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Mass Media

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What is mass media?

The media plays an important role in the lives of American citizens. It keeps the general public informed and up to date with the current news around their community, their state, and their country, not to mention their world.

Most Americans depend heavily on newspaper and television as sources of information surrounding them. The average family subscribes the local newspaper, and 98% have at least one television set in the household.

How is the media structured?

The structure of the mass media is relatively simple. The three main sources are:

  1. Newspapers

  2. Television Stations and Networks

  3. Radio Stations and Networks

Newspapers are written news which are convenient for people who travel a lot and do not have much time to watch television. Magazines, such as "Newsweek" and "People", are also popular sources but do not provide the latest news as they are not printed as often. Most newspapers like "The New York Times" and the "Chicago Tribune" are local, but there is one newspaper in America that is nationwide: "USA Today."

Televisions provide live news and scenes of the action. It is preferred for those who do not like to read newspapers. Most citizens watch one of the following networks for current events. Some of these focus exclusively on news or politics while others have entertainment shows as well as news. Click on their logos for more information.

The NBC Television and Radio Network    The CBS Television Network    The ABC Television Network

Twentieth Century Fox Television    CNN Political News Network    The C-Span Political Network

Lastly, radio is a source of audio news. It is one of the more convenient sources, especially since 99.9% of the American families have radios. Radios, like televisions, provide live news, but with one drawback, the action is audio and not visual. Probably the largest radio news network is NBC which broadcasts nationwide.

What is the relationship between media and government?

Around election time, the media is extremely important. It informs the public who is running and for what office he/she is running. The media also informs the government. Government offices stayed tune to news broadcasters such as CNN to keep up with the latest news. The representatives depend greatly on the media to inform the public about the current political issues. Since there are so many citizens that keep up with the current events, mass media influences the federal government. Our government wants to make
choices that appeal to the majority of the public, so therefore they must pay close attention to how the public votes and the statistics. Lyndon B. Johnson once said,
"All politics has changed because of you [media]."

How does government regulate the media?

The FCC is the government's approach to regulate the media. They censor what is broadcast over radio and television stations. They also have the power to grant licenses to television and radio broadcasters. The President of United States appoints 5 commissioners, and the Senate approves them.

How do Americans view world news?

Because very few Americans travel overseas, news coverage around the world is relatively small. Most people are only concerned with the current events close in their area. World coverage increases when a war breaks out, or if some occurrence happens that effects our country. For example, Kosovo has drawn much of our attention during the last half year, since it effects our gas prices. Under normal circumstances, world news is not a big issue.

What useful information does the media provide?

Mass media keeps Americans well informed of their surrounding community. It notifies them about everything from tomorrow's weather to election candidates. It also updates Americans on current events around the world when something dramatic occurs. The media may not directly effect the lives of Americans, but it does influence the government which can affect the public.

These pages are Copyright (C) 1999 John D. Ratliff
Please feel free to use any of the material on this site freely.
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The names CBS, C-Span, NBC, ABC, 20th Century Fox, and CNN are either trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.