chapter  7
16 Pages

The New Media Environment

What is the future of the mass audience in an age of technological abundance? Will an explosion of new media reduce what we have learned in the preceding pages to a quaint historical footnote? There has been no shortage of scholarship addressing such questions (e.g., Becker & Schoenbach, 1989; Dizard, 1994; Dobrow, 1990; Neuman, 1991; Salvaggio & Bryant, 1989). What is in short supply is a consensus about what the future holds. Some are inclined to think that great changes are afoot:

Consumers are now armed with new viewing devices like VCRs, remote control tuners, and addressable converters, which free them from the carefully planned programming schedules of the network architects and permit them access to an astounding number and variety of program choices. Old programming theories based on a scarce number of offerings and a passive, inert audience no longer seem meaningful and cannot be accepted as the standard catechism in this space-age jungle of programming abundance. (Litman & Kohl, 1992, p. 391)

Other students of the audience offer a more conservative prognosis. As Barwise and Ehrenberg (1988) stated, "Thirty years from now, we believe, television will still be a mass medium with largely unsegmented audiences watching varied programs for many hours and mostly at a low level of involvement" (p. 121).