Album section
Human Right and Human Dignity in Islam
Sunna in Islam
Favorite Links
Contact Me

Media roles in society
By: Fomba V. Sannoh
Date: 15 Jan, 2003




The whole of human history is built upon communication. From the first story told in prehistoric times through the mass media of today, verbal communication has shaped the foundation of an existence. Throughout time, many orators, philosophers, and educators have tried to capture the essence of human communication. Although a true understanding of the complexity of communication takes years of examination, I have tried to offer a brief highlight of some of the major contributors. Everyday life is a total of routines, actions and reactions repeated day after day. Medias play important role in everyday life. Television as a "view into the world" and radio as a "drum of the tribe" became as a members of the family, all over the globe. This paper will is been divided into three sections; part one explains a brief history of mass communication, specifically the developing society and it will focus on the previously mentioned structural component and generally, on the role of mass communication in the (post-modern world), where as in the second part it shall examine the par excellence role of the mass media in the 21st century. Since this paper is to examine micro perspective on this study, I would narrow the topic specifically to the three ways of communication and their roles in the society. Television, Radio and newspaper will be the focusing instruments to write about and their role in societies and the impact on the masses, equally so I shall also examine their advantages and disadvantages as well by concluding the paper. 



Approximately five hundred years ago a new form of communication arose. This "mass" communication process, which makes use of permanent text that can be made available to millions of people at the same time, has quickly become an important factor in the lives of many human beings.

By removing words from the world of sound where they had first had their origin in active human interchange and relegating them definitively to visual surface, and by otherwise exploiting visual space for the management of knowledge, print encouraged human beings to think of their own interior conscious and unconscious resources as more and more thing-like, impersonal and religiously neutral. Print encouraged the mind to sense that its possessions were held in some sort of inert mental space. - Walter J. Ong

For much of human history speech and body language were the only available forms of communication. This changed when writing was developed, probably around the year 3000 BC in the area of the world that we now call the Middle East.

The most obvious difference between writing and speech is in their media. Whereas speech is carried by sound waves in the air, writing is usually carried by one substance impressed upon another, as, for example, ink on paper. Even in its simplest form, the invention of writing produced significant changes in human communication.

The next major change came with the discovery of printed text in Europe in the late 1500s. Whereas written individuals, one document at a time, could only produce documents printed documents could be mass-produced. The phenomenon that we now call mass communication dates from the invention of print.

Some scholars argue that the next great change occurred in or around 1950 with the discovery of the computer. However, while digital data processing certainly has brought changes to our society, we are perhaps too close to the date of its birth to evaluate it clearly.

The fact that writing remains in existence long after it has been created is so remarkable that we give a special name, text, to the visible remains. Humans receive textual messages via their eyes. It has been argued that this visual aspect of text is important in and of itself because it shapes the way human beings pay attention to their environment, and this shapes the way that they think about themselves.

Text-using societies tend to be visually oriented, whereas speech-using societies tend to be aurally oriented. Thus, when scholars initiated the study of text, they discovered that communication not only helps shape individual relationships, but it also plays a role in defining the social environment.

Those who study communication disagree as to the exact definition of the term, "text." In its broadest sense text is "that which is perceived by the reader," however, this conceivably could be any data that is taken in by the eye, and to many this seems to be too broad a concept. This section of the tutorial will limit the discussion to the narrower definition of text as "print," by which is meant marks made in one substance upon another.

As was shown earlier, the Shannon/Weaver Model describes communication as a process that includes a transmitter who initiates the communication, a signal that moves through a medium, a receiver who notices the signal and noise that may alter the signal.


Mass communication, the term Mass denotes great volume, range or extent (of people or production), while communication refers to the giving and taking of meanings, the transmission and reception of message. According to (Janowitz, 1968) mass communications comprise the institutions and techniques by which specialized groups employ technological devises (press, radio, films etc) to disseminate symbolic content to large, heterogeneous and widely dispersed audiences. In this and similar definitions, the word communication is really equated with transmission, as viewed by the sender, rather than in the fuller meaning of the term, which includes the notion of response, sharing interactions.



