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British Politics and the Media - Introduction
Who are the Media?
British Politics and the Press
A Partisan Press
British Politics and the Tabloid Press
British Politics and Media Ownership
British Politics and Media Self Regulation
The Leveson Inquiry and Regulation
Actions after Leveson
British Politics and the Cinema Newsreel
British Politics and the Radio
British Politics and the Television
British Politics and the Internet
The Advantages of New Media
Media Effects Theory - Direct Effects
Media Effects Theory - Minimal Effects
Media Effects Theory - Long Term Effects
About Medium Theory
About Constructivism
Constructivism, Media and Society
Structuralism and Critical Theory
Feminist Theory and the Media
Political Communication - Introduction
Political Communication - National and Direct
Political Communication - Local and Direct
Politicians and the Media - Their Relationship
The First Phase of Political Communication
The Second Phase of Political Communication
Political Communication - The Leader's Debates 2010 and 2015
The Third Phase of Political Communication
British Politics and the Media - Introduction
Who are the Media?
British Politics and the Press
A Partisan Press
British Politics and the Tabloid Press
British Politics and Media Ownership
British Politics and Media Self Regulation
The Leveson Inquiry and Regulation
Actions after Leveson
British Politics and the Cinema Newsreel
British Politics and the Radio
British Politics and the Television
British Politics and the Internet
The Advantages of New Media
Media Effects Theory - Direct Effects
Media Effects Theory - Minimal Effects
Media Effects Theory - Long Term Effects
About Medium Theory
About Constructivism
Constructivism, Media and Society
Structuralism and Critical Theory
Feminist Theory and the Media
Political Communication - Introduction
Political Communication - National and Direct
Political Communication - Local and Direct
Politicians and the Media - Their Relationship
The First Phase of Political Communication
The Second Phase of Political Communication
Political Communication - The Leader's Debates 2010 and 2015
The Third Phase of Political Communication
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University 18 Yrs + | British Politics & the Media

Media Effects Theory - Direct Effects

There are a group of theories that follow what has been called the transmission model.  The messages sent by the media are intended to have an influence and are received by the public in the form in which they are sent and these messages do have an effect on people.  

Although it is difficult to define what an effect actually is, the behavioural schools of thought, within which these ideas rest, would expect there to be a change in behaviour such as a change in opinion about a political leader on exposure to negative messages or a desensitisation to violence on frequently watching violent images.

Direct Effects 

The earliest media theories followed direct effects theory (also called the hypodermic syringe or magic bullet model). Influenced by the propaganda put out by governments during the First World War and by the Nazis in the 193Os, and then by the impact of television advertising, early writers saw the media as a highly successful means of persuasion. 

Later writers have normally reacted against this view, sometimes without appreciating the more subtle analysis of the early writers who did not portray a simple cause and effect between the message and the person receiving it. (Russell Neuman and Lauren Guggenheim set out the different effects models and explain that the reaction against the idea of a simplistic direct effects model is overdone Communication Theory Volume 21  No 2, 2011)

After the Second World War writers questioned the strength of media effects and the assumption of the direct effects writers, that the message went from the media to people as isolated individuals who were then affected.  

The new perspective was partly influenced by the Columbia University studies of presidential elections. The leading researcher, Paul Lazarsfeld had wanted to study the effect of the media on consumers, but when the funding was not available decided to study voters’ decisions during the presidential election of 1940. 

The researchers expected to find that media coverage had a major effect on voters’ choice of candidates but actually support changed very little during the campaign and seemed to be mainly related to patterns of traditional party support and social characteristics.

Direct Effects Writers

  • Walter Lippman in Public Opinion (1922) and Phantom Public (1925) argues that the outside world is complex and the public do not actually experience the vast majority of events that take place in it.  Thus public opinion is created through the mass media by the way that these events are presented to people.
  • Harold Laswell in Propaganda Techniques in the First World War (1927) analysed why the Allied Powers were successful in establishing that their side was right in international law, particularly with American opinion, and analysed the content of their propaganda.
  • Edward Bernays in Propaganda (1928) extolled the benefits of public relations in helping the public to understand issues and in persuading them of the value of a point of view.
  • Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent (1955) is a critical view of television which claimed that heavy television watching leads to passivity, misconceptions as to what society is really like and imitation of behaviour seen there. Some of his work was a study of the effect of television violence on children.
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