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Media Theories

Hypodermic Needle
The Hypodermic Needle Theory indicates that Mass Media has
had a direct and powerful effect on its audience and the
messages we receive are ‘injected’ directly into our brains. This
suggests we believe and take in everything we hear/ see/ play.
For example, if someone was to watch a violent film or play a
violent game, the aspects and features of the film or game would
be received by the viewer, into the brain, therefore effecting our lives in the real world and
how we see and choose to do things.
In the 1940s and 1950s, the mass media was said to
have had a powerful influence on behaviour change on
audiences. This is because knowledge in these eras
were very slim compared to today, so information back
then was taken in much more easily, for example, a
News broadcast on TV in the 1940s would have been
very persuasive and people would have believed it
easier of its reality back then, whereas today, people
have built their own opinions before they have been given the information to take in.
History: In the 1930s, media played a vital role in the second world war, in both the US and
Germany, to influence people’s minds. In Germany, Hitler used the film industry for
Propaganda, producing movies on their achievements, which made a
great impact on the Germans, as this brought them into a bright light,
and saying that what they were doing was good, unifying the Germans
behind the Nazi’s. Later, the United States also started producing films
which, some of them portrayed and showed Germany as an evil force,
which impacted the Americans’ mind. At this time, the audiences
accepted the messages they were given, and believed everything they
saw and heard.
Orson Wells: In 1938, a Broadcast named “War of the Worlds”, by Orson Wells, which was
about the invasion of aliens into America, was first shown and was merely reached by 12
million Americans, in which 1 million believed the broadcast. Due to this broadcast, the
whole of America was in chaos. This shows just how influenced people are by the media and
that we are quick to believe what we hear from what we think comes from experts and
correct information.
This theory is based around the rise of Radio and TV
demands – the appearance that certain industries
had on persuasion, such as propaganda and
advertising. The mass media in the 1940s and 1950s
was seen as having high-power over its audience.
The media is known to have some form of control
over the audience as the messages received by the user is formally accepted and they
perceive the information the way the media intended for the audience to perceive it. This
way the media is dangerous in a sense that the audience is powerless in the information
they are given, and are unable to resist the impact that the message has on them. Certain
companies such as the BBC and FOX still try to use this theory to try and make the audience
actually believe the news they are fed.

This theory doesn’t really have any pros, but is a good method to use for media producers
and influencing marketing strategies. The numbers and statistics from a TV show or Radio
broadcast can be an effective and reliable way of seeing trends, which can help make a
difference to how information is presented to the audience and how audiences perceive the
information, in a way that makes everything more reliable for the audience as well as
benefitting the company or brand giving out the information. It also helps with the increase
of popularity for TV and Radio, making people more knowledgeable on what is happening
around us and having more reliable sources.
The cons of the theory as of the 1940s, the information people received by the media then,
could influence the audience massively and cause a wrong perception of something, on a
large audience. However, as of today, people are more intelligent and are aware of how
media constructs messages and manipulates the audience to know of only certain
information – information that the media wants the audience to now. Some companies and
media’s still use this theory today, for example, popular women’s magazines (Such as
Cosmopolitan or Vogue) have always included information articles on Weight Loss and
suggest that women should look a certain way and weigh a certain weight, and they
advertise Weight Loss brands, such as Weight Watchers, and what foods women should eat
to stay in the right shape, etc.
Hypodermic Needle Information Links:

