The mass media are the vehicles that carry messages to large audiences.

These media include books, magazines, newspapers, records, movies, radio, television, sound and video recordings.

The mass media are essential. They keep people current on public policy and decision making.

As Canadians-we consume both Canadian and American media.

The Paul Bernardo drama and trial is a very good example of the difference between Canadian and American news coverage.

Why do you buy The Gap pants, Tommy Hillfinger t-shirts and Nike shoes?
Why have most of you seen the movie Titanic, but not Exotica?

Who decides what music gets played on Power 101 plays today's best music, now show me my money?

Who chooses the news stories on CFCN?

Should you worry about children imitating the characters on SouthPark or Beavis and But-head?

Is there too much violence on television?

The media are everywhere. They are ubiquitous. They affect

  • almost every aspect of our lives
  • our knowledge of the world around us
  • the decisions we make as consumers
  • the values we embrace we embrace
  • our cultural sense of who we are as a society

    This course is designed to help you become more informed and critical as a user of the mass media by using various theoretical models to examine various media.

    We will look at each media individually, like the printed word, sound recordings and movies look at the past, the present and future.



  • The mass media are pervasive in our everyday lives.
  • The primary media are built on print, electronic and photographic technologies.
  • The mass media are undergoing huge global consolidation.
  • Mass communicators create mass messages that are sent through mass communication via mass media to mass audiences.
  • Scholars have devised models to explain the mysterious process of mass communication.


    The Canadian mass communication context is unique in the world because we
    1. Live next door to the largest exporter of mass media products
    2. We are multicutural
    3. We are bilingual.

    Through the mass media, we learn almost everything we know about the world around us.
    (Example: front page of newspaper)

    An informed and involved citizenry is possible in modern democracy only when the mass media work well.
    (Example: the printing press AND CHART PAGE 6)

    People need the mass media to express their ideas widely.


    Powerful forces use the mass media to influence us with their ideologies and for commercial purposes.
    (Example: clothing in class).

    How is Canadian culture shaped by American media? Consider that the average Canadian watches more American
    television than Canadian television. (Example: CD-ROM advertisements).


    The heart of the media's information function lies in messages called NEWS.





    People form opinions from the information and interpretations to which they are exposed.
    (Example: Women's image)


    The mass media binds communities together by giving messages that become a shred experience.
    (Example reading The Herald or The Sun on the LRT). A shared knowledge and a shared experience are created by the mass media, and thus they create a base for community.

    The same phenomenon occurs on a national level.



    An ongoing tension in the mass media exits between

    1. Advancing social and cultural interests:
    At one end of the continuum is serious media content that appeals to people who can be called elitists because
    they feel that the mass media have a responsibility to contribute to a better society and a refinement of culture,
    regardless of whether the media attract large audience.

    2. Giving broad segments of the population want
    At the other end of the continuum are populists who are entirely oriented to the marketplace and program to give people what they want.

    Classical music
    Pop music
    Nude art
    Playboy magazine
    CBC television drama
    Ten Most Wanted re-creations

    A lot of media criticism can be understood in the context of this elitist-populist continuum

    1. People who see a responsibility for the mass media to provide cultural and intellectual leadership fall at one extreme.

    2. At the other extreme are people who trust the general population to determine media content through marketplace dynamics.

    SOURCE: Abridged version of Chapter one from: Vivian, John and Maurin, Peter. (1997). The Media of Mass Communication. Allyn and Bacon Canada. Scarborough, Ontario.

    NOTE: Often-misused spelling of the word communication. Mass media are things, such as a letter, communication, singular. If several things, like televisions, communications, with an s or plural. Mass communication is a process, spelled communication, without the s.