Sociology Media Flash Cards

- Mass Media

(Perspectives + Theorists)

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  • Created by: Elyza
  • Created on: 27-04-11 09:59


What is the mass media? 

- The term media describes different means of communication. Some types of media allow communication with a mass audience. These include the TV, radio, newspaper and the internet. 

"The mass media are simply the means throuh which content, whether fact of fiction is produced by organisations and transmitted to and recieved by an audience" - McCullagh,2002 

Key aspects of the media:

1. The production of messages by media instutitons 

2. The reception of messages by audiences 

3. The content of media messages 

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Marxist Perspective on Mass Media

Brief Overview: 

Traditional/Interventionists - direct link between ownership and control (the manipulative model) 

Hegemonic/Neo-Marxists - indirect link between ownership and control. The content comes from journalists and owners

However, the purpose is the same = to maintain and legitimate capitalism. 

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Marxist Perspective (Contd.)

Traditional Marxists

Media owners directly control the means of production in order to 'brainwash' and 'manipulate' so that capital is in their interest

If media owners interfered with or directly controlled the content of the media, this would then have problems for democracy

Media owners such as Rupert Murdoch has used his own newspapers to defend his business interests e.g. his attempts to but Man Utd. were criticized by all newspapers except his own. 

He is known for imposing a 'Murdoch Formula' (ground rules about content). 

The Theory:

The media help maintain the capitalist system by 'brainwashing' the public. It transmits 'bourgeoise ideology' - a conservative, conformist view promoting established attitudes and values. 

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Marxist Perspective (Contd.)

Miliband: the media is the new 'opium of the people'It is not just political reporting that supports the system; the content of entertainment programmes is also seen as supporting the way things are by portraying the captalist system in a favourable light


- Owners are not free to act totally as they wish because they are governed by a number of laws and other regulations.

Abercrombie et al (1980):  believe that there is a lack of a dominant ideology in contemporary western capitalist nations

- It has been criticized for arguing that people are like passive robots - that they simply 'soak up' ideology like a sponge

- It is impossible for owners to be directly involved in all aspects of their companies to the extent that they have any real influence.

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Marxist Perspective (Contd.)


-  Content of the media is NOT under the direct control of the owners.

- Like trad. Marxists, Hegemonic Marxists also believe that the media provides the public with ideology - views and information that supports the capitalist system

- They believe that ideology is constantly transmitted by a range of institutions that support the ruling class 

Consequently, the worldview of the dominant class comes to be seen as common sense --> the majority then accept capitalist ideas as if they were their own and in doing so, consent to their own domination (Cultural Hegemony - Gramsci) 'rule by consent' 

- Hegemonic Marxists argue that the media present us with a fairly narrow agenda for discussion, in a process known as 'agenda-setting' = when an individual is given a list of choices, however because the choices were pre-picked and of narrow options, ultimately leads to the favour of the ruling class

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Marxist Perspective (Contd.)

Herbert Marcuse - suggests that programmes which simply entertain, help to remove any doubts people may have about the organisation of society.

- In this case, the media help to divert attention away from the unfair nature of society, give the impression that nothing is radically wrong with the world we live in and provide enjoyment and a sense of well-being for millions (Bread and Circuses/Chewing gum for the eyes) 

Stuart Hall (1995) - argued that in order for people to communicated (including through the media) they have to understand various systems of signs that represent parts of the 'systems' world view (the things we see in the media have to have a certain 'taken for grantededness' e.g. black criminals) 

- He thinks that they manage to do this because they operate within a framework of agreement with the powerful on certain issues --> the beliefs are arrived at after years of being taught certain views through education, the media, etc. 

= Hall thinks that this is rarely the result of conscious or direct manipulation by the state or powerful interests but happens unconsciously. 

GUMG - concluded that stories are reported in a way that reproduces the viewpoint of powerful interests because these interests have greater access to the mediae.g. the camera recording from behind police lines encourages the viewer to identity with the police.

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Pluralist Approach

Pluralism is also known as the liberal approach.

- It states that the content of the mass media reflects what the public or a section the public's wants.

- The media simply respond to the demands of the market --> It reflects reality rather than creates reality.

--> Those who own and control the media usually adopt a pluralist view, arguing that they must satisfy public demand to stay in business. 

Jones: looked at the media's reporting of industrial disputes and claimed that any apparent bias in reporting depends on how successful workers or management are in obtaining suitable media coverage of their argument

Katz & Lazarsfeld: investigated the influence of the media on opinions and attitudes, especially political opinions and voting behavior: 

  • argued that in general, the media have a limited influence
  • this is because the mass communication process can be affected in unpredictable ways by five 'variables'
  • variables (personal, political, practical or technological factors) can shape the nature and extent of an individual's or group's exposure to any particular message or media. 

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Pluralist Approach

- Although bias exists in the media, it does so only to represent the interests of the audience who can exercise free choice over which media products they wish to consume. 