 Facts -
 Introduction -
 Orson Wells: War of the Worlds -
 History and Orson Wells -
 Facts -
 Pros and Cons -
Uses of Gratification Theory
The uses of Gratification Theory focuses more on how the audience chooses to respond
from the information they are given - it focuses on what people do with the media they
consume, rather than how media affects them. This theory is essentially the opposite of the
Hypodermic Needle Model. Its idea is to prove that media does not fully control the
audience, but rather that it will fulfil one of the following when we consume a form of
Identify - This is the ability to see certain character’s similar values to our own. For example
the characters help us decide what we feel about ourselves and if we agree with their
actions, and when the characters whose values are similar to our own, when they succeed,
we feel better about ourselves. As well as positive effects, it can also cause negative effects
– for example, in films where we feel sympathy and remorse for the villain, we may pick up
some of the characteristics that we liked in the character and apply in real life.
Information – This is about gathering information and satisfying our natural curiosity, by
finding out about the world and society.
Entertainment – Most of the time we use media purely for enjoyment and as a type of
Integration and Social Interaction – This suggests that when we use media we want to try
to fit in with others and gain a sense of belonging. It may help us interact and socialise with
our real friends, as we are able to talk about the media with them. For example, if there is a
group of friends in a school and everyone watches the British soap ‘Hollyoaks’ but there is
someone who has never watched it, they may start watching it to fit in with heir friends and
have something to talk about and interact more with them.
This theory is quite popular and many people can find themselves relate to it. It is important
to remember that it is likely that with any form of media that you enjoy, you will get some
form of gratification from more than just one of these gratifications.
In 1974, theorists Blumler and Katz furthered the suggestion about “Media texts following
certain functions for audiences”, which was a suggestion made by Laswell in 1948. However,
Blumler and Katz’s theory explains that the audience is in charge of what media they choose
to get involved in and that whatever they choose will help fulfil some sort of need. The
theory suggests that people use media to fulfil specific gratification. Blumler and Katz then
proposed that the audience might choose a text for one (or more) of the following reasons:
Diversion – this is the idea of escapism from the daily routines of day-to-day life.
Personal Relationships – this is the idea of using the media as a personal form of interaction
– connecting to the media on a more personal level, such as relating family lives to that o
the lives from a show on TV.
Personal Identity – this is the idea of feeling like you can connect with the media and
finding yourself, such as discovering similar traits and characteristics within a character on a
favourite TV show and feeling you can relate to that character.
Surveillance – this is the idea of media benefitting us by giving us information and facts,
such as weather reports or news, etc.

Uses of Gratification Information Links:

 Blumler and Katz -
 Facts -
 Information -
 Gratification -
Reception Study
The Reception Theory is the way the audience understand and take in the media that they
are given, and how they read texts and why they interpret the texts in different ways. An
important concept of this theory is that the media text has no essential meaning in or of
itself, but rather the audience decide what the meaning might be, and it is created in the
interaction when the viewer watches the film. Overall, this theory positions the audience in
context, whilst thinking about all of the various aspects that might influence how the
audience will create meaning from the text. In the 1980s and 1990s, research was done on
the way an audience received and interpreted texts and how each individual’s
circumstances affected their reading.

Stuart Hall was a theorist who created a model based on encoding and decoding. This
discussed the relationship between media texts and its audience. He said that the producer
of the media encodes the text and the audience decodes it. He suggested that there may be
differences between two different readings of the same code, but by using the codes and
conventions and looking at audience expectations, the producers can position the audience,
therefore creating an amount of agreement on what the code means, also known as a
preferred reading in this theory.

Reception Theory Information Links:

 Information -
 About each theory -
Passive or Active Consumption
A passive consumption is when the audience doesn’t question a media text but just accepts
it. This I what media outlets and producers want to achieve when creating games or making
a film as they create it for entertainment and there isn’t necessarily a meaning to the
message, so they don’t want it to be questioned.
An active consumption is when the audience engages in the media texts and inspect the
meanings portrayed, whether they interpret it differently all together or if they accept the
meaning and messages given but involve themselves in it and question it.
There are currently no theorists to back this up or who have researched into this theory, as
it is a general way for how audiences consume media.
For example, Wes Craven’s 1996 film, Scream was a
ground-breaking moment in horror history. According
to an American Judge, it was a “very good source to
learn how to kill someone”, and it became the influence
on the notorious copycat murder of teen Alisson
Cambier. She had befriended her friend Thierry Jaradin
whom she visited in his home town where he propositioned her and she refused. He then
excused himself to another room where he put on the iconic Scream Ghost-face mask and
costume. He had two knives that he used to stab the teen 30 times. After the murder, he
called to confess to the murder and later admits that he had planned the whole set up after
the film. With no signs of criminal records or history of mental illness, the authorities were
stunned by the act.
A passive audience would understand the meaning of a media text or message but not act
on it, whereas active audiences would act on it and possibly take the message and act on it
in real life, such as the example above.

Passive or Active Consumption Theory Information Links: