Different approaches and theories on media: The hypodermic syringe model: Is the idea that the media has power over its audience; it can control and persuade people. The audience receives “daily injections” of information from the media and this determines their behaviour. It has an immediate effect on the audience *Refer to Bandura doll experiment* Watch it below…

The uses and gratification model: (Mcqual) The media does not use us; we use the media. This theory is how the media is used to actively satisfy peoples needs based on their ability to exercise choice and control. Audiences actively seek media for specific gratifications and this theory deals with why media is chosen, what purpose media serves and how media competes with other media sources to met satisfaction. Decoding approach: The audience actively decodes media coverage; their own backgrounds (social class, gender, age, ethnicity) effect what they deduce from the content. 
Moral panics: The media creates “moral panic” by using inflated language like the word “terror” or exaggerated claims. This causes the public to panic and want action. 
Formal control on the mass media: Legal limits to media’s freedom: 

  1. The laws of libel: Forbid the publication of an untrue statement about a person which may bring him/her into ridicule, dislike or hostility in society. 
  2. Official secrets act: Make it a criminal offence to report any government activity which the government defines as an official secret without authorization. These are extremely wide ranging acts, which are meant to protect the public interest. However many people argue they are often used to protect political interests of governments. 
  3. Defence or D notices: Are often issued by the governments as requests to journalists not to report certain news items which the government believes to be against the national interest. These usually concern military secrets and other info which might be useful to the enemy. 
  4. Race relations act: Forbid the expression of opinions which will encourage hatred or discrimination against people because of their race. 
  5. Ofcom: Main regulator of mass media, responsible for protecting public from harmful broadcasts and protecting consumer interest. 

Ownership of the mass media: Fewer and fewer companies own the media organisations due to increasing concentration. This concentration is due to three major developments….
Vertical integration: All stages in production, distribution and consumption being owned by one company
Horizontal integration: merging of companies in similar sections of media e.g. Murdoch owning fox and sky reduces competition.
News Corp. (Rupert Murdoch) and Time Warner hold highest percentage of media. 
Agenda setting: Agenda setting refers to what subjects are decided to be brought to the public’s attention through mass media and therefore direct the public discussion and debate on these topics. E.g the owners views towards a party will be portrayed through media.

Gate keeping: The refusal to cover some issues e.g. strikes are widely reported where as industrial injuries hardly are.

Norm setting: The process whereby the mass media emphasizes and reinforces conformity to society and seek to isolate those who don’t by making them victims of unfavourable public opinions.

  • The media outline acceptable boundaries of behaviour
  • the views and behaviours of some groups are presented positively, while others negatively.
  • stereotypical images are created
  • media shape public opinion

The mass media acts as an agency of secondary socialisation

The mass media influences our political attitudes, as well as our behaviour. It is often through the media that people develop their political attitudes. In Britain most newspapers tend to side with one political party depending on the owners view. This means readers of that newspaper are more likely to support the newspapers chosen party. It is often through the press that the influencing of political attitudes takes place. As they have much influence on politics due to the coverage of politics and the way people interpret stories. The press may discourage people from voting due to negative portrayal of politicians and their system.

Does the mass media promote democracy? 
To some extent the media promotes democracy, there are many media companies which make us aware of various social, political and economical activities happening around the world. The Media promotes democracy in ways such as propaganda; Democrats use the media to communicate their message and things such as public debates can take place which reflects public opinions. Because the media in democratic societies are not controlled by the state, the risk of censorship is reduced and free speech is protected. Anyone can put their view across , by setting up a website, blog, newspaper or other means of communicating ideas. As well as this the media accurately reflects public opinions that already exist in society, rather than creating new ones.
Although the media promotes democracy to some extent it also restricts it. The media reflects the conservative views of their wealthy leaders. While journalists are often critical and expose wrong doing, they frequently avoid issues which may loose them their job. Also news values, agenda setting, norm setting and other sources of bias mean only some issues are covered. The media choose what to report and how to report it and therefore provide a bias view of the world.
Although the media does promote democracy to a certain extent, overall I believe they restrict it. The media simply does not reflect public opinion rather the bias views of the owners, creating a biased perception of the world.

Key definitions: 

  1. Traditional media: Refers to the media which was dominant and existing in the past such as newspapers, radios and magazines; media is now developing and is called the “new media” which includes media sources such as satellite TV
  2. Agenda setting:Is when journalists decide what things are shared with the media that will attract an audience e.g. disasters and crime.
  3. Opinion polls:Poll given to people asking for their views on certain topics e.g. what time a show should be put on.
  4. News values:Are things that the media use to control peoples behaviours and beliefs. It is things that the media believe to be “newsworthy” and whether it will spark interest within the audience.
  5. Broadsheet:Newspapers for the Upper – Middle class e.g. Telegraph
  6. Bias:When someone is one sided to a particular person or topic portraying them in a better light then someone else. e.g owners views are portrayed more positively then their prejudices.
  7. Censorship:Is the coverage of certain topics coming in contact with audiences. Especially in war times; information isn’t allowed to be shown to protect “human interest” and to make sure the government is protect. E.g violence is censored.
  8. Folk devils:Certain groups of society portrayed in a negative light usually through the use of stereotypes to create moral panics. These groups are seen as deviant, as they hold different beliefs to those in the main group of society. E.g. youth.
  9. Sensationalism: When the media exaggerates a certain topics for more attention e.g celebs scandal.

Sociological approaches

  • Marxist (Conflict approach) – Believe society is based on conflicting interest between different groups. The owners of the newspapers are part of a powerful and wealthy minority group. They are in a strong position to put across their personal interests and as the owners they are able to control the content of the press and they do so in their own interests. Supporters of the conflict approach point to the following developments as evidence to back up their views… 
  • There has been an increasing concentration of press ownership in the hands of a few companies and individuals – small companies have been taken over by media giants such as Rupert Murdock. 
  • There has been a globalisation of these companies – a small number of huge companies (conglomerates) have interests in the media all over the world. A large proportion of what we see and hear comes from a small group of companies.  
  • The Pluralists – Believe that no one group dominates. They believe that the whole range of opinions is represented in the press and that there is not any real link between the owners and the content of the press – newspapers and magazines are driven by market forces – they give their reader what they want to see and read and if they did not the readers would use their market power to stop buying the particular paper. Pluralism supports the freedom of the press and uses this evidence to support its beliefs. 
  • There is freedom to set up new newspapers if existing ones do not meet the needs of the market – owners cannot dictate content – they have to provide what people will buy. The public have the freedom to switch from one paper to another. 
  • The day to day control is on the hands of the editors and not the owners. 

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