We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Media Theories

The whole doc is available only for registered users

A limited time offer! Get a custom sample essay written according to your requirements urgent 3h delivery guaranteed

Order Now

Sociological theories:

The sociological approach to communication theory is based on the assumption that there exists a definite relationship between mass communication and social change.



Cultivation theory was an approach propounded by Professor George Gerbner, dean of the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania. He began the ‘Cultural Indicators’ research project in the mid-1960s, to study whether and how watching television may influence viewers’ ideas of what the everyday world is like. Cultivation research is in the ‘effects’ tradition. Cultivation theorists argue that television has long-term effects which are small, gradual, indirect but cumulative and significant.

Assumptions and Statements

Cultivation theory states that the more a person is exposed to a message provided by the media, the more likely that person is to believe the message is real. Cultivation Theory is often applied to people’s perceptions of reality. For example, a person who watches a lot of crime shows on television will eventually believe that there is a lot of violent crime in the city in which he lives. This skewed world is called a “mediated reality” (Wilcox et al, 2003, p.214). The theory also states that viewers who watch more television will be more influenced than those who watch less and that “the cumulative effect of television is to create a synthetic world that heavy viewers come to see as reality” Conceptual Model- Cultivation Theory

Source: Hawkins and Pingree (1983)
Scope and Application
Cultivation research looks at the mass media as a socializing agent and investigates whether television viewers come to believe the television version of reality the more they watch it. Application in Public Relations

Cultivation Theory is an extremely important principle in public relations for several reasons. It has negative as well as positive effects. Negative effect on a business’s image- If the public is bombarded with negative materials about a company, then it is very possible that the public will no longer associate the company with its previous reputation or achievements or even its products. The public instead will focus on the negative materials attached to the company, and if they do still attach products to a company’s image, it is entirely possible that the public will then attach that negative stigma to the products. Positive effect on a business- By using the effects of a mediated reality to a company’s advantage, the public relations team may be able to shift public focus to the company’s goals, reputation and product. If a company is admired by the public, then that public is generally much more willing to stand by it should a crisis or scandal occur.

Cultivation theory and mediated reality suggested by it is a double-edged sword for public relations practitioners. A reality skewed in favor of a company can be extremely helpful, but a reality skewed against a company can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, so to speak. If the public is against an entity, it surely will not last long in this country in which companies rely solely on the public’s consumption of a product. If a company is to survive negative media attacks, it must have established a solid reputation before and handle media relations well during a crisis. To maintain a good image companies need to use the expertise of public relations professionals.


McComb & Shaw advanced the Agenda Setting Theory in 1972. They investigated presidential campaigns in 1968, 1972 and 1976. In the research done in 1968 they focused on two elements: awareness and information. Investigating the agenda-setting function of the mass media, they attempted to assess the relationship between what voters in one community said were important issues and the actual content of the media messages used during the campaign.

Theory believes that mass-media have the ability t transfer the salience f items n their news agenda to the public agenda. It is the creation of public awareness and concern of salient issues by the news media. Two basis assumptions underlie most research on agenda-setting: (1) The press and the media do not reflect reality; they filter and shape it; (2) Media concentration on a few issues and subjects leads the public to perceive those issues as more important than other issues. One of the most critical aspects in the concept of an agenda-setting role of mass communication is the time frame for this phenomenon. Framing discusses how the media frames the news that people tend to think, understand and distinguish it differently.

For Example: The war between India and Pakistan. It was framed in different ways in both of the countries. So it all depends on which media you view because you will get different perception.

In addition, different media have different agenda-setting potential. Agenda-setting theory helps in understanding the pervasive role of the media. Agenda setting theory strengthens the media’s influence. For example- campaign against corruption. In any case, if media is mindful of good agenda setting, it is bound to make an attempt in strengthening media’s positive influence on the society at large. Campaign for gender equality, campaigns for literacy and education are example of good agenda setting. Campaigns for RTI (Right to Information), or smart use of RTI by journalists is good agenda setting.

