The Media as a Social Institution Introduction This Study Session will introduce the concept of mass media and provide justification on why media serves as a social institution. Attempt will also be made to describe the types of media and also examine the views of different sociological perspectives on the media as a social institution.
For example, the choice of which television programs you watch. The next day or that night, you may discuss the episode with someone else you know who watches it as well, or even choose to post on a discussion board that is dedicated to the program. Where you shop or what you buy are also other media-advertised activities that bring people together who share common interest. This is no longer the case. With the emergence of mass media towards the end of the 20th century through televised programming, movies and radio, and accelerated further with the booming growth of the Internet in recent decades; mass media is now becoming the dominant social institution, catering for the needs of society and educating its citizens. In a fast-moving and mobile modern society, mass media provides a medium easily accessed through technology, making the traditional social institutions of family, church, government or school redundant in their former roles. -
3. Order and stability is provided by the media through scheduled programming, affecting how people arrange their daily routines and ultimately affecting cultural lifestyle through what we wear, listen to, say and do day to day. The Internet, a vast source of instantaneous information, now fulfills an educational role in society, catering an individual’s personal preferences and ideals. 4. With this model of media increasingly being used as societies moral guidance and support, we need to ensure that it is monitored and critically examined, so as to ensure the messages and knowledge gained from it is meaningful and of benefit to society. -
5. Mass media is used to trap viewers by different companies in a way that they do not have any means to escape. The media industry is always doing their best to find new and ingenious ways to load more and more advertising into the daily media diets of resistant consumers.
The most obvious function of mass media is to entertain, but it also reaffirms proper behaviour by showing what happens to people who act in a way that violates societal expectations. For instance, it plays a critical role in shaping perceptions about the risks of substance use, although not necessarily in a positive fashion. The mass media confers status on people, organizations and public issues, for instance the term “celebrity” is always conferred on those who are in the movie, fashion and music industry, but in reality anyone who has done something great and worthwhile should be given such a title. The media also collects and distributes facts about a variety of events and define what constitutes a fact, to be reported. In defining these events, the media reflects the values and orientation of the decision makers within media organizations. 2 Conflict Theory Theorists here, emphasize that the media reflects and even exacerbate many of the divisions of our society and the world, including those based on gender, race, ethnicity and social class, in particular they point out the media’s ability to decide what gets transmitted. Gatekeeping is a term generally related to the media which means a situation whereby a relatively small number of people control what material eventually reaches the audience. The media therefore has transformed to a form of big business in which profits are generally more important than the quality of the product. They further argue that the mass media serve to maintain the privileges of certain groups, and while protecting their own interests, powerful groups may limit the representation of others in the media. The media also transmits messages that virtually define what we regard as the real world, even though these images are frequently at wide variance from the larger society, that is the false images of a particular group that become accepted as accurate portrayals of reality. For example, individuals used in adverts are often good looking and happy, when in the real sense they have their own daily problems as everyone else 3 Feminist Theory Feminists argued that the media are a powerful influence on how we look at men and women, and according to this view, their images of the sexes communicate unrealistic, stereotypical and limiting perceptions. Women are underrepresented and men and women are portrayed in ways that reflect and perpetuate stereotypical views of gender. The media also depict male and female relationships which emphasize traditional sex roles and normalize violence against women Symbolic Interactionist Theory They are especially interested in shared understandings of everyday behaviour. They examine the media on the micro level to see how they shape day to day social behaviour. Scholars here point to the mass media as the source of major daily activity. Interactionists also help us to understand more about one important aspect of the entire mass media system, which is the audience. The presence of an audience is what distinguishes the media from other social institutions. They consider how the audience members interact among themselves and respond to the media. Specialization is used in the media as a tool driven by advertising to market themselves to a particular audience. Mass media has begun to create a global village in terms of communication. It permeates all aspects of everyday life by reaching out into workplaces, schools and homes. Scholars here are also concerned with the type of sensitization that takes place in the audience behaviour from constantly viewing harmful scenes in the media
