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The Importance of Media History

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The Importance of Media History
Works Cited Missing
The study of media history is vital in the understanding of, people
and there societies. Through the study of the past we gain an
understanding of what and why things happened. History gives you back
your past. In the same way as individual people need memory to shape
identity and plan for the future, communities need history to give
dimension and meaning to the present. Without an understanding of the
past, the present doesn't make much sense. As Shannon Bohan writes
"History can broaden one's horizons and open the doors to endless
possibilities. The study of history can not only enlighten the mind,
but it can prove instrumental in preventing the repeat of past
mistakes. Without history, there can be no future."(Shannon Bohan

The media plays an integral part to people's lives. From the moment we
wake up we are engulfed in a media-centric world. The study of media
history is important because it helps us understand the past, present
and future. Through an understanding of where the media came from, we
can predict things by seeing how they happened before. The study of
media history also gives us an identity. The media presents us with
images of the world all the time. We understand cultures and
ideologies through the media. The media shapes are beliefs, hence by
looking at the history of media we understand culture in a way that
know other source of material can.

To understand the history of media it's important to see how others
have studied it. The problem with the study of media history is that
"media history tends not to illuminate the links between media
development and wider trends in society because it is often narrowly
focused on the content or organisation of the media" (Curran, J.
2002). The reason for this is that it is preoccupied with
"institutional development" (Curran, J. 2002). Media has a huge effect
on society, by not looking at the media's impact, you can't understand
how and what the media is.

Modern historians suffer from only looking at the technology of media.
"Media studies have given more attention to technological determent
version of media development" (Curran, J. 2002) Historian's tend to
look at the technological advancement as being the critical points in
media history. Historians tend to look at media history beginning in
the 1920's. "The arrival of radio broadcasting to set alongside the
popular press and mass cinema going…first generated discussion about
the media in mass society"(pg1reader). However the media grew to meet
the demands of the new culture of those living in the nineteenth

The demands of meeting a new culture began with the rise of the
radical press. The radical press was born from an industrialized,
urbanised working class. They had no political power, and no ways of
expressing their opinion. In 1831 the Poor Mans Guardian was set up,
unstamped, meaning that it became very cheap to purchase. It contained
mainly letters from working class individuals who were voicing there
concerns about the society in which they live. The poor Mans Guardian
was very much a working class newspaper; it gave a voice to the
previously ignored.

The respectable press in the 19th century was the Times. It was a
paper very much for the middle classes. It was the dominant paper of
the time, however it had reformist ideas. It was met with anger from
the government, as it refused to be the voice of the government. The
paper was "representing the growing independence of the press from
government and political control" (Williams, K. 1998 pg33). The then
prime minister wrote of the "vile tyranny" (Williams, K. 1998 pg33) of
the Times.

When looking at the press in the 19th century its clear to see that it
was trying to break free from the social norm. Papers such as the
Times were becoming independent; they were presenting a view for the
first time that was not government controlled. The Poor Mans Guardian
was fighting to give working class people a say, and hopefully
equality. The papers questioned the order of society. This is a key
point in the history of media, "media contributed to the cumulative
power of the people" (Curran, J. 2002) the media gave power to the
people. Media has played a vital role in allowing people to break free
from the set social structure. By studying this we can see how society
has developed. Media history is important because so many other things
are dependant upon it. It plays a crucial part in our lives, so by
understanding the media's impact, we understand past civilization.

A key part of the media industry over the past century has been
cinema. A.J.P Taylor wrote that cinema is "the social habit of the
age" (Richards, J. (1984). At first cinema was seen as a novelty,
circus act. However it grew to become a crucial part of people's
lives. Historians have studied the problem of equality in our culture
for centuries. Yet the cinema is one thing that has advanced the fight
for equality more then all most all other things. In the 1930's cinema
was the first recreational activity that bought the masses together.
Upper, lower and middle classes where all bought together to watch
films. Cinema had crossed the previously un-crossable class divide.
Although it is clear that class did still mean that people went to see
different films, the cinema was an idea that bought everyone to it.
The history of media is so important because it has such an impact on
people. It has shaped are lives, and by understanding it, we can
understand why things happen in the wider world.