Conceptual model

Scope and Application
Just as McCombs and Shaw expanded their focus, other researchers have extended investigations of agenda setting to issues including history, advertising, foreign, and medical news. Conclusion: Media sets agenda for the masses or brings into focus certain issues. Audience acts on the suggestions that have been made by the mass-media. The audience determines whether the agendas set by the media are acceptable or not. The level of acceptance or rejection determines the extent of influence the agenda set by the mass media has been able to create. 3. USES AND GRATIFICATION THEORY

Katz et al originated the theory in the 1970s as a reaction to traditional mass communication research emphasizing the sender and the message. Stressing the active audience and user instead. Sociological & psychological orientation taking needs, motives and gratifications of media users as the main point of departure. Assumptions

Uses and gratifications theory attempts to explain the uses and functions of the media for individuals, groups, and society in general. There are three objectives in developing uses and gratifications theory: 1) To explain how individuals use mass communication to gratify their needs. “What do people do with the media?” 2) To discover underlying motives for individuals’ media use. 3) To identify the positive and the negative consequences of individual media use. Katz et al in his theory explained that people satisfy their different personal/social needs from media depictions and how people use media for their need and gratification. In other words we can say this theory states what people do with media rather than what media does to people. There are 5 basic needs in individuals. They are:

• Cognitive needs
• Affective needs
• Personal Integrative needs
• Social Integrative needs
• Tension release needs
a) Cognitive needs: refer to the needs for being informed, stimulated, being aware etc. For e.g. quiz programs on TV, in order to acquire knowledge and information you will watch news to satisfy the need, search engines in the internet, they make use of these to gain more knowledge. b) Affective Needs: refer to all kinds of emotions, pleasure and other moods of the people. People use media like television to satisfy their emotional needs. The best example is people watch serials and if there is any emotional or sad scene means people use to cry. c) Personal Integrative Needs: refer to the way in which people want to make sense about their environment and relate to people and events etc.

For e.g. people get to improve their status by watching media advertisements like jewelry ad , furniture’s ad and buy products, so the people change their life style and media helps them to do so. d) Social integrative needs: these are family needs. It is based on the need for security, belongingness, etc, in individuals. For e.g. social networking sites like facebook, my space etc. e) Tension release needs: People have a big need to avoid unpleasantness or release their anger or frustrations. For e.g. People tend to relax watching TV, listening to radio and for satisfying their need for entertainment there by relaxing from all the tension, people watch films, films on TV etc.

Neumann (1974) introduced the “spiral of silence” as an attempt to explain in part how public opinion is formed. She wondered why the Germans supported wrong political positions that led to national defeat, humiliation and ruin in the 1930s-1940s. Assumptions

The phrase “spiral of silence” actually refers to how people tend to remain silent when they feel that their views are in the minority. The model is based on three premises: 1) People have a “quasi-statistical organ,” a sixth-sense if you will, which allows them to know the prevailing public opinion, even without access to polls, 2) People have a fear of isolation and know what behaviors will increase their likelihood of being socially isolated, and 3) People are reticent to express their minority views, primarily out of fear of being isolated. The closer a person believes the opinion held is similar to the prevailing public opinion, the more they are willing to openly disclose that opinion in public. Then, if public sentiment changes, the person will recognize that the opinion is less in favor and will be less willing to express that opinion publicly. As the perceived distance between public opinion and a person’s personal opinion grows, the more unlikely the person is to express their opinion.

Conceptual Model

In a company, the managing director decides to increase their working hour from 8 to 10 and send e-mail to all employees. Majority of them accept this time changes and few employees are not satisfied with his decision. But they cannot or ready to express their thought publicly. Because:

a. They may feel unsupported by the other employees.

b. “Fear of isolation” like transfer

c. “Fear of Rejection” By rejecting their personal opinion from the public will help to avoid fight.

d. They may try to save their job by suppressing or avoid personal statement in public.


Dependency theory was originally proposed by Sandra Ball-Rokeach and Melvin DeFleur (1976). This theory merged out of the communication discipline. It is essentially an extension of Uses and Gratifications Theory in its audience needs based approach to media use. But it goes a step further because it addresses the potential effects of media use. It deals with relationships between media, individuals, and social institutions. According to Baran theory reveals that there should be a direct relationship between the amount of overall media dependency and the degree of media influence at any given point in time


According to this theory, the potential of the media to bring about the change would increase when there is instability in society. The uniqueness of the delivery system can also be the bases of change. The audience response in the model implies that feedback also has potential for change. So, the audience, media and society co-exist in a tripartite manner; in every society jointly become the change agents.

