Over the years, the historical evolution and development of the various types of mass media have been contributed to by several factors. There has been a rapid change in the three major forms of mass media, broadcast, print, and electronic media, since their introduction to the human race. As compared to the past, the rate of evolution now is much faster than in the past which has resulted in the alteration of the different forms of media along with the change. The evolution of media has also come with its own limitations despite the benefits brought as well. Taking an example of print media, it has been used for a very long period of time to spread information, dating back in ancient times back to 59 B.C. by Julius Caesar (Kipphan 25).
Caesar’s main intention of creating the “newspaper” was to keep the public posted on important events. During this early time, the news was presented on large whiteboards which were placed at strategic locations where the public would go for them (Kipphan 25). Thereafter, the first hand-written newspaper was created by the Chinese which was followed by Johann Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1447 (Metz 107; Bowers 109). The invention of print media made it easier for people to exchange their ideas. Before the start of the 17th century, the newspaper did not have regular publications. In 1844, the print media underwent a complete transformation with the introduction of the telegraph (Metz 107). By the dawn of the 19th century, newspapers had become the people’s primary source of getting access to information.
The invention of broadcast media in the 1900s saw the reevaluation of print media as the major source of provision of information (Bowers 109). The evolution of broadcast media started a long way with the use of wireless telegraphy which consisted of dashes and dots conveyed via radio transmissions. The transition saw the rapid popularity of audio broadcasting services which were conveyed through radio waves with signals from the transmitter being received by an antenna. People across the globe tuned to their radios to get updated on current events (Gordon 65). The evolution saw the development of television in the 1950s which began picking over from the radio transmission and during the cold war, an important role was played by short waves in keeping people posted (Bowers 109). Mass media has evolved since ancient times to date and as a result, society has been made a better place for the masses by the media’s action of ensuring democracy and cultural preservation and increasing the flow of information.
The development of mass media began in the ancient periods during the reign of the kings who patronized their poets and winters for creating dramas and writing books. Having created new empires and thrown away mighty dynasties, the power of mass media remains known by the world. Mass media has played a great role in society by keeping people posted through the creation of social awareness and has also eased the lifestyle of people. For instance, the print media played a great role in various historical events such as the French revolution, the Renaissance, and the American War of Independence just to mention a few (Gordon 66; Day 9).
The evolution and development of mass media started with the perfection of the hieroglyphics as early as 3300 B.C by the Egyptians, a writing system that was symbol-based. Later on, in 1500 B.C., alphabets with consonants were devised by the Semites. As the process continued, the vowels were then introduced by the Greeks at around 800 B.C. into their alphabet (Metz 108). Books were then introduced with quite a number being written in ancient times. According to sources, the first printed book, the Diamond Sutra, was done in China in 866 A.D. However, the growth of print media had several limitations and challenges in reaching a good number of people in China due to the high cost of paper and the slow rate of spread of literacy across the country (Metz 108).
However, in Europe, print technology evolved rather rapidly with the invention of the movable type printing press in 1400 A.D. by a German goldsmith, Johannes Gutenberg, which was based on screw bases (Metz 107; Bowers 109). The first book to be printed was done in 1453 A.D. with among the first to be printed including “The Gutenberg Biblewhole of Europe. The first printed advertisement was then done by William Caxton in England in 1468 A.D. which was produced in a printed book. Two million copies of the book were printed in the European countries by 1500 A.D. and the number continued to rise in the next century to two hundred million copies (Kipphan 27). The rapid spread of the printing press continued from a single city in Germany to cover the whole of Europe.
In the 1600 A.D., the newspaper was evolved even though it took it a whole century to directly influence the masses. The first newspaper to be printed was “The Relation,” which was later followed by the first colonial newspaper that was done by Benjamin Harris in 1690 A.D.in Boston (Metz 108). As newspapers continued to gain more popularity, the rate of their spread continued to increase rapidly and in 1827, “Freedom Journal,” the first African-American paper was produced (Metz 108). The development saw print media extent to be presented in several forms such as newspapers, books, magazines, and pamphlets. The newspapers served a great purpose in enlightening the masses about current affairs than to date as they still remain a vital global source of information (Metz 108).
