In the past, mostly people interacted in groups having face-to- face relationships. Today, they are continuously exposed to messages generated from the centre.
The history of mass media is comparatively recent. The oldest form is the press which was set up first by William Caxon at Westminster in 1476. The first wireless communication was made between the Isle of Wight and the English mainland in 1882, the phonograph was patented in 1877. The first cinema film was made in Paris in 1895.
In India, after the independence, new horizons were seen by the country in all the aspects of five year plans stressing the need to solve some of the national problems, such as, lack of cultural identity, absence of economic policy and so on, the development of mass media was boosted.
The need for communicating with the masses and influencing them was felt in order to have the impact of the independence. This led to tremendous progress in the fields of print and the broadcast media.
Freedom of speech and expression along with freedom of press was provided by the constitution as a fundamental right. Over and above, constitution also granted freedom of movement, right to profession and property, right to hold meetings and cultural gatherings.
All these led to the unabated progress of mass media in the country. The developments of each mass media are discussed separately in the following chapters.
With the extending impact of media of mass communication on individuals and groups, the Indian society overall is reacting swiftly. The pervasive effects of the various media on the various spheres of the Indian life- economic, social, cultural, intellectual, religious and even moral values are transforming rapidly.
Mass media are capable of creating various kinds of impact on mankind. They play a crucial role in the function and change of any society. A study of social change cannot be done without studying mass media. Therefore, in the present times when technology has brought about changes in the society, mass media studies have become important.
Mcluham, the Canadian writer perceives mass media in a very broad perspective. It is his thesis that, the medium is the message; he says that the content of a mass medium cannot be divorced from its context and from its technology.
A statement made on television will be very different from a statement made through the press, the form and nature of the message's dissemination actually modifies the material.
The visual image of television news involves us directly as compared to the news reported in the newspaper. Whether or not we discuss the wheel in the context of mass communication is a moot point, but it is obviously true that the wheel has changed many human societies in a way which is quite as radical as television or the press.
He says that we have been too much pre occupied with the messages, or content, of mass media, and too little concerned with the media themselves, as they function within human society.
It was his argument, for example, that the electric light can be taken as a medium, it transmits lights to a large number of people. This notion may not be digestible to many because we are used to ascribing overwhelming importance to content.
The mass media constitute a powerful and pervading force in our lives. We are exposed daily to a bombardment of media messages. Most of the information we receive about our community, our state, the nation and the world comes to us through newspapers, magazines, television and radio.
The information and views communicated through these media have great impact on our attitudes toward people, events and problems. Mass media expose people to a flood of information almost narcotic sing reader, listener or viewer. Due to mass media the range and amount of information available to the people has vastly increased.
For example, a villager in India today can have the idea of what the city life is by watching television and cinema. Media use by the people is going through quick shifts. Although urban areas have more access to mass media than the rural areas, it is observed that people in rural areas are becoming increasingly conscious of the power of knowledge.
They subscribe to the newspapers and this has led to the growth of regional press. The commercialization of radio and television in India has brought the whole world of advertising to the door steps of the people and made the society consumerist in nature.
Mass media have exposed people to technical subjects which are of their day to day use. For example, use of automatic machines, electronic appliances, pesticides, fertilizers etc.
Media confer a certain social status or people's position in society is enhanced when they appear upon television or are mentioned in the press. Mass media like films, television and press have particular glamour, which is enjoyed by those who are in them.
Thus, mass media tend to enforce and corroborate social norms and bring personal attitudes and public morality closer.
Mass media are common denominators. They serve the interest of the larger groups. For example, today people use mass media for entertainment or for product information through advertisements.
According to Hancock: "This view of mass media as the 'common denominator' of their audiences leads us to the most consistent criticism which is leveled against them; that they spoil public taste and attack art and culture, by becoming lowest common denominators." (72)
For example, when literacy was low, print media were required to appeal to a limited audience and writer could write according to his wishes. Even popular writing could be quality writing. With the spread of education and literacy the audience for print media also became larger. This resulted into popular writing.
Media consumers are selective in their consumption of media output. They accept the massages which are easy for them to understand and they do not have to exert themselves in watching a programme or reading a newspaper. They also accept messages which reinforce their beliefs and reject or ignore those which have contrary views.