Society is collectivity of interacting people who share the same culture. This and other relevant definitions in the field of sociology emphasize several basic elements as most basic to the existence of society. It is the behavior, together with material objects used as an integral part of this behavior. Thus, culture includes language, ideas, beliefs, custom, codes, institutions, tools, techniques, and works of act


RADIO: communication of information between distant points using electromagnetic radiation (radio waves). Radio was used to educate the children of farmers in Australia and New Zealand in the 1930s, for the first time. In most of the developing countries, radio has been used for awareness generation and agricultural extension programmes. The extension of the expert voice at an acceptable cost is the prime justification for its use in countries lacking financial resources, skilled manpower and necessary infrastructure like road communication etc. Several studies have examined the role of radios in places where agricultural radios are known to be available. Kidd (1968) found that 57% of his Nigerian samples listened to the agricultural radio. These included 17% who told someone also about what they had heard and 23%, who reported that they had improved their agricultural practice as a result of listening to the radio. The Indian Institute of Mass Communication found that in zones served by special farm radio, people were 20% more likely to report it as their source of information about High Yielding Variety (HYV) seeds than people in areas with less farm radio. There was also some tendency of framers in the special radio areas to report greater adoption of HYVs (Hornik 1988:71-72). The Radio has been used as a political campaign. Firstly, it provided a long list of empirical generalizations that described the detailed attention of voters to mass communications during a political campaign of several months duration. Secondly, it advances a number of new concepts, measuring procedures, research strategies. Finally, it prompted a fresh look at social relationship as an important part of the mass communication process a set of factors conspicuously absent in any extended way from earlier research. (A. Lowery & L. DeFleur, p.383, 1995).

The use of television, radio, video and film, all over the world, has not only reduced the gap of information but has also contributed to the economic growth. Use of communication for development caused rapid economic development in countries like Taiwan and South Korea (Hornik, 88:xi). The Satellite Instructional Television Experiment in India contributed to the agricultural production and enrollment of children in schools. The popularity of educative entertainment programmes shows the effect of television on the overall process of development. Simultaneous audio-visual presentation of reports and messages minimizes distortions and helps transforming traditional society into progressive society.


TELEVISION: communication of moving picture between distant points over wire or by means of electromagnetic waves. In the decade of crisis news is the most important segment of TV program. Politics, economy, events in the country and abroad, cultural events, sports and weather forecast are the plot of the news shows. That is, news covers everything, which is significant for everyday life. Digested stories about the events in country and abroad make them inevitable The TV professionals see violence as synonymous with action and hence as the best way of holding the attention of both children and adults. Also the Professionals did admit that television might adversely influence a disturbed viewer, but that they did not believe that the TV industry could be overly concerned with this segment of the population. (A. Lowery & L. DeFleur, p.320, 1995).



NEWSPAPER: daily or week publication of current domestic and foreign news. Printed media have been used to support rural extension in African subcontinent. Publication of large number of rural newspapers with increasing popularity is an indicator of their usefulness in the rural areas. Posters, leaflets, newsletters etc. convey accurate and clear information through pictures, diagrams and words. Rural libraries and newspapers help in retention of literacy and continuing education, participatory management, sharing of experiences including market information etc. In India and Thailand, Rural libraries have been used as centres of continuing education and learning of new techniques of agriculture. Printed media, in India, played a vital role to spread the message from lab to land which led to the Green Revolution.




Communication plays a central role in the existence, development and maintenance of society. To all societies, Islamic or otherwise, communication is basic. No society can function, or achieve goal without communication. The main functions of communication in society include:

Vertical transmission of heritage, from generation to generation, as such, heritage is to be transmitted to subsequent generations, society must have the ability to preserve that heritage through various means of preservation and storage. Socialization is the act of transmitting the tradition, values, and more of society. Also socialization is the social education of young members of society; therefore, it is understand as part of the transmission of heritage from generation to generation. (Galander, 2001. p.11)


If anything, the differences in mass media roles and functions in different social systems support a contingency view of communication (Wiio, 1975, 1982). According to this view, the communication processes and outcomes are influenced by internal and external contingencies (situations) as well as by the degree of freedom of the work processes of the system. 