Conceptual Model



Normative theories were first proposed by Fred Siebert, Theodore Peterson and Wilbur Schramm in their book called “Four Theories of the Press”. At first the word “Normative Theory” was pronounced in USA during the height of ‘cold war’ with communism and soviet. Often it called as western theories of mass media.

A Normative theory describes an ideal way for a media system to be controlled and operated by the government, authority, leader and public. These theories are basically different from other communication theories because normative theories of press are not providing any scientific explanations or prediction. Normative theories are more focused in the relationship between Press and the Government than press and the audience. The four theories of the press/media:

1) Authoritarian

2) Libertarian

3) Communist

4) Social Responsibility

1. Authoritarian

Authoritarian theory describe that all forms of communications are under the control of the governing elite or authorities or influential bureaucrats. This theory talks about the role of communication in authoritarian countries. Here the rulers control the masses with the power they hold. The press is not free in such societies. There is censorship and tight control over the media.

Authoritarians are necessary to control the media to protect and prevent the people from the national threats through any form communication (information or news). The press is an instrument to enhance the ruler’s power in the country rather than any threats. The authorities have all rights to permit any media and control it by providing license to the media and make certain censorship.

If any media violate the government policies against license, then the authority has all right to cancel the license and revoke it. The government has all right to restrict any sensitive issues from press to maintain peace and security in the nation.

Censorship is a suppression of any communication which may consider as harmful to the people, King, government and its nation. Especially these censorship methods are much familiar in press which against the freedom of speech and freedom of expression. In some other cases, the censorship helps to protect the rulers and authorities from sensitive issues. There are different types of censors like

▪ Political censor
▪ Moral censor
▪ Religious censor
▪ Military censor
▪ Corporate censor
2. Libertarian

The Libertarian theory is one of the “Normative theories of press”. The theory which is originally came from libertarian thoughts from 16th century in Europe. The libertarian theorists are against the authoritarian thoughts. Liberalism means information is knowledge and knowledge is power. Libertarianism is free from any authority or any control or censorship. The libertarianism is an idea of individualism and limited government which is not harmful to another.


According to this theory the government has no right to control the press. The freedom to publish should rest with the media. The concept of liberty dominates this theory. The press should not restrict anything even a negative content may give knowledge and can make better decision whilst worst situation. The libertarian thoughts are exactly against or opposite to the authoritarian theory which means the authoritarian theory says “all forms of communication works under the control of government or elite like king”.

Strength and Weakness:
i. Freedom of press will give more freedom to media to reveal the real thing happening in the society without any censorship or any authority blockades. ii. Is reliable with U.S media traditions.

iii. It gives more values for individuals to express their thoughts in media. iv. Theory excessively positive about media’s willing to meet responsibilities which may lead people into negative aspects. v. Is too positive about individual ethics and rationality. vi. Ignores need for reasonable control of media.

vii. Ignores dilemmas posed by conflicting freedoms.

3. Communist theory:


After the 1917th revolution, the Soviet Union was restructured with new political system based on the Marxist-Leninist principles. The newly formed communist party by Lenin shows much interest in the media which serves to the working class in the country and their welfares. So the Soviet originates a theory from Marxist, Leninist and Stalinist thoughts, with mixture of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel ideology is called “Soviet Media Theory” is also known as “The Communist Media Theory”.


According to this theory the media is part of the government and should be voice of the government. So the media’s role is to further the aims of the government. So the media’s roles is to further the aims of the government. So independence of the media is not seen as necessary. Soviet media theory looks similar like authoritarian theory but the core part is different from each other. In authoritarian theory is a one way communication, there is no feedback allowed from the public but in Soviet media theory is a two way communication at the same time the whole media is controlled or works under the leadership. Soviet media theory allows some restriction based on the nation interest rather than personal.

4. Social Responsibility Theory

In mid 20th century most of the developing countries and third world nations have used this social responsibility theory of press which is associated with “the Commission of the Freedom of Press” in United States at 1949. In the book “Four theories of Press” (Siebert, Peterson and Schramm) it’s been stated that “pure libertarianism is antiquated, out dated and obsolete.” That paved way for replacement of Libertarian theory with the Social responsibility theory.


