channels are examples of educational services of mass media.
Mass media function as an agency for socialization. Socialization means empowering people to acquire norms and experiences of the group as a whole, to maintain cultural consensus and communal harmony. It is through mass media that we know the cultural and social norms of various groups in our society.
On the basis of this information, individuals honor others and behave according to common values and thus create an integrated society.
We all need the entertainment to break the monotony of our hectic, stressful life and divert our attention from the troubles and tensions. All media have entertainment content. Newspapers publish cartoons, comics, puzzles, and special weekend supplements.
The lion’s share of magazine content such as short stories, novels, satires, and comics is also intended to entertain the audience. Movies are another big stock for entertainment. Broadcast media such as television and radio primarily concentrate on entertainment functions through their programs based on sports, film, serials, music, dance, comedy, animation, and fashion shows.
Nowadays, entertainment has become a big industry comprising motion picture companies, music firms, theatre groups, and game developers.
If you analyze the mass media, be it television or newspapers, most of their content, especially news, is centered on politics in our society. We see our leaders criticize officials and political leaders and advocate for better living conditions during panel discussions on television.
Similarly, journalists expose corruption, show up developments, and condemn or praise political activities considering their merits. Actually, these actions of the media make our democracy vibrant.
Thus mass media assume a key role in setting the agenda for the entire political system and policymaking by forming public opinion on various issues. This process is called the agenda-setting function. Mass media do this by highlighting some issues and avoiding others.
There are instances in which business tycoons and political leaders misuse this agenda-setting ability of media to keep their vested interests.
Mass media are the bridge between our past and present. They report day-to-day affairs which will become the history of tomorrow. The best records of modern history are newspapers of yesteryears. We get our cultural traditions from history and we follow the best of them.
In keeping our culture flowing, media play a vital role. It focuses on the genuine aspects of our culture and points out the undesirable trends. o media have any role in introducing new lifestyles and values? The answer is certainly affirmative.
We all imbibe new fashions from films and fashion magazines and television programs. You might have watched various programs that introduce fashions, gadgets, food items, vehicles, and the like.
In short, media enrich our culture in two ways:
- Transmitting culture and heritage from generation to generation.
- Introducing and spreading cultural values across various segments of the society.
Catalyst to Development
You might have seen reports in newspapers urging the authorities to build new roads and bridges in your locality or campaigning for the betterment of the living conditions of underprivileged classes. Mass media report problems faced by people in different walks of life and make the administrators aware of them.
Media also make people aware of their rights, the details of government subsidies, development policies, etc. They point out the merits and demerits of certain projects. In short, the media support development either being the advocates of government-sponsored development or critics of development projects which need to be amended.
This development-oriented function of media is termed Development Communication. Development Communication has been recognized as a specialized area in communication studies and research.