Functions of the mass media

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The functions of the mass media are understood to mean the communicative tasks that are ascribed to the media in a democratic society , as well as the services that the media provide for the people of this society. The media are therefore involved in the (continued) existence of the social system and its ability to adapt to the environment.

Social functions

Information function

The information function is the central function of the mass media ; an achievement of the mass media, which provide them across the board with regard to the social, political and socio-economic system. The media convey knowledge and experience, i. H. the recipient's subjective knowledge is expanded. Information transfer via mass media takes place within the framework of a secondary experience , i. H. the reduction of subjective ignorance occurs through communication. The respective experience is not made personally; Primary experiences, on the other hand, exist in the case of experiences in direct contact with things. Klaus Beck criticizes the fact that the mass media do not transport any information per se, but only stimuli and signals that are processed by the recipient. "Whether and what information is ultimately constructed is not determined by the media, but by the recipient." ( Beck, Klaus (2007) :)

The mass media ensure that people understand the economic, social, ecological and political relationships, understand democracy and are informed about politics in such a way that they can actively participate in it themselves.

Various demands on the mass media are derived from the information function. They should endeavor to be complete so that all stakeholders within society can have their say. In addition, they should report objectively and comprehensibly so that events and problems are presented in a manner that is visible to non-expert citizens.

Social functions

Social functions are those services of the mass media that they provide with regard to the social environment as a social system. Most important for the coexistence of people in large industrial societies is the socialization function , according to the definition of Hess the "socialization and strengthening of norm awareness" . Mass media convey patterns of action, role behavior, norms and social values.

The social orientation function refers to the fact that the mass media make it possible to find one's way in an increasingly unmanageable environment by providing a wealth of details.

With the recreational function (according to Ronneberger 1971) or the gratification function (according to Saxer 1974), the media meet the need for distraction and distraction. This enables the media to allow people to relax and distract from work. Through entertainment and relaxation, we are able to do our job again, to cope with our problems and to cope with our lives.

Certain escape tendencies ( escapism ) are sometimes supported, whereby the media also fulfill the function for the recipient of forgetting the worries of everyday life and fleeing from their own reality. This aspect has already been taken into account in the uses and gratifications approach and is named as an escapism function in the context of the recreation function . The media offer help in the broadest sense. They also meet the need for adventure, erotic-sensual pleasure or fear and horror.

The fourth social function is the integration function , according to which the media convey socially recognized behavior and behavioral norms in our society, which is organized by different groups or differentiated by diverse interests , and creates mass loyalty for the validity of these social, political and legal norms. Maletzke sees this function in the fact that people feel, beyond their own horizon of experience, as part of society, which they in turn perceive as a whole.

Political functions

Political functions, i.e. the services of the mass media with regard to the social environment as a political system, relate to democratically organized states. According to Ronneberger (1974), the most important function of the mass media in a democracy is to create publicity . The public arises and consists today in the fact that information is made publicly accessible via mass media. Political decisions in a democracy can only be legitimized if they are an expression of the will of a majority of the population concerned. Formation of will requires the discussion of opinions. By creating a public sphere with regard to political programs, intentions, demands and goals, those involved in the political process enter into communication with one another. As the mass media address the expectations of the citizens as well as the decisions of the political system, there is an exchange between organizations, institutions, parties and citizens. In this way, the media convey the knowledge needed to form an opinion and in this way enable citizens to participate in the political process ( political participation ): They contribute to political education .

The mass media convey the mood in the population ( articulation function ) and can be the mouthpiece of the political parties . Only in this way can the will formation in the true sense come about. Saxer (1974) also speaks of the correlation that the mass media produce by coordinating different points of view and thus not only expressing diversity of opinion, but also reducing it. The journalist is assigned the function of an intermediary.

Equivalent to the socialization and integration function there in terms of the political system political socialization function . Given the high degree of differentiation in modern societies, the political roles are made transparent in order to enable active participation in political events.

The political educational function of the media is connected with the political socialization function , i. This means that the media contribute to the education of citizens involved in the political process. The optimum culminates in the ability to form opinions.

In addition, the media have a criticism and control function . They give members of a democracy the opportunity to criticize those in power by giving the opposition and other interest groups a public hearing. In addition, they themselves criticize the state, society or organizations, e.g. B. through investigative research or comments on current topics. The publication of criticism brings to a certain extent control over the criticized conditions, without having further sanction options. The publication alone or the fear of it can lead to changes in behavior, or to consequences, such as a conviction or deselection, which were set in motion by the publication. That is why one speaks of the media as the fourth power in the state.

