The Relationship Between Mass Media, Content, Presentation and Audience

Methodological Problems of Researching Media Effects
Factors: Other social factors cause alleged effects e.g. violence | Direct effects hard to identify – too many contributing factors.
Exposure: Unable to Establish belief and values without media | Everyone is exposed – hard to compare difference.
Passive Audiences
Media Effects Models: Approaches to audience consumption and response based on two key questions – How passive are the audiences?| However powerful are the media in affecting audiences?
Hypodermic Syringe
Media injects messages instantaneously to passive audience | Dom. Ideology/Sexism/Racism | Directly react e.g. see violence on TV – then attack | Behind moral panics – used to explain London riots | Direct reaction to Adv. – ‘Aspiration Advertising’.

1. Assumes audience is homogenous – range of cultures and beliefs effect responses
2. Assumes media over powers all social influences
3. Little evidence as it is hard to prove.
Active Audiences

Theories that suggest the audiences are ‘active’ and that they respond and have an impact on the way media is consumed and produced.
Two Step Flow Model
Key factor is ‘opinion leader’ – leads opinion and discussion in social groups.
Step 1: Op. Leaders select, interpret and filter media texts before they reach mass audiences – form own Op. and interpretation.
Step 2: Op. Leaders pass on messages to others below them.
Results In: Group messages pass on opinions | Model recognises media audiences not a mass of isolated individuals but that social factors influence interpretations and response.

1. Likely more than 2 steps – e.g. both parent’s and friend’s views and discussion signifies 3rd step
2. Assumes audiences victims of content – even through Op. Leaders.
3. Ignores ind. diff. – not everyone is vulnerable to Op. Leader
4. Divides audience – Active Op. Leader/Passive in-takers
5. Infl. of Op. Leaders declining due to new media.
The Cultural Effects Model
The ‘Drip Drip Effect’: Majority agree with content and bias but others are critical or reject – suggest audiences influenced over period of time | Subtle process – shaped consensus of Dom. Ideology.
Encoding/Decoding and Reception Analysis

Hall suggests content ‘encoded’ to contain dominant/hegemonic viewpoint – audiences decode ‘prefered reading’ – due to cultural hegemony.
Morley: Suggests people read/decode/interpret texts in one of three ways –
Preferred Reading: Decode texts same way encoded e.g. benefit scroungers.
Negotiated Reading: Accept preferred but amend to own beliefs and experiences e.g. accept there are benefit scroungers but not all as you know some deserving cases.
Oppositional Reading: Reject dominant meaning – e.g. reject ‘scroungers’ see it as a moral panic.
Selective Filtering

Klapper: Three filters people apply to interpretations –
Selective Exposure: Choose content to view | Pick messages that fit existing views.
Selective Perception: React diff. to same message – accept/reject messages dep. on personal view.
Selective Retention: Forget content no in line with own view or interests. E.g. Daily Mirror opposed war half the readers in favour of Iraq war/Daily Mail supported war but ¼ opposed it.
The GMG/Neo-Marxist View of Cultural Effects Model

Philo: Rejects cultural effects/filtering/decoding. Media still has influence over audience = unless they have access to alternative sources of information.
Minor Strike: Philo studied violent bias coverage – people from range of socio-economic background interpreted same deviant images of minors – concluded media effected how they think – trad. news only source.
Agenda Setting: Difficult to criticise dominant media accounts- little access to reliable alt. sources – agenda setting encourages prefered reading as reasonable.
Cultural Effects Model Recognises

1. Power of dom. Class influences content.
2. Ideological dominant view doesn’t have same effect.
3. Media influential as people gradually persuaded to view dom. heg. view as consensus.
Limitations of Cultural Effects Model

