Introduction (Mass Media and Sociology)
Mass media has so become a part of the present world that no one can imagine a life without them. Comprising of a wide variety of forms, including television, newspapers, films, magazines, radio, advertisements, video games and CDs, they are often call mass communications. They are referred to as ‘mass’ media because they reach mass audiences or very large numbers of people.
Mass media is part of our everyday life in a number of ways:
(a) In middle class households across the country people wake up to put on the radio, switch on the television or to look for the morning newspaper.
(b) The younger children of the same households may first glance at their mobile phones to check their missed calls.
(c) Plumbers, electricians, carpenters, painters and sundry other service providers have a mobile telephone where they can be easily contacted.
(d) Many shops in cities increasingly have a small television set. Customers who come in may exchange bits of conversation about the cricket match being telecasted or the film being shown.
(e) Indians abroad keep regular touch with friends and families back home over the internet and telephone. Migrants from working class population in the cities are regularly in touch with their families in the villages over the phone.
The growth of mass media is of extreme importance to the study of sociology for a number of reasons. First, with the specifying of the current communication revolution, it is important to go back a little and sketch out the growth of modern mass media in the world and in India. As a result of this study, mass media comes out as just like other institutions whose structure and content is shaped by changes in the economic, political and socio-cultural contexts. For instance, we see how central the state and its vision of development influenced the media in the first decades after independence. And how in the post 1990 period of globalisation the market has a key role to play.
Second, the relationship between mass media and communication with society comes out dialectical as both influence by the society comes out dialectical as both influence each other. The nature and role of mass media is influenced by the society in which is located. At the same time the far reaching influence of mass media on society cannot be over-emphasised.
Third, mass communication is understood as different from other means of communication as it requires a formal structural organisation to meet large-scale capital, production and management demands. Therefore, the state and/or the market have a major role in the structure and functioning of mass media. Mass media functions through a very large organisations with major investments and large body of employees. Fourth, there are sharp differences between how easily different sections of people can use mass media.
The Beginning of Modern Mass Media
The first modern mass media institution began with the development of the printing press. Even though the history of print in some societies dates back to many centuries, the first attempt at printing books using modern technologies began in Europe. The modern technique was first developed by Johann Gutenberg in 1440. Initially only religious books were printed and even the books/products of press were restricted to literate elites.
But with the Industrial Revolution, the print industry grew rapidly. In the mid 19th century, with further development in technologies, transportation and literacy, newspapers began to reach out to a mass audience. People all around of a country read or heard the same news uniting them by the creation of a sense of belonging or ‘we feeling’. A well known scholar Benedict Anderson has argued that the growth of printing press helped the growth of nationalism, the feeling that people who did not even know of each other’s existence feel like members of a family. It gave people a sense of togetherness. Accordingly Anderson suggested that the nation is an imagined community.
Growth of Indian Nationalism
The growth of Indian nationalism was closely linked to not only its struggle against colonialism, but also to the debates and articles, written by social reformers, in newspapers and journals. It emerged due to institutional changes brought about by British rule in India. Anti-colonial public opinion was promoted and channelised by the nationalist press, which expressed its opposition to the oppressive measures of the colonial state.
This led the colonial government to take strong actions to control the nationalist press and impose censorship. For instance, during the Ilbert Bill agitation in 1883 association with national movement led to some of the nationalist-newspapers like Kesari (Marathi), Matrabumi (Malayalam), Amrita Bazar Patrika (English) to suffer the displeasure of the colonial state. However, this did not prevent them from advocating nationalist cause and demanding end to colonial rule.
Mass Media During British Period
(a) Under British rule newspapers and magazines, films and radio comprised the range of mass media.
(b) Radio was completely owned by the British Government. So, national views were not expressed.
(c) Even though newspapers and films were free from state (British) control, they were strictly monitored by the British government.
(d) Due to low literacy rate in the country, news paper and magazines both in English and vernacular languages were not widely circulated.
(e) But their influence was greater than their circulation as news and information was read and spread by people from commercial and administrative hubs like market and trading centres as well as courts and towns.
Thus, the print media played a great role as it carried a range of options, which expressed their ideas of a free India and these variations were carried over to independent India.
