Mass Communication

I. Revising the theory

Exercise 1. Provide the definitions of the following notions.

  • Mass communication;
  • mass media;
  • mass audience;

Exercise 2. What are the functions of mass media? Add to the list below.

Mass media inform, educate, entertain …

Exercise 3. Explain the difference between the following notions.

  • Digital media;
  • print media;
  • broadcast media;
  • outdoor media.

Exercise 4. Insert the missing words.

1. Mass media means technology that is intended to reach a audience.
2. The most common platforms for mass media are newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and the .
3. The earliest kind of mass media was .
4. Mass communication provides people with basic , in the form of books, television shows and music.
5. The media present which people try to imitate.

II. Practicing

Exercise 1. Read the text and consider the tasks below.

Hypodermic Needle Theory

On an October evening in 1938, millions of people settled down to enjoy what had recently become a great American pastime: listening to the radio. This night, however, would prove to be unique. Listeners tuned in to hear an announcement that Martians had landed in New Jersey and were viciously attacking humans. Although the announcement was part of a radio adaptation of H. G. Wells’ famous novel War of the Worlds–and although listeners were warned that the broadcast was fictional–panic erupted within the population. Some people fled homes and cities, while others rushed to purchase emergency supplies and began stockpiling food. Thousands of frantic phone calls poured in to local police, firefighters and hospitals.

The incident, often referred to as the “Panic Broadcast,” was soon cited as an example of the Hypodermic Needle Theory of communication. Formed in response to the rise of mass communications and the emergence of propaganda techniques in the 1930s, Hypodermic Needle Theory implies that the media has the power to inject highly influential messages directly into passive and susceptible audiences. Since those audiences have no other sources of information by which to compare the media’s messages, they have no choice but to act on those messages. The theory is known by other names as well: Magic Bullet Theory, Transmission-Belt Model and Hypodermic-Syringe Model.

Unlike most other theories of communication, however, Hypodermic Needle Theory was not based on empirical research. Instead, it was founded on the assumption that humans, controlled by their biological nature, will react instinctively to passing stimuli in similar ways. Empirical research has since disproved the theory and replaced it with more sophisticated models, such as Agenda-Setting Theory.


Hypodermic Needle Theory promotes a few basic assumptions:

1. Humans react uniformly to stimuli.

2.The media’s message is directly “injected” into the “bloodstream” of a population like fluid from a syringe.

3. Messages are strategically created to achieve desired responses.

4. The effects of the media’s messages are immediate and powerful, capable of causing significant behavioral change in humans.

5. The public is powerless to escape the media’s influence.


As radio, movies and advertisements gained vast popularity between the 1930s and 1950s, the media’s effects on people’s behavior seemed all too apparent and, in some cases, extremely frightening. Newspaper and magazine ads spurred on American consumerism, drawing even thrifty people into glittering department stores. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s radio speeches, known as the “fireside chats,” inspired millions of citizens to support his New Deal policies in the wake of the Great Depression. Adolf Hitler used the media to spread Nazi propaganda in Germany, creating a unified force bent on conquering Europe. To the common observer, people truly seemed powerless to resist the messages that came from the media. For the first time, messages were crafted with the target audience in mind to achieve specific responses.

During this time, behavioral scholars began to study the media’s effects in earnest. Hypodermic Needle Theory was one of the first models to result from these early studies. However, the theory relied on traditional inductive reasoning with observation to support it, rather than modern deductive reasoning backed by methodical testing. Scholars were still trying to establish empirical methods for testing behavioral theories at the time.

“The People’s Choice”

One of the first studies that disproved Hypodermic Needle Theory was “The People’s Choice,” conducted by researchers Paul Lazarsfeld and Herta Herzog in the 1940s. The study analyzed the effects of media propaganda on people’s voting decisions. Lazarsfeld and Herzog examined voting data during the 1940 election of Franklin D. Roosevelt and discovered that interpersonal sources of opinion influenced voters far more than the media did. In many cases, the media’s propaganda had no effect on the public at all.

