Media Influence on Society
In only the last five decades society has experienced huge changes in methods of communication. These range from the early telegraph, through radio and television, magazines and newspapers, to the worldwide internet.
As a society we depend on information and communication in all of our activities like work, health, education, and world news. Throughout all of this the influence the media has on society has grown at almost the same rate.
Most of our individual values and beliefs are based on what we know to be factual. These are usually gained from personal knowledge, learning and our life experience, but we still tend to current news and new information from the media. So to some extent society is being influenced by the media. Such influence can be both enlightening or it can be used in a persuasive manner in order for the ‘many’ to bow to the thinking of a ‘few’.
We should be aware that what we loosely refer to as the media is in fact dominated by only 5 companies, certainly within the USA. But their influence is global –
- Time Warner, and VIACOM.
- Vivendi Universal.
- Walt Disney.
- News Corp.
These are the companies who in reality give shape to our current beliefs and values. Is it right that the most powerful media distribution channel, the TV continually exposes society, especially the young to the violence, crime, and sex. Or is it correct that young children are exposed on average to something like 40.000 advertisements per year?
The media will produce shows which have a major attraction to viewers in order to gain the maximum advertising revenue, with little regard to the kind of influence being absorbed by the viewers, often youngsters.
All too frequently society today buys what it is told is ‘good to buy’ by the many media outlets. Friends may advise to buy such and such a product, but they, in all probability have been influenced by the same advert also.
There can be both positive and negative aspects to media influence. The media will often make a big play on showing major sporting events, the Olympic Games perhaps. This can result in members of society developing an interest, and participate in sports activities, which is good for their health and bodies.
Negative portrayals of screen ‘heroes’ indulging in smoking, drinking, or undesirable relationships can soon undo any of the more positive aspects shown by the media.
Media has a powerful influence on society, but it has a responsibility to ensure that the sources of information on which it is basing its influence are factual and true. A recent example would be the war with Iraq. Public opinion was swayed by the media that war was necessary to remove ‘weapons of mass destruction’. But to date these weapons have never been located.