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Media theories

in this short essay I will be writing about 3 different theories, these are media
theories developed to explain the effects a piece of media like a news paper
article or TV have on their audience. I will be talking about the pros and cons of
each theory.
Hypodermic needle theory.
This is an older theory. Developed in the 1930s it states that people are
“injected” with ideas and information through mass media (radio & print) and
against their knowing. These ideas are designed to trigger a response from a
mass audience. It states that the media is a powerful and potentially dangerous
tool as people are unwilling to resist the status quo. This theory although
possible requires a passive audience, this basically means that they simply
absorb information without thinking or paying attention. This means people end
up thinking exactly as the media tells them to, simply because there is no other
source of information. This type of theory is very apparent when you apply it to a
propaganda form of media such as the mass media during the first and Second
World War. In 1927 Harrold Lasswell wrote a book called “propaganda technique
in the world war” it used the hypodermic needle theory to explain the way mass
media effects people. Because of this Lasswell is thought to be one of the main
founders of this theory.
on October 30, 1938 when Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre group broadcast their radio edition of “War of
the Worlds." HG Wells. It was broadcast as a news bulletin and many people

actually believed it to be real. This is an example of how people passively absorb
information without thinking it through, an aspect that is key to the hypodermic
needle theory. This example does show how the theory works and the effect
media has on a passive audience.
The theory is very simple so it solves the eternal problem in society of who to
blame when shit hits the fan. It lets us blame the media for violence and
criminals. It also brought to the surface a fair question, making people think
about what the media is doing. Finally it set the stage for more detailed and
modern media theories like the Uses and Gratifications theory but that’s a story
for later.

The theory is very general and because of this it is very inaccurate. It relies on
the public being passive media consumers that believe everything they see or
hear, today this just isn’t true; people are sceptical and think before they believe
something. It also insinuates that violence is absorbed passively, this just isn’t
true as otherwise people would have lost all sense of remorse and humanity long
ago. The media has changed a lot since the theory was created so it is a little out
of date and the media isn’t as propagandist as it was in the 30s.

Uses and Gratification theory.
This theory is a later more developed look at consumption. It states how people
watch TV to forfill different needs and thus reap the rewards. It focuses more on
active media consumption. This is the basses that people actively pay attention
to media and decide what they want to believe rather than just passively
absorbing information. This would mean that violence is less likely to have an
effect on the consumer because they actively choose to think about violence and
the ethical implications.

The theory states that people look for individual needs in their media. The above
diagram shows the needs for a person’s wellbeing. These needs are what people
look to fulfil in media, obviously these can’t all be catered for by the media.
The diagram below shows some more realistic needs that media can potentially
fulfil. For example; escapism, people watch TV to get away from the real world.
The fact that everyone has different reasons for media consumption makes this

theory very hard to prove.

This theory was mainly sparked by Blumler & Katz in 1974 when they published
their findings that media is consumed because of the needs of a consumer and
that consumers actively think about information there are given.
This theory has been criticised as people state that it fails to take into account
the fact that people watch content differently. Someone could take a completely
different use and gratification than someone else. Also, it insinuates that people
are using media to fill some void in their existence, this isn’t always true. Some
people may just be watching TV for enjoyment or to talk about it later.
On the upside, this theory is what bought about the idea of active media
consumption or at least gave it the boost it needed to be recognized. It also gave
a spark to the idea of why people watch what they do, it might not be dead on
but it was a big step forward at the time.

Reception theory.
This theory basically states that there are 3 main ways in which an audience
reacts to a text. It states the meaning is not always created and spoon fed to a
consumer, we make up our own minds and take our own contexts from texts.
Whether this is the meaning that is intended by the creator or one that directly
contradicts it can be entirely based on a person’s social situation.
The first of which is Hegemonic, this means that the consumer fully accepts the
code of the text and interprets it exactly how it was meant to be interpreted.
They do not question the code as it seems natural and the writer’s intentions
Negotiated reading, this is when the consumer or reader of a text follows its
original code and partially agrees with the status quo. They do however tend to

modify their interpretation slightly in a way that reflects their own perception.
This can be induced by a person’s environment, experiences and way of life.
A Counter Hegemonic reading is when a consumers situation or way of life gives
them an oppositional view to the documents code. The reader tends to think
more independently, whilst they may recognise a set code for a path of
hegemony they do not follow that road; they think of alternative meanings and
are ever sceptical.