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The Power of the Media

(maybe you’ve been brainwashed too)


• not: what is the power of the media


• ways in which the power or influence of
the media can be studied

• approaches

• theories

• all powerful media

• two-step flow

• uses and gratifications

• agenda setting

• McLuhan

• behavioralist

• cultural

• understanding and interpreting the meaning
of the received content and the context

• ethnographic

• qualitative

reactions and effects • surveys.behavioral • explaining and predicting choices. experiments • quantitative .

all powerful media .

(sender) message (receiver) effect .

variations on the theory • stimulus .response models • hypodermic needle theory (one step flow) • bullet theory .

characteristics (1/2) • the mass media reach everyone • the process is one way traffic from sender to receiver • there is a direct connection between the content of the message and the effect on the receiver • the receiver is capable and willing to receive the message .

characteristics (2/2) • the receiver absorbs the information passively and without criticism • the fact that media has a (mostly negative) influence is not questioned • there is no filter between sender and receiver • the “mass” is more receptive to the influence of the media than the elite .

examples .


• still considered as “generally true” .


explanation effect • realistic nature radio play • reliability medium radio • not hearing the announcement • not paying attention to announcement • ineffective techniques for verifying facts • (Cantril. 1940) .

techniques (identified by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis in 1937) • name calling • glittering generality • transfer • testimonial • plain folks • band wagon • card stacking .


incorrect assumptions on audience • no empirical proof • methodological issues .critique • negative view on people.

• measuring media exposure • measuring effects • knowledge & behavior • micro or macro • reenforcing views • short or long term • intended or unintended consequences .

1960) (sender) message intervening and mediating factors (receiver) effect .Model of Limited Effects(Klapper.

intervening and mediating factors • selective exposure • selective observation and memorisation • groups and group values • interpersonal spreading of the content of the message • opinion leaders • commercial character of the media .

1957) • direct influence media is limited • influencing mainly through interpersonal communication • communication takes place between “opinion leaders” and “followers” .2-step flow hypothesis (Katz.

position in social network) . (1944) on voting behavior • influence of interpersonal communication greater than direct media influence • opinion leaders (personalty. competence.Klapper based on research by Lazarsfeld et al.

opinion leaders / “influentials” • well informed. engaged • well connected • social status equal to peers • innovator • uses different media (and more often) • is able to change other people’s opinions .

a. 1974) .uses & gratifications (Katz e.

functional approach • What does the audience do with media .

• the use of media is related to the needs that people intend to satisfy and to the satisfaction that they derive from the media use .

a.Katz e. perhaps mostly unintended ones . 1974 • The social and psychological origins of • needs which generate • expectations of • the mass media or other sources which lead to • differential patterns of media exposure (or engagement in other activities) resulting in • need gratifications and • other consequences.

needs (McQuail) • information • relaxation • companionship • distraction • escapism .

premises (1/2) • the audience is active • the media use is purposeful • the media compete with other sources of need gratification • there is a relation between the needs of people and their media choice • media use can gratify a wide spectrum of needs • no accurate estimation can be made on the pattern of needs based on media content .

premises (2/2) • the media content structures the possibility of need gratification • the achieved gratification can result from media content. nor the gratification that is obtained by the media use . exposure to media. independent of the content and/or the situation in which the exposure occurs • from the uses & gratifications approach no value judgement is given on the cultural meaning of the mass media.

agenda setting • origins in the 1950s • wide spread use from the 1970s .

know about. They are constantly presenting objects suggesting what individuals in the mass should think about.• “the mass media force attention to certain issues. They build up public images of political figures. 1959) . have feelings about” 
 (Lang & Lang.

but it is stunningly successful in telling people what to think about” 
 (Cohen.] may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think.• “The press [... 1963) .

McCombs & Shaw “Chapel Hill Study” (1972) .

4 categories .researched agenda setting in 1968 presidential election • 5 newspapers. 2 magazines. 2 tv stations • survey respondents most important issues • 15 subjects.

pit falls agenda setting • alternative explanations • conceptual problems • methodological problems • problems with aggregating • time interval • causality .

Pirates & Global warming! .

questions so far? .

McLuhan (1960s) • The Medium is the Message .

numb others .the medium is the message • societies form themselves on most important resources • content is irrelevant: 
 “The effects of technology do not occur at the level of opinions or concepts. but alter sense ratios of patterns of perception steadily and without resistance” • media are the extensions of man • media amplify certain senses.

cinema) • cool media: under-stimulates several senses ( and cool media • hot media: enhances one sense (radio. cartoon) .

something must be left to the imagination .hot and cool media • a hot item (high definition) will not work in a cool medium (low definition) • in a cool medium.


• “Anybody whose appearance strongly declares his role and status in life is wrong for TV” .



conclusion “the medium is the message?” • media are by no means a neutral means to communicate or express something • they essentially shape what can be thought. said and stated at all times
 (Boenisch) .

conclusion “the medium is the message?” • what can be shown on television is determined by a prescribed set of possibilities • these possibilities are embedded in a system of conventions and limitations
 (Crary) .

5 theories • all-powerful media • 2-step flow hypothesis • uses and gratifications • agenda setting • McLuhan .

1949) . brought to the attention of some kinds of people under some kinds of conditions.• “Some kinds of communication on some kinds of issues. have some kinds of effects” 

sources • Boer. J: Introduction to communication studies (1990) • MacQuail. de & Brennecke: Media en Publiek (2009) • Bryant & Zillmann: Media Effects (2002) • Fiske. D: Mass Communication Theory (2000) .

questions? .