The persuasive function of the media in contemporary society is as significant us the information and entertainment functions. Advertising, of course, is its most apparent form, but there are other more subtle manifestations of persuasion that are likely to have lasting effects on the future of mass communication. The billion rupees spent annually on advertising is only 8 portion of the amount spent on mass media persuasion. Public-relations activities, special promotional events, and blatant bs well as subtle efforts at image manipulation and public-opinion formation columns arc obvious of overt persuasion; the subtle ways in which individual, social, and economic values are reflected in news columns, cartoons, music videos and other entertainment programmers are something else.
Because we recogni e Raveriif;emenis and editorials for whnt they persuasion-we g~ve them their proper due. nut how do we cope with subtly implanted commercial products such 8B brand name candy,’ cereal, or household products in our films? And do we tell our children that their favourite Friday morning cartoons are nothing but lures to bring them into the stores to buy the commercial products those cartoon characters represent
Murch of the persuasion in mass communications is concealed. Any public-relations practitioner can testify to the fact that a considerable portion of what passes for news in the media has a persuasive origin and an ulterior purpose. Much of what the public reads, hears, or watches in all the media is designed to influence in one way or another
Political campaigns, which periodically command vast_ attention in the mass media, are almost pure persuasion. Much of governmental news at all levels has a propaganda base as government seeks to declare or justify its actions in a democratic society. A good part of business and financial news is advocacy. In today’s environmental and consumer-conscious society, business is increasingly under attack and seeks to utilize the mass media in defense.
ThE!’doses of persuasion masquerading as information in mass communication are huge, and inevitably the functions have tended to merge, obliterating distinctions. This in turn leads to a credibility gap, because what appears to be bona fide news repeatedly turns out to be political or commercial advocacy, or is flavored by newspaper bias or television distortion.
Most of Pakistani mass media are supported by advertising in one way or another; commercial radio and television are 100 percent so. Newspapers and magazines in varying degrees rely heavily upon advertising revenues. The price of a newspaper does little more than cover distribution costs, leaving all editorial costs, all production costs, and all profit to be borne by paid advertising. Magazines vary widely in their use of advertising, but generally at least half their revenue, and hence, all their profit, comes from advertising.
It is obvious that television is not all entertainment. The schedule is regularly interspersed during daytime and evening hours with a mosaic of commercials touting used cars, cosmetics, household sprays, fast food restaurants, intimate hygiene products, major appliances, and ball-point pens. Some of the commercials, might note subjectively, appear better than the surrounding programming. That advertising should conform to or even surpass the format of the medium is not at all surprising
In fact, a good case can be made that the role of advertising agencies in mass communication industries is to inject entertainment into commercial persuasion, lest the public’s attention, subjected to unrelenting exposure to so many sales pitches, begins to smoking and thus defeat the advertiser’s purpose. In any event, it becomes apparent that the purpose of television programming is to provide a vehicle for the commercials, to deliver customers to the advertisers
It is also significant that, although only 10 percent or less of the information or news that is available to media -reporters and editors eventually appears in the news medium or newscast, .nearly all of the available advertising is published or broadcast. This may offer a commentary on the relative values placed on advertising and information in a commercial society
A highly profitable aspect of film-making is concerned with persuasion and information. Commercials are an obvious example. In addition, there are training, educational, and institutional films: travelogues, and driver-training, how-to-do-it, and 8~1es-orientation films. Like textbooks; these films have limited appeal and are shown for specific reasons before captive audiences. They constitute a large portion of film-making, easily the greatest number of new films each year. But they lack the .public exposure of either paid-admission films or television’s “nights at the movies
Film today shows considerable persuasive and informational content. It begins to lay serious claim as a prime medium of cultural transmission, recording and playing for inspection the triumphs, failures, and foibles of society. A good deal of social concern has proven profitable movies appear to have capitalized on this.
Transmission of the Culture
Cultural transmission is one of the most widespread but least understood functions of mass communication. Cultural transmission is inevitable, always present, for any communication has an effect on the individual recipient. Thus, any communication becomes, if ever so slightly, a part of the individual’s experience, knowledge, and accumulated learning. Through individuals: communication becomes a part of the collective experience of groups, public, audiences of all kinds, and the masses or’ which each individual is a part. It is this collective experience reflected back through communication forms, not merely in the mass media, but also in the arts and sciences, that painta a picture of the culture, of an age, of a
society. _Heritage, then, is the cumulative effect of previous cultures and societies that have become a part of humanity’s birthright and being, It is transmitted by individuals, parents, peers, primary and secondary groups, and the educational process.This cultural -communication – is constantly – modified by new experience.
