Learning Outcome Three: Audience responses and behaviourThe media is an extremely powerful tool that can have massive effects on the public such as makingthem see matters in different ways. Music videos express meaningful messages to their audiencethrough lyrics which people can relate too. Adverts send out messages through their adverts whichmake the advert stand out and stick inside the audience’s brain. Documentaries can be informativeto their audiences by informing them of matters they may have not known about (known about wellenough) or change their opinions on matters.An example of this that has appeared recently in the news media empire is how news media makesus care or know about certain things going on in the world. They spoke about how News media allover the world headlined “The Boston Bombings” where (which was a tragedy) and millions ofpeople took a massive interest in it, they compared this to the fact that thousands of youths arekilled in the United States due to gun and knife crime and how the media barely covers this becauseit’s so common. This shows how the news media controls our knowledge of some matters and theway we understand them.Another great example of how the media can control the responses and behaviour of its audienceswould be North Korea. North Korea block out the rest of the world’s media (most internet websitessuch as YouTube and TV and new media). They then create their own TV and news (allot made up) tomould their audience (North Koreas) population into supporting North Korea’s propaganda which isconstantly aired. In a way they are being brain washed by North Korea’s media. This example showshow media can be used as a dangerous tool.Documentaries main priority is to inform and get a response (audience making their own conclusionon the matter) from the audience. Documentaries main functions are too inform, or give theaudiences an understanding of a matter. Documentaries usually are nearly always informativeinforming their audiences of matters (usually negative impact matters, to generate more popularityand a bigger audience) going on in the world or teaching facts to an audience (for example, PlanetEarth which teaches people about Earth).Unlike news media, documentaries usually stick the strong facts when they are discussing mattersand don’t exaggerate about things which is what a lot of news media’s do. You do occasionally get adocumentary that (usually having a debate about a matter, for or against) is biased more, orcompletely towards one side of the argument which is an unfair thing to do and is often criticised bythe audience. In general though most documentaries stick to truth, facts aren’t exaggerated andaren’t biased. This is why the audience enjoys them, because it’s teaching you and also giving youthe facts without exaggeration or lies. It makes the audience feel more comfortable to know theyaren’t being messed around with; with the information they are being told.There are three key theories which explain how an audience use and interpret the media industry. Iwill discuss each one below in detail.
Uses and Gratification:Uses and gratifications theory attempts to explain the uses and functions of the media forindividuals, groups, and society in general. There are three objectives in developing uses andgratifications 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. At the core of usesand gratifications theory lies the assumption that audience members actively seek out the massmedia to satisfy individual needs.We can also use it to1:Cognitive needs, including acquiring information, knowledge and understanding;(the keyreason for and audience to watch a documentary)2:Affective needs, including emotion, pleasure, feelings;3:Personal integrative needs, including credibility, stability, status;4:Social integrative needs, including interacting with family and friends; and5:Tension release needs, including escape and diversion.Hypodermic Needle:The theory suggests that the mass media could influence a very large group of people directlyand uniformly by ‘shooting’ or ‘injecting’ them with appropriate messages designed to trigger adesired response.Both images used to express this theory (a bullet and a needle) suggest a powerful and directflow of information from the sender to the receiver. The bullet theory graphically suggests thatthe message is a bullet, fired from the "media gun" into the viewers "head". With similarlyemotive imagery the hypodermic needle model suggests that media messages are injectedstraight into a passive audience which is immediately influenced by the message. They expressthe view that the media is a dangerous means of communicating an idea because the receiver oraudience is powerless to resist the impact of the message. There is no escape from the effect ofthe message in these models. The population is seen as a sitting duck. People are seen as passiveand are seen as having a lot media material "shot" at them. People end up thinking what theyare told because there is no other source of information.Passive and Active Audience Consumption:An active audience is one that actively engages with the text. They do not simply acceptevery media message. They question what they see and develop their own interpretation of
a media product based on their life experiences, education, family and cultural influences.‘Bottom up’ theories generally assume an active audience. Theories such as “Uses &Gratification” and “Postmodernist theory” assume that audiences are active.A passive audience does not actively engage with a media text. A passive audience is onethat does not question the message that the media is sending and simply accepts themessage in the way the media outlet intended.‘Top down’ theories of media influence tendto assume that audiences are passive. Theories such as “Bullet/Hypodermic” and “AgendaSetting Function” assume audiences are passive.The uses and gratification theory applies to almost every documentary. Nearly everydocumentary’s aim is to educate and inform its audience of a matter. Cognitive needs(Acquiring knowledge, information and understanding) are within the “uses andgratification” theory relates best to documentaries. For example, BBC’s Blue planet wouldfall into this theory because it aims to show and inform (teach) the audience.A great example for the Hypodermic needle would be North Korea. North Korea whoseparates themselves from most of the world has to keep their population under control, tostop a rebellion. To do this they block out any kind of media contact with outside of NorthKorea (TV, Newspapers, internet radio ect…). North Korea then has control over their ownmedia so they can constantly air propaganda and control what is aired and what is not. Thisis a massive example of the Hypodermic needle theory because North Korea are pumping asingle message (North Korea are the “good guys” and the rest of the world are “bad”) at aconstant rate into the viewer’s brain. In a way they are being brain washed.