Throughout the way the media communicates their

Throughout the 20th and
21st century, the mass media has been critical to the advancement of
our society that now virtually no one can live without it. “Mass media has a
prominent role to play in modern society and modernisation has converted media
into an indispensable feature of human activity” (Paul, Singh and B. John,
2013). But, what is the mass media? According to Study.com, the “Mass media
means technology that is intended to reach a mass audience. It is the primary
means of communication used to reach the vast majority of the public. The most
common platforms for mass media are newspapers, magazines, radio, television,
and the Internet. The public typically relies on the mass media to provide
information regarding political issues, social issues, entertainment, and news
in pop culture” (Study.com, N.D). As it can be seen, the mass media comes in
many unique forms and is important to us, as, without
it, we won’t be able to get any information regarding anything which we find
important to us whether that’s news or gossip. Furthermore, it is critical to
our society as it’s our main channel of
communication and the society relies on it to form opinions and decisions. However,
there are two concepts which, in a way, help us understand the role of mass
media better and how it works in our society and they are ideology and hegemony.
Ideology is “a set of beliefs or principles, especially one on which a
political system, party, or organization is based” (Cambridge Dictionary, N.D.)
while hegemony, is “Leadership or dominance, especially by one state or social
group over others” (Oxford Dictionaries, N.D). These two concepts have shaped
the way the media communicates their information to the masses and influences
the type of news they produce. In this essay, we will look at the concept of ideology
and discuss the role it has in mass media and how it affects today’s society.

“When we examine the
ideology of media, we are not so much interested in the specific activities
depicted in a single newspaper, movie, or hit song as in the broader system of
meaning of which these depictions are a part” (Croteau and Hoynes, 2013). As it
can be shown, ideology can be found in many tools of the mass media, but it
always belongs to one type of system. Furthermore, with mass media, ideology
can spread through the various mediums of communication used and it can be
either for a good or bad cause. It all depends on the producer. According to
Antonio Gramsci (2006), “Ideology” was an aspect of “sensationalism”, i.e.
eighteenth-century French materialism. Ideas had to be broken down into their
original “elements”, and these could be nothing other than “sensations” (Cited
in Durham and Kellner, 2006, P.14). And these sensations were manipulated by
the ruling class. “Virtually all forms of mass media—radio, television, movies,
music, and the Internet—are standard targets, attacked by politicians from
different political perspectives who have little doubt that the media are
ideological, selling certain messages and worldviews” (Croteau and Hoynes,
2013). We live in a society which is controlled by its media as it is devoted
to its politics and religion. Additionally, as said by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
(2006), “The class which has the means of material production at its disposal,
consequently also controls the means of mental production, so that the ideas of
those who lack the means of mental production are on the whole subject to it” (Cited
in Durham and Kellner, 2006, P.9). This suggests that the people who control
the media (politicians, states, parties) can easily impose what they want the
public to see and believe in and that can affect the way the society thinks on
a specific matter which can be for a better or worse understanding.

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To begin with, there are positive
advantages to the word ideology and how it’s used in mass media to affect the
society we live in today. However, just because ideology has been often
associated with close-mindedness or negative
thinking that doesn’t mean it wasn’t used to promote something positive. During
the First World War, the British army was weak against the Germans as it was
unprepared and rushed in into the conflict, which led the British government to
resort to to using the media to promote nationalism and motivate countrymen to
join up in the armed forces through posters such as the iconic “Your Country
Needs You” poster and newspaper adverts. This goes to show how the media can be
used to bring about a positive way of thinking to the audience and encourage
them to do something beneficial for their country. Also, these days the mass
media can be a tool for social interaction
and understanding as differing ideologies can come together on social media
platforms and interact with each other in an open space without conflict. This
can also be a motivation for the social exchange of ideas and values which can
promote a better understanding of thought and more respect towards other’s
views on certain things. Moreover, “During a disaster, the media play a crucial
role as an information broker and a conduit of information in the affected
region during the response and recovery phase” (ABEYWARDANA, 2017). This helps
our society in understanding that the media wants to instil a feeling of
compassion towards the affected region which can encourage us to help those
affected by the catastrophe and keep us up to date on what is happening there,
such as aid relief and rehousing efforts. Besides, the mass media can also help
us realise the truth by exposing corruption and wrong-doing. The society we
live in today has allowed for a more open form of media to exist, one that is
decentralised such as social media networks and tv channels such as the BBC who
do not have any state intervention or are controlled by the state in any way.
Also, “The media are working well to prevent corruption, they employ
investigative journalism to reveal inequities, and violations and, in an
educational sense, reinforce social values that reduce the incidence of
corruption in government and business. Relying on freedom of speech, the media
perform their watchdog function in society as they curb and expose social
injustice. The media, who
deal with current events, prevent corruption by stressing its immorality” (Utriainen,
N.D.). Nevertheless, the effects of a positive ideology do affect us to do good
and improve the society around us when shown to us by the mass media.