Reception and Selective Filtering: Exaggerates active audience | GMG have evidence of power and influence of media.
Framework of Dom. Ideology: Doesn’t recognise independence of journalists who are often critical of dominant ideology e.g. The Guardian.
Suggests Audience Control: Aud. control limited to long term socialization by media | Repetition of messages hinder ability to filer such a message | Message also only one available – illusion of choice.
E.g. Individual mocks political debate but doesn’t ask why only 3 parties are represented.
The Users and Gratifications Model
Model Assumes weakest media effects. | View audiences use media for pleasures and interests.
Diversion/Escapism: Leisure | Entertainment | Escape from daily routine.
Personal RLPs/Integration: Companionship | Community through identification.
Personal Identity: Explore and identify with characteristics | Confirm people’s identity | keep up w/ trends.
Surveillance: Seek out info. from trad. News media | find out about world and now others – social media.
Facebook Groups

Park: Found online facebook groups satisfied multiple needs – Entertainment=Diversion | Sense of community=Personal Relationships | Seeking personal status=Personal Identity | Info. about group/related events=surveillance.
Audience Choice

Power to decide content – failure to produce content audience want means companies will lose profit.
Limitations of Users and Gratification Model

1. Over estimates audience power/under estimates influence of media.
2. Focus on ind. media users | Ignores affects of social group influence.
3. Ignores wider social factors common values and experiences mean people respond in similar ways.

Conclusion on Media Effects

Media saturated society – view formed media imagery rather than personal experience.
 Environmental factors such as age/ethnicity influence how we select text and no universal media effect due to individual differences of behaviour and culture in society.
Violence in the Media
Porn and violence on the internet, video games, TV, books and films – part of pop. culture.
Digital and New Media
Easily accessible | Impossible to control technology | Audiences interact with violence – computer games/uploading own content.
Moral Panics
Media violence often blamed for violence in society – e.g. murder of 2yr old James Bulgar by two 10 yr old boys – blamed on violent films by media.
Newman: asserted violent videos lead to the violent actions towards James Bulgar.
Criticisms of Media Influenced Violence

Cumberbatch: Findings supporting theory are speculation fuelled by popular press. | Cites review claiming only 200 studies directly assess exposure. E.g. Bobo Doll Study.
Newburn: Reviewed 1000 studies – link not proven | Children may display violent tendencies w/o media influence.
Broadcasting Standards Commission: Argue children sophisticated media user not ‘blank sheets of paper on whom messages can be imprinted’.
Competing Claims about Effects of Violence in Media
Uncertainty of effect shown by range of diff. contradictory conclusions | Gauntlett ‘We don’t really know’.
1. Copycat/Imitation hypodermic syringe model e.g. Bobo Doll Study.
2. Catharsis Violence reduced as user live out tendencies in fantasy media world.
3. Desensitization Drip-Drip – long term effect socialises audience to accept violent – comfortably numb.
4. Sensitization Exposure = people more sensitive | less tolerant in real life.
5. Psychological Disturbance Long term anxiety | Young children frightened.
6. Exaggeration of Fear Gerbner – People believe we live in violent society overestimate victimization – correlation between high amounts of TV and exaggerated fears of crime.
Methodological Issues Researching Violence
Researchers have three key questions – Do aggressive people chose to watch violence – Selective Exposure | Do such programmes make people aggressive Media Effects | Impact of Social circumstance – common third cause.
Highlighted Issues
1. Defining Media Violence Fiction/cartoon – distinguish between and act diff.
2. H.Syringe Underlines Research Doesn’t deal how it’s interpreted or what context.
3. Hawthorne Effect Altered attitudes in presence of research – especially young children.
4. Lab Studies Short Term Cond. artificial – can only measure immediate effects.
5. Lab Studies Small Sample Cannot be applied or generalised to whole population.
6. Separating Media and External Effects Socialization – people react differently to same images.
7. No Control Group Media saturated society – everyone exposed no group to compare.
8. New Media Hinders Testing Effects Audiences watch extracts – context/meaning not views | hard to find out what media is consumed and what is ignored/in background.