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Media And Communication Studies Problems In Encoding Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 4665 words Published: 24th Jun 2021

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Communication is the basic instinct of human being. The interaction and communication process is complex. It directs the researchers to understand the way the cognition works.

Latest researches have become more advanced in the context of encoding. CDA (critical discourse analysis) and DA (discourse analysis) have been prerequisite to understand the encoding process. Objectivity, especially in the field of journalism is of great concern. The factors influencing the cognition and the process of encoding have been of the great concern for the communication scholars.

Encoding is an integral part of the communication process. With out encoding and decoding it is not possible to communicate and being communicated. If we exclude the encoding the concept of communication is not possible.

Mass media in Pakistan like any other media across the globe is working under the lines of responsibility but it is essential to understand the problems in encoding. Process of encoding and decoding is part of everyday communication. Anchormen, news reporters and producers play an important role beyond many others in communication field.

Agenda setting, opinions building for a particular purpose have been the major area of interest for the communication experts and the journalists. It is obvious in our daily news media that some hot issues summarily go beyond the surface and the new one take their place to mold the attention of the public from one point to an other. This may go successful in one way when the message is encoded perfectly and then the receiver of the message decodes it in the way the sender wants it. For the successful and objective communication certain studies have been conducted by the communication and language experts focusing especially to the problems in the encoding process.




Encoding is the translation of purpose, intention, or meaning into symbols or codes.

(Communication theories: Origins, Methods, And Uses in Mass Media 3rd Edition)

By Werner J. Severin & James W. Tankard, Jr

Mostly these symbols are in the form of numbers, letters or words.

These symbols work like bricks in forming the structure of any language.

Other shapes of the encoding can be a photograph, motion picture, musical note or in the form of any sound.

Encoding is such a process which demands deep attention to understand.

It is the part of our routine life. Communication is the vital part of our life. We can not remain in isolation and feel relief when we express our intentions and feeling to any other person. The process of communication involves the most important factor that is encoding.

Encoding basically occurs in mind. In other words it is the process of mind in which our intentions and what so ever we want to communicate is converted or shaped into the form of words which may be in the written or spoken form or can be any kind of gesture.

We do the encoding on the basis of our knowledge and our past experiences.

It is prerequisite for the journalists and communication experts to understand the encoding and its impact on the objectivity of the news or the message being conveyed.

Encoding and the Society:

Communication works like blood in the body. The process of interaction and transmission of the intentions and ideas from one to other person requires the cognition to come in work. With out the encoding it is impossible to deliver one’s intentions to the other. The process of the encoding and decoding follow each other. A person encodes the message in reaction to what he/she decodes.

Encoding process is available at every stage. In the field of communication from interpersonal to mass communication; each level has encoding in the process of dissemination of the information. At the mass communication level media disseminate the information to diverse societies. In the societies electronic journalism has a great role in providing the information about daily happening.

The general public is regularly exposed to news channels and construct the opinion on the basis of what they watch and listen. Opinion of a society plays important role in the power play at social and national level and even impacts the international power structure. Keeping in mind the importance of the social opinion, it has been the concern of the communication scholars to ensure the objectivity at every stage of news and information dissemination.

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The process of delivering the information at this level passes through various stages. From the ordinary witness at the crime scene to the reporter, from reporter to the news desk, from news desk to the anchor person and from anchor person to the audiences, the process of encoding is involved at each stage. To ensure the transparency in the information distribution, making it objective and to provide the reality till the audience, certain studies have been conducted by the communication scholars.

In the latest studies the scholars have conducted the Critical Discourse Analysis to study the way social power abuse; dominance and inequality are enacted, reproduced and resisted by text and talk in the social and political context. It thus want to understand, expose and ultimately to resist the social inequality. Additionally the scholars have conducted the Discourse Analysis- a general term for a number of approaches to analyze written, spoken, signed language use.

Encoding and the Language:

In the process of encoding, language plays an important role.

A group of students of the language which is called General Semanticists have worked over the encoding. They also have identified some characteristics of the language.

These characteristics are essential to understand in understanding the encoding and the problems in its process.

To understand the process of encoding in our society, individuals of the society and the media experts including communication experts and journalists it is essential to be known about these characteristics of the language.

Media experts and journalists themselves go through the process of the encoding to shape their selections and intentions and the reality of the world around, and this afterwards again shaped by the minds of individuals in the society. At this point to save the objectivity and the purity of news and the affairs about the world around is the major concern. The misuse of the language takes the communicator or the person being communicated to certain amalgamations of the problems.

Following are characteristics of the language identified by the General Semanticists:

  • Language is Static; Reality is Dynamic
  • Language is Limited; Reality is Virtually Unlimited
  • Language is Abstract
  • Assumptions Built into Languages

Language is Static; Reality is Dynamic:

Words themselves do not change over the period of time, yet the world around us is full of change.