The role of mass media in society could be examined from two perspectives; the macro level and the micro level. However this paper examine only in the micro level, the radio, television and newspapers. It is a widely acknowledged fact that the mass media plays a key role in shaping the public opinion. Certain scholar have written about the emergence of a new branch of power and elevated the media to a position equal to the principle institutions of democracy (Swanson-Mancini, 1996). The nature of the relationship between mass communication and the society depends on circumstances of time and place, in the modern, developed nation states, meanly elective democracies with free-market economies which are integrated into a wider international set of economic and political relations of exchange, competition and also domination or conflict, mass communications has been very much active to this areas (McQuail, 1998, 5-6). Society integration: there been one of the major roles that mass media has been playing in the society according to the four different theoretical positions relating to social integration which reflect. Freedom diversity, the positive version of the centrifugal effect stress the mobility and modernization; Nationalism solidarity, the positive version of change and individualism points to individual isolation and loss of social cohesion; Dominance uniformity, society can be over-integrated and over-regulated, leading to central control and conformity and Integration solidarity, the positive of the centrifugal effect stress the negative and cohesive function of the media.(McQuail, p.61-88).


The integration of mass media role in the societies is to binding the society together (unity), providing leadership to the public, acting as the conscience of society, satisfying needs for information, helping the public to establish public sphere and to providing society with a mirror of itself. (Hanno Hardt, 1979).



Entertainment is the act of diverting, amusing or causing (someones) time to pass agreeably. The value of amusing in providing diversions from the doldrums of everyday existence has been recognized among practically all races and cultures of the world. (Nam, p. 209, 1975). Many countries today have considered radio and television as a media to promote their business such as gamboling, music, moves. Today many people in the society are now spending most of their time with entertainment facilities even when they are at work. Example, vehicle drivers are listing to their FM radio music while driving their cars. Children are washing toy moves and English dramas every day at home. The third world as a convenient shorthand encompasses diverse cultures and countries; for example, in terms of religious background, the diversity includes Indias Hinduism, Arab countries Islam and Southeast Asia Buddhism. In terms of ethnicity and language, some countries are monoethnic and monoglot, although, more often than not, polyglotsm and polyethnicity are found. Such behaviors has been motivated and promoted by media, in such we can conclude that media has played a strong role in the society towards these areas. In Malaysia including many Muslims countries, prayers time has been schedule on the TV and Radio programmed to remind the Muslims for their prayer as part of the entertainment to religious to their believes, we classify this type of mass communication as very important to the religious communities, most specially the Muslims communities.



Broadcasting units in most of the developing countries are centrally controlled and highly bureaucratized with little field co-ordination. The programmes are produced by those who have no time and interest to interact with the audience. The routine broadcasts meant for farmers (viewed as fatalists by producers and announcers) do not always succeed in creating positive response among farmers, whose needs are rarely studied before preparing the bulletins. At times, the top-down structure of media system seems to contribute to the development of culture of silence, particularly in States ruled by dictators, instead of supporting extension work in rural areas.

Theoretically, media technology has the capability to bridge the geographical distance without any scale bias. However, in practice, the messages prepared by subject matter specialists in textbook language either prove irrelevant or incomprehensible for the poor ignorant peasants. The know-it-all experts may be rewarded for presenting a message on the latest capital-intensive technology, meaningless for farmers living in the complex, diverse and risk-prone environment.
Effective use of media is affected due to lack of appropriate infrastructure in rural areas. Printed materials rarely reach the rural areas to the desired extent because of poor road communication and transportation facilities. Television and videos cannot reach the masses in remote areas without electrification of villages.

Electronic media in popular perception has been identified as a channel of entertainment. Despite recommendations of communication experts to use them for upgrading skill and extension purposes, rulers, producers and advertisers for promotion of political interests, profits and entertainment, etc, are using them. Both, electronic as well as printed media, are controlled either by government or business houses with top-down structures and no scope for community participation in the process of production. Programme producers are isolated from the farmers they serve. Rural newspapers depend heavily on government for financial and material support and lack skilled manpower to give accurate expression to the needs and aspirations of the rural people.


Communication has played a vital role in the Muslims countries by propagating Islam to the people in the world at large. It is important to know that the Holy Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBS) through communication, and also he propagated to the followers through communication, the sahaba propagated to the followers call Tabbin through communication, generation to generation is through communication be oral and writing. With such, we can say that Quran is a communication from Allah to mankind.