According to the theory the media should be free but at the same time be socially responsible. The social responsibilities of the media include informing the public correctly about events and mould public opinion on every issue in a fair manner. This theory implies that the media has to combine responsibility with freedom on it own accord, in keeping with the public good. The theory lies between both authoritarian theory and libertarian theory because it gives total media freedom in one hand but the external controls in other hand. Here, the press ownership is private. The theory helped in creating professionalism in media by setting up a high level of accuracy, truth, and information. The commission of press council also included some tasks based on social responsibility of media, which are as follows:

a) Formulate the code of conduct for the press.
b) Improve the standards of journalism.
c) Safeguarding the interests of journalism and journalist. d) Criticize and make some penalty for violating the code of conduct.

The theory allows- everyone to say something or express their opinion about the media; community opinion, Consumer action and professional ethics; serious invasion of recognized private rights and vital social interests; private ownership in media may give better public service unless government has to take over to assure the public to provide better media service; media must take care of social responsibility and if they do not, government or other organization will do. Example:

The first major test of social responsibility theory occurred during the 1950s with the rise of anti-communist sentiments at the time of the Cold War. Assignment-3


Psychological theories are based on the psychological processing of stimuli. The concept of exposure/perception & retention act as a barrier between message & effect, thereby limiting the scope of direct impact of mass communication on people.

1. Selective Exposure

This theory was proposed by Book et al in 1980. Selective exposure implies giving priority to a particular sensory message. This is the first stage of perception. We are surrounded by sights, sounds, colours, touch sensation, smells and tastes. Which are 3we 3aware of? We select from different inputs. Bittner states that the theory of selective exposure suggest we will select those media which supports our beliefs and which have programming and information appealing to our own interest.

According to this theory people keep themselves away from communication of opposite hue.

For Example:

One can be strongly disinclined to change to the BJP if their family has voted for Congress for a long time. In this case, the person’s predisposition to the political party is already set, so they don’t perceive information about BJP or change voting behavior because of mass communication

Selective exposure has been displayed in various contexts such as self-serving situations and situations where people hold prejudices regarding out-groups, particular opinions, and personal and group-related issues. Perceived usefulness of information, perceived norm of fairness, and curiosity of valuable information are three factors that can counteract selective exposure.

2. Selective Perception

This theory refers to any number of cognitive biases in psychology related to the way expectations affect perception. This is the mental process of organizing sensations into meaningful patterns. Perceptions are based on certain categorization of experiences. these are determined by two factors.

i. Structural Factors: these are present in the stimulus.

a. Size

b. intensity

c. frequency

d. novelty

e. contrast

f. change

ii. Functional factors: these are present in the individual.

a. Motives

b. Interests

c. Needs

d. Set or expectancies

e. Familiarity and strangeness

f. Emotions

These two factors combine to determine whether a given stimulus is perceived or not. This refers to the selectivity of perception.

Selective perception is also an issue for advertisers, as consumers may engage with some ads and not others based on their pre-existing beliefs about the brand. People who like, buy, or are considering buying a brand are more likely to notice advertising than are those who are neutral toward the brand.

3. Selective Retention

Selective retention, in relating to the mind, is the process when people more accurately remember messages that are closer to their interests, values and beliefs, than those that are in contrast with their values and beliefs, selecting what to keep in the memory, narrowing the informational flow.

For Examples

• A person may gradually reflect more positively on their time at school as they grow older.

• A consumer might remember only the positive health benefits of a product they enjoy.

• People tending to omit problems and disputes in past relationships.

• A conspiracy theorist paying less attention to facts which do not aid their standpoint.

We tend to remember things which are familiar to us. For example: If politician is making a speech we might retain only those portion of the speech with which we agree. If we perceive entire speech as favourable, we may remember all of it. If we perceive it as unfavourable, we may wipe it entirely from our mind.

Thus, factor influencing selective retention include the importance of the message for later utility, the extent to which the message coincided with predisposition, the intensity of the message, the means by which it was transmitted.

Related Topics

We can write a custom essay

According to Your Specific Requirements

Order an essay
Materials Daily
100,000+ Subjects
2000+ Topics
Free Plagiarism
All Materials
are Cataloged Well

Sorry, but copying text is forbidden on this website. If you need this or any other sample, we can send it to you via email.

By clicking "SEND", you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails.
Sorry, but only registered users have full access

How about getting this access

Your Answer Is Very Helpful For Us
Thank You A Lot!


Emma Taylor


Hi there!
Would you like to get such a paper?
How about getting a customized one?

Can't find What you were Looking for?

Get access to our huge, continuously updated knowledge base

The next update will be in:
14 : 59 : 59