In the process of the evolution it is the natural phenomenon that certain species are not permanent in their shape and structure but they keep on developing time to time.

In this case it is fact that we use the same fixed limitations and the words to describe any event or the world around. We use some specified words and attributes for certain things and events but with the passage of time their importance and area of influence keep on changing.

Mass media communication experts especially the journalists use a specified vocabulary and terms to convey daily happenings. In the developing countries like Pakistan, the journalists in mass media field are not literal to the level essential for their work and the media here is in the developing stage; which has the potential risk to objectivity and the true tackling of the matter of the encoding in the sense of obtaining the information and imparting it to the masses but with the gradual rise in the education towards the importance and the responsibility in the news dissemination process is bringing a positive change.

Language is Limited; Reality is virtually Unlimited:

According to Wendell Johnson (1972) there are 500,000 to 600,000 words in the English language and they are to represent millions of individual facts, experiences and relationships. The people generally use limited vocabulary for their conversation in daily life.

Miller (1963) says that vocabulary for telephone conversation is 5000 words and for novel are 10,000 words.

Journalists and communication experts generally have the limited vocabulary. They come across various events in their daily life which they finally encode and give the shape of words and voice and broadcast for the audience and viewers.

According to this characteristic of the language they can not show the exact reality of the event. This aspect in other words compromises the objectivity required in the news dissemination process. Due to having the limited vocabulary it becomes hard to convey the true picture of the reality.

Language is Abstract:

According to General Semanticists in the abstraction process we select some details about anything and leave rest of the details.

Every language contains some abstractions. It is one of the most important features of the language. It allows us to think in categories. Much of the human knowledge is bound up in the process of categorizing and classifying. As the words become more abstract their correspondence to the reality becomes less and less direct.

In the process of encoding especially according to the journalism perspective, objectivity is the foremost thing to consider. It has adverse effects if the audiences are not conversant to the encoding and abstraction processes.

Assumptions Built into the Language:

As General Semanticists say; the structure and vocabulary of the language contains many assumptions about the nature of the reality.

Wendell Johnson observed that the language we use not only puts words in our mouths, but it also puts notions in our heads.

Many folk languages contain certain assumption which are influenced by the culture and norms in which the speakers of that language live. Our mind is like a room which is colored by our experiences and cultures and when we speak in native or foreign language, that language builds assumptions in our mind besides putting words in our mouth.

Misuses of the Language:

General Semanticists have identified some misuses of the language due its static limited and abstract nature. They have identified four common misuses.

  1. Dead-Level Abstracting
  2. Undue Identification
  3. Two Valued Evaluation
  4. Unconscious Projection

Dead-Level Abstracting:

This concept, described by Wendell Johnson (1946) refers to getting stuck at one level of abstraction. The level could be high or low.

High level abstractions are words like justice, democracy, freedom, mankind, and communism, peace with honor, and law and order.

The low level abstraction can be like, some one recounting every detail of his or her day. An effective message contains generalizations at a high level of abstraction, but there are also specific details at a low level of abstraction.

One effective technique for doing this is to give a lot of examples.

(Communication theories: Origins, Methods, And Uses in Mass Media 3rd Edition)

By Werner J. Severin & James W. Tankard, Jr

Undue Identification:

General Semanticists have described the undue identification as, the failure to see distinctions between members of a category or class.

This term points out that they are seen as identical or identified. Another term for this is categorical thinking. In everyday discourse, it is sometimes referred to as overgeneralization. One common kind of undue identification is stereotyping.

(Communication theories: Origins, Methods, And Uses in Mass Media 3rd Edition)

Two Valued Evaluation:

This is also known as thinking with the excluded middle. According to this, there are only two possibilities of any thing and there is no third possibility of being something at the middle.

For example:

Right or Wrong

Day or Night

The General Semanticists have advised the way to eliminate such kind of misuse of the language by having the multivalued evaluation. In other words, to think that there are a range of possibilities of anything.

Unconscious Projection:

According to the General Semanticists the unconscious projection is a lack of awareness that one’s statements are to a degree statements about oneself.

Wendell Johnson (1972) went so for as to claim that “basically we always talk about ourselves”.

William Shakespeare said, “Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so”.

It is the ‘I’ behind the ‘eye’ that does the seeing. The seeing goes on inside our heads and inside our nervous system. What we see is our response to what we look at.

(Communication theories: Origins, Methods, And Uses in Mass Media 3rd Edition)


Literature Review

Stuart Hall:

Stuart Hall has worked over encoding. His paper “encoding/decoding” was published in 1973. Many of the terms set by Hall remained influential in the field of cultural studies.