The Quran is a form of communication that is neither prose, nor poetry. The Quran is a communication miracle because through it involves words and verses, no one could ever match it style. The inimitability of the Quranic style was well described by Al-Walid Ibnu al-Mughirah, who said: there is sweetness in its (Quean) beginning, and beauty in it end and it resembles no human discourse. There is no doubt to say that oral communication was existing before the revelation came to Prophet Muhammad (PBS), but the to make the communication very much unique and ethical among the Arabs, it was the Holy Quran that explain to the Arabs and all Muslims in the world the way to communicate to others. (Galander, p.3-4, 2002).





Structural factors Denis McQuail on summarizing the functions of mass media for society separated five major categories: Information, Correlations, Continuity, Entertainment, and Mobilization. Within these main categories he distinguished fourteen. Among the enumerated functions I would refer to six, which I consider of high importance. These are as follow: providing information about events and condition in society and the world, explaining, interpreting and commenting on the meaning of events and information, providing support for established authority and norms, socializing, forging and maintaining commonality of value, campaigning for social objectives in the sphere of politics, war, economic development, work and religion. By fulfilling the previously mentioned functions mass media is likely related to the prevailing structure of political and economic power.


In shaping public opinion is more visible if we examine its instrument. Thus, media attract and direct attention persuades in matter of opinion and belief influences behavior confers status and status legitimacy defines and structures perception of reality. In the modern democracies elections can easily be reached by the new, indirect mobilization techniques of the press and electronic media. The mobilization for electoral participation does not necessarily require the earlier organizational techniques, the mass party strategy. This strategy has almost disappeared with the appearance of catchall parties. As a consequence of the decrease in the voting on the basis of party identification, the media plays a central role in influencing public opinion. Moreover, certain structural factors further strengthen the role of print and electronic media in forming and influencing public opinion. In the following part of my paper I will outline these cases and refer to international Example.



Radio, television and newspaper have contributed greatly to the national development.

  1. they have created social awareness in the nation building, by educating the masses through dissemination information.
  2. it has improved literacy in most of the countries, and this caused the masses to have consciousness for their country
  3. mass media has cause stability among citizens, by preaching peace and nationalism in the society
  4. it is camera and spectator between the masses and the public, by giving information for what the society is suspicious about
  5. media is for the society and for the public, meaning, the media is ready to monitor both masses and the public and also to entertained them



Media such as radio television and newspaper are shifting the culture of individual and public every day.

  1. children are copying the negative attitude of TV moves every day and practicing it. E.g, pornography moves, war moves, arm robbing moves, secret killer, ect
  2. newspaper like Malaysia Star Newspaper, always invite their customers to involved in to gamboling indirectly, E.g, lucky winner would be the person that will fill in this form many.. times and send by prove of the product pack through this address, he/she would stand a chance to win a car or cash and many other fabulous prize. Also newspaper are not far from false and true information
  3. radio propagandas has become a very good weapon for many societies, the leaders would promote themselves in a positive way to the masses, but on the other hand he or she is not that kind
  4. the radio has be used to promote the dictators to a good leaders, misleading the society
  5. radios are been using in a war to conceive defeat from the either side 




This paper underlines the role of communication and media in society. The role of media specifically the radio, elevation and newspaper has played a major role in the societies and continues to play its role in the society. Without media communication role in the society, there should be no achievement in development. Communication is a way that brings peoples together. However, it may be logical to conclude that the use of media, which in itself is neutral, can prove a milestone for extension programmes with objective application, if the structural and infrastructures deficiencies discussed above, are addressed to simultaneously.



  1. Robert, C. Hornik. (1988). Development Communication, New York and London. Longman.
  2. 3. McQuail, D. (1983). Mass Communication Theory. London, Beverly Hill and New Delhi. Sage Publication.
  3. Gauntlett D. and Hill, A., 1999, TV Living. Television, Culture and Everyday Life, Routledge in association with British Film Institute, London and New York
  4. McQuail, D. and Windahl S. (1986). Communication Models. London and New York. Longman.
  5. Lowery A. and DeFleur L. (1995). Medial Effect 3rd , Longman U.S.A

Enter supporting content here