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The definition and characteristics of mass media

Web, Networking, Earth, Continents
Definition of mass media
Mass media can be defined as the communication medium that can be used to reach a greater portion of a nation or the world in an instant. In short, any means by which the bulk of the people receive information is regarded as a mass media. Note that any form of mass media reaches thousands, millions and sometimes billions of people at one go. A few examples of a mass media include, but are not limited to, newspapers, radio, television, the internet and now SMS messaging.

Mass media is categorized into the print media, broadcast media and the digital media. The print media refers to the newspapers, magazines and journals. It may also include books and pamphlets that are widely circulated. The broadcast media refers to the radio and finally, the digital media comprises the internet and the mobile phone.

For the mass media to be identified as such; there are certain distinguishing characteristics which it must or mostly conform to. Some of these characteristics are discussed below.

It is a one-way communication
One major characteristic of mass media is that the traffic flows in only one direction that is, from the material source to the consumers. The audience listens or reads but cannot give responses instantaneously. This may be so because the audience is far away from the source of the news. A media house in London, the British Broadcasting Corporation, for example, could broadcast to reach the entire globe. Canal France International same thing, broadcasting from Paris.  Today, however, with technology, people may react to radio and television programmes through text messages, emails, phone-in, Facebook or WhatsApp to mention just a few.

Reaches a large audience
Another characteristic of mass media is that it can reach a large number of audiences at the same time. The inauguration of the 45th president of the United States of America was broadcast to reach millions of viewers. A boxing fight can also be beamed to reach millions of people all around the world. Millions of people can tune into a radio pragramme. Mass media, therefore, has a very large audience base.

Influences society
Mass media also influences the society in it operates or the people who listen to it. They can help to shape the opinion of people on a particular issue. In the Rwandan genocide, the radio was used extensively to influence Hutus to kill the Tutsis and this was widely adhered to. On the other hand, the audience can also influence the media houses. If the audience expresses an opinion on an issue published or broadcast by a mass media house, it could influence the way the media house may have thought about the issue previously.

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Old tube radio
Reaches varying types of people
Also, the mass media reaches a wide spectrum of audience. This is so because people of different ages, religious persuasion, political leanings, and professions tune into the station. The types of people, who listen to a radio programme, watch a television show or read a newspaper publication cannot be pre-determined by the media house. On the internet, however, children can be prevented from visiting certain adult sites. This may be the exception.

Scattered audience
The target group of a media house are scattered all over the world. In other words, they do not live in the same community. A listener in Kaduna can tune into a programme that is being broadcast from Lagos. The audiences are distributed along a wide geographical area. A television station in Freetown is able to broadcast to entire Sierra Leone.

1. a. What is the mass media?
    b. Highlight six characteristics of mass media.

The importance of mass media
The disadvantages of mass media

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