For the press in Germany, the political functions are laid down as a public task in Section 3 of the state press laws: The press fulfills a public task when it procures and disseminates news in matters of public interest, takes a position, criticizes or otherwise forms an opinion contributes.

Economic functions

The economic functions relate to the social environment as an economic system in societies that are organized according to private (i.e. capitalist ) principles. The central economic function of the mass media is the circulation function (according to Holzer 1973 or sales economic function according to Holzer 1994). According to this, the media support the activation of the circulation of goods and money and, by accelerating the turnover of goods, are an engine of the economic cycle . This is done by acting as an advertising medium , e.g. B. in the form of commercial advertisements, but also through editorial contributions (e.g. about current fashion trends), or by creating jobs as a company.

In addition, capitalist production and power relations are consolidated within the framework of the media content. Holzer (1973) names other services with which the media stabilizes the capitalist economic system: knowledge transfer , social therapy and legitimation aid . With these functions, the media meet the needs of the audience . The media convey knowledge that helps consumers make purchasing decisions .

From an economic perspective, the social function of recreation or entertainment becomes a regenerative function . By satisfying the information and entertainment demands of the recipients, the working population receives the gratification they need to relax, to recover physically and to motivate themselves psychologically .

All mass media information and entertainment offers ultimately contribute to the legitimacy and propagation of the social organizational principle on which both society as a whole and the media are based. In this context, Holzer (1994) speaks of the manorial function that the media fulfill.

social political economic
Functions of the mass media
← Information function →
Socialization function Creating public Circulation function
  • Knowledge transfer
  • Social therapy
  • Legitimation aid
social orientation function Articulation function regenerative function
Recreational function political socialization and educational function lordly function
Integration function Criticism and control function
social political economic
social system

Primary and subsidiary functions

In addition, a distinction can be made between primary and subsidiary functions:

  • Primary functions are fulfilled on the basis of the program mandate or the journalistic self-image. They include, for example, information , entertainment , criticism or help with forming an opinion .
  • Subsidiary functions as such are not intended: For example, media consumption can create social prestige through “knowledge”.

Functions for the individual

Individuals expect advice from the mass media on practical issues, they want to satisfy their curiosity and indirectly reduce their insecurity through knowledge. On a subsidiary basis, the media also fulfill the need for personal identity . On the one hand, this is for pure enjoyment, but on the other hand, it helps to cope with everyday life by providing the media with promising action patterns. In addition, the media show users which topics are socially and socially relevant and thus provide topics for conversation. However, this function can also be reversed into the opposite, if in the sense of panem et circenses the aim is to divert political attention from socially important / more important issues. This can e.g. B. caused by an excessive emphasis on football and other top-class sports.

Perception of the functions

While the current information transfer and entertainment function are the focus of broadcasting, the press primarily has the function of creating a clear overview of the flood of information. The print media are therefore better able to fulfill the political functions. This is especially true for weekly newspapers and magazines , which have a greater distance from current events and have more space to deal with complex topics.

The media do not always perform their functions in a satisfactory manner. Instead of promoting integration , the media can, for example, create a communicative gap in society ( knowledge gap ): Well-informed people use all sources of information (especially the print media) and thus continue their education, while the less educated make less use of the media and consequently lagging behind the educated. By portraying roles and norms in a one-sided and stereotypical manner, the media promote prejudice and racism .

Studies show that minorities (Bernd Schönlebe) in particular find it difficult to have their say in the mass media. As a result, existing power relations would be cemented. As a solution, advocacy journalism , which should primarily represent the interests of the powerless, is suggested.

The critics of advocacy journalism are of the opinion, however, that pluralism of opinion within society must be adequately reflected in the mass media.

Critical consideration

Exposure to media manipulation and networks

Media manipulation and propaganda techniques reverse the function of the media as an independent information and control authority : disinformation and demagogy . The networking of politics and media represents a special form of manipulation: In Uwe Krüger's dissertation on the influence of the elites on German journalists and the media, a theoretical model is developed that explains media behavior with the help of pressure groups and social networks and that predicts that leading media more or less reflect on the current discourse of the elites, but not exceed its limits and not critically question its premises.

