As I sat in front of my TV watching the tenth documentary show this week (yes, I keep count), I had a think about the purpose of media in society. As much as we use various types of media on a daily basis, not much thought is put into it’s actual purpose.
Most of the forms of media that we use regular (television, radio, internet, newspapers, etc) were originally created to be a way of telling people information. It was to educate people about things like news-worthy events, or to get messages to other people. But somewhere along the line, media became less about communicating messages, and more about entertaining the masses. The dictionary definition of media is-
‘The storage and transmission channels or tools used to store and deliver information or data. It is often referred to as synonymous with mass media or news media, but may refer to a single medium used to communicate any data for any purpose’
It is a way of communicating which comes from cave paintings created by cavemen. And postal services started from as early as 500BC, and became a crucial way of communications in the Persian and Roman Empires.
Times have changed, but still people feel the need to communicate to one another, now with the help of technology it is easier than ever. Rather than send a letter to loved ones and wait weeks for it to arrive, you can send them an email or call them on the other side of the world in seconds. These advances have mostly come within the last 50 years, and the world is better for it. When a news breaks, it would sometimes take days to get to all corners of the world. Now, within 30 minutes, newsrooms all over the world can be reporting on the same story. The rolling news networks (Sky News, Fox News, BBC News 24) are probably the best examples of media in it’s current form. No matter what time of day, news is constantly being reported, and it never stops. There is always something happening somewhere, and media helps a normal person see what is happening outside the borders to their country. Media doesn’t stop anymore. Rather than waiting to buy your newspaper in the morning to get updated in current affairs, you can flick onto a TV channel or switch on a computer. Everything is online. And online services really can be updated at any time of the day. Everything is posted as it happens.
And whilst you would think this would empower people as they have a wider scope of knowlege in front of them, it doesn’t. Rolling news hasn’t had the effect one would think. People are constantly feeling the need to switch off from their lives, and now use media to escape. If they have worked hard, they don’t want to be ‘snowed under’ with the rest of the world’s problems. So rather than watch the news or documentaries, many more watch TV talent shows or play computer games.
And working for a media company, I feel I notice this more. You can see the things that people want to spend their money on, and it isn’t news or documentaries, it’s movies and sport. The leading methods of escapism. Something where you can shift your focus away from what seems ordinary, and fixate your attention on something else. As nice as it is that people around the world can see whether Manchester United or Chelsea win the Premiership trophy, I find it unsettling that people would rather watch that, than be educated. I touched on education a few days ago, and I feel that is the most important resource we have. To learn how things work, and what happened on this earth before us. To learn how countries were formed and fought for. To me, that is exciting, that is what media is about. It is about being educated, not just in formal documentary format, but to educate on how others around the world live. Is that not the biggest selling point of the World Wide Web, that it connects the world and shows how other people live?
Or maybe it isn’t. Maybe the purpose of the media is to give deluded writers a forum to express their mislead views and opinions? I don’t know really. I like to think that all this technology has a higher worth than football and computer games. But, I guess that’s me. That is what I want to take from the media that surrounds me. Not everyone is like that.