Hall explored this work during his stay at Birmingham.

Hall worked on that how media messages are produced, circulated and consumed.

His essay challenged three major things in the communication process.

He argued that;

Meaning is not simply fixed or determined by the sender.

The message is never transparent.

The audience is not passive recipient of the meaning.

According to him, distortion is built into the system. It is not the failure of the producer or the viewer. He argued that there is ‘lack of fit’ between two sides of communication exchange. That ‘lack of fit’ is between the moment of the production of the message and the moment of its reception. In other words, there is lack of fit between encoding and the decoding process.

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Cultural theorist Stuart Hall developed the reception theory. This theory analyses that how readers (audience) receive the literary text. This is basically a textual analysis approach that focuses on the range of negotiation and opposition concerning to the audience. According to this theory the text in any form is not accepted passively but the audience or the readers interpret the meanings in their cultural backgrounds and the past experiences.

As per this theory, the process of encoding going on in any person’s cognition is always influenced by his cultural background and the past experiences of the life.

General Semanticists:

In the world of communication, encoding has been the matter of the great concern. A group of students of language which was named as ‘General Semanticists’, have worked on the problems of encoding. This group was at first led by the Alfred Korzybski, a Polish who later migrated to United States of America.

Encoding as being the basic element in the communication process which deals with the work of cognition is unavoidable in the process of analyzing the communication and the interaction of human beings with each other and its effects.

In the process of accounting the importance of the encoding we can not put aside the role of the language. The language as being the central tool in the process of the communication affects the whole process of sharing the ideas and interaction with each other. Focusing on the vitality and the role of the language in encoding, they have identified some characteristics of the language that make the encoding difficult-especially in the language.

These scholars have been in concern with the role of language in our daily life and its effects over our mental health. They have suggested to use the language in the way as the scientists use, to avoid the problems generated by the misuse of the language.

Describing the characteristics of the language which make the encoding difficult, they identified the language as;

Language is Static; Reality is Dynamic

Language is Limited; Reality is Virtually Unlimited

Language is Abstract Assumptions Built into Languages

Misuse of the language causes the wrong encoding of any purpose or intention which takes the person being communicated, away from the reality. The person who gratifies his needs for information and news is on the stake of the key performers in the information dissemination process such as media producers, anchor-persons and the news reporters.

General Semanticists have also identified some misuses of the language. Wendell Johnson has the prominent work in this regard.

The misuses of the language are;

  1. Dead-Level Abstracting
  2. Undue Identification
  3. Two Valued Evaluation
  4. Unconscious Projection

According to Wendell Johnson, ‘getting stuck to a level of abstraction’, and ‘basically we always talk about ourselves’, are the matters of the great concern.

The field of journalism like other communication activities requires more attention towards these findings by the General Semanticists.

The element of the objectivity has been of great concern. S. I. Hayakawa (1964) discusses three kinds of statements focusing the objectivity.

Reports - Inferences - Judgment

According to him, the statement which is capable of verification is called the report. He describes the inferences as the statements made about unknown on the basis of known and finally he discussed the judgment as an expression of approval or disapproval for an occurrence, person or object.

Journalists are sometimes challenged for their objectivity and unveiling the true picture of reality. For this the Hayakawa has advised to follow the “report” method of the statements and avoid inferences, statements and slanting.

Encoding and Mass Media in Pakistan:

Mass media in Pakistan has been playing active role in dissemination of the information to the audience at every newsworthy occasion. Certainly there is no scarcity of the hardworking journalists working in the whole process of the communication and the news dissemination.

At the present stage there is great competition going on among various TV channels, of which most of the channels are newly emerged. Being the first in the broadcasting race some times the violation of the standards and ethics of news reporting is obvious. Some of the channels have been showing the videos of such a brutal incidents which would never be shown under the codes of ethics.

Whether it is print or the electronic media, loopholes in the process of information gathering, processing and distributing stages are apparent. Government has established PEMRA to regulate the media but it too has been kept under the influence of the interests of the governing body in the past.

In the print media there are a number of news stories available at the news desks which are firstly encoded by the reporters in the words on the paper, which sometimes are not written properly due to limited vocabulary of the language held with the reporter. There are gatekeepers at various stages of the news production which practice their influence on the word structure of the news. Sometimes a few newsworthy stories are left behind due to unavailability of the space in the print and the time in the electronic media and that reserved space is due to the immense influence of the advertisers, through which mass media generate the revenue.

In such above mentioned conditions, the objectivity is the element of great concern in the whole process of the mass media. There have been no work done over the issue of encoding by the mass media of Pakistan and there is no research held over the audience way of the encoding in Pakistan.

