In this respect, the development of the mass media is not simply a question of
the technology being available, therefore it can be exploited. Not only do
political, economic and ideological struggles determine the way in which
technology is allowed to develop and be exploited, they also determine the
form of this development / exploitation (for example, in relation to questions
such as whether the media should be State owned, privately owned or,
indeed, a mixture of both.
Although, as I noted earlier, the term mass media is applied to all media that
reach a mass audience (which is not too surprising really, when you think
about it), we are going to concentrate mainly on just two of the many media
available in our society:
a. Newspapers / magazines.
b. Television / radio.
Aside from the important time and space considerations I keep mentioning
(perhaps we would have more of them if I didn't keep using valuable time and
space to say why we can't have any more of them), these two general areas
are probably the most significant in terms of overall audience size in Britain
and, for this reason, are perhaps the most interesting in terms of various
forms of sociological analysis.
As you will, no-doubt, be aware, our society is one in which the pace of
technological change is extremely rapid. Over the past 30 years, for example,
we have experienced technological change on a vast scale:
In 1963, for example (admittedly before I was born, but I've read the books),
television was valve-based (you had to wait five minutes after switching the
television on for it to "warm-up") and newspapers were produced using
traditional type-setting techniques and machinery. Computers, on the other
hand, were machines that filled whole rooms.
Over a period of 30 years we have seen the widespread introduction of, first,
transistor technology (the technology that allowed you to unplug the "wireless"
from the mains and carry it around in your hand - so I've been told) and, more-
recently, silicon chip technology (the ability to "print" electrical circuits on wafer
thin slices of silicon).
These technological developments have lead us into colour broadcasting,
stereo and quadraphonic wide-screen television; video recorders and
cameras are now commonplace (about one third of all homes in Britain own a
video recorder, which is a strange and baffling fact, since its fairly common
knowledge that only children under the age of 12 actually know how to
operate the things). Compact disks, digital tape recorders, personal
computers and so forth are all widely-available as affordable, mass produced,
Silicon chip technology has revolutionized the way newspapers are produced