- Argue that the system is democratic because the media are responsive to audience demands and desires 

- Argue that the media is not an ideological agent --> but that every taste and political preference is represented in the media

- Media tends to reinforce rather than determine political attitudes and behaviour

E.g. if someone is left-wing, they will choose to read a left- wing newspaper 

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Pluralist Approach


- Pluralists ASSUME rather than DEMONSTRATE that media content is diverse

Blumler + Gurevitch: argue that journalists and politicians need each others co-operation - 

  • rules and conventions emerge to govern the relationship between them and a degree of trust is built up
  • Interactions between journalists and politicians become predictable and taken for granted
  • the result: that journalistic diversity and objectivity is compromised 
  • media content becomes prey to professional 'spin doctors' 
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Postmodernism in Media

Brief Overview: 

Postmodernists believe that we live in a media-saturated society

- The media bombards us with images which define the way we see ourselves and the world around us. 

- Media images do not create or even distort social reality; they are themselves realities

- Our  consciousness is invaded by the multiple realities of different media sources

- These multiple realities are open to multiple interpretations (Strinati) 

- Media consumption has become more of an individual affair, but it can also involve a worldwide community through technology such as the Internet. 

Therefore, people can create their own identity as they have a much wider range of programming and images having often flick from channel to channel --> producing their own viewing schedules and what they choose to watch 

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Postmodernism in Media (Contd.)

- It is suggested that the big stories or metanarratives that used to be crucial for modern society, no longer have the same relevance today

- People are now much more diverse in their approach to life and no longer seek guidance from experts to the same extent

- In fact, such experts would appear to have got things wrong --> global warming, pollution, medical negligence and the collapse of communism - so much for Marx!

- People no longer guided by the old structural influences of nation, community, class, gender, and ethnicity. These have broken down to create cultural hybrids

- Identities are increasingly structured and interwoven through consumption patterns. 

- No longer see the need for solutions that have to fit everybody; diversity is to be encouraged and plurality and difference have replaced sameness. 

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Postmodernism in Media (Contd.)

Strinati (1995) - argues that the mass media are centrally important in the development of postmodern society for the following reasons:

  • Now that our economy is no longer based on manufacturing, the media are increasingly responsible for providing most of our experiences of social reality
  • What we take as 'real' - media defines our lifestyles and identity for us: how we dress, look, behave, interact, think, etc. --> all shaped by a variety of media

--> Image and style have more significance than form or content. 

- We learn through the media that the consumption of images and signs for their own sake is more important than the consumption of the goods they represent. 

Thus, style is more important than substance. We buy the labels and packaging rather than the clothes and goods themselves.

According to postmodernists, the constant bombardment of media imagery in this media saturated society has transformed not only individual societies but even national identities to the extent that, as some claim, we now live in a global village. 

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Feminism on Media

Brief Overview

- Feminists view the mass media as an agent of ideological control. 

- The media constructs an ideological femininity that is imposed on girls and women

- The media is an agent of gender role socialisation 

- Socialises girls and women into gender roles of mother, sex object, victim, etc. 

--> Argue that the media upholds patriarchal ideology by portraying women in subordinate and subservient roles 

--> Argue that the media contains a 'malestream bias' because of the high proportion of media owners and professionals that are male. 

--> The media's portrayal of politics as a 'man's game' may explain the small number of female politicians

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Feminism on Media


  • When female politicians are the focus of news stories, the stories frequently focus on the conflict between their political and their family life
  • Out of 30 top BBC executives in 1996, only 4 were female
  • In newspapers in 1995-6, only 20% of positions of significant decision-making power were held by women
  • Women made up only 17% of journalists on national newspapers, and only 35% of all journalists in the UK in 1996
  • EOC (2006): only 13% of UK newspaper editors are female 


However, the media representations of women have arguably improved in recent years. 

- But female politicians are still less likely to feature in the media .

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Representations of Women in the Media

McRobbie: study of teenage magazines, found that:

- defines female interest to be romance/beauty/pop music

- search for love

- once a boy is found, she must acknowledge his domination and resign herself to subordination

 McCracken: despite the increasing ownership of American women’s magazines in the 80’s – they still reflect utopian ideas of the perfect lover, dress, job, etc as a goal for women

 Wolf:Beauty myth’

- the image of the ‘normal’ female in the media usually are well at odds  for what the majority of women look like 

Wij: Unfair representations of women in newspapers/magazines in the UK

- 18/19 editors of National Daily/Sunday papers are men

- most news in abou men

- British MP’s – honourable man/frightful *****

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Representations of Men in the Media

Bretl & Cantor: In TV shows, males are more likely to be seen:

- in higher status positions

- 90% voiceovers = male = authoritative

Provenzo: videogames provide strictly limited representations:

- extreme stereotypes

- women need resuming

 Skeggs: looked at men’s depiction in wartime

- discouraged to show emotional side

Mort: ‘New Lad’ – advertisting towards men

- increasing importance male appearance

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Representations of Disability in the Media

Cumberbath and Negine:

Those with personal experience of livin with disability are able to reject or reinterpret dominant readings

- TV’s treatment of disability tends to be seen as an issue or a problem

 Social model of  disability:

disability is caused by society – social construction

- the environment we have built doesn’t cater for the impaired = threatens our morality

 Individual/Medical model:

- societal view of disability generally conform to the individuals or medical model of disability.