The study proved that people could choose which messages to accept from the media, as well as determine the degree to which those messages would affect them. People weren’t the helpless, passive victims of the media as Hypodermic Needle Theory suggested. From his research, Lazarsfeld, along with Elihu Katz, developed the two-step flow model of communication, stating that the media’s messages are first received and interpreted by opinion leaders before they reach the general public. Even the “Panic Broadcast” incident used to support Hypodermic Needle Theory was re-evaluated and declared to show diverse reactions among listeners.

Although Hypodermic Needle Theory was instrumental in jump-starting communications research of mass media, it has since faded into obsolescence. With so many sources of information available today through a variety of media outlets, people have more control than ever over the messages that influence them. Many people now exercise selective exposure–seeking out only the information that supports their worldview. Though the media is still very influential today, its influence is far more complex and nuanced than in the early days of mass communication. People can now interact with the media through social networking sites and can even direct the flow of information to others. Factors such as attitudes, beliefs, education and living situation determine whether a person will accept a message from the media. Still, in spite of the media’s overwhelming presence in society, the biggest source of information and influence in a person’s life continues to be interpersonal relationships.


1. Why are the media’s efforts of influencing the audience compared to a hypodermic needle/magic bullet?

2. What are the shortcomings of the theory?

3. Why is Hypodermic Needle Theory not quite applicable to the analysis of media influence on audiences today?

Exercise 2. Read the text and consider the tasks below.

Uses and Gratifications Theory

A family sits down together to watch television, and an argument quickly ensues. Dad wants to watch the big football game. His coworkers plan to discuss it the next day, and he doesn’t want to feel left out of the conversation. Mom wants to see a talk show about dealing with nosy neighbors; just yesterday, she spied Mrs. Cranford from next door peeking over their fence. Nine-year-old Bobby clamors for his favorite superhero cartoon, knowing that it always entertains him. Twelve-year-old Nina, however, begs to watch a quiz show; she loves seeing how many questions she can answer correctly.

This scenario illustrates the idea behind Uses and Gratifications Theory. According to the theory, media users actively select the types of media and media content they consume to gratify various psychological needs. Its purpose is to explain how and why people use media. The theory first surfaced in the 1940s but is credited primarily to the research of communications professor Jay Blumler and sociologist Elihu Katz in the 1970s. Research to support the theory is conducted largely through surveys and questionnaires, by which media users self-report their gratifications. Uses and Gratifications Theory represents a radical departure from Hypodermic Needle Theory, which assumes audiences are “sitting ducks” to the media’s influence.


Uses and Gratifications Theory posits a few basic assumptions:

1. The audience takes an active role in selecting a medium, as well as interpreting it and integrating it into their lives.

2. Different types of media compete against each other and against other sources of gratification for viewers’ attention.

3. The medium that provides the most satisfaction for a person will be used more often than other types.

Types of Needs

Through media consumers’ self-reporting, researchers have identified several types of needs that motivate people to seek media for gratification:

1. Cognitive – Refers to acquiring information to aid the thinking and understanding process. People use media such as documentaries and how-to videos to increase their skills or knowledge in a certain area.

2. Affective – Relates to emotions or feelings. People use media to arouse certain emotions within themselves, such as happiness, fear or pleasure.

3. Personal Integrative – Refers to promoting one’s own image, reputation or status. People with this need use media, like Facebook and YouTube, to increase their credibility or social standing or to affirm their sense of self.

4. Social Integrative – Refers to interacting with family and friends. People use media to connect with others.

5. Tension Release – Relates to diversion and stress relief. People use media as catharsis or to escape from reality.

The same form of media or content can fulfill different needs among consumers. For instance, a scientific TV show can provide cognitive gratification for one viewer while providing tension release for another. Developmental maturity, personality, background, class and social roles determine the types of needs individuals have.

The Role of Media

Research also shows the importance of certain roles played by the various media. They can reinforce personal values or model social behaviors. They can provide a basis for social interaction or substitute for real companionship. They can strengthen biases or enable consumers to empathize with others. They can solidify social roles or motivate people to question them. They can help people become more knowledgeable about the world around them or allow them to escape it.

However, Uses and Gratifications Theory suggests that whatever effect media has on an audience is largely determined by the audience itself. Though some forms of media present messages carefully crafted to evoke certain kinds of responses, recipients are capable of interpreting the messages in different ways. Some interpretations may be entirely opposite of what the sender intended, thus demonstrating what some researchers have called an “imperviousness to influence.” For example, a negative news report on weak holiday sales may be taken positively by hearers who interpret the report as a sign that people are spending and saving more wisely than in the past. Also, audiences often practice selective exposure, choosing the media content that best affirms their values and opinions.


