Media Studies Theories AS & A2

Theories and Debates in Media Studies and brief Terminology


Audience Theories

Consumption Of Media

Primary Media - Texts that demand close and concentrated attention from the audience. Such as a film shown in a cinema.

Secondary Media - Texts that provide a background for an audience who are often doing something else at the time. For example listening to the radio whilst driving.

Tertiary Media - Media which is consumed by the audience, who is unaware of there interaction with that media. For example advertisements whilst flicking through a magazine.  

1 of 16

Audience Theories

Uses and Gratifications Theory.

Blumler and Katz suggested that we consume media for a number of different reasons, these include:

  • Sharing and Discussing with others
  • Obtaining information about the world
  • Helping to gain a sense of Personal Identity
  • As a distraction or diversion from everyday life
  • Seeing Authority figures inflated
  • Seeing others make mistakes
  • Reinforcing a belief that justice will ultimately triumph
2 of 16

Audience Theories

The Hypodermic Needle Theory

This is the idea that the media injects ideas into the audience. The theory suggests that the audience is passive therefore accepts the messages it is given.

This is also said to lead to mimicking, for example the alleged influence of the film 'Childs Play' in the James Bulger case.

3 of 16

Audience Theories

Socially Mediated Model

This model has four steps to it:

  • People see things around them such as advertisements and things on television programmes etc.
  • The audience then want those things
  • They work hard to earn the money to buy those things
  • They then buy them and therefore make them seem popular and important
4 of 16

Audience Theories


Censorship is when programmes, films and printed media are censored in order to stop different people seeing or watching something deemed inappropriate. For example the 9pm watershed to protect children from seeing programmes unsuibtable for their viewing.


  • Cuts bad language and violence
  • Prevents people mimicking this behaviour
  • It can prevent anything which can be deemed disrespectful to minorities or communities.


  • Controls what we think or believe
  • Can censor some things which may be beneficial to teaching young children, e.g. spread of HIV/AID/ DISEASES.
5 of 16

Audience Theories

Moral Panics

Stanley Cohen argues that a moral panic occurs when society sees itself threatened by:

The values and activities of a group who are stigmatised as deviant and seen as threatening to maintsream societies values, ideologies and/or way of life.

For example in recent years the uprisal of gun crime in Britain.

And the impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York that has now created a moral panic on terrorism and radical islamic groups such as Al Queda.

6 of 16

Audience Theories

The Cultivation Perspective

This perspective suggests that it is not the content of an individual media text that affects people, but the cumulative effect of watching a range of media texts that has an effect on people.

It has been suggested that individuals become desensitized towards violence in the media over time.

7 of 16

Audience Theories

Social-Learning Perspective

This perspective suggests that viewers learn from the actions and opinions in which we see in the media.

For example, a study by Bandura involving bobo dolls (1961) suggested that children imitate and learn behaviour through media.

8 of 16



This is the study of codes or languages and the signs from which they are made. Audiences read media through its basic denotations such as its mise-en-scene.

Saussure suggested that there are three levels on which we read media texts:

Syntactic level - Basic denotations

Representational level - the representation conveyed within the text

Symbolic level - hidden cultural or symbolic meanings

Barthes developed Saussure's ideas to analyse media texts in relation to culture. He suggested that our understanding of many media texts rests not merely upon what the texts portray but on the relationship to frequently told stories or myths. For example the Cinderella Story of going from rags to riches

9 of 16



Theoretical approaches based on structuralism look for patterns across texts rather than focus on the individuality of a particular text.


Action Codes - This is when a series of actions facilitate a viewer to follow the details of a plot sequence.

Enigmatic Codes- This is when the plot sequence is structured around a series of questions in order to maintain the viewers interest.

Symbolic Codes - Symbolic codes involves identifying a texts major structuring themes. e.g. binary opposites

10 of 16


Post Structuralism

Post structuralism challenges the assumptions of structuralism, particularly that texts can be grouped together.

Post structuralism suggests that texts have a range of different meanings and interpretations that different audiences can create.

This theory also suggests that many media texts can contain floating signifiers that can be interpreted differently by audience members.

11 of 16



Feminists of the late 1960's and 70's pointed out the limited range of representations of women in the media.

Feminists argued/argue that social divisions in society benefit men in terms of work and educational opportunities, wages and access to political and economical power.

They see media representations as naturalising the power imbalance between men and women by emphasising that a women's role is a domestic one, as mothers, carers and housewives.

Many feminists argue that there is also an emphasis on sexuality and physical appearance in the representation of women.

12 of 16

Feminism Continued

Laura Mulvey (1975)

Mulveys Theory suggests that the media is a male dominated area and that men control the action and are responsible for moving the narrative along.

Mulvey also suggested that women were passive objects with no real input into the storyline.

Women were also ofteb used as 'eye candy', an object of the male gaze.

However Mulvey studied films of the 40's-60's, therefore before any influental legislations had been passed, such as the Equal Rights Act.

13 of 16

Feminism Continued

Gammon and Marshment (1988)

Gammon and Marshment pointed out the limitations of Mulveys theory.

For example, they suggested that in recent years a number of texts have represented men as objects for the female gaze.

14 of 16


Post Feminism

With the introduction of equal pay for equal work, equal rights legislation, aswell as the increased numbers of women in both higher education and the workforce, it has been argued that women have new opportunities, options and choices making feminism no longer necessary.

In a Post Feminist era it is argued that many media texts take a playful irrelavent attitude to the traditional gender divisions of the past. e.g, 'girl power' of the Spice Girls in 1996

15 of 16

Post Feminism Continued

Judith Butler

Butler suggested that gender isn't the result of nature but is socially constructed. She argued that male and female behaviour and roles are not the result of biology but are constructed and reinforced by society through media and culture.

Gender trouble: This refers to any behaviour or representation that disrupts culturally accepted notions of gender.

Queer theory: Butlers theories of gender have also been linked to queer theory, which explores and challenges the way in which heterosexuality is constructed as normal and the media has limited the representations of gay men and women. Also, Hollywood films construct and portray images of 'normal', happy hetersexual couples, while homosexual couples are often represented in terms of sin and sickness. Queer theory challenges the assumption that there is a binary divide between being gay and straight, and suggested that sexual identity is more fluid. e.g Captain Jack Sparrows feminine costume and gestures

16 of 16


frankie iheukor


Top Class! Thank You very much


dani h


Some good information here, thanks.

Jake Hardwick sex boyz


07906199902 - call for a **** time fellas ;)



How do I rotate the cards to view them?

Similar Media Studies resources:

See all Media Studies resources »