Print Media The history of modern media begins with the print. This media has a technology of movable type, has bound pages, multiple copies, such as; books and newspapers Daily newspapers present news stories written by reporters, who are supervised by editors. Editors assign some stories, but most are reporter’s ideas. After the stories are written by reporters, editors decide where andwhen the stories will appear in the newspaper. Some stories may not be printed until days or weeks after they are written, but eventually they will be printed. Some of the advantages of newspapers are; they are published every day and need a lot of stories to fill the pages, they are best equipped to handle complex issues that require research and investigation, they also more space, money and resources to free a reporter for days to tackle an issue and they have more variety than any other medium. Magazines and other related publications are a way to read a very specific audience with a story. They are typically organized around an interest group such as business, healthcare, or higher education. Some of their advantages are; the stories tend to be more feature-like and longer than on newspapers, the shelf life is longer for magazines as they are typically printed only weekly or monthly and with specific audiences it is easier to get messages across. This includes radio and television, unlike other previous communication technology, radio and television are primarily designed for transmission and reception as abstract processes, with little or no definition of preceding content. Some of the features of the broadcast media are; it has a very large output, large range and reach, audio-visual content, complex technology and organization, public character and extensive regulation, national and international character and diverse content forms. In television, fewer stories are told in fewer words, as even complex issues often must be compressed to ninety seconds or less of explanation. Reporters, editors and producers all work together to create stories that would be aired on television. A broader range of audience is reached right to their living rooms, stories make a visual impact that is usually strong and can linger in the minds of the audience and also information is current and timely. FILM MEDIA-This was a new means of presentation and distribution of an older tradition of entertainment, offering stories, spectacles, music, drama, humour and technical tricks for popular consumption. It was partly a response to the invention of leisure – time out of work and an answer to the enjoyment of free time. It has the following features; audio-visual technology, public performance, extensive appeal, predominantly narrative fiction and international character and public regulation. Music Media The social significance of music, though has received only little attention, its relationship to social events has always been recognized and occasionally celebrated or feared. Some of the features of this type of media are; multiple technologies of recording and dissemination, low degree of regulation, it has a younger audience, high degree of internationalization, organizational fragmentation and diversity of reception possibilities. 5 New Media This type of media combines telecommunications and informatics and has emerged as the latest communication revolution which will replace broadcast TV. The main features by contrast with the “old media” as described are decentralization. Examples of the new media are; computer video games, video recordings of all kinds and virtual reality. The features of the new media are; it has a computer – based technology, hybrid flexible character, interactive potential, private and public functions, low degree of regulation and interconnectedness.
Media as a social institution
AS A SOCIAL INSTITUTION
ERWIN V. VELASCO
Media- used to communicate to the
Internet-A global computer network
providing a variety of information and
communication facilities, consisting of
interconnected networks using
standardized communication protocols.
The Media as a Social Institution
refers broadly to the set of media
organizations and activities, together with
their own formal/ informal rules of
operation and sometimes legal and policy
requirements set by the society.
According to Silverblatt (2012) the media can be
viewed as a social institution in the following
• The Media is a social institution in the
respect that it contributes numerous
amounts of ways for people to interact
according to their interest.
• Traditional social institutions such as
church, government, school and family
once served the role of providing
individuals with the knowledge and
communicative tools needed to successfully
integrate into society.
• Individuals are increasingly looking to the
media for direction in rules of behaviour
and societal values, while being provided
with a sense of membership through the
programmes we watch or media trends we
• Western media, being predominantly
privately owned, seeks solely for profit,
often by producing content of no benefit to
society, but instead to attract audiences
and generate revenue.
• In the pursuit of increased profits, the
media have expanded dramatically into
virtually all arenas of public and private
life, bringing with them the commercial
imperative that drives the industry.
Characteristics of Media
• The main activity is the production and
distribution of symbolic content
• The media operates in the public sphere
and are regulated accordingly
• Participation as sender/receiver
• Organization is both professional and
bureaucratic in form
• The media is both free and powerless.
Functions of the Media
• The media increases social cohesion by
presenting a more or less standardized
common view of culture through mass
• The mass media provides a collective
experience for members of a society.
• The internet has become for many the
public commons, a place where they can
come together and talk.
Sociological Perspectives on the
Media as a Social Institution
• Functionalist Theory
• Conflict Theory
• Feminist Theory
• Symbolic Interactionist Theory
Types of Media
• Print Media
• Broadcast Media
• Film Media
• Music Media
• New Media