Topic 4 - The mass media and audiences

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Topic 4: The mass media and audiences
Some suggest that there is a fairly direct causal link between violence in films, TV
programmes and computer games, and violent real-life crime. Media content exerts an
overwhelmingly negative effect on mass audiences, and particularly the youth. Some
sociologists believe that Britain is the most heavily censored country in the Western
However, sociologists have argued that media content can have a direct effect upon
their audiences and trigger particular social responses in terms of behaviour and
Gerbner et al. ­ focused on representations of violence in certain types of media and
suggest that these contribute to violent crime and antisocial forms of behaviour in real
Dworkin and Morgan have suggested that the consumption of pornography, which is
easily accessed through newspapers and magazines, and particularly through the
internet, is harmful in terms of encouraging sexual violence and negative attitudes
towards women. (Feminists)
Orbach and Wolf have expressed concerns about the representations of young women,
particularly size 0 models in magazines and newspapers, which they claim may be
producing a generation of females who suffer from eating disorders. (Feminists)
Cohen and Young have pointed to the influence of the media in the creation of moral
panics which increase social anxiety and fear among the general population and have
even led to changes in social policy and law. (Interactionists)
Some sociologists have focused on the power of advertising and how it may have an
instant effect on the sales of a product, especially if it is promoted by a popular celebrity.
Feminist critics of the media have focused on the subtle effects of media
representations of femininity and masculinity.
Norris claims that media coverage of political issues can influence voting behaviour.
Some early Marxist commentators, like Marcuse believed that the media transmitted a
`mass culture' which was directly injected into the hearts and minds of the population
making them more vulnerable to ruling-class propaganda. Contemporary Marxists
suggest that the way the media is organized and operates in capitalist societies may be
influencing sections of the population to believe in cultural values that are a reflection of
ruling-class ideology.
The hypodermic model of media violence:

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This model believes that a direct correlation exists between the violence and antisocial
behaviour portrayed in films, on television, in computer games, etc. and violence and
antisocial behaviour such as drug use and teenage gun/knife crime found in real life. This
model suggests that children and teenagers are vulnerable to media content because
they are still in early stages of socialization and therefore very impressionable.…read more

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Studies by others show that exposure to X-rated material makes both men and women
less satisfied with their partners, less supportive of marriage, more interested in
emotionless sex, and more accepting of female servitude.
There is also evidence that suggests that pornography can be a positive influence on
behaviour. A study by Hald concluded that men and women generally considered
pornography a positive influence in their lives.…read more

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Buckingham's study illustrates this. The study looked at how children interpret media
violence. His findings illustrated that children are much more sophisticated in their
understanding of media content and much more media literate than previous
researchers have assumed.
Julian Wood conducted a study of boys' use of video. He attended an after-school
showing of a horror video in the home of one of the boys whilst the boy's parents were
away. The film was used almost as a rite of passage.…read more

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These opinion leaders
expose themselves to different types of media and form an opinion on their content.
These interpretations are then passed on to other members of their social circle. The
media messages have to go through 2 steps:
1. The opinion leader is exposed to the media content.
2. Those who respect the opinion leader internalize their interpretation of that
Media audiences are not directly influenced by the media.
Critics of this model point out that:
1.…read more

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Blumer and McQuail and Lull see media audiences as active; their uses and gratifications
model suggests that people use the media in order to satisfy particular needs that they
Blumer and McQuail identify four basic needs which people use television to satisfy:
1. Diversion ­ people may immerse themselves in particular types of media to make
up for the lack of satisfaction at work or in their daily lives.
2.…read more

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This model suggests that the way people interpret media content differs according to
their class, age, gender, ethic group and other sources of identity. The model suggests
that media content is interpreted in a variety of ways.
Morley's research into how audiences interpret the content of a well-known 1970s
evening news programme called Nationwide examined how the ideological content of
the programme were interpreted by 29 groups made up of people from a range of
educational and professional backgrounds.…read more

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Marxists believe that audiences have been exposed over a long period of time to a
`drip-drip' effect process in which media content has become imbued with ideological
values. Television content, in particular, has been deliberately dumbed down and this has
resulted in a decline of serious programmes such as news, documentaries and drama
that might make audiences think critically about the state of the world.
Curran argues that the popular tabloid newspapers are also guilty of these ideological
practices.…read more

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The media transmit the idea that the consumption of signs and symbols for their own
sake is more important than the goods they represent.
The media and globalization:
Thompson has noted that in the last ten years, globalization of communication has
become more intensive and extensive, and this has had great significance for local
cultures in that all consumers of the global media are both citizens of the world and of
their locality.…read more


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