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CARIBBEAN STUDIES NOTES

ROLES AND FUNCTIONS OF THE MASS MEDIA


Mass media refers to forms of communication organized to reach large audiences and includes
radio, television, newspapers and the internet.
Mass media was originally the medium used by local politicians before independence to
disseminate information to the people in an attempt to popularize ideas about equity and stir up
support for the trade union movement, black consciousness and struggle for independence.
The mass media has been criticised, however, of sharing only sharing certain information and
producing biased information in favour of big business interests, that is, those who own the
various media stations.

PROVISION OF INFORMATION
o Much of the programmes which are aired are those for which advertisers are
willing to have their interests promoted. Hence, programmes aired are controlled
by big business interests in the form of advertisers.
o News is defined as any happening in which people may be interested. Sometimes,
one news story may be sold many times over while some stories do not make the
news at all or only do so for a short time period. In addition, the mainstream
media showcase a consensus approach to news the views and opinions of the
powerful or elite groups. The views of the minority groups or those being
negatively stereotyped are not published.
o Information provided by the mass media, especially repeatedly, may have a great
effect on persons. This may change their behaviour for the better, a sign of
empowerment and self-efficacy.
o A free press is seen as a positive sign that democracy and, thereby, equity is being
enhanced. Free press occurs where everyone has a right to express their views in
the mass media as long as they do not commit acts of slander or libel. Despite the
concentration of media ownership among privately owned media houses, gradual
improvement of press freedom has been recognised in the Commonwealth
Caribbean. However, there have been a few cases were freedom of press was not
realised. For example, in 1996, Panday called for the removal of Guardian editor
Jones Madeira from office for alleged bias. Madeira asked Panday to prove his
allegations that the opposition was planning to destabilize the government.
Madeiras bosses then asked him to resign. Investigative reporting is seen as the
hallmark of a free press although this is not common in the Caribbean.
ENTERTAINMENT Entertainment provides a source of relaxation, fun and laughter. In
this way, the mass media can be seen as a source of recreation. In addition, the mass

media may be a superior way of delivering messages that are educative to society through
comedy, memorable characters, props, drama, setting and local cultural content.
CONSTRUCTION OF NATIONAL, REGIONAL AND DIASPORIC IDENTITY The
mass media helps to build a sense of national consciousness and loyalty. It facilitates the
dissemination of important information to keep the public well informed about the
governments activities and issues of national importance. It also allows local culture and
national heroes to be celebrated, thereby building a sense of belonging and a collective
destiny. The diversity within the mass media makes it a force for equity and
empowerment. Community radios serving small, often isolated, areas of a country help to
bind their communities together and provide a sense of organisation. The Caribbean
News Agency Radio of the Caribbean Media Corporation, and the Caribbean
Broadcasting Union are yet to make a great impact in the form of regional mass media.
PROMOTION OF CULTURAL EXPERIENCE AND EXCHANGE The mass media
provides a forum where the talents of musicians, singers, actors, novelists, artists and
story-tellers can be showcased. It allows the entertainment industry to grow and for
individual artists to gain fame and increased income. Through copyright agreements, they
may also be able to earn loyalties. The foreign mass media also facilitates the sharing of
the culture of northern countries with the Caribbean. Hollywood actors and singers are
thus very famous in the Caribbean and their work well known and enjoyed.
RESPONDING TO CULTURAL IMPERIALISM Cultural products are continuously
exported from the US to the Caribbean. Caribbean countries must fight this barrage of
western culture with their own. News programmes should include both local and
international segments, providing information in a non-biased way. Local music, talent
shows, soap operas and television shows should also be promoted.
PROMOTION AND DEFENCE OF RIGHTS AND CITIZENS The numerous call-in
talk shows on both radio and television focus on local issues and events. People are better
informed by listening to or participating in these. The equal participation by all in
complaining about public matters ensures a sense of equity and empowerment.