The mass media can be described as having four primary functions: (1) information, (2) entertainment, (3) persuasion, and (4) transmission of the culture. We refer to them here as the primary or most important functions, but there are, of course, others. As we shall see in chapter 2, and in later descriptions of individual media and the regulatory and ethical components of mass communication, several other types of media functions could be considered
We will take up each basic function in turn, pointing out some of the functions and problems that arise when the functions are confused in the minds of the gatekeepers and media consumers.
When we think of the various functions of the mass media, the information function frequently comes to mind first, Information is the easiest of the functions to identify, because it comprises a part of each, and the most prominent form of information is news
The emphasis on news has camouflaged the fact that 60 percent of the average newspaper is advertising and that a considerable portion of what is left over after the ads have been inserted is entertainment of one sort or another, starting with the comics and ranging from selected features, editorials, and columnists to a variety of sensational and human-interest stories. However, the basic thrust of the newspaper remains informational. That is what its audience expects of it
AS adjuncts to mass media, the wire services have the ,.highest information content. Their business is selling . information. specifically news of current events gathered worldwide. Further, their customers or clients-the newspapers, television networks, and individual television and radio stations across the nation-represent such a broad spectrum of approaches, interests, formats, and editorial policies that the wire services tend to rely on straight news-an objective, unadulterated informational approach that avoids all attempts to color the news. Title wire services leave it to their clients to choose specific items from those offered and to season those items as they see fit.
Textbooks, making up about half of the book publishing industry, are expected by their publishers and readers to consist primarily of information. Their voluntary readership is slight, and they are generally read at the direction of an instructor. For this reason publishers frequently attempt to interject humor (entertainment) as a relief from the heavy dose of information. Not incidentally, publishers also hope to sell a lot of books in order to make a profit, The other branches of book publishing– trade books, fiction, and nonfiction-are freer to depart from pure information as their thrust, but their information function is still relatively high, covering a wide variety of topics from which readers select and choose at their own discretion.
Although television’s primary function is entertainment, it does include some information. There are regularly scheduled newscasts that tend to take on entertainment overtones. News commentators are not so much in competition with each other as they are with other prime-time personalities. Their formats are doctored to move quickly and dramatically regardless of the significance of the information they are presenting
Documentaries also take on a dramatic quality and sometimes, but not always, develop a point of view that: (1) is designed to appeal to the presumed taste of their massive audience, and (2) is not necessarily objective in its analysis
The broadcast media-radio, television, and film-have a basic, although by no means exclusive, entertainment thrust. Film is included in this category because, although there are differences, film is such a large part of contemporary television that one cannot realistically be considered without the other.
That the broadcast media are intensely, purposefully, and enthusiastically entertainment oriented is fairly obvious. Also apparent is the persuasive, commercial aspect of television. Anyone who has had the misfortune of being hospitalized for a week or so can testify to the unremitting and highly imaginative
diet of entertainment and persuasive fare that daytime television offers, with its fantasies of soap operas, game shows, old movies, and reruns. Prime time (during the evening) is a wonderland of scheduled police situations, private eyes, hospitals, situation comedies, personalities, serials, ana premiere movies.
The largest portion of radio is the same mixture of entertainment and commercials that television offers. Lacking television’s video quality, radio must concentrate on what it does best–appeal to the ear-and this generally means music. The spectrum of music offered by radio is impressive. Station by station, radio has selectively carved out a segment of the audience to which it appeals, and station by station, it continues to move goods to these audiences: components to stereo enthusiasts, blemish ointments to teenagers, and annuities to the affluent. Radio’s audiences are far more diversified than television’s, and its production costs are far less. This permits it to specialize toward selective audiences, and such specialization may take a form other than music. Some radio stations have found their niche in broadcasting a series of constantly updated. news bulletins, emphasizing information in a largely entertainment medium.
While the broadcast media and film have been identified as the baste purveyors of entertainment, this function is always intermixed with others. A high degree of entertainment pervades all mass media. often serving ail the vehicle for more serious functions.
The’ entertainment function of the media requires an extraordinarily affluent society to support the level inherent in Pakistani mass communication. When considering that mass communication is time-consuming and that a substantial portion of it is pure entertainment as evidenced by television, we become aware of the prerequisite leisure and affluence of our society that enables us to spend so much of our time unproductively. But this makes a certain amount of sense in our society when we figure .. that the average consumer of mass media is consciously Reeking to full fill personal needs and interests.