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Audience Theories Revision

jeremy | Thursday June 03, 2010

Categories: Key Concepts, Audience, Theory, Audience Theory

For A2 you will need to know these theories about Media Audiences.

Many theories try to make sense of the question: What effects do media texts have on audiences?

This question has interested people ever since the invention of the printing press, and it became possible to make hundreds of copies of a document, and a ‘message’ could reach a mass audience.

Researchers investigating the effect of media on audiences have considered the audience in two distinct ways.

The earliest idea was that a mass audience is passive and inactive. The members of the audience are seen as couch potatoes just sitting there consuming media texts – particularly commercial television programmes.

It was thought that this did not require the active use of the brain. The audience accepts and believes all messages in any media text that they receive. This is the passive audience model.

Audience Theory 1: The Hypodermic Model

In this model the media is seen as powerful and able to inject ideas into an audience who are seen as weak and passive.

It was thought that a mass audience could be influenced by the same message. This appeared to be the case in Nazi Germany in the 1930s leading up to the second world war. Powerful German films such as Triumph of the Will seemed to use propaganda methods to ‘inject’ ideas promoting the Nazi cause into the German audience.

That is why this theory is known as the Hypodermic model.

It suggests that a media text can ‘inject’ ideas, values and attitudes into a passive audience who might then act upon them. This theory also suggests that a media text has only one message which the audience must pick up.

In 1957 an American theorist called Vance Packard working in advertising wrote an influential book called The Hidden Persuaders. This book suggested that advertisers were able to manipulate audiences, and persuade them to buy things they may not want to buy. This suggested advertisers had power over audiences....


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