The Concept “Mass Media” in the Lithuanian Language: Problems and Searches for the Equivalent

  • Andrius Gudauskas
Keywords: mass media, media, main stream media, mass communication, žiniasklaida


The article deals with the terms of communication science used in the Lithuanian language that specify the means whereby mass communication is carried out. Several different concepts are used in theoretical discourse in Lithuania: the means of mass communication, the media, the mass media (žiniasklaida), media, audiovisual media, and the like. The terms “the mass media” (žiniasklaida) and “the media” (medijos) used in the Lithuanian language are both translated into English as “media”, although these are different words and do not always mean identical things. The Lithuanian compound word (term) žiniasklaida is made of two independent words, žinios (news) and sklaida/skleidimas (dissemination). The Dictionary of the Lithuanian Language defines the word žiniasklaida as measures of periodical information – the press, radio, and television. In fact, when we speak about the radio, television, and printed newspapers in general terms, we often use this particular word of Lithuanian origin – žiniasklaida. Conceptual terms defining the means of communication discussed in the article have peculiar aspects and notional etymological nuances. These rather different terms entered the common usage at the end of the twentieth century and have been used ever since, that is, they are still used in the theoretical literature of communication sciences and in the public discourse of Lithuania of the early twenty-first century. The internationally and globally established scientific concepts “the mass media” and “the media” used to be translated into the Lithuanian language differently and therefore they were treated ambiguously, at times not accurately enough, and deviated from the postulates of the general communication theory. Lithuanian researchers who use the terms discussed in the present article were noticed to have had the universal concept of the mass communication theory, “the mass media”, in mind. The author also addresses the differentiated usage of different terms mentioned in the article in the Lithuanian language and different notional fields that they create. This is discussed when these terms are used synonymically and when they do not refer to identical things. In recent years, attempts to dissociate from the term žiniasklaida became noticeable in the works of Lithuanian researchers (Laima Nevickaitė, Žygintas Pečiulis). The semantic field of this term does not encompass all the existing means of communication as, for example, the terms “media” (medijos) or “the means of mass communication” can do, and this points to the conclusion that the Lithuanian neologism žiniasklaida should be avoided in research texts when we have the concept “the mass media” in mind. It is particularly pertinent in those cases when we refer to the overall communication process encompassing all possible means of communication and all possible effects on the perception of the audience, as well as the audience’s responses to the world we live in. The question of whether the term žiniasklaida could be used to define the conformity of the term “the mainstream media” should be discussed in future studies into the terminology of communication and information science. The author of the article proposes recommendations for correcting both the headline of the article Žiniasklaida in the Lithuanian version of the free online encyclopaedia Wikipedia and its content, whose current references to other languages are as follows: English – mass media, Russian – Sredstva massovoi informatsii (Средства массовой информации), German – Massenmedien, and so on. This would remove the discrepancy between the headlines and the content of encyclopaedic texts. Finally, due to the pluralistic and liberal usage of the terms “the mass media” and “the media”, which is becoming more and more firmly established, this analysis of these terms is relevant and useful in further developing a purposeful discourse of communication and information science and its popularisation.