Mass Communication refers to the process of transmitting information, such as thoughts and messages, to a large number of people. The need to communicate with the masses has been felt ever since human beings learnt to live a community life. Even in primitive societies headmen or sages had to reach the tribes people to warn them of an impending danger from a natural calamity or an attack by an enemy tribe. Blowing a horn or striking a gong would do to call a small tribe together. A larger community would need the call to be relayed from several points.
In the middle ages, mounted messengers used to run to all directions of a kingdom to proclaim a royal farman. During the Pathan-Mughal rule in the vast kingdom of India, this was perfected to make communication between the ruler and the ruled speedy and effective. The postal system instituted by them covered every nook and corner of the empire with a service remarkable for its speed and efficiency. The introduction of telegraphy in the 19th century added a new dimension to this service. This was also the time that saw the growth of the newspapers but poor literacy of the people and their limited capacity to pay acted as big barriers to their circulation spreading. The newspapers had to wait for long before becoming an effective vehicle for mass communication. Even today most people in rural Bangladesh and many in the cities do not read newspapers as the cost of subscribing to one is quite high. The concept of free community newspapers with assured delivery at every home is yet unknown in this country.
A major breakthrough came in the 1930s when radio broadcasting was introduced on a limited scale in calcutta, Delhi, Bombay and Madras. It came to dhaka in 1939. Within the next decade radio became a common feature wherever there was electricity. Soon after the Second World War the transistorised radio, run economically with the drycell battery, took wireless broadcasting to a very large number of homes. Overnight, radio presented itself as the most effective vehicle for communicating with the masses. With increasing use of high-power medium wave and short wave transmitters around the world even low-cost receiver sets could now pick up signals of home and overseas broadcasts allowing listeners everywhere unhindered access to news and information from beyond the boundaries of any kind of censorship. This was a landmark in the path of progress of communication and its graduating into mass communication.
television was experimentally introduced in East Pakistan in December 1964, but it took a long time to reach the people. Firstly, the transmission capacity in the early years was very poor. Secondly, TV sets were expensive and only the affluent could afford to buy one for the family and pay for its high licensing fee every year. And thirdly, there had to be the supply of electricity. These factors severely restricted the spread of TV as an effective means of communication. Even today, the sets are far too expensive for the common people, the annual or three-yearly license fees are high and irksome, and rural electrification is too slow to spread. These factors make TV an essentially urban media, although terrestrial transmission of signals of home telecasts now covers most parts of the country. But satellite technology has meanwhile transformed TV broadcasting from a state-controlled domestic service to wholly open global affair. With the help of a rooftop dish antenna or with a cable connection to a service provider, any one can now receive on his or her set high-resolution digital images and sounds of TV transmissions from any part of the world. The operation of a number of TV channels in the private sector using satellite technology has ended the monopoly of the sole state-owned channel.
The more recently introduced speedy communication technology based on Internet has truly reduced the world into a global village. Radio and Television programmes broadcast around the world can be listened and watched through Internet. Newspapers and periodicals also can be read out through it. Electronic mail (e-mail) allows people to send and receive at nominal cost vast amounts of messages, documents, pictures and sounds through the Internet in matter of seconds or minutes. Such messages can be addressed to a single person/organisation or to scores of recipients at the same time. This technology, inconceivable even a few decades ago, is fast becoming popular in Bangladesh. [Enamul Haq]