This paper addresses an overview of the relationship between the existing media institutions and politics that include government policies in the media. Several theories and approaches are discussed in the media discipline, including mass culture, ideologies, political economy, and cultural studies. This paper examines the media effects, reception, influence, and the audience. The last part of this paper examines a series of speculations that the media industry might have in the future (Kellner 1995). The concepts discussed include some detailed lectures on media, modern technology, and the impacts of digital broadcasting among others.
This study is meant to equip the learner with critical understanding of the major theories and approaches and their connection to the discipline of media and cultural studies. These concepts are relevant to the study of contemporary issues in media, specifically those relevant to appreciation of the differences in western media as compared to the others. It familiarizes the student with the details of the diversity of African and Asian production, and distribution as a way of introducing current issues the media addresses in different regions of the world. The student is required to engage in a further research on some specific areas of concern in the diaspora.
Objectives of Studying Current Issues in Media Studies
The study begins with recognizing the impossibility to declare a particular field from the western media as the highest or the best among others. So, the critique of inquiry begins with analyzing the theoretical assumption of the media studies in relation to the history of media production and practice (Briggs & Cobley 2002). Industrial production techniques have a relatively significant proportion to achieve results; in this case a number of media academic commentaries are Euro-American.
The issue that is revealed from the review is the increase in the degree of closure amongst the media profession and academicians in a very narrow range of media types. A concise analysis of the theoretical issues exposes a presupposition that is made explicit for scholars who engage in media discourse. The discipline of media science considers a rival account of the hegemony as the major role of media studies in such a process.
The Influence and Role of Mass Media
Mass media — whether broadcasted, spoken, or written — is an important tool for communication with a large audience. The components of mass media include radio, television, movies, advertising, newspaper, the Internet and magazines among others. In the modern culture, mass media plays a very influential role to their listeners. This is referred to as mediated culture by sociologists, where the media reflects and creates a different type of culture. The messages aired in mass media do not only promote products but also change the moods, attitudes, and the sensitivity of people according to what they consider more important. This enforces the concept of celebrity; without magazines, movies and news many people could not make it in the pop industry.
According to Storey (1998), the modern media saturation did not exist in the past years. The last four decades the television, for instance, has consisted basically of the three networks and public broadcast. It is only recently that singers, actors and other social elites have earned themselves the titles of stars. Previously, the television programs primarily targeted the upper and middle class society. However, in the current times, one can find a television set even in the poorest home and a even more in the middle class households.
The change does not only lie in the availability of the gadget; the programming concept itself is becoming increasingly diverse with different programmes aimed at pleasing persons of different attitudes, incomes, and ages. The widespread availability and exposure makes the television the key focus of media discussions. However, as time goes by, the Internet share of media space has exponentially increased as more households and businesses sign up to the systems.
In spite of the television and the Internet dominating the mass media industry, the role of the movies and magazines cannot be underestimated because they serve as a permanent component of the modern culture. There are three major sociological perspectives applied to the discussion of the role of media: the limited effects theory, the culturalist theory, and the class- dominant theory.
Limited effects theory
The theory argues that people normally choose what to read or watch based on what they already believe in and the media have little or no influence. Studies that previously examined the media influence on voting patterns found out that informed people relied heavily on their personal experience and prior knowledge of their own reasoning (Marris & Thornham 1999). However, media experts are more likely to be affected by those who are less informed. This perspective is applied to criticize this point.
Experts claim that the limited-effects theory ignores the role of the media in limiting and framing the debates and discussions over these issues. The manner in which the media frames the question determines how the members of the media respond to it and thus may change the outcome of the discussion and the conclusion of it. Secondly, the theory came to exist when the domination and the availability of the media was less widespread.
This theory suggests that the media projects are a reflection of the minority which control them. The people who control and own the organizations that produce the media are the components of the elite. Few people are able to manipulate what people should hear and see. For instance, media owners can avoid or keep silence on stories that expose unethical behaviors in a corporation or those that hold corporations responsible.
The advertising issue increases the problem because it is the funds raised from the adverts that maintain the media. The largest possible audience in the media is the network-aimed programming due to its broader appeal and higher potential of purchasing audience-making airtime to advertise less expensively (Klaver 2000). This makes the news media shy away from publishing or airing negative stories about the corporations that fund large advertising campaigns.
Critics of this theory oppose this argument by stating that the control of local media lies beyond the reach of larger corporations and the quality of the news aired to the audience depend on good and ethical journalism. They contend that the powerless and out of control media often receive full support and subsequent media coverage.
Kintz & Lesage (1998) argue that a large number of people constitute the corporate elite that controls the media. On the other hand, there is a significant variation that the people behind the media control are politically liberal. The fact is that journalists are generally more educated than their audience in general and have liberal political views.
The culturalist theory
This theory developed in the late 20th century by combining the two theories. It claims that people interact with the media to create their meaning out of the messages and the images they receive. The audience seems to play an active role as compared to the other two theories (Hall 1997). One part of the research focuses on the interaction of the audience with the media, while the other focus is on those who produce the media.
The theory emphasizes that the audience makes a choice on what to watch from a wide range of available options, and also chooses how to watch it. The viewers can also choose to mute a given station instead of relying on the program selected by their network of choice. Both researchers concluded that when the audience approaches media materials — whether in the visual or written form — they interpret the materials based on their self-experience and knowledge (Curran & Gurevitch 2005). When a researcher requests a particular group to interpret a particular video or a piece of music, various groups provide largely divergent explanations based on their personal characteristics such as age, gender, ethnicity, religion, and race.
Therefore, this theory claims that, while some elites in large corporations exert significant control on what information the media should produce and distribute, the audience’s personal perspective plays a powerful role in the interpretation of the message.
Detailed study of the Culturalist Theory
To assist the readers who may be unfamiliar with the concepts of this theory, let u say that it is generally a study of interpreting how and why different people make judgments about politics, pollution, danger or threat. The point behind this theory is to show that the judgment is made independently of the social context. According to Buckingham (2003), the culturist theory is part of the emerging social debate on the right to information and justice for those who are likely to be by the loss or damage of the peace of mind.
Strengths and Weaknesses of the Culturalist Theory
The theory is represented as a problem-solving technique in the face of ever-increasing limitation of individual actions. Culture is particularly represented as a dialogue that allocates blame and praise in a way that helps reduce the risks associated with information misunderstanding. This restates the original premise that emphasizes individual action in making a judgment.
The weakness of this theory is that it is only applicable to limited areas. Some applications mentioned in this paper have borrowed research procedures from the discipline of ontology (Adam & Black 2006). This may be rendered incompatible with the cultural theory, which has a presumption of neutral research procedures. Perhaps, the cultural theory is a deception for more conventional ideological views.
Following the principle of unveiling different favoritisms in turns, it is more possible to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the theory until those placed high by the society develop their own standards. Therefore, no one should deny that personal views influence the content and choice of the audience in media communication.