MEDIA AFFECT INDIVIDUAL AND MASS CULTURE
The necessary concern of the mass media with the lowest common denominator results in a compromise between quality and mediocrity, between what is most worthy and what is most popular. Some mass communicators make a conscientious effort to upgrade public tastes, to increase knowledge and understanding, while others are content to appeal to them at whatever level their particular audience exists.
Influence on the Individual :
People are most interested in people; next, in things, and finally in ideas. This rule of thumb serves as a guide to mass communicators. Readers, listeners, and viewers want to know what other people are doing, what they are thinking and saying, where they are going and what they are wearing, how they look, act and speak? Whether in fiction or in fact the personality is most often the number one item of interest.
To the average person, ideas tend to seem vague, abstract, uninteresting. Textbook is less interesting than a novel, for it is concerned with ideas while a novel is concerned with persons and personalities which spring to life in the reader’s imagination. Many people like actors because of their personalities rather than their personal life. Movie-goers soon forget the plot and setting of the story but long remember the main actor, and frequently they idol worship him. Few have any concept of what the international political hassle is all about, but the chief personalities involved are quite well known.
Americans claim that they are the best informed of all people; yet, there is generally an appalling, almost unbelievable ignorance and apathy among residents of United States on ideas, issues and events of the greatest possible importance to them. This has not only been proved by repeated polls and surveys but is reflected in the low percentage of votes cast in elections.
It is common sport among educationalists, public lecturers, and others to blame the mass communications media for unfortunate situation of ignorance. Those who do so fail to recognize the fact that while there is much of the mediocre and undesirable in mass communications-as there is in every other aspect of society-there is also a rich offering of the worthwhile and excellent. Every person, therefore, has a wide choice and
can select his own level as a consumer of mass communications. He can read the frivolous or the serious, the amusing or enlightening, the sordid or healthy, he can read newspaper-stories of rape, murder, and film line triangles, or he can read in the same newspaper stories of government, invention, community betterment, and education.
He can buy pulp magazines or quality magazines, listen to music or serious drama and the classics. Whatever his taste, he can find it among the mass media. It is human to blame others for one’s own shortcomings. But it is a safe bet that in a competitive economy such as ours, the ratio of the mediocre to the quality in mass communications is pretty close to the ratio between poor and good taste among consumers.
Thus the influence of journalism upon the individual’s personality, leisure time and social consciousness can and does vary widely from negative to positive, from bad to good, from harmful to helpful. That it does have on influence is certain. Every person in the very course of human nature, will be influenced by what he reads, hears and sees. Man is a natural imitator, a mimic. Fads fashions and fancies rule his life: and these he receives largely by way of the mass media. Although he may not respond readily to intellectual appeal, he does to emotional appeal, and much of what he reads, hears, and sees has a high degree of the latter.
Influence on Economic Life :
The necessities of life include food, clothing and shelter; common wants and desires of life include security, wealth, power, prestige, personal attractiveness, good health, education, recreation, entertainment vacations, travel and conveniences of communication and transportation. Upon these needs and wants are based practically all its activities of society, and key to these activities in the system of capitalistic (free) or
rather mixed, enterprise in advertising.
Everyone would seek adequate food supply even if there were no advertisements. But consider the billions of rupees spent each year on the advertising of foods alone, clothing and shelter likewise. As one moves to the luxuries-the non-essentials, such as cigarettes, bottles, cosmetics-the advertising volume become still greater. Because of the social pressure and customs that evolve, many items that begin as luxuries eventually
become necessities or pseudo necessities. The list is a long one but common examples are air-conditioners, automobiles, refrigerators, deep freezers, tooth paste, tea and biscuits, etc. To keep this stream of commodities flowing, the manufacturers use every means possible. For them, the “ad” is the thing. And because the mass communications media are the chief vehicles of advertising, they are of immeasurable influence in the economic activities of the country.
In addition, the mass media, in and of themselves, are a tremendous factor in our economics. The mass media not only exert a direct influence upon people’s choice of vocations and careers, but the media themselves provide a sizeable portion of the vocations and careers that are available. Behind the production of newspapers, books, television and the other media is a multi-billion rupees business. Consider the thousands employed on editorial, advertising, dramatic, engineering, and production staffs; consider the people in the auxiliary businesses of growing timber, manufacturing paper and ink, building presses and machines, newspaper plants, movie studios, radio and TV stations with their complex equipment; consider the personnel manufacturing and selling radio and television sets, operating motion picture houses, book stores and selling newspapers.