In 1844, Samuel Morse developed the first telegraph line and by 1853, communication between people was even made easier by the development of the first transatlantic cable (Metz 108). A major revolution in communication was witnessed in 1876 by Alexander Graham’s invention of the telephone (Day 9; Metz 108). The masses were then empowered to communicate with their friends and relatives across the globe at the comfort of their homes. George Eastman then invented the photographic film in 1885 which assisted Gilbert Grosvenor in 1899 to introduce photographs in National Geographic. As a result of the emergence of radios and televisions in the twentieth century, the popularity of print media began going down slowly (Day 9).
The radio invention was based on the electromagnetic waves transmission principle. The radio grew to become prominent as a source of entertainment for the masses after the introduction of the radio programs (Day 9). The invention of the television was done in 1925 by John Logie Baird and its first transmission came two years later in 1927, facilitated by Philo Farnsworth (Bowers 109). The first full-color film in the world was then produced in 1932 by Walt Disney entitled “Flower and trees” and the dawn of the 1950s saw the black and white television become part of the American household. This advancement in mass media was majorly dependent on technological innovation and advancement with more reliance being on developments of cathode ray tubes, electricity, and semi-conductors.
The final stages of development in mass media saw the innovation of internet and smartphone technologies which are dominant to date. The evolution of the internet occurred in the second half of the twentieth century which saw the world get connected globally (Gordon 67). In the 1970s, e-mail technology was introduced in the 1990s, the idea of a world wide web (WWW) was then introduced by Tim Berners-Lee. The introduction of the instant message service followed in 2001 and by 2004, more than half of the American homes were connected by internet broadband (Day 10; Gordon 67).
As we speak, there are over 2 billion people world over who access the internet which has reduced the world into a global village as one could see or learn whatever interests them within a click of a button. The innovation of smartphones which occurred recently resulted in a major transformation in the lives of the masses as access to information has now been empowered and one could access valuable information whenever, wherever at the comfort of their smartphones. The advancement saw the introduction of mobile applications such as news that enable the users to read newspapers immediately after they are published and even save a copy to their e-mails for future reference. Television programs are also accessible via smartphones including live TV streaming (Metz 109; Bowers 109).
Commercial nature of mass media
The media, other than uncovering hidden truths within the society, is a form of business. There has been stiff competition in the media industry resulting from its commercialization. The competition has resulted in the diversification in the content covered by media in order to capture the majority of the masses. For instance, some print media have gone an extra mile, with the bid to outdo others in the market, by publishing cover stories, articles just to mention a few featuring sexual contents in order to entice the readers (Croteau and Hoynes 125). According to an expert analysis that was conducted on this incidence, the results revealed that the sole reason for media including sexual content is to lure the masses (Croteau and Hoynes 125).
Converged nature of media
The role of media in ensuring accountability of the government has been recognized for quite a long time. The government on the other hand plays a major role in regulating media products through censorship (Besley and Prat 720). The government also has an upper hand in influencing the content displayed by the media by maintaining a cozy relationship with the media (Besley and Prat 721). The converged nature of media has brought about major differences in the experience of reading the news in a newspaper and online. For instance, the ability of reader to recall the read news/information may or may not differ depending on the form that the information is presented i.e. whether online or on newspaper (d’Haenens, Jankowski, and Heuvelman 366).
The significant differences come about due to differences in the attention accorded by the readers when the news is presented in print form and as compared to online depending on the category of the news and the newspaper. According to d’Haenens et al., There are no consistent reading patterns depicted even though they significantly record more reading witnessed in the online readers as compared to the newspaper readers (367). The consumption of news is aligned along with the readers’ gender, category of the news, and interest of the readers in a given topic when it appears on a newspaper as compared to online (Dehaene et al. 367). Despite the experience, there has been pressure on media to transition from the analog to digital form of news given the advancement in technology. This would result to significant benefits accrued to media as publishing news online would boost their profits by cutting down their initial expenditure on publishing newspapers as one copy published online would be accessible by everyone.
