Watching violent films, and even news bulletins does not make the majority of the population recreate what they have observed. It has been found that ‘evidence suggests the direct transfer effect on children and young people in everyday situations are limited'(Weymouth and Lamizet, 1996, 120). However, the normalisation of violence in some of the socially excluded may make the effect of violent films and TV more impressing. In this way, I conceive that the peripheral members of society are the more vulnerable and impressionable, and therefore can perhaps be assumed to be empty vessels.
I cannot conclude that we are all empty vessels. Informed human beings do not interpret media in the same way, which I shall explore in the ensuing part of the essay. The Uses and Gratifications Model A theory that has advanced in recent decades is that of the Uses and Gratifications models. It seeks to emphasise what audiences and readerships of the media do with what they are presented with (Branston and Stafford, 1999, 403). Individuals or the mass audience are then perceived to be the ones with the power. This is in direct contention to the Effects model, which believes it is the media who grasp and distribute the power.
As Halloran, cited in Morley, expresses: ‘we must get away from the habit of thinking in terms of what the media do to people and substitute it for the idea of what people do with the media'(Morley, 1980, 2). The advance in media technology has affirmed the Uses and Gratifications model. Digital television and its mass of channels serve to empower the consumer. Berger believes that the development of cable and satellite suggests that viewers are selective in their zapping and channel cruising (Berger, 1995, 101). The audience cannot then be viewed as a conglomerate as they are selecting what they themselves want to view.
Evidently ‘individuals seek information that support their beliefs and practices'(Livingstone, 1997, 29), in immediate contention to the idea of the audience being an empty vessel. The Effects model presupposes that an audience would fail to question what they are absorbing, whereas the uses model is explicit that the individual or the audience is exacting upon what they choose to watch, and how they choose to interpret it. Conclusion A question that should be asked in relation to the Uses and Gratification model is that of its conception.
It could be argued that it is a media fiction made up to flatter the individual that they are particular in their media consumption. It is patent that the individual is ‘much more likely to want to identify themselves as active readers than as passive dupes of the brainwashing media corporations'(Branston and Stafford, 1999, 408). The presentation of the media news is a way in which I believe the Effects model is subscribed to. The Leah Betts tragedy is, I believe, a prime example. The media portrayed Leah as a good middle class girl, whose life was devastated by the simple taking of an ecstasy pill.
The concerning issue is that the constant media portrayal of ecstasy as a very bad drug, when in fact it was not the ecstasy that killed Leah, but the misinformation she had acquired through the media. Ecstasy was presented by the media as being a scourge to the middle classes. The constant repetition of this caused ecstasy to be regarded as far more harmful than heroin in studies carried out in primary and secondary schools. As Greg Philo (1990) is cited in Branston and Stafford, ‘through repetition the media becomes part of consciousness, even if exaggerated’ (Branston and Stafford, 1999, 408).
With no other information, we are empty vessels and consume what the media tells us is good and evil. It is only through challenging the media and its portrayal of news that we do use the media in the Uses and Gratification model. Ien Ang however does not subscribe to either model of the audience. He sees TV content primarily in economic terms, with production for profit the only aim of the commercial broadcasting industry (Ang, 1991, 53). Therefore, he is explicit in believing that the main function of the audience is to provide an audience for advertising, and is especially an issue of production and commercial exchange.
Seemingly the audience is exchanged as a commodity. To an extent, I do believe this is true. It is unlikely that British women’s magazines would question the ethics of beauty companies that sponsor pages within a magazine. Similarly, on commercial television channels there are now more commercial breaks than ever. However, the BBC is not funded by advertisers, and has no commercial breaks. Therefore, Ang’s model is not appropriate here. However, it is clear that media producers have their own agendas in what they generate. The BBC should be apolitical, but journalists all have political persuasions and beliefs that are evident in their work.
The media is to be used as a tool of influence, however it is up to the audience themselves whether they believe or challenge what they are fed. I believe that the media interprets audiences as empty vessels that are able to be persuaded. However, the media is also aware of the mass of unregulated information that is available to individuals through the widespread use of the Internet, for example, which can serve to satisfy an individual’s designs for the media. Consideration must also be given to those who solely regard the media as a leisure pursuit and are unaffected by what they view.
As Berger states, ‘some people watch TV merely to kill time’ (Berger, 1995, 102) and are thus then unconscious to a media sources’ influence. Therefore to conclude, I believe that the vast majority of a society peruse the media for enjoyment and use, as in the Uses and Gratifications model. Simultaneously there are certain audiences who are empty vessels susceptible to certain media content, often marginalised by society.
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