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Theories of the media, theories of society

TONY BENNETT

‘MASS’, ‘MEDIA’, ‘COMMUNICATIONS’?

The new media distinctively associated with the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—the press, radio and television, the cinema and the record industry—have traditionally been grouped together under the heading ‘mass media’ and their study developed as a part of the sociology of mass communications. At one level, this inherited vocabulary fulfils a useful descriptive function; we know what is being referred to when such terms as ‘the media of mass communication’ are used. At another level, however, such terms may prove positively misleading. It is clear, for example, that the media which are customarily referred to in this way resemble one another only ...

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