Media history is also crucial in examining identity. Media history
tells us "how families, groups, institutions and whole countries were
formed and about how they have evolved while retaining cohesion" ('why
study history pg 1). One example of how the media has created identity
is by looking at the theory of a mass society. Mass society means that
"the mass of the population has become incorporated into society"
(Boyd-Barrett, D and Newbold, C. 1995 pg81). This idea suggests that
people merge in to society and have there beliefs and ideologies.
Media comes into the equation when you look at how the mass society is
created. "Mass society is an industrial society" (Boyd-Barrett, D and
Newbold, C. 1995 pg82). For the society to form it needs an "elaborate
network of transportation and communication to bring the parts of mass
society into frequent contact" (Boyd-Barrett, D and Newbold, C. 1995

The media communicates ideas and brings society together. Through
newspapers, and television ideas and beliefs are exchanged and
absorbed into people, creating a society that has the same ideologies
.By studying the history of media, we learn about our identity. We
learn about the mass society and so learn about our own identity,
where were from, what we believe and why we believe it.

An institution that shapes what we believe in is the BBC. The BBC was
set up because the Post Office wanted those companies trying to take
advantage of the new wireless technology, to invest in the BBC. The
head of this new corporation was made to be John Reith. Reith was a
man of stanch Victorian values. He used the fact that the BBC was a
monopoly to "stamp Christian morality on the British people" (Curran,
J and Sexton, J 2003). The monopoly meant that the public did not have
any choice in what they listened to.

Reith's BBC was very paternalistic, not only to its staff, but also to
its audience. The corporation, though well run "A breathtaking
administrative innovation" (Curran, J and Sexton, J 2003 pg111), was
seen as being very totalitarian. It controlled the views of the
public, as it was the only broadcasting service that provided
information. The BBC always lived by the motto, inform, educate and
entertain the public. The BBC was set up to be fair, it is an
institution that is now a crucial part of our culture

Since we can look back at history, we can understand the reasons the
BBC was set up. We know that the BBC is there to inform educate and
entertain. The corporation has continued to serve the best interests
of the public, in a fair democratic fashion. The BBC is still crucial
to our lives because it holds on to the old Reithian values. By
looking at the history of the media we don't lose sight of an
important legacy, that helps bind are community together. Media
history is vital so that we don't forget why things are as they are.
Through media history we understand how things came to be in society.
We understand the rules and regulations that help control are lives.

Another reason why media history is so important is that, by looking
at the past we recognize mistakes, and try to stop them from happening
again. This idea is shown up when looking at politics in relation to
media. The growth of television has "ruled political communication
since the 1950's" (Rosenbaum, M 1997 pg79). Television is seen as the
key factor in political campaigning. Governments come to power as a
result of the way they are shown on television. Politics has learnt
from the mistakes of past administrations not making use of this
hugely powerful medium. These day's people are employed to look at the
public relations of politicians. Everything a politician does is
carefully controlled, so that no mistakes are made.

The media it appears shapes the political landscape, and ultimately
shapes the countries future. By viewing the media, the public decides
upon its own views. Newspapers have political leanings, when the
public read them they are making a decision as to which party they are
going to follow. The media has huge power over society, and so its
history needs continued studying and understanding.

Another new idea that evolved partly down to the media was
consumerism. Consumerism began in the 1950's after the years of
austerity were bought to an end. People wanted to have there own
individual identity. "Meaningful pleasure, that had been denied by the
elitists" (Curran, J. 2002) was now open to all. Media was opening up
new experiences. The study of the history of media helps us understand
why we do what we do.

In conclusion the history of media is important, because firstly the
media is a huge factor in our lives. It has influenced countless
generations, and helped shaped the ideologies of our society. By
looking at the history of media it helps us learn from the mistakes of
the past, so we can create a bright future. We can learn why we do
what we do, and understand the reason things are as they are, such as
the B.B.C. We also learn about society, as media is both a vital
social tool, as well as a key way of communicating ideas. Studying the
history of media helps us learn about are culture, and helps keep are
culture going.

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MLA Citation:
"The Importance of Media History." 17 Apr 2014

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