Mass Media

History Of Mass Media

There have been theories of a powerful media that can manipulate the audience's minds, and a weak media where the audience is skeptical and not directly manipulated by mass media.  Many theories show that there is a balance of power between the media and the audience.

1.  Powerful Media

War of the Worlds Broadcast by Orson Welles

Propaganda (WWII) - used by Nazis, promote nationalism

The age of simulation- people get mad when they experience something perceived as real, but really fake (leads to the powerless media discussed below)

Walter Lippmann- a N.Y. Times journalist- invented the term 'Public Opinion' (Platonic)


2.  Weak Media (Powerless Media)


3.  Marshall McLuhan (Powerful Media)


Uses Gratification Theory:  the (consumer) public 'uses' the media to satisfy needs.  This assumes a goal oriented, active audience.  The public can choose the media, and their ability to choose limits what media is popular.

Expectancy-Value Theory:  the public has preconceptions about different media (individual orientations), and their beliefs / evaluations determine the value of the media and whether they use it

Dependency-Value Theory:  this theory assumes that the public is dependant on media for information depending on whether the times are stable or not.  If the times are stable, then the media isn't needed as much, but it is much more valuable in a time of crisis (such as wartime) when the public depends on the media for information more


McQuail's 4 Communication Models:

  1. Transmission model
  2. Ritual or Expressive model
  3. Publicity model
  4. Reference model


4.  Conflict Theorists

There exists a power-linked media (balance of powerful / powerless media mentioned above)

Media ownership is predominantly by government or large companies, and can be exploited to filter out information or exaggerate certain information to manipulate the public's minds (Marxists focus on this problem)

Jean Baudrillard - the Semiotics of Media

Jurgen Habermas

Example:  FOX News, CNN and Al Jazeera networks all have a different message (As in the movie:  Control Room)


Majid Tehranian's book "Technologies of Power"- main media vs. small media

main media is large media networks with large infrastructures, which can be controlled by governments or large corporations (TV, supercomputers, etc)

small media is a counter to main media, which is not controlled by large governments or companies- such as underground radio, personal computers, etc

Communication mediums can be used for either democracy or tyranny- can be used to control people or to allow them to express themselves.

Mass Media is a Moving Target

1920's to Present:  Newspaper -> Radio -> TV -> Internet

An Organizing Model for Mass Media:

See page 304 of Littlejohn-