An explosion of information and entertainment, spread around the world by electronic methods, recently has intensified humanity’s ability to communicate by an incalculable degree.
A space camera sends photographs of the planet Uranus 1.8 billion’ miles back to earth. These pictures in turn are bounced off orbiting satellites and distributed to television audiences worldwide. Only a relatively few years ago such actions were inconceivable
The purpose of this chapter is to explain what is happening in the methods of mass communication and how the changes affect individuals and society. We look first at how computers ‘and satellites have revolutionized communication. Examples show what can be achieved using these remarkable tools
After that we explain how new methods have altered the operation of newspapers, television, radio, recordings, and motion pictures. The rapid growth of cable television and the emergence of the video industry receive attention. So does the concept of information on demand
Finally, we discuss the negative side of this profusion of new communication techniques, pointing out the areas of danger it has created
The Electronics Revolution
The ancient barriers of time and space have fallen Swept away by the tremendous strides ill electronic communication, these obstacles no longer impede the mass dissemination of news and entertainment even to remote corners of the world
With in seconds a news bulletin or television picture can flash around the globe. Much of humanity’s accumulated knowledge and contemporary information is recorded in computer storage, waiting to be called up by those who desire it
Today’s news stories, instead of being transmitted along the earth’s surface by wire, are beamed to a satellite 22,300 miles above the earth. There they bounce off a transponder pad back to the ground and are delivered into homes on the television screen or by radio. Neither barriers of nature, such as mountains, nor artificial barriers, such as national frontiers, can block their passage.
Yet, many people remember when the fastest form of communication was represented by a telegrapher in a green eye shade tapping out the dots and dashes of Morse code at 30 words a minute.
Propelled by these new electronic methods, the tools of mass communication have penetrated virtually everywhere in the developed countries of the world. Increasingly, they are reaching into the more primitive areas as well.
A study showed that when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, 90 percent of the American people knew about the shooting within an hour. That was in 1963. Today, a quarter century later, catastrophic news flashes worldwide at even greater speeds and with more intense penetration.
The immediacy and abundance of worldwide communication created by these technical marvels .influencea all levels of society. The concept of the global village, in which all inhabitants of planet Earth are drawn together in shared knowledge and needs, has been brought closer to reality. Life moves faster. Politic8.I and social ideas spread more rapidly. More information is available for making decisions, personal as well as governmental. Comprehension of the lives, desires, and rights of other individuals and other countries has been intensified
Nevertheless, the stifling hand of political censorship still restricts the full use of these communication capabilities, as the world witnessed during the Soviet nuclear plant diaster at Chernobyl in 1986. The explosion created a radiation danger for people within the Soviet Union and in neigh bouring countries, yet the Soviet Union suppressed the news for three days. Not until Scandinavian countries reported exceptionally high radiation in their atmosphere did the Kremlin make its first brief announcement.
It is evident that the availability of communication tools is greater than humanity’s demonstrated ability to use them wisely
In the United States, to cite one example of this availability, 98 percent of the homes have at least one television set. ‘Approximately 46 percent of television homes are wired to receive cable television, with its profusion of offerings. Radio sets number nearly 500 million. After a period of decline, daily newspaper circulation has risen to about 63 million copies a day. Motion pictures are reaching additional millions of viewers through cable TV. Development of videotape has enormously enlarged the flexibility of sound motion picture presentation, at home and commercially. By use of videocassettes and videocassette recorders, individuals can watch movies and television programmers whenever they wish. The number of .A computers is said to exceed the world’s population.
Given such enormous advances in the means ” of communication within a short time, it is not surprising that . society does not yet fully comprehend the significance of the tools at its command
The Media and their Purpose
The mass media fall into two categories with certain attributes in common but with unlike physical characteristics. These groups are:
PRINT. Newspapers, magazines, and books. Their words create images in the mind as well as transmit information
ELECTRONIC AND FILM. Radio, recordings,. television, motion pictures, and video. These media deliver their messages through visual and audio impact on the senses, sometimes with great emotional intensity
The media deliver information in the form of news, commentary, and advertising, and also in the guise of entertainment.
In order to understand how the media deal with issues and situations, we must understand how they are organized and how they operate. The first step i8 to learn how the machinery of mass communication functions
Marvellous as the electronic revolution is, it carries perils as well as immense possibilities for good. The danger that persons of evil intent will pervert truth by electronic trickery needs close scrutiny. Invasion of privacy and destruction of security become more critical dangers as the means for accomplishing them multiply. Thoughtful consideration must also be given to the ethical dilemmas that challenge those who work in the mass communications field.
Above all, it is vital to remember that the techniques of mass communication, fascinating as they are, exist only 88 tools. The ability to deliver words and pictures to the remotest villages of the world swiftly and abundantly has opened doors, yet it is the content of the messages transmitted that can open minds. As Henry David Thoreau Wrote in 1849, “We are in a great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas, but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate
Once people hungered for information. Today, the problem has become information overload. We are 80 inundated with information and entertainment that individuals face a perplexing problem of selectivity and evaluation.