1. In what way does Uses and Gratifications Theory differ from Magic Bullet Theory?

2. What types of needs motivate people to seek media for gratification?

3. What is known as “imperviousness to influence”?

4. What are the shortcomings of Uses and Gratifications Theory?

Though Uses and Gratifications Theory represents a vast improvement over ear
lier models that assumed audiences were passive and gullible, critics have still managed to find some shortcomings within it. First of all, some researchers say the theory credits audiences with too much selectivity. Some people may consume media without any conscious reason to do so, such as out of habit or ritual. Also, the emphasis on selectivity ignores other unintended effects that the media might have on an audience.


Exercise 3. Read the text and explain what accounts for the popularity of social networks.

Uses and Gratification Theory – Why Adolescents Use Facebook?

By I. Tanta, M. Mihovilović, Z. Sablić

Due to a dynamic development of the Web 2.0 and new trends in the social media field that change on a daily basis, contemporary media research is shifting its focus to a greater extent on media users, their motivation and behavior in using social network sites in order to explain the extreme popularity of Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and other similar SNSs and mobile chat applications among the young.

Given the fact that uses and gratification theory has been elaborated and validated in the context of traditional media, until recently it took into consideration only uses and gratifications sought and obtained while consuming a media content. Due to a two-way communication enabled by the Internet as well as the fact that recipients can now deliver and post their own media content, the theory today also focuses on uses and gratifications which the Internet or the SNSs user can obtain while creating a new content. Therefore the approach may help to explain the enormous popularity of particular SNSa and mobile chat applications.

Although Kazt, Gurevitch and Haas developed the theory in the context of traditional media, their classification, as shown by contemporary research, is applicable to the Internet and SNSs as well. Some recent research on SNSs use has shown their users gratify all five needs from the original classification – cognitive needs, affective needs, the need for personal identity, integration and social interaction and escapism.

The results of the research have shown that SNSs users gratify their need for social interaction, entertainment, self-presentation and information (Gallion, 2010), seeking a romantic relationship, gossip about their friends and acquaintances, voyeurism and expressing their identity (Bumgarner, 2007), obtaining information about social events, sharing problems with others and filling their free time (Quan-Hasse, Young, 2010), escapism, relaxation, habit, meeting new people, professional development and following new trends (Smock et al., 2011), academic activities (Raacke, Bonds-Raacke, 2008), peer pressure (others are using the SNS) (Froget, Baghestan, Asfaranjan, 2013) as well as identity sharing and exploring other people’s profiles (Joinson, 2008). Apart from these numerous different needs, all cited research confirmed that SNSs users primarily gratify their need for integration and social interaction (Media Research: Croatian journal for journalism and the media. Vol. 20, № 2).

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Exercise 4. James Lull offers a typology of the social uses of television based on ethnographic research. Read the extract and explain the essence of this approach.

Social Uses of Television


  • Environmental: background noise; companionship; entertainment.
  • Regulative: punctuation of time and activity; talk patterns.


  • Communication Facilitation: Experience illustration; common ground; conversational entrance; anxiety reduction; agenda for talk; value clarification.
  • Affiliation/Avoidance: Physical, verbal contact/neglect; family solidarity; family relaxant; conflict reduction; relationship maintenance.
  • Social Learning: Decision-making; behavior modeling; problem-solving; value transmission; legitimization; information dissemination; substitute schooling.
  • Competence/Dominance: Role enactment; role reinforcement; substitute role portrayal; intellectual validation; authority exercise; gatekeeping; argument facilitation.


Exercise 5. Read the extract and explain whether the main reasons for watching soap operas/TV series have changed drastically since 1992.

Watching TV Soap Operas

A major focus for research into why and how people watch TV has been the genre of soap opera. Adopting a U and G perspective, Richard Kilborn (1992: 75–84) offers the following common reasons for watching soaps:

  • • regular part of domestic routine and entertaining reward for work;
  • • launchpad for social and personal interaction;
  • • fulfilling individual needs: a way of choosing to be alone or of enduring enforced loneliness;
  • • identification and involvement with characters (perhaps cathartic);
  • • escapist fantasy (American supersoaps more fantastical);
  • • focus of debate on topical issues;
  • • a kind of critical game involving knowledge of the rules and conventions of the genre.