Another criticism about the impact of mass media is that they do not keep pace with the changes that are taking place in society and usually maintain stereotyped roles and values. For example, widow woman in today's society wear dresses of all types and colors but films and television serials show them in their stereotyped white dress with no jwellery.
Thus, mass communication process is more likely to sustain rather than challenge the existing political and social power structure in society.
As a result, mass media look for supportive Communication and avoid that communication which projects alternative opinions. Mass media play a significant role in the socialization of the young. An extensive exposure necessarily influences young, who are always believed to be passive respondents.
Watz and Hoffman note that: "the social potential of mass communication has hardly been tapped" (241). Effective use of the mass media has the potential for increasing the public's understanding of the goals of development programs and activities of development workers.
It can increase public support for development programs and it can have a significant impact on the decisions of development planners, policy makers, and legislators that affect these programmes.
It can help people function better in the community, by providing information that can support the coping capacities of persons under stress and consequently, it can significantly expand the impact of the development programmes in any community.
A much wider range of target groups can be reached, not only those who might benefit from the programmes but also persons and groups that may be willing to provide tangible and intangible support for these development efforts, as a result of being better informed about them (In Brawley:12).
Mass media in India are actively involved in the tasks related to different aspects of national development and they are assisting government and the masses in social, economic and political development. Thus, mass media have contributed to the mobilization of human resources for national development.
The mobilizing of human resources requires a great deal of attention of what the population knows and thinks of national development, and especially to the encouragement of the attitudes and social customs and the provision of knowledge, which will be favourable to the development, the mass media have undertaken the job quite competently.
It is evident from the tremendous changes that have taken place in the entire range of human activity in the country. Research studies by communication scholars also have proved that mass media have immensely aided and assisted the rate and score of development.
The studies conducted by Shramm, Rao and others have shown that the interaction between the media and the society from development point of view is 'constant and cumulative.'
This helps people to set common goals of development and arrive at sound consensus. Media have communicated to the people about country's five year plans, development programmes, education system etc. and this has motivated people to become partners in the progress of the country.
The farm technology was communicated to the rural masses through mass communication media such as radio and films which became link between university laboratories and farmers.
This contributed to tremendous agricultural progress and ushered in green revolution in the country. There have been problems and constraints in the process of development but, on the whole, mass media in India have immensely contributed to bringing about change and development in India.
It has been realized that no significant development can take place without using mass media.
In other words, the mass media can have impact on a variety of important development programmes, relations, public education, and prevention functions of the development programmes (Brawley: 12).
It has also been observed that as the time devoted to media increases, people's participation in an organized action decreases. As a result, they remain away from the decision making and action for any personal or national development activities.
Mass media do not involve the individual directly. They bring changes largely in the psychological domain. They capture the audience by changing their opinions, attitudes, beliefs, knowledge and value systems.
Psychological changes are considered to be more effective as compared to the change which is introduced directly into the social structure by means of law and government policies to which individuals are forced to adjust.
The new media have brought about changes in the old media for example, due to the impact of television, newspapers and magazines have become more illustrative, radio has been trying to become more innovative in attracting the listeners, advertising has become part of every mass medium and so on.
Moreover, due to the review of the programmes offered by every medium, competition to offer more and more interesting programmes of common taste has increased among the mass media.
What about education? Mass media in India such as television, radio, newspaper, try to offer educational and enrichment messages for farmers, school children, youth, woman, and other groups. This again may be due to the competition among and within the media.
Folk media have been very effective in promoting the message of literacy, mobilizing women and bringing them together to discuss issues related to their everyday lives. Street plays have proved very effective in integrating and mobilizing women for anti-arrack movement in Andhra Pradesh.
Sometimes too much of exposure to information leads people to saturation. For example, if we are exposed to the events of terrorism in Kashmir or Punjab for a very long period, we become less sensitive to the sufferings of people due to terrorism. Here the immediacy of visual image is lost and media ceases to be an informant.
Mass medium like television has made great impact on the families by changing the way of life. In the last ten years Indian family has under gone drastic changes as far as family relations standard of living, style of living and buying habits are concerned. These are discussed in detail in chapter four.
To sum up, mass media create impact by playing their role as change agent, reflector and reinforcer of dominant values and attitudes in society which can have a significant impact on the decisions of development planners, policy makers and legislators that affect development programmes.