Mass Media in Independent India
In Independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minster, called upon the media to function as a watchdog of democracy. The media was expected to spread self-reliance and national development among people. Today, it is seen as a means to inform the people of the various developmental efforts. The media is also encouraged to fight against oppressive social practices like untouchability , child marriages, ostracism (exclusion by general consent from common privileges) of widows, beliefs of witchcraft and faith healing , etc. Media is given the responsibility of promoting rational and scientific values to build a modern industrial society. As a result, the Films Division of the government produced a newsreels and documentaries which were and are shown before the screening of film in every movie theatre, documenting the development process as directed by the state.
Types of Mass Media
Radio broadcasting commenced in India though amateur ‘ham’ broadcasting clubs in Kolkata and Chennai in 1920s. It matured into a public broadcasting system in the 1940 during World War II when it became a major instrument of propaganda for Allied forces in South-East Asia. At the time of independence, there were only 6 radio stations located in the major cities catering an urban audience. By 1950, there were 546,200 radio licenses all over India.
As the media was seen as an active partner in the development of the newly free nation, the All India Radio programmes consisted mainly of news, current affairs and discussions on development. Besides AIR, there was another radio channel, called Vividh Bharti which broadcasted Hindi film songs on listeners demand. In 1957, AIR acquired the hugely popular entertainment channel Vividh Bharti and began to carry sponsored programmes and advertisements becoming a money-spinning channel for AIR. When India gained independence in 1947, All India Radio had an infrastructure of six radio stations located in metropolitan cities. The country had 280000 radio receiver sets for a population of 350 million people. After independence the government gave priority to the expansion of the radio broadcasting infrastructure, especially in state and capitals and in border areas. Since then, AIR had developed a three-tiered infrastructure, operating in national, regional and local services and catering to India’s geographic, linguistic and cultural diversity.
By 2000, around 110 million households were listening to the radio broadcasts in 24 languages and 146 dialects.
Radio Channels : Radio Ceylon and Radio Goa
In the early period of radio broadcasting, India film songs and commercials were considered low-culture and not promoted. People then, used to listen Radio Ceylon which was broadcasted from Sri Lanka and Radio Goa (broadcasting from Goa then under Portuguese rule) for Indian film songs and commercials. The increasing popularity of these channels increased the sale of radio sets. However, major constraint came in the form of the cost of the radio set.
This problem was solved with transistor revolution of the 1960s which made accessible by making it mobile and cheap.
Wars, Tragedies and Expansion of AIR
It was wars and tragedies that spurred AIR to expand its activities. The 1962 war with China prompted the launching of a ‘talks’ unit to put a daily programme. In August, 1971, with the upcoming of Bangladesh crises, the News Service Division introduced news on the hour, from 6 O’clock in the morning to midnight. It took another crises, the tragic assassination of Rajeev Gandhi in 1991, for AIR to take one more step of having bulletins round the clock.
Television programming was introduced experimentally in India to promote rural development in 1959 and between August 1975 and July 1976, the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) broadcasted directly to community viewers in the rural areas of six states. The instructional broadcasts were made to 2,400 TV sets directly for 4 hours daily. During the same time television stations were set up under Doordarshan in Delhi, Mumbai, Srinagar and Amritsar by 1975.
The more stations in Kolkata, Chennai and Jalandhar were added within a year. Every broadcasting centre had its own mix of programmes, comprising news, children’s and women’s programmes, farmers programmers and entertainment programmes.
However, soon a shift in target audience was seen as programmes become commercialised and were allowed to carry advertisements of their sponsors. Entertainment programmes grew and were directed to the urban consuming class.
The introduction of colour braodcasting during the 1982, Asian Games in Delhi and the rapid expansion of the national network led to rapid commercialisation of television broadcasting.
During 1984-85, the number of television transmitters increased all over India, covering large proportion of the population. It was a time when indigenous soap operas like Hum Log (1984-85) and Buniyad (1986-87) were aired and popularised attracting substantial advertisement revenue for Doordarshan. The epics Ramayana (1987-88) and Mahabharat (1988-90) were also broadcasted during this time.
The annual report by TRAI for the year 2015-16 stated that India has the world’s second largest TV market after China. As per industry estimates as on March 2016 of the existing 2.841 million households, around 1,811 million have television sets which are being provided services of cable TV, DTH and IPTV in addition to a terrestrial TV network of Doordarshan.
The beginnings of the print media and its role in both the spread of the social reform movement and the nationalist movement has been evident.
After the independence, the print media continued to share the general approach of being a partner in the task of nation building by taking up development issues, as well as giving voice to the widest section of people.