There are a few channels (TV, Radio) and newspapers which are never influenced by the rivalry of the circumstances and tried to provide the objective news to the audience and vied to unveil the reality. But to analyze the way the mass media in Pakistan encodes the messages and to analyze the way the audience further encode the messages, is the matter of great concern.



To analyze the objectivity and the encoding process by the news media it is essential to set a hypothesis. Under the hypothesis we will discuss the level of objectivity and the way how mass media especially the news media (print and electronic) of Pakistan and the audience encode the news.

Statement of the Hypothesis

“News media (print and electronic media) in Pakistan politicize the news”



Mass media in Pakistan has diverse outlets. It is not merely confined to the print media or in the other words the newspapers. There are news agencies, newspapers, magazines, radio, TV channels, internet and the movie industry under the title of the mass media in Pakistan.

Debating on the issue of the encoding we will pass through the performance of the all kinds of media in Pakistan focusing on the issue of politicizing of the news elements by the media industry.

Pakistan as being one of the developing countries is passing through the process of the evolution in the field of industry, economy and the media field. Where there are various TV channels are getting approval for the start of the broadcast, there many newly born newspapers are sacrificing for there erectness and stability in the corporate culture of the present Pakistan. Besides this there is one more way of recreation, learning and information for the audience and that is radio listening. The radio Pakistan enjoys the vast area coverage with respect to other FM radio stations having a limited area for broadcast.

Internet too is full of blogs and WebPages. Society in Pakistan is divided into urban and rural population. The urban population is being exposed to diverse media outlets than the rural population.

The emerging news media in Pakistan has been influenced by the political economy being practiced by various corporate and the political bodies. The newly emerging media whether in the form of print or electronic have to vie for their existence and their existence can not be assured with out generation of the revenue. The struggle to generate the revenue some times put these media industries on the way other than the objectivity. The objectivity has been the great concern for the communication experts and the scholars. It would be the foremost responsibility of the mass media to provide the accurate picture of the reality and do not keep the audience away from the reality.

Encoding of the news is blurred by the various key players in the media industry due to their affiliations with the corporate world and the political body. Corporate sector influences the media by using the advertisement tool and the political body cares for its interest and if the media go against, it puts the sanctions through the governmental media regulating bodies. This way, the corporate and the political bodies control the contents of the news and other media messages and make the reporters, news editors, columnists, anchor persons and the news producers to think in the way they want.

As the general semanticists identified, due to the limited aspect of the language the reporter sometimes can not describe the reality of the incident in the way as it should be. The assumptions built in the language makes the key performers in the media industry to think in the way that is influenced by their culture and past experiences.

As the Wendell Johnson said, the opinions of the columnists are to some extent the talks about themselves. These are basically their opinions and not necessarily the reality of something. The element of the judgment according to the Hayakawa is also visible in the opinions given in the news articles and the columns.

Reports are the only the way to come up with the reality for the audience. There are the reports that can only be verified and are credible that’s why the emphasis is given on the report (a type of statements according to Hayakawa).

The audience as per the uses and the gratification theory gratifies their needs from the mass media in the form of the news and the entertainment. And if they gratify their needs on the basis of the news encoded by mass media under the influence of any corporate or the political body, they will live with the wrong picture of the world around them in their brain and that will effect their reaction in the social life.

Agenda setting aspect of the mass media is also applicable in this regard. The influential bodies and sometimes the personal bias of any of the key performers in the mass media molds the structure of the news in a particular sense generating collection of words which causes to set a particular agenda in the public.

Sometimes the political influence of the political body being the major provider of the advertisements to the mass media makes news media to make an issue over particular news in the media and bury the other news which however may cause any harm to the political body. The contents of the news in the media are also affected by the advertiser which buys large space or the time in the news media and this way controls consciously or unconsciously the news flow and its encoding.

Some of the events have been given more than the due time and rests of the important events are kept at the stand by although the newsworthy incidents keep happening all the time in any of the corners of the country.

The news is not merely encoded by the news media but it is further encoded by the audience and it then further travels to the rest of the audience through their opinion leaders in the public sphere. If the encoding at any stage in the news media is of that other than reality and away from the objectivity, the travel of the information at any stage will not be fruitful for the audience.



News media in the Pakistan are encoding the news messages for the audience. Those media that are strong are practicing better encoding of the news and focusing on the element of objectivity than those which are newly born and needs revenue from advertisements for their strength building in the media market.

The threat to the objective encoding is expected in the talk shows where the anchormen conclude the discussion and give inferences and judgments. This aspect is also visible in the news articles and columns which are basically their own opinions about the reality.

Audiences further encode the messages based on what kind of encoding done by the news media they come across. They remain away from the reality if they are gratifying from the inobjective encoding by the news media.


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