The media has played a great role in society by ensuring democracy through government accountability. The role played by media has even been recognized by political thinkers due to the essential role that it plays in democracy (Besley and Prat 721). However, the promotion of democracy by the media greatly depends on media freedom without which the media’s ability would be reduced. This would explain why Jefferson’s argument that if he were to be given choice to choose between having a government newspaper without a government or a government without newspapers, he would go for newspapers without a government (Jefferson 18). This clearly highlights the importance of media in ensuring government democracy.
By ensuring that the public remains posted on current affairs and issues in the social, economic, and political surroundings around the world, media ensures that there is democracy. Curran argues that the media is society’s mirror as it strives to reflect the whole truth and brings to light all the harsh truths within the society (15). Taking an example of America, the media plays a very critical role in ensuring democracy by serving as government “watchdogs.” The media has often played the role of reminding the politicians of their unfulfilled promises made during their election campaigns. The role of media in ensuring democracy is more pronounced during elections as they feature extensive coverage of the election process which has assisted the public, more so the illiterate in making the right choices during the elections (Curran 16).
As a result, politicians have been compelled to try their best to keep their made promises during the election campaigns in order to remain in power. Mass media has also ensured that the rural illiterate people are educated about their culture and all that is practiced within them. Media has brought to light exploitative malpractices by money lenders and village elders/heads which have assisted in taking legal action against them by drawing the attention of the government to such occurrences thereby ensuring democracy (Curran 16). Democracy is also well ensured by the media by circulating information to the general public and making it accessible to them whenever they need it. An increase in the flow of information has seen to it that manifolds are increased significantly (Curran 17).
The media has ensured accountability in the system of democracy by ensuring that all the loopholes are exposed thus aiding the government in making rectifications where possible to ensure that the system is citizen-friendly, responsive, and accountable (Curran 17). According to Curran, democracy without the presence of media would be useless as he compares it to a vehicle that is without wheels (17). Due to technological advancement, the media has taken the advantage to deploy technology in the combat against corruption by uncovering all the occurrences and deals of corruption within the society and politics.
The promotion of democracy by the media has seen to it that there is equality in society regardless of class, religion, or race. The media has seen to this by being just and fair during the information-gathering process by ensuring that there is a balance in the population from which information is collected. Both the socially well-off and unwell are given equal opportunities to air their view. For instance, during election times, views are collected across all social classes irrespective of gender, class, religion, or race which has promoted democracy across the society.
Mass media has evolved since ancient times to date and as a result, society has been made a better place for the masses by the media’s action of ensuring democracy and cultural preservation and increasing the flow of information. The evolution of mass media is conspicuously noticeable with various developments being documented from the ancient period to date and how they significantly improved over the years. This essay clearly highlights the history of media from ancient times, to date and the importance and roles played by media within society. Media evolution is recorded from the reign of kingship led to the evolution of writing, print media, radio broadcasting, television, the internet just to mention a few. Media is a very important tool in society, it has been referred to as the mirror of the society as it reflects what the common citizens cannot see thereby ensuring accountability.
The media’s role in ensuring democracy has also been discussed in depth highlighting the role played by media during elections in order to educate the illiterate in order to promote good leadership and right choices during times of voting in general elections. The media has also streamlined politicians by reflecting their given promises during election campaigns and following up to see to it that all that was promised has been delivered. The roles played by media in ensuring democracy are limitless including uncovering hidden truths within the society to prompt government action, serving as the watchdog to the government, educating the public, uncovering corruption just to mention a few.
However, in order for the media to ensure that democracy is in place, media freedom would be a great determining factor. Without media freedom, it would be impossible for the media to uncover the ill deeds of the government and powerful forces within the society. The media is however regulated by the government which also plays a part in determining what can be aired and that which can’t. In general, the evolution of media has made the world a better society today than in the past and that would justify the argument that it would be better to have newspapers without a government than to have a government without newspapers.
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