About 5,000 AM and 5,000 FM stations are broadcasting in local communities as are 1,550 commercial and 350 educational television stations (Hiebert 2001). All citizens are heavily exposed to mass media, but how is this enormous amount of ready information impacting society? Does it influence opinions or reflect society’s thoughts, and feelings?
Obviously, mass media does indeed influence opinion as it is the genesis of the information by which opinion is formed. To what degree depends on the variables considered as the effects of mass communication are many and diverse and may be short or long-term, obvious or concealed, intense or ineffectual. They may derive from any number of aspects of the communication content. “They may be considered as psychological or political or economic or sociological. They may operate upon opinions, values, information levels, skills, taste, or overt behavior” (Hiebert 2001). The media reflects and reports, and as some speculate, shapes society, thus an understanding of these venues of information is vital to the understanding of our civilization itself. This discussion will examine how the media uses various aspects of the communication process to shape modern society.
Television is a truly democratic mass medium that spreads information uniformly without regard to wealth, position or education and has clearly broadened our general dialogue. The average community in the United States now receives over 30 channels of television with many receiving hundreds. This diversity of programming presents perspectives regarding every conceivable characteristic of American society. With this expanded supply of social conduits, the influence of the media will only continue to grow.