Krüger's initial thesis is “that a consensually united elite can rule against the interests of a large part of the population on important issues (war and peace, macroeconomic order) and that journalistic elites could be too deeply involved in the elite milieu to be critical as advocates of the public interest -to have a controlling effect. "

In the empirical part, his social network analysis initially focuses on the social environment of 219 leading editors in leading German media. One in three had informal contacts with political and business elites; With four foreign policy journalists, Stefan Kornelius , Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger , Michael Stürmer and Josef Joffe, there are dense networks in the US and NATO-affine elite milieu. Other journalists analyzed are Kai Diekmann (picture), Peter Frey and Claus Kleber (ZDF) and Matthias Naß (ZEIT).

A subsequent frame analysis asks to what extent the output of these four journalists in the controversial questions of the definition of security (extended security concept) and Afghanistan deployment of the Bundeswehr is in line with the identified reference groups. Finally, the reports on the Munich Security Conference and its opponents in five daily newspapers are analyzed for content . She comes to the conclusion that the leading media close to the elite, FAZ, Welt and Süddeutsche, provide a detailed account of the elite discourse taking place at the security conference, but marginalize and delegitimize the protests and the counter-event, the Munich Peace Conference.

“The direct connections to the economy, more precisely the consultancy work of editors-in-chief and publishers for profit-oriented corporations: Josef Joffe (Zeit) as advisory board member of Unicredit Bank and Stefan Aust (Spiegel) and Helmut Markwort (focus) as advisory board members of Deutsche Telekom appear to be highly problematic AG .

Second, the involvement of journalists in an organization of the federal government must be viewed critically, namely Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger (FAZ), Stefan Kornelius (SZ) and Peter Frey (ZDF) as advisors of the Federal Academy for Security Policy , a think tank in the business area of ​​the Federal Ministry of Defense .

According to the Academy's statutes, the Advisory Board advises the Board of Trustees, which in turn consists of the Federal Chancellor and the Federal Ministers of Defense, Interior, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Justice, Economy and Development Aid. The three journalists thus undertook to advise the federal government that they are actually supposed to criticize and control as public lawyers. " (P. 148) "

Regarding the question of what kind of influence the elites exert on journalists, Krüger suspects that “journalists with values ​​and opinions that are compatible with elites (have) a higher chance of gaining access to the highest circles, and their involvement in the elite milieu increases the conformity over time. This also means that journalists with opinions that are compatible with the elite have better chances of making a career, because they can score points in their own company and in the industry with exclusive information and high-ranking interview partners. ”Krüger argues with Pierre Bourdieu's concept of social capital .

Dependence on the media and censorship by the economy

Since almost all mass media is an advertising medium, with the exception of public service broadcasting , which is largely or wholly royalty-free , it is privately owned and its funding is largely, predominantly and sometimes entirely based on advertising revenue. In the case of free newspapers or private radio stations, newspapers and magazines, advertising revenues can amount to 50 to 80%. But even with public broadcasting, advertising income of up to 40% can be said to be dependent.

Therefore, critics point out that no medium that distributes advertising can be independent and that the greater the advertising share, the higher the dependency. This dependency has "very specific effects on the type of media content ... In the business press, the media are often referred to as exactly what they claim to be in their open moments: as a branch of the advertising industry."

The private media are also subject to increasing concentration, with ownership structures often being confused or opaque. This development represents an "ongoing threat to democratic culture" which, in the opinion of the critics, should by itself set off all alarm bells in a democracy. Five or six ad agencies dominate the $ 400 billion global advertising industry. “Journalists have long been under pressure to design reports to suit advertisers or owners…. the vast majority of television stations found their news departments to be 'cooperative' in framing the news to support 'nontraditional revenue growth' ".

Negative or undesired reporting can be prevented or influenced if advertisers threaten to withdraw their orders, or only if there is a risk of their order being withdrawn. The dependency is particularly pronounced when a medium has only one or a few major customers. The influence of an advertiser affects not only information about him or his products, but also the content of programs and articles, even of contributions that are not directly related to the advertiser. In order to secure their advertising income, the media must endeavor to present the best possible “advertising environment”. The media's refusal to accept advertisements or publications that are not in their interests is also criticized. A clear example of this is the refusal of television stations in the US and Canada to broadcast Adbusters spots .