On the other hand,
ideology can have a detrimental effect on our society if used in a wrong or
deleterious way by the mass media. The public is
susceptible to what it sees on the news and views can quickly change regarding
a certain topic or subject. If the media presents a social or political group
in a bad light, then they shall be discriminated against and blamed for the
problems of the country by the general public. This in a sense, could help bolster support for a rival political or
social group. Not to mention, this type of media reporting is harmful to the
public, especially if supported by the government, it can have devastating
effects on other countries or people who are targeted by it. While this is
still done today, it can be said that this tactic was highly utilised by the
Soviet Union and the United States during
the 1960s and 1970s where the cold war was at its height. The conflicting
ideologies used propaganda and false reporting to make the other seem dangerous
and intimidating. Furthermore, many feared nuclear annihilation so during those
times both the USA and the USSR produced films to warn their populations on how
to protect themselves against nuclear attacks by building shelters and doing
other things. While the possibility of war was high, it can be argued that both
superpowers used the media as a weapon to propagate their ideologies and power
which led to raised tensions and provoked suspicions. This was a negative use
of the mass media as “various information presented is considered to give a
tangible influence positive and negative” (Paul, Singh
and B. John, 2013). It brought distrust and made the public believe that
the other country and anyone allied with it was their sworn enemy.  Likewise, “One of the areas which the media
follows with great interest and reports as it likes, is the matter of crimes
especially those with destructive effects. Terrorist acts, kidnappings, tragic
murders and other cases of this kind reflected in the media can be made in a
way to make citizens fearful of their future and make them believe that they
are living in conditions of insecurity, so they will always be fearful of
crimes and insecurities” (Alipour
et al., 2015). This, however, is a bad
consequence as “mentioning the details of criminal behaviours and the way they
use for committing a crime is kind of
teaching them the tricks and skills for committing crimes. Continuous display
of crime and violence in visual media causes human indifference” (Alipour et
al., 2015). In this sense, the mass media’s role corrupts the audience by what
it shows, and by this, the mass media presents a negative ideology which depending on
how it is conveyed, it can affect society in diverse ways. Therefore, the “continued
reflection of deviances in media decreases the hatred of crimes, and disorders
become ordinary in the society” (Alipour et al., 2015). This, in turn, is
detrimental and slows down the development of society.

In conclusion, the term
ideology does help us to understand the role of the mass media in the society
we live in today. We have looked at the disadvantages and advantages of ideology
in relation to the mass media and how it affects the society.  Moreover, “mass media is not vulnerable in
itself but like other technologies, it has positive and negative effects. Its
effects can be dependent on how it is being used” (Alipour et al., 2015). “The
entry of information by the mass media impacts social change in society.
Information thus has the power both to build and destroy. This means that the
mass media is double-faced” (Paul, Singh and B. John, 2013). In general, ideology
does affect the media in one way or the other. The media then relays this
information to us in the way the producer prefers. This can have different
meanings depending on our culture and way of understanding. As a result, the
mass media is a vital institution to our society as it delivers news,
entertainment, and information to us and we rely on it heavily. While it is influenced
by ideology in one way or the other, it tries to be impartial, so society can
get the whole clear picture.