The existing media system evolved gradually: at first, there were only newspapers and magazines. In the nineteenth century, information services were added, and in the twenty-first century, radio stations and television. Mass media aims to shape public consciousness using organizational and technical complexes that ensure the rapid transmission and mass replication of all types of information. Each form of mass media has its sign system: print – the written word or visual image; radio – spoken word, music; television synthesizes spoken word, motion picture, and music.
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The mass media are actively developing, new ways of receiving and distributing information are emerging, and recent achievements in information and communication technology are occurring. All this leads to an increase in the ability to influence the opinion and behavior of a person (Frosh, 2018). We live in the age of information technology, and the Internet can be considered one of the most potent tools for influencing changes in human behavior. Today, speaking about the communication process, it is impossible not to assume new information technologies. The Internet has unique characteristics that differ from traditional media such as TV, print, and radio. Among them are interactivity, efficiency, the global connection with the locals, and the ability to correct already published information in real-time.
The most exciting aspect is the participation of the Internet and information consumers in the virtual space. Feedback plays an increasingly important role in the process of influencing the consciousness of the audience or consumer. Initially, the transmission of information in mass communication was unidirectional; there was no feedback as such. However, today, thanks to computer globalization, the process of mass communication can be characterized as mutually directed (Lindgren, 2017). Interactive communication can be defined as a process of information exchange that involves a recipient’s response and provides for the possibility of two-way communication. The rapid development of digital technologies gave the impetus to the growth of interest in interactive communications, the use of which helps to solve many problems: 1) the speed of message transmission is significantly increasing, as is the rate of response to it; 2) the issue of geographical and language barriers are being solved; 3) the volume of the target audience is significantly expanding; 4) new opportunities appear for analytical work with information flows.
An essential function of the mass media, their purpose is to provide objective information based on which one can draw up a real picture of the present, ensure freedom of thought and speech, the right to express one’s thoughts publicly, and defend one’s civic position—expanding the use of mass media in the twentieth century—updated public opinion as a product of communication and information technologies. At the beginning of the last century, the main problem around which the researchers’ scientific interests were focused was mass psychology, its manifestations, and, accordingly, large social groups and the peculiarities of the impact on them.
The growing interest of society in meaningful, significant situations that arise in it and the welfare of journalists in covering these situations publicly leads to the emergence and formation of the majority’s civil position and public consciousness under the mass media’s influence. This has a somewhat negative consequence: in conditions of total informatization, a person loses the ability to independently think, analyze, and critically perceive information submitted to the media.
As the main element of managing public opinion, the media is most often used the distraction of people’s attention from significant problems and decisions made by political and economic ruling circles by constantly saturating the information space with insignificant messages. They create a problem, some situation designed to provoke a specific reaction among the population so that it wants to take measures necessary for the ruling circles or other particular subjects.
The critical factor of influence is the so-called voting or rating conducted by the newspapers before the official elections. A very effective mechanism can be considered the publication of the results of such a vote on the pages of major newspapers and well-known TV channels such as CBS / NewYorkTimes, NBC / AssociatedPress, ABC / WashingtonPost, CNN / USAToday. Their stories shape public opinion by showing who is winning and who is losing at the moment. Even invitations to participate in entertainment shows and evening talk shows represent a critical race ingredient.
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Perhaps, the most striking and effective way of influencing the electorate’s choice is through television debates. They are traditionally organized not at the initial stage but closer to the end of the election campaign. The recent US presidential elections are a prime example. They attract multimillion-dollar audiences, demonstrating not only the rivalry of party programs but also personal characteristics. For example, about 70 million viewers watched the televised debate between US vice-presidential candidates Sarah Palin and Joseph Biden in the last election race in 2008 (Andrejevic, 2019). According to Nielsen media research, the 2008 debate was watched by 69.9 million people, which calculated the number of viewers. Thus, the record set in 1984 was broken when about 56.7 million viewers watched the debate between Bush Sr. and Ferraro. The televised debate between Republican Sarah Palin and Democrat Joseph Biden was broadcast on no less than 12 television channels, including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and CNN (Andrejevic, 2019). As reported, viewers of the American television channels CNN and CBS, who followed the candidates’ debates for the United States’ vice-presidency, recognized the representative of the Democratic Party, Joe Biden, as the winner (Andrejevic, 2019). Viewers of TV debates in the United States have set a new record. The first presidential televised debate in the United States and in the world between Democratic Senator John F. Kennedy and US Vice President Richard Nixon, which took place half a century ago, in the fall of 1960, is called “big.” They have opened a new page in television journalism and the public life of America.
Andrejevic, M. (2019). Automated media. Routledge.
Frosh, P. (2018). The poetics of digital media. John Wiley & Sons.
Lindgren, S. (2017). Digital media and society. Sage.