In private broadcasting, the quota basically decides on the program. “Your business is to get as much attention as possible. The audience rating measures the attention that the medium earns for the attention it deserves. The service of this attraction is sold to the advertising industry ”and the audience figures determine the price that can be achieved for the advertising. “In the USA, the determination of content by companies has been part of everyday program life since 1933. Procter & Gamble (P&G)… offered a radio station a history-making barter (now known as 'bartering'): The company would produce its own program 'for free' and thus save the station from having to produce expensive content. In return, the company wanted to have its spots spread and, of course, put its products in the limelight during the 'show'. This is how the 'Ma Perkins' series came about, which P&G cleverly used as an advertising medium for Oxydol, the leading detergent brand at the time. The soap opera was born and was brought to its full bloom (radiance, purity, whiteness?) In the new television medium. "

While the critics are essentially concerned with the subtle influence of business on the media, there are also examples of overt influence. Even before the merger with Daimler-Benz, the US company Chrysler sent a letter to numerous magazines via its advertising agency PentaCom with the request to send an overview of the topics covered before a magazine was published. Above all, Chrysler wanted to know whether there was any content that was devoted to "sexual, political or social matters" or could be interpreted as "provocative or offensive". David Martin, head of the advertising agency PentaCom, said: “We justify this by saying that when you look at a product that costs $ 22,000, you want to see this product surrounded by positive things. There is nothing positive about an article about child pornography. "

In another example, in 2000 the US television broadcaster "USA Network called unofficial appointments at the highest management level to find out what broadcast content companies wanted so that they could place their advertising orders." Programs on advertising television are tailored, timed and content accordingly designed to fit the needs of advertising, e.g. B. the division into suitable sections. These are often coordinated dramaturgically with the advertising so that, for example, at the end they are about to reach a peak of tension or leave a question unanswered. In this way, the viewer should be bound to the program.

Advertising and information can hardly be distinguished any more. “The boundaries between advertising and media… are blurring… more and more. What August Fischer, CEO of Axel Springer Verlag, describes as a 'proven partnership between media and advertising' ... is, for critics, nothing more than the undermining of journalistic tasks and freedoms. ”According to former RTL boss Helmut Thoma,“ should and can Private broadcasters do not serve a program assignment, but only serve the corporate goal, namely 'acceptance by the advertising industry and by viewers.' In this order, the prioritization actually says everything about the 'programming' of private television. "

Patrick Le Lay, former CEO of TF1 , a French private television broadcaster with a 25-30% market share, said: “There are many ways to talk about television. But from an economic point of view, let's be realistic: basically it is TF1's job, for example, to help Coca Cola sell its product…. In order for an advertising message to be perceived, the viewer's brain must be available to us, so to speak, to distract it, to relax it and to have it ready between two advertising messages. What we're selling to Coca Cola is available human brain time. "

Because of these dependencies, a broad, public and fundamental debate about the media, at least about the usual media, is hardly possible, otherwise everyone would saw off the branch on which they are sitting. "The notion that the economic base of the media, journalism and communication could have worrying effects on democracy is excluded from the spectrum of legitimate debates," as is "capitalism as a subject in US political culture."

An early critic of the structural foundation of US journalism was Upton Sinclair with his novel The Brass Check , in which he addressed the influence of owners, advertisers and economic interests on the media.

Even practitioners of the modern media enterprise like Ulrich Wickert question the function of the 4th violence. The claim has always been wrong that there is no democratic legitimation of the press. Instead, media are largely a part of the economy. "The media are shaped by economic interests. Publishers have to consider: How do I sell my paper? How much profit do I make? In my eyes, that is a limitation of the Fourth Estate."


