Human Needs

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The human needs that the mass media help to satisfy in terms of the news and entertainment media.

Competition has become increasingly keen in the area of the mass media as they keep fighting for the attention of the readers, listeners, and TV-viewers. The life and death of each newspaper and TV station is at stake here when the income from advertising and sponsoring is proportional to the number of readers or viewers. The printed media have problems competing with the electronic media as sources of news. In order to survive, they are increasingly turning to other strategies such as entertainment, titillation, scandal mongering, and spreading fear - and spending fewer resources on serious researching of news. This is not only about the survival of the fittest of the news media, it is also about cultural selection and political selection. The news media are the most important channels for the propagation of culture, ideas, and opinions. Most opinion formation takes place when people sit and watch news and debates on television. Analyzing the cultural selection in the electronic information society, we find that an important part of the selection lies in the choice between TV channels. Millions of lazy viewers sit in their comfortable arm-chairs with remote controls in their hands zapping between action films, revivalist preachers, and commercials for a new fragrance, hardly realizing that by choosing which cultural and political influences they expose themselves to, they also chose the cultural and political evolution of their country. It is important to analyze which selection criteria are in effect here. The electronic media are first and foremost pacifying. It is a relaxation machine, and the viewer wants to be entertained. The faces on the screen are not chosen for their opinions but for their entertainment value. TV stations do not compete on ideologies but on sense impressions. An extreme example is music videos, satiated with fast changing sense impressions sound as well as in pictures. The media affect us in many ways: as a major socialising influence, a carrier of culture, a source of information, education and entertainment, an important factor in political communication and participatory democracy, and a communicator of ideological values and norms, attitudes and beliefs. The media also both represents and constructs conceptions of what constitutes a successful and valued life, along with what is considered to be deficient, deviant, marginalised or undesirable. In all these ways, the media exert an influence on identity formation and associated issues to do with stigma, self-esteem, social relations, economic and political positions. For instance, the way in which socio-economic status is framed in the entertainment and news media significantly influences how audiences feel about social equity and how they treat those who are impoverished, homeless, or unemployed. As the media analyst Diana Kendall argues: “myths and negative perceptions about the working class and the poor create a reality that seemingly justifies the superior positions of the upper-middle and upper classes and establishes them as entitled to their privileged position in the stratification system” (Kendall, 2005: 2-3). While it is true that lack of education is a strong determinant of poverty, it is also clear that more affluent members of society and media practitioners themselves require education about poverty if this situation is to improve. Talking about the role of media in society or audience, news media depend very much on their audience for economic reasons. They have to publish whatever makes people buy their newspapers, listen to their radio programs, or tune in to their TV shows and stay tuned through the commercial breaks. This is what newsworthiness really is about, catching the attention of the audience by presenting something spectacular, unusual, emotionally touching, and something that people can identify with. The...
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