Media Effects and Audiences Responses: Different Theoretical Perspectives

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The debate regarding media effects has been argued for a long time now. Media products have been blamed to cause harm to people physically and mentally in the real world, with games such as GTA causing people to carry out crimes shown in them. Many examples have been shown in the world that link to these forms of media, some arguments saying real world problems have been caused by the media and others say they don’t, its down to the person that carries them through. This debate keeps rising to the surface as more news keeps coming in about crimes influenced by the media.

The society we live in were and still are particularly concerned about the effect the media has on children. A large amount of people argue that adults don’t need censorship from the media but children need more censorship because  they can’t decide for themselves.

There are five different theories that researches suggest whether or not the media can have negative effects. These are:

The hypordemic needle theory-This suggests that the media are to blame for violence in society and they can have very negative effects as the media has a powerful influence on us all, more influential than everything else, which shows that our behaviour is easily and directly shaped by these messages in the media. Passive audiences are believed to be ‘injected’ with ideas, beliefs, messages, values and morals such as the Nazi Propaganda during the war having an influence on the lives and beliefs of both Germans and Jews as the germans were made to believe that the Jews were lower than them and were shown as creatures such as rats.This theory is still powerful today as we have a lot of censorship in the world today e.g. ofcom have a broadcasters code of conduct that the media broadcasters have to follow for example the 9pm watershed [*The watershed only applies to television. The watershed is at 2100. Material unsuitable for children should not, in general, be shown before 2100 or after 0530]. Also the obscene publications act that states that you can’t show something in the media that is obscene because it is harmful to peoples mental and potentially physical health.

The hypodermic needle theory is often criticised as the effects model sees us as being too passive and the media doesn’t take into account that the audience as individuals with their own beliefs, opinions, ideas and attitudes.

Cultivation Theory– This suggests that the media can be harmful if we are repeatedly exposed to a media message, it takes time for the media to have an effect thats harmful to us for example we become less sensitive to violent scenes with the more we see of them and therefore we become more violent in real life. In more recent times, violent images are becoming more glamourised, used for entertainment and to be acceptable. Sometimes, Violent images are used for a comedic effect, which makes us take violence as less serious, bringing it into a new light.

The Cultivation Theory is criticised as saying that although we may become desensitised to screen violence but this doesn’t automatically mean that we are less shocked by real life violence.

Two-Step Flow Theory– This theory proposes that the media is not the most powerful leader of our lives. We are more influenced by typical ‘Opinion Leaders’ who become role models to us such as parents, peers etc. rather more than being influenced by the media.

This theory is criticised as many young people’s ‘opinion leaders’ are celebrities in the media. Media figures are usually young peoples role models as opposed to their siblings and parents for example.This could be down to the fact that they are shown as living a ‘better’ and more ‘glamorous’ life as opposed to those of the people they know. The media is therefor more influential than parents, siblings and teachers to young people that are constantly using the media each day.

Uses and Gratifications theory– This theory argues that the media doesn’t have a harmful effect on the audience. This means that we control the media, which has a positive effect on us.   This says that the media helps to fulfil our needs. These needs are the need for diversion, to escape from everyday problems, Personal Relationships, using the media for emotional and other interaction, Person Identity, assurance and constructing our own identity by identifying with characters, and the need for surveillance, gathering information, according to Blumler and Katz. This theory stresses the caphaltic effect e.g. playing something violent can relive stress and aggression to aid the way for less violence in real life.

The criticisms of this theory is that although we use the media to meet our personal needs but we can’t deny that most people simply consume media products without being in control. We aren’t as active in our decision making as suggested by the theory, such as some people can become more aggressive by the media rather than the latter. So in general, most of people’s leisure time is spent consuming the products of media.

Reception Theory– This theory states that people respond differently to the media products as a whole, therefor its hard to generalise the effect that the media will have on the audience, as some could become aggressive and some maybe not. The audience never passively accepts a media text as it is. The producer has a message that the try to put across and this is the preferred meaning of a product, but not all people will take the producers meaning the same way as the audience makes there own meanings. Stuart Hall stated that the audience responds in one of three ways:

Dominant Response- which means you agree with the preferred meaning.

Negotiated Response- you half agree with the preferred meaning and half don’t, you create your own meaning.

Oppositional responce- you completely disagree with the producers preferred meaning and believe your own meaning is correct.

GTA-Can have more than one response.

Parents View-It is a split decision because some parents don’t want there children playing the game because of the themes it portrays but some parents don’t mind their kids playing it, because they know nothing will happen and will happily buy it, even to play it for themselves as well as their kids.

Creators Of GTA View– They are publishing the game as a form of entertainment and escapism from life, as well as for money.

Teenagers View-They would have a positive response to the game, as most teenagers play the game happily, although some don’t play it at all.

Doctors View– Would be negative as players could contract many conditions from playing the game for too long. Although this could be positive is it is found to help the person mentally and physically for relaxation and distraction purposes.

Social Workers View– They might be concerned about a child if they become attached to the game rather than living a social life outside of the game, that can cause concerns about the persons physical and mental health.

Controversial Media Responses

Sources

*http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/broadcast/code-july-15/Ofcom_Broadcast_Code_July_2015.pdf

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