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'The media simply reflect and reinforce existing social values, they cannot change society.'

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Introduction

'The media simply reflect and reinforce existing social values, they cannot change society.' There is a notion held by many people that the media has the power to affect our beliefs, attitudes, values and behaviours either directly or indirectly. Many sociologists believe that the media could be extremely powerful and influential because of their technology, economics, and because of the sheer scale of operations. There has been a tremendous amount of research done into the possible short and long term effects of the media on society but very little has been proved either way. Early research often stressed the construction of the audience and made assumptions about the impact on the public. This includes the hypodermic effect theory, also known as the behaviourist approach, which sees the mass media as not just an influence on society but as being able to directly affect us with a metaphorical, powerful syringe full of messages directly into the mind. Based on the theory that behaviour is learnt through rewards and punishment, the notion here is that the media could provide a model of behaviour which could influence people by showing them that they could get the same results as those portrayed in what they had read/seen/heard. ...read more.

Middle

Morley found that the different types of audience did indeed take different meanings from the programme; the middle class viewers didn't like the patronizing tone but accepted what they saw was true, and the working class viewers liked what it said but not the content. Black students interviewed said the content and the tone was irrelevant to them. This research is seen as a step forward from some of the earlier approaches such as the behaviourist approach as it at least presumes that the audience is creating meanings from the messages that they consume, however it doesn't take into account for intended meanings of the media and whether or not the meanings can influence or reinforce our views. This theory comes with the assumption that the media has no influence on society at all. Also this research has been criticised for being too narrow in its selection of people to represent 'society' for research. Research was conducted through interviews on selected groups. No specific research was done on the reactions of women. A large scale survey might have had better and more accurate results. The problem with this and the behaviourist approaches are that neither takes into account the ability the media might have to set agendas by continuing to show one version of reality to their audience. ...read more.

Conclusion

The value of the boundary line must continually be reasserted; we can only know what it is to be saintly by being told just what the shape of the devil is.' (Stanley Cohen, Images of defiance (penguin 1982), introduction) Whatever the view they each hold the notion that the media is setting an agenda whether it's for subconscious or conscious reasons. Another element of the cultural effects theory is that it often takes into account the audience effect model. Although this approach would seem a common sense approach it is not very testable, however this theory coupled with the audience effects model could go a long way to explaining what the effects of the media are on society. Despite all the research done on media effects there is very little conclusive evidence to suggest that the media can change society. This does not mean that it does not, just that it is very difficult to prove or disprove because of the so many different variables that can affect the research. Even though there is little conclusive evidence common sense would suggest that if the mass media cannot change society then it certainly would seem to influence it, if there were no influence there then the billions spent on advertising would be a waste of money. 1 Micaela Owen media essay ...read more.

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