Media effects- short essay Example

Title: Media Effects


Media effects model describes a specific tradition of media study. It is the early way of studying mass media and sometimes known as the hypodermic needle model. The four main approaches in media studies include Audience studies, textual analysis, medium theory and political theory. This analysis will focus mainly on audience studies model. In studying media audiences, the main task is to understand the relationships between people’s use of the mass media and their subsequent behaviors. This implies that the media effects model has also negative relationships in media studies. Thus it is important to understand what media effects are. Media effects refer to the direct consequences as well as impacts of media messages on people. The effects tradition is a term that describes a simple but meaningful way of explaining the impacts of media on individuals or audiences. It is an early a way of thinking about the media and its audiences that continues to be a touchstone subject in the media discussions as well as political and public debates (Schirato 2010).

Criticisms of the media effects model

The active audience and politics of pleasure by Miller and Philo (2001), show that a number of researchers on media and cultural issues are no longer considering media effects. Instead, they focus on audience interpretations of texts. Based on their understanding that people have different opinions about the world, the researchers misguidedly support the idea that texts cannot provide fixed meanings and do not incorporate the concepts of media power and influence. They criticized two major theoretical assumptions in the active audience and wrong conclusions in the media studies approach. The argument that texts can denote whatever audiences interpret their meanings and that each new interpretation creates a different meaning. In addition, the authors criticized the assumption that producers of texts can perceive the world in different ways and that there is no agreed reality to understand the description. The authors supported the idea that for an audience to be considered active, it means that people cannot be seen as cultural dopes who take everything they are informed in the media to be true (Miller & Philo 2001). This implies that different audiences can understand media messages but react differently to them. It means that some people may belief and accept the media message, while others can reject it based on their own knowledge or other rationales to criticize what they are being told.

The idea of audience and consumption pleasure has been emphasized in many audience studies. Basically, the approach is considered a major development of the idea on active audience, and hence focuses on the creative ways through which people gain pleasure from common texts. In this case, audiences are perceived to be actively constructing meanings as a way of making texts which are provided on the face to appear reactionary and can be challenged. Similarly, textual meaning can be dissolved into audience interpretation. The authors argue that such efforts represent a misguided attempt to prove the abilities of ordinary individuals (Miller & Philo 2001).

The contemporary media landscape is changing rapidly, a clear indication that a flexible system is required to enable media companies to adapt and develop in this new digital environment (Coonan 2006). Errington and Miragliotta (2007) examined that politics involves power, its effects and distribution. They discovered that media outlets have the power to plan images of politicians, develop political agenda as well as debate on critical issues and influence the election results. This shows clearly that media and politics are connected in terms of power effects and distribution.

It is arguable in support of “The Ten Things Wrong with the Media Effects Model” by David Gauntlett (1998) that the effects model addresses the social problems backwards. This is clearly reflected in the case where criminologists try to establish the relationship between crime and violence from the media point of view. Ordinarily, the offenders of crimes and violence are not very much interested in the media happenings which make them to deviate from identifying such mistakes from people rather than the media. In addition, the media effects model mainly looks at children as inadequate yet in psychology children tend to learn faster compared to adults. It means that children are not appraised from media contents or programmes they normally watch. In this case, it can be argued that the media seems to be superior to its audience and dictates to them.

Audience studies Approach and Media Effects

Academic audience research has focused on the global concern of the media’s effects on their audiences, who are often seen as passive entities or relatively prone to the effects associated with powerful technologies of communication. Although the mass media have direct effects and influence on their audiences, the media effects model creates too crude and simplistic description. Due to the fact that a passive audience has failed to critically absorb the media messages and its simplistic view of the power of media, the academic audience studies has disregarded the effects tradition. Thinking past the effects tradition, it means that media effects study perceives audience members as isolated people separated from the rest of other social influencers and frameworks but the media. Therefore, individuals are positioned in the context of social and debatable relations which shape their decoding and responses to the media messages. However, the media effects need to be understood in a wider perspective and analysis of the integral role played by media in enhancing the long-term processes of social and cultural development as well as the determination and construction of media meanings (Schirato 2010).

Frankfurt School addresses the media as culture industry, where the media is considered as a significant industry controlled by ideological power over the masses. On the other hand, contemporary audience studies perceive the audience as being active in different ways. Sometime referred to as reception studies, contemporary audience studies aims to understand how audiences truly make use of their media based on the encoding/decoding and gratification models (Schirato 2010). In terms of uses and gratifications model, it is true that the audience actively involves in the selection of the available media so as to interpret the message they receive in their own contextual and perspective manner. From the encoding and decoding model, it is quite clear that the audience actively participates in decoding the messages obtained from the media and interprets them in many ways depending on specific cultural aspects which their social status has enabled them to access.

Based on the above argument that the audiences truly make use of their media in terms of encoding/decoding and gratification models, it can be argued in support of Philip Hanes (2000) that supporters of the media effects model only assume that the audience is not flexible in the area of receiving and interpretation of the media texts. This seems to be the rationale for their emphasis on text and its power to influence the audience. It should be noted that meanings within texts can be found easily. However, the difficulty in measuring media effects is due to inability to isolate media from other related potential influences in society. As a result, the effects model has been disregarded generally when analyzing the audiences’ response to media messages.


Based on the mode of addressing the media, it can be concluded that the audience media studies cannot be relied. It can be noted that different audiences make use of different media. Both, the audience and the media type consumed matters in the mode of address. The contemporary audience studies on audience reception of media emphasizes on the different members of the audience. Although the current theory on audience study focuses on the preferred meaning within the text, it also values the role of the audience in the process of interpreting or constructing a meaning.


Coonan, H, 2006, ‘New media frameworks for Australia’, Press Release, 13 July 2006. Available online at:


Errington, W & Miragliotta, N, 2007, Media & Politics: An Introduction, Victoria: Oxford University Press, Chapter Two: ‘An Overview of the Australian Media: The Actors, Institutions and Processes’, pp. 17-­‐39.

Gauntlett, D, 1998, ‘Ten Things Wrong With the Media ‘Effects’ Model. In: Dickinson, R., Harindranath, R. and Linné, O., eds (1998). Approaches to Audiences: A Reader. London.

Hanes, J.P, 2000, ‘The importance and limitations of relying on Audience in Media Studies. Aberystwyth University’. Available online from:


Miller, D & Philo, G, 2001, The active audience and irrelevant reports in media studies, Rescuing media power, London, Longman.

Schirato, T, Angi Buettner, T.J & Geoff, S, 2010, ‘Understanding Media Studies’, Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, Chapter Five: ‘Media audiences’, pp. 92-­‐109.