Thus, cultural transmission takes place at two levels: the contemporary and the historical. These two levels are un separated and constantly interweaving. Furthermore, the mass media are major tools in the transmission of the culture on both levels ..On the contemporary level, media constantly reinforce the consensus of society’s values, while continually introducing the
seeds of change. It is this factor that leads to the enigma surrounding mass media; they are simultaneously the conservator of the status quo and the vehicle of change. Television, for instance, is both mirror and molder of the times. As television programmers and original movies increasingly show previously taboo themes, they reflect a change in the social structure-a change that television itself may be partially responsible for causing. The process is no less true of other media messages, even those primarily informational or persuasive.
To understand the process of cultural transmission, indeed of communication itself, it is worthwhile to peer back as far as possible into pre-history. To understand the process of cultural transmission, indeed of communication itself, it is worthwhile to peer back as far as possible into pre-history.earth, has been able to consciously store its experiences and pB88 them along from one generation to the next. Thus, the progress of the species hB8been more or less constant. This ability hB8led to cultural transmission B8a function of the media, and to the entire institution of education, so much a part of this function. Nor should it .be forgotten, particularly in today’s deafening competition for attention, that only a part of this education is a formal, in-the-classroom, from-the-textbook education; an enormous amount of it is acquired willy-nilly from the mass media (most often, television) B8they transmit their version of
Historically the human race been able to continually draw on the past and add new experience from the present to guide the future. Not only have humans been able to accumulate experience, but they have proven themselves able to sort and sift among these memories, discarding the un-needed and ordering the rest for ease in transmission both to their fellows and to posterity. It is this process that prunes knowledge from raw experience. With other species that lack the time-binding ability, each new generation starts more or less where its predecessor did and finishee at roughly the same state of development that all previous generations did, subject only to the ponderous process of biological evolution. In other words, all other species are somewhat static in time, whereas collectively and consciously determine their own future. Elephants of the twentyru- st century, for all their intelligence and longevity, will be about the same as they are presently. However, it is safe to predict that humans will be substantially changed-socially, politically, economically, and technologically–and that the mass communications network serving the third-millenium culture bs its central nervous system will be radically different both in cause
and effect from that of today.
Related to all this, possibly a cause of it, is humanity’s other unique distinction-Its ability to deal in abstractions, to let symbols stand for things, thoughts, events, states of mind, and even for emotions, for very complex processes indeed. For· , example, human communication itself is an abstraction, requiring tools for the transfer of meaning. Sets of symbols, called “codes,” or more simply, “languages,” are employed. Most familiar to us are verbal symbols, such as the spoken language. However, they probably are no more important to successful communication than are the entire range of nonverbal symbols such as body English, eye contact, mime, music, art, and graphics.
Words are symbols of things, thoughts, and emotions. No symbol is exact; it is, after all, only the attempted portrayal of reality, and “the map is not the territory,” as general semanticists say. We all know what “flower” stands for-or do we? Since people’s experiences with them differ, which flower does “flower” bring to mind-a rose, a violet, daisies in the field? Even narrowing; the categories, does “rose” bring to mind the flower picked by young lovers, the one sent by an individual seeking forgiveness, or the one on a casket?
People think in words, verbally, and words mean special things to different people. But some words are more distinctive .than others. To describe this relative difference, consider denotative and connotative words. Denotative words mean pretty much what they say they do. They are fairlyexp,licit and have a ·:.general commonality, with little variation in meaning from person to person. “Bookcase” is a good example; “blackboard” is another. Wars are not likely to start over different interpretations of such words.
Connotative words, on the other hand, are less explicit; they imply rather than denote. They are far more abstract, referring rarely to things but rather to thoughts and abstract concepts such as justice, patriotism, love, beauty, truth, freedom, and courage. There is little commonality of acceptance in the meaning of these words. What is strategic defense? What is a peacekeeper missile? What is equal opportunity? What is the right to life? What is newer than new, whiter than white, fresher than fresh? The answers to these questions depend not only upon whom we ask, but the way in which we ask and the conditions under which we ask. Yet this is the stuff of which mass communication and public opinion are made, and, as we well know, the stuff over which battles are fought. Language and abstractions-the uniquely human tools mankind has designed to
separate itself from other species-divide individuals and societies just as readily as they bind them together. As noted earlier, this semantic noise is an inevitable component of the mass
communication process, just as it is a prime ingredient in cultural transmission.
Manipulation of language-verbal and non-verbal-vin transmitting culture is the media’s stock-in-trade. Such manipulation is not limited to the persuasive arts of advertising and public relations. It may be more readily observed in persuasion, but is no less influential when employed in informational and entertainment contexts. Two prime ways media use to bind culture together is through use of stereotypes and myths.