The strongest challenge that the media faced was the declaration of Emergency in 1975 and censorship of the media. Fortunately, the period ended and democracy was restored in 1977.
Mass Media Today
Now, India has a free media. It requires a formal structural organisation to meet large scale capital, production and management demands.
Like any other social institution the mass media varies in structure and content according to different economic, political and socio-cultural context. It is noticeable that with times both the contest and style of media changes.
It is also seen that at sometimes state or government has a greater role to play and at other times the market does the same. This shifting of role is very visible in recent times. This change has also led to debates about what role the media ought to play in a modern democracy.
Globalisation and the Media
Globalisation as noted has close links with the communication revolution. The media has always had international dimensions such as the gathering of new stories and the distribution of primarily Western films overseas. However, until the 1970s most media companies operated within specific domestic markets in accordance with regulations form national governments.
The media industry was also differentiated into distinct sectors like, cinema, print media, radio and television broadcasting which operated independently of one another. In the past three decades, however, serious transformations have taken place within the media industry. National markets have given away to a fluid global market, while new technologies have led to the fusion of forms of media.
Globalisation and the Case of Music
It has been argued that the musical form is one that lends itself to globalisation more efficiently than any other. This is because music is able to reach people who may not know the written and spoken language. The growth of technology from personal stereo systems to music television (such as the MTV) to the Compact Disc (CD) have provided newer, more sophisticated ways for music to be distributed globally.
The Fusion of Forms of Music
Although the music industry is becoming ever more concentrated in the hands of a few international conglomerates (groups) some feel that it is under a great threat.
This is because the internet allows music to be downloaded, rather than purchased in the form of CDs or cassettes from local music stores. The global music industry is currently comprised of a complex network of factories, distribution chains, music shops and sales staff. If the internet removes the need for all these elements by allowing music to be marketed and downloaded directly, nothing will be left of the music industry.
Print media such as newspapers and magazines has played a major role in the spread of the freedom movement. It is often believed that with the growth of the television and the Internet the print media would be ignored. However, in India the circulation of newspapers has grown.
New technologies have helped to boost the production and circulation of newspapers. A large number of glossy magazines have also made their entry to the market.
Changes in Newspaper Production : The Role of Technology
Since the late 1980s and early 1990s, newspapers became fully automatic. The use of paper has been completely eliminated with this automated chain. This has become possible because of two technological changes networking of Personal Computers (PCs) through LANs (Local Area Networks) and use of newsmaking software like Newsmaker and other customised softwares.
Changing technology has also changed the role and function of reporter. The basic tools of a news reported (a shorthand notebook, pen, typewriter and a plain old telephone) has been replaced by new tools (a mini tape recorder, a laptop or a PC, mobile or satellite phone and other accessories like modem).
All these technological changes in news gathering have increased the speed of news and helped newspaper managements push their deadlines. They are also able to plan a greater number of editions and provide the latest news to readers. A number of language newspapers are using the new technologies to bring out separate editions for each of the districts. While print centres are limited, the number of editions have grown.
Newspaper chains like Meerut based Amar Ujala, are using new technology for news gathering, as well as, for improving pictorial coverage. The newspaper has a network of nearly a hundred reporters and staffers and an equal number of photographers, feeding news to all its 13 editions spread across Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. All hundred correspondents are equipped with PCs and modems for news transmission, and the photographers carry digital camera with them.
Reasons for the Growth of Newspapers
Following are the reasons for the growth of Newspapers:
Rise in Number of Literate People
There is a rise in the number of literate people migrating to cities. The Hindi daily Hindustan in 2003 printed 64,000 copies of their Delhi edition, which jumped to 425,000 by 2005. The reason was of Delhi’s population of one crore and forty-seven lakhs of which 52 per cent come from the Hindi belt of the two states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Different Needs of Readers
The needs of the readers in the small towns and villages are different from that of the cities and the Indian language newspapers cater to all those needs. Dominant Indian language newspapers such as Malayala Manorama and Eenadu launched the concept of local news in a significant manner by introducing district and block editions. Dian Thanthi, another leading Tamil newspaper has always used simplified and colloquial language.
The Indian language newspapers have adopted advanced printing technologies and also attempted supplements, pullouts and literary as well as niche booklets.
Marketing strategies also helped the Dainik Bhaskar group’s growth with consumer contact programmes, door-to-door surveys and research.
