Over the past few years, there has been a lot of concentration of the ownership of the mass media. This has been as a result of the privatization and deregulation of the mass media. This kind of mass media ownership has brought a big impact on how the news is collected and presented to the people in terms of content (Dyer 1979). There is a lot of commercialization of the news.
Through this kind of ownership, people are left with very general information which does not contain much information but with politically safe topics and only news with safe events. The important discussion like those of economic and social trends and human condition are totally left out. Since these commercialized mass media require money, they tend to leave the coverage of political news because they fear that they may lose certain segments of their audience (Gilbert 1951).
The kind ownership of the media greatly affect on what information is covered and what is not going to be covered. This is most especially the case with current corporate media ownership. Now that the mass media agents are capitalist in nature, their major aim is to make profit and thus they do not worry much on what is covered. There is also the standardization of what is covered in the mass media and now the message conveyed is constrained to suit the concerned individuals.
The implications of this kind of media ownership are wide and far reaching. First of all, it makes the public to hear and read uniform information in terms of content and even in the mode of presentation (Neuman 1991). This seriously violates the democracy that the society should be enjoying especially from the media.
It is clear that the mass media has been and is being controlled by the few rich people in society and these people are the ones who determine what is circulated in the mass media for their benefit. As Bar-Tal (1997) argues, the structure of control and ownership of the media is very crucial.
In the society, the media ownership increases their influence to the extent that they are seen as powerful institutions for political power. Berger (1967) argues that the owners of these mass media have become very powerful to the level of writing the rules which favor them and not the interests of the general public.
Mass media sociological theories
In sociology, mass media is very important because it shows and creates the culture in the society. In summary, the mass media is permanent and is a very crucial component of the present culture in our societies (Gorham 1999). There are three main sociological theories relating to the mass media. These are; the theory of limited effects, culturalist theory and the theory of class dominant. These are explained in detail below.
- A) Limited effects theory
This theory says that the media has little influence on people because they are the ones who decide on what to watch and what to read on the basis of what they believe. From the studies, it was found that informed people mostly rely on their personal experience, the knowledge they have and their way of reasoning before they decide on the media to use. However, for the less informed, the case is different because they can be easily swayed by the media people. This type of theory has some weaknesses. For instance, the media can influence on the issues to be discussed and create a limit and frames on the same. Another weakness of this theory is that it came about when the media was less dominant and hence may not hold water in the current world.
- B) The class dominant theory
This theory says that the mass media takes and reflects on the views of the rich people of the society who in turn control it. Most of the people who own the mass media are the elites of the society who virtually control almost all aspects in the society. This is best seen from the corporate mergers of the media organizations and these tend to discourage competition hence leaving the businesses on the hands of the media. Therefore, when the ownership is controlled, then few elite people have the capacity to manipulate what the people can hear and see. For instance the stories which may portray the negative side of corporate can be eliminated. The sponsorship issues like advertising aggravates this problem even further because this money is the one that funds the media. Then the media will avoid covering the negative stories of the organizations which fund them through huge adverts which generate a lot of income.
- c) The culturalist theory
This theory combines the above two theories by arguing that people use the mass media and make out their own interpretations of what they see and hear from the it. They are therefore very active participants in the media and not passive as could be seen (Chaffee at al 1991). There are two stands of research here. The first one concentrates how people interact with the mass media while the other dwells on those who produce the so called media, the news in this case.
This theory emphasizes that it is the audience who decide what to watch, read, and by how much among other choices at the disposal of the individuals. The research shows that when people come across a material to read, they are the ones to decide whether to read it or not based on the prior experience.
The news that the audience finally receives at the far end is usually socially constructed. The media people mostly take the elements of the culture, amplify them, put them in appropriate frames and then give them to the audience (Eagly 1987). This brings the clear distinction between the reality of the news and the reality in the social context.
In addition to this, the mass media suppress the news and finally create a disinformation to the audience and this makes the audience receive totally different news from the reality. They seldom give the news that leaves the audience to make the meaning by them.
People with vast knowledge in the social contexts take the media as one of the many sources of information of political issues, cultural and national groups. The information which these people get from the media is not influential at all as they have the information about how this news is build.
Media stereotypes are in most cases unavoidable when it comes to advertising, news industries and entertainment which require large audiences. They give people a quick common understanding in terms of ethnicity, race, and social role among others.
The way the media present news will create a long lasting mental perception of certain groups against others in terms of social, cultural and political in a given scenario. This is because the mass media is normally seen as easily accessible and available source of information.
Many people view the media as a major player in the shaping of peoples perceptions. But on the other hand it is a reality that the media tries to construct the world and maintain it in certain meanings (Berger 1967). The media plays a role in constructing the meaning of the dominant groups in society against those of low class in society.