Mass communication is the process through which people, groups of individuals, or an organization exchange messages through a network of communication such as radio, social media, telephone, television broadcast, journal, billboard, and print media. Feedback for mass communication requires time as it is slow and indirect. However, it plays a significant role in impacting the attitude, emotion, opinion, and behavior of the individuals receiving or transmitting the information. The history of mass communication dates back to prehistoric times when messages were transmitted in the form of writing and art. It has developed over time with the improvement in internet and technology updating the theories of mass communication alongside.
During the previous times, with the industrial revolution in the eighteen century, inhabitants started occupying urban areas, generating viewers belonging from all the economic classes interested in entertainment and information. In 1975, Time Magazine had named the first developed personal computer as the “Machine of the Year”. A decade later, thousands of households had a provision of having personal computers in their home. In 1989, a computer information software known as CompuServe had provided its users’ access to more than 700 databases of information that could be retrieved from home. It was estimated to have 550000 subscribers. In the 1990s, the videocassette recorder (VCRs) gave consumers hold over mass communication as they were able to record programs on VCR. Moreover, once a show had been broadcasted, it was sold in the market recorded in VCRs, without having TV commercials or ads in between.
Society as an organization thrives on modernization and innovation. Any modifications that develop within a community tend to alter it or assist it. Mass communication is one of the commodities that has changed societies around the world. In the present decade with the development of new technologies, there are numerous modifications introduced into the mass communication practice, giving individuals more dominance over the communication process than ever before. Private cable television channels, online video streaming websites like Netflix, and videotapes/disks have given audience access to specialized transmissions and content. Moreover, videotext has replaced Teletext giving the audience access to a range of new stories, data, and information online easily. Kindle, an e-book, which offers access to numerous books/ journals/ articles, has around 20 million users across the globe. Now instead of going to book stores or libraries people can read of their choice while staying at home.
The study of mass communication and media has led to the development of several theories that can be classified into structural, functional, cognitive, behavioral, interactionist, interpretive, and critical. Structural and functional theories tend to focus on social structures and functions observed. While cognitive and behavioral theories are based on the psychology of people, interpretive theories view the techniques people use to understand their experience, and interactionist theories uncover the process of social interaction among humans. Lastly, critical theories examine the conflict of choices present in society and the way communication dominates in affecting its outcome.
The authoritarian theory, one of the classical theories of mass communication is based on the concept that the government needs to control the exploitation of media resources to protect and prevent the society from the national threats possessed through any form of communication that is either new or ancient. The theory was formulated during the classical period in Ancient Greece, from the authoritarian philosophy of Athenian philosopher, Plato (407–327 B.C). According to him, the society was safe only in the hands of a wise leader. Therefore, the reporters and press media are a source to enhance the power of a leader in the country. The leaders thus have the authority to control the media by providing a license to the content that is beneficial for the community and is passed by the board of censorship. Therefore, it is a translucent fact that the world of mass communication has been vastly influenced by the advancement of new technologies.