While English newspapers, which are called ‘national dailies’, circulate across all regions, the vernacular newspapers have vastly increased their circulation in the states and the ‘rural hinterland.’
Reducing Prices and Advertisement
In order to compete with the electronic media and newspapers, especially English language newspapers have reduced prices and brought out editions from multiple centres. This process has often involved cuts in prices and increasing dependence on the sponsors of advertisements who in turn have a large say in the content of the newspaper.
In 1991, there was only Doordarshan as a TV channel in India but by 1998 there were 70 channels to cater to all audiences. Privately run satellite channels have increased rapidly since the mid 1990s.
While Doordarshan broadcasted over 20 channels, there were some 40 private television networks broadcasting in 2000. In 2002, the 134 million individuals watched satellite TV on an average every week. This number went upto 190 million in 2005. The number of homes with access to satellite TV jumped from 40 million in 2002 to 61 million in 2005.
The Gulf War of 1991 (which popularised CNN) and the launching Star TV by the Whampoa Hutchinson Group of Hong Kong signalled the arrival of private satellite channels in India. In 1992, Zee TV, a Hindi-based satellite entertainment channel also began beaming programmes to cable television viewers.
By 2000, 40 private cable and satellite channels were available including several that focused exclusively on regional-language broadcasting. Like Sun TV, Enadu-TV, Udaya-TV, Raj-TV, and Asianet. Zee TV also launched several regional networks , broadcasting in Marathi, Bengali and other languages.
With Doordarshan, the cable TV industry started mushrooming in major Indian cities in the 1980s. The VCR greatly multiplied entertainment options for Indian audiences providing alternatives to Doordarshan’s single channel programming.
Video viewing at home and in community increased rapidly. By 1984, entrepreneurs in cities such as Mumbai and Ahmedabad transmitted several films a day. The number of cable operators exploded from 100 in 1984 to 1200 in 1988 to 15,000 in 1992 and to about 60,000 in 1999. The coming of transnational television companies like STAR TV, MTV, Channel [V], Sony and others worried many people for its impact on the Indian youth and the Indian cultural identity. But through research they realised that he use of the familiar is more effective in producing the diverse groups that constitute Indian audience.
The majority of the foreign networks have now introduced either a segment of Hindi language programming (MTV India) or an entire new Hindi language channel (STAR Plus), STAR Sports and ESPN have dual commentary or an audio sound track in Hindi. The larger transnational television companies have launched specific regional channels in different languages like Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi and Gujarati. The most dramatic adoption of localisation was carried by STAR TV in October 1998. In October 1996, Star Plus initially an all English general entertainment channel originating from Hong Kong, began producing a Hindi language belt of programme between 7 and 9 PM. By February 1999, the channel was converted to a solely Hindi channel and all English serials shifted to STAR World. Advertisement for the channel was made using hindi slogans such as “Aapki Boli Aapka Plus Point”. Today most television channels run in a 24 x 7 format. News, as a result, has become more immediate, democratic and intimate.
Television has fostered public debate and is expanding its reach every passing year. There is a growing number of new channels in both Hindi and English, a large number of regional channels and an equally large number of reality shows, talk shows, bollywood shows, family soaps, interactive shows, game shows and comedy shows.
Entertainment television has produced a new group of superstars who have become familiar household names and their private life, rivalry, etc. have become increasingly popular.
The arrival of privately owned FM radio stations in 2002 provided a boost to entertainment programmes over radio. In order to attract audiences, these privately run radio stations sought to provide entertainment to its listeners.
As these private FM channels are not permitted to broadcast any political news bulletins, they specialised in particular kinds of popular music to retain their audiences.
Most of the FM channels which are popular among young urban professionals are students often belonging to media conglomerates (groups) like Radio Mirchi belongs to Times of India group, Red FM is owned by Living Media and Radio City by the Star Network.
But the independent radio stations engaged in public broadcasting like National Public Radio (USA) or BBC (UK) are missing from our broadcasting landscape.
In two films, ‘Rang de Basanti’ and ‘Lage Raho Munna Bhai’ the radio was used as an active medium of communication.
The potential for using FM channel is enormous. Further privatisation of radio and the emergence of community owned radio stations would lead to the growth of radio stations. The demand for local news is growing. The number of homes listening to FM in India has also reinforced the worldwide trend of trend of networks getting replaced by local radio.