It is a basic assumption of this book that the mass media (newspapers, television and radio especially) are of considerable, and still growing, importance in modem societies. This view of the media is widely shared, and the reasons seem to lie in the fact that the media are:
a power resource - a potential means of influence, control and innovation in society; the primary means of transmission and source of information essential to the working of most social institutions;
the location (or arena) where many affairs of public life are played out, both nationally and internationally;
a major source of definitions and images of social reality; thus also the place where the changing culture and the values of societies and groups are constructed, stored and most visibly expressed;
the primary key to fame and celebrity status as well as to effective performance in the public arena;
the source of an ordered and public meaning system which provides a benchmark for what is normal, empirically and evaluatively; deviations are signalled and comparisons made in terms of this public version of normality.
In addition, the media are the single largest focus of leisure-time activity and means of entertainment. They also help organize and interrelate the rest of leisure. As a result, they are a major and expanding industry, providing employment and a wide range of potential economic benefits.
If these claims are accepted, it is not difficult to understand the great interest which the mass media have aftracted since their early days, nor why they have been subject to so much public scrutiny and regulation as well as theorizing. The conduct of democratic (or undemocratic) politics, nationally and internationally, depends more and more on mass media, and there are few significant social issues which are addressed without some consideration of the role of the mass media, whether for good or ill. As will appear, the