  • Klaus Feldmann: Sociology compact. An introduction. VS Verlag, 2006, ISBN 3-531-34188-X .
  • Gerd Strohmeier: Politics and the mass media. An introduction. Nomos Verlag, 2004, ISBN 3-8329-0965-6 .
  • Thomas Bauer: Didactic models: Politics in mass media (media education, introduction and foundation II). Böhlau Verlag, 1979, ISBN 3-205-07143-3 .
  • Hermann Meyn: Mass Media in Germany. UVK Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, 2004, ISBN 3-89669-420-0 .
  • Georg Franck: Economy of Attention. A blueprint. 1st edition. Carl Hanser Verlag, 1998, ISBN 978-3-446-19348-2 .
  • Klaus-Jürgen brother, Christoph Bialluch, Benjamin Lemke (ed.): Social psychology of capitalism - today. On the topicality of Peter Brückner ( Psychosozial-Verlag ), Gießen 2013, ISBN 978-3-8379-2226-4 .
  • Niklas Luhmann : The reality of the mass media. 2nd, expanded edition. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1996.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Burkart, Roland: Communication Science. Vienna / Cologne / Weimar: Beltz Verlag (4th edition), 2002. S. 378f.
  2. a b c Burkart 2002: p. 402.
  3. Burkart 2002: p. 404.
  4. Communication Science. 1st edition. Constance: UVK, p. 71.
  5. Burkart 2002: pp. 407-411.
  6. Burkart 2002: p. 383.
  7. Hess, Henner: A sociological frame of reference for mass communication research. In: P 3/1969. Pp. 277-286.
  8. Burkart 2002: p. 386.
  9. ^ Ronneberger, Franz: Socialization through mass communication . Stuttgart, 1971. p. 50.
  10. a b Saxer, Ulrich: Functions of the mass media in modern society. In: Kurzrock, Rupert (Ed.): Medienforschung. Berlin, 1974. pp. 22-33.
  11. a b c Burkart 2002: p. 387.
  12. ^ Ronneberger, Franz: Integration through mass communication. In: Saxer, Ulrich (Ed.): Equality or inequality through mass communication? Homogenization - differentiation of society through mass communication. Munich: Öhlschläger, 1985. pp. 3-18. P. 14.
  13. ^ Maletzke, Gerhard: building blocks for communication science. 1949-1984. Berlin: Volker Spiess, 1984. p. 139.
  14. a b Burkart 2002: p. 390f.
  15. ^ Ronneberger, Franz: The political functions of mass communication. In: Langenbucher, Wolfgang (ed.): On the theory of political communication. Munich, 1974. pp. 193-205. P. 199.
  16. a b Burkart 2002: p. 393f.
  17. a b c Burkart 2002: pp. 394–396.
  18. Burkart 2002: p. 397.
  19. Holzer, Horst: Communication Sociology. Hamburg, 1973.
  20. Holzer, Horst: media communication. Introduction to action and social theory concepts. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1994. p. 203.
  21. a b Burkart 2002: p. 398f.
  22. Holzer 1973: p. 156.
  23. Holzer 1994: p. 202.
  24. Arnd Krüger : Cui bono? On the effect of sports journalism, in: Arnd Krüger, Swantje Scharenberg (ed.): How the media prepare sport - selected aspects of sports journalism . Berlin: Tischler 1993, 24–65; ISBN 3-922654-35-5
  25. Uwe Krüger: Power of opinion. The Influence of Elites on Leading Media and Alpha Journalists - A Critical Network Analysis . Cologne 2013
  26. ↑ Cover text of the book edition
  30. ^ Siegert, Gabriele, Brecheis Dieter in: Werbung in der Medien- und Informationsgesellschaft , Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2005, ISBN 3-531-13893-6
  31. ^ McChesney, Robert W .: The Political Economy of Media: Enduring Issues, Emerging Dilemmas . Monthly Review Press, New York, (May 1, 2008), p. 256, ISBN 978-1-58367-161-0
  32. Giroux, Henry A., McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada, in the foreword for: The Spectacle of Accumulation by Sut Jhally,
  33. ^ McChesney, Robert W .: The Political Economy of Media: Enduring Issues, Emerging Dilemmas . Monthly Review Press, New York, (May 1, 2008), p. 43, ISBN 978-1-58367-161-0 .
  35. Lecture given at the Philosophicum Lech 2002, publ. in Konrad Paul Liessmann (Ed.), The Channels of Power. Rule and Freedom in the Media Age, Philosophicum Lech Vol. 6, Vienna: Zsolnay, 2003, pp. 36–60; printed in advance in Merkur Nr. 645, January 2003, pp. 1-15
  36. Franck, Georg: Economy of Attention. A blueprint. 1st edition. Carl Hanser, March 1998, ISBN 3-446-19348-0 , ISBN 978-3-446-19348-2 .
  37. a b c  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  38. ^ McChesney, Robert W. “The Political Economy of Media: Enduring Issues, Emerging Dilemmas”. Monthly Review Press, New York, (May 1, 2008), pp. 271, ISBN 978-1-58367-161-0
  40. ^ McChesney, Robert W .: The Political Economy of Media: Enduring Issues, Emerging Dilemmas . Monthly Review Press, New York, (May 1, 2008), pp. 235, 237, ISBN 978-1-58367-161-0
  41. Ulrich Wickert: The term “lying press” possibly launched by the Russian secret service ›Meedia. January 28, 2016, accessed December 27, 2016 .