Learn what mass media are and why they are so important


It is necessary for you to know what mass media are, since they are one of the most important elements of our society. Thanks to them, people can participate in the public sphere, and many authors consider them fundamental for democracy.

Don’t worry if this is the first time you read about it and you have no idea what mass media is, because in this article we will tell you everything you need to know about it. We will even tell you briefly about the history of mass media.

When you finish reading, you will not only understand what they are, but you will also know what the function of mass media is and why they are so important for the well-being of a society.

what is mass media?

Mass media is a communication format with the capacity to transmit a message to an infinite number of people simultaneously. For some authors, it is also a mechanism for the dissemination of knowledge and the construction of public opinion.

Perhaps the concept seems a bit complicated, but surely you are familiar with current media such as television, radio, the press and the Internet. All of these are channels that are used for a myriad of purposes, but essentially, they serve to convey a message.

Well, we are sure that after processing the concept, it will be easy for you to identify which media exist today, but so that you don’t get confused, the best thing to do is to talk about the characteristics that define them. These are some of the most important characteristics of mass media:

They are available to a very wide and varied audience.
They are used to communicate information in one direction only, from the medium to the receiver.
They can communicate ideas and information regardless of the distance from the source to the receiver.
They require a minimum infrastructure for the production and dissemination of information.
Because of their ability to reach a mass audience, mass media are often also used for the promotion of commercial products and services.

These characteristics are very useful in defining what the mass media are. But what are they for, what is the function of mass media?

To say that they serve to convey a message may be too general, so let’s take a closer look at what today’s mass media are for.

antena satelital que sirve como emisora y receptora de mensajes

Source: Pexels

what is mass media for?

The mass media fulfill a social function, as we mentioned before, they serve as a tool for the dissemination of knowledge and for the construction of public opinion, although this is not always the case.

Javiera Aguirre Romano, author of the book “Media Ethics”, points out that the mass media also have a democratizing function, and explains why she considers so:

“…life, in today’s societies, determined by globalization, multiculturalism and the time imposed by technologies, demands, perhaps more than ever, informed citizens capable of making decisions.”

This means that today’s media are a tool that allows a society to have access to information and, therefore, to know what to think about a particular issue and what to decide in its role of participation in the public sphere.

Of course, this vision of the media, despite being the most transcendental and useful for the organization of a society, is not the only one. The mass media are also used for entertainment and advertising, among other things.

History of mass media

Although it may seem incredible, the first reference we have to understand what mass media are is found during the period of the Roman Empire in the year 59 BC. At that time, social and political events were communicated through the Acta Diurna, a kind of minute carved on stone that was placed in some of the most important squares of the empire.

As you can see, the ancient means of communication were rudimentary, difficult to reproduce, and the information they contained was determined by the emperor’s spokesmen.

The first great step in the evolution of the media would not come until the middle of the 15th century, with the invention of Johannes Gutenberg: the printing press. This invention generated a revolution in all senses, above all, in the means of mass communication.

Although what could be said at that time was controlled by governments, the printing press made it easier and faster to print texts, and almost anyone could do it.

Just 200 years later, in 1644, the principles that define today’s media began to take shape, when a movement began to take shape that demanded freedom of the press and wanted to limit government control over the information that was communicated.

This movement was consolidated at the end of the 18th century, when the U.S. Constitution established an amendment defending freedom of speech and press as one of the fundamental rights of the people. At that time there were only print media, mainly newspapers.

The mass media landscape continued to expand in the 20th century with the incorporation of media such as radio and television, which made it possible to transmit the same message to a very large number of people. In addition, communication became faster, because people didn’t have to wait until the next day to find out what had happened.


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