- people who accept their disability are seen as lazy, or doing something wrong

- disabled people aiming for normality


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Representations of Ethnicity in the Media

Hall:Myth of Black Criminality”

- black mugger becomes the new folk devil even though crime rates remain the same

- media use young black male as scapegoat

 --> ‘White Eye view” – in media, minorities portrayed as stereotypes=

  • stare
  • native
  • entertainer

Hartman + Husband: suggest if a person has first hand experience with blacks, they are more likely to reject media portrayals

Van Dijk: studied newspaper reports on ethnic affairs

- his  main finding: a positive presentation of white British citizens and a negative presentation of non-white and potential British citizens (the voice of the British press is overwhelmingly ‘white’) 

Parekh: Islamophobia – increase in fear of Islam after 9/11- narrow view of Muslims 

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Representations of Class in the Media

Glennon + Butch: studied TV representations of class –

- WC: underrepresented

- MC: overrepresented

GUMG: Working class portrayed as ‘trouble’ and disruptive


Zweid: WC underrepresented deliberately because they are not seen as valid consumers

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Representations of Age in the Media

Pearson: Myth of the ‘Golden Age’ – usually 20 years ago

- Adults always believe that present day youth are out of control and that 20 years ago, society was so much better

 Rock + Cohen: Teddy boys –

- first spectacular youth group

- media over exaggerated how dangerous they were

- personifications of evil

 Sontag: Double standard of aging

- Grey pound: older men present

- Pink pound: young women

 Hebridge – Media reinforces stereotypical views of youth 

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Media Effects - The 'Hypodermic Syringe' Model

According to this model the audience is:

  • Passive, weak and inactive
  • homogenous - all the same
  • 'blank pages' - with the media exerting a powerful influence that provokes an immediate response from the audience
  • This view pictured a powerful media which could manipulate and control audiences

Miller + Pollard: People learn new behaviors through their observation of the behavior of others 


- audience are highly diverse and have different responses

- fails to take into account audiences different uses for media

Eysenck + Nias: media enables individuals to express and discharge powerful emotions safely and this prevents such behaviour

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Cultural Effects/Drip-drip model

- rather than immediate effect suggests a constant diet of violent media is likely to have a cumulative effect and socialize people to accept violence as the norm

- media representations can cause anti-social behaviour

Newson: media diet of violence and love-less sex distorts emotions and de-sentizes  the young

Anderson + Dill: link subjects exposure to violent imagery and attitudinal changes 

- so violent video games can stimulate aggressive behaviour

- Rather than having an immediate, direct effect, like the hypodermic syringe model, this model suggests that there is a slow 'drip drip' process taking place over a long period of time 

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Two-Step Flow Theory - Katz & Lazarsfeld

1) When a media message actually reaches a member of the audience

2) Interpretation and influence which are affected by social interaction --> this can shape how an individual responds to the media and any effects that it has 

- Media is directed to 'opinion leaders' (can be anyone influential) = then tells us about it --> our perspective is tainted 

--> Media has an indirect, immediate effect because it is mediated. 

Hobson: Coronation Street - demonstrates people to be strongly conditioned by their environment - particularly by opinion leaders and social norms

- in practice, people can create social norms, break them and redefine them

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The Uses & Gratifications Model

- Different people use the media in different ways in order to obtain different sorts of pleasure or fulfil different sorts of needs

- Individuals are viewed as active interpreters and choice makers rather than passive receivers of media messages

McQuail: suggested that there were the following types of uses and gratifications from the media

1) Diversion - an escape from routine

2) Personal Relationships - surrogate membership of the community 

3) Personal Identity - helping to explore & conform our identity 

4) Surveillance - the feeling of knowing whats going on 

Lull - Different people use the media in different ways and obtain different types of gratification from it 

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The Structured Interpretation Model/Reception Anal

- Audience can interpret media messages in different ways but there is a preferred reading or dominant message = this is structured by the cultural context of the audience 

- to understand a text, we must understand how it is read by different audiences within different subcultures - -> could be associated with class, age, gender, ethnicity, religion, geography 

Morley: argues that people choose to make one of three responses:

  • Dominant - they go along with the views expressed in the media text
  • Oppositional - they oppose the views expressed 
  • Negotiated - they reinterpret the views to fit in with their own opinions and values

Croteau + Hoynes: different groups have different access to sets of discursive resources for decoding media messages

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Interpretive Model

- audience are believed to 'filter' media messages --> not only do people use the media in different ways but they also attend to and receive media messages in a selective way

- actively interpret media messages

Buckingham: the way in which people interpret the media partly depend on their level of media literacy- different levels of influence interpretation process 

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luke Sutton

Just what i was looking for, thank you :) 



Hayley Smith

Thank You!

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