Exercise 6. Every time you introduce the speaker you want to tell each audience what it wants to hear – to give the kind of information that is interesting and accessible to the members of that audience. If you were introducing the same speaker to two different groups, some of the information in the speeches of introduction might be the same, but it would be slanted differently. Rewrite the following speech of introduction for an audience of elementary-school children.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my privilege to introduce to you today the world’s best-selling author. We are all well acquainted with her Harry Potter series that has captured the imagination of children – and more than a few adults – around the globe.

Many of us know the remarkable story of her writing life: The inspiration for Harry Potter came on a train ride from Manchester to London in 1990. Over the next few years, she compiled notes as the story took shape in her mind. The bulk of the writing took place when she was a single mother on public assistance in Edinburgh. She was teaching French to teenagers in the mid-1990s when she heard that the first Harry Potter book had been accepted for publication. The rest is literary history.

She will be telling us this afternoon more about what inspired her fascinating story of wizardry, where she gets her ideas, and what kinds of books she wants to write next. Please give a warm welcome to J. K. Rowling.

Exercise 7. Read the transcript of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar acceptance speech and consider the tasks below.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar Acceptance Speech

Thank you all so very much. Thank you to the Academy. Thank you to all of you in this room. I have to congratulate the other incredible nominees this year.

The Revenant was the product of the tireless efforts of an unbelievable cast and crew. First off, to my brother in this endeavor, Mr. Tom Hardy. Tom, your talent on screen can only be surpassed by your friendship off screen. Thank you for creating a transcendent cinematic experience. Thank you to everybody at Fox and New Regency, my entire team. I have to thank everyone from the very onset of my career.

To my parents; none of this would be possible without you. And to my friends, I love you dearly; you know who you are.

And lastly, I just want to say this: Making The Revenant was about man’s relationship to the natural world. A world that we collectively felt in 2015 as the hottest year in recorded history. Our production needed to move to the southern tip of this planet just to be able to find snow

Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating. We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people out there who would be most affected by this. For our children’s children, and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed.

I thank you all for this amazing award tonight. Let us not take this planet for granted. I do not take tonight for granted. Thank you so very much.


1. What function does the speech perform?

2. Who belongs to the target audience?

3. What channel is used?

4. Analyze the following components of communicative situation: sender, receiver, code, channel, message, noise.

Exercise 8. Read the following speech and consider the tasks below.

President Obama’s Address on the 15-Year Anniversary of 9/11

Good morning. Scripture tells us, “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you … write them on the tablet of your heart.”

Secretary Carter, Chairman Dunford, outstanding members of our Armed Forces, and most of all, survivors of that September day and the families of those we lost – it is a great honor, once again, to be with you on this day, a day that I know is still difficult, but which reveals the love and faithfulness in your hearts and in the heart of our nation.

We remember, and we will never forget, the nearly 3,000 beautiful lives taken from us so cruelly – including 184 men, women and children here, the youngest just three years old. We honor the courage of those who put themselves in harm’s way to save people they never knew. We come together in prayer and in gratitude for the strength that has fortified us across these 15 years. And we renew the love and the faith that binds us together as one American family.

Fifteen years may seem like a long time, but for the families who lost a piece of their heart that day, I imagine it can seem like just yesterday. Perhaps it’s the memory of a last kiss given to a spouse, or the last goodbye to a mother or father, a sister or a brother. We wonder how their lives might have unfolded, how their dreams might have taken shape. And I am mindful that no words we offer, or deeds we do, can ever truly erase the pain of their absence.

And yet, you – the survivors and families of 9/11 – your “steadfast love and faithfulness” has been an inspiration to me and to our entire country. Even as you’ve mourned, you’ve summoned the strength to carry on. In the names of those you’ve lost, you’ve started scholarships and volunteered in your communities, and done your best to be a good neighbor and a good friend and a good citizen. And in your grief and grace, you have reminded us that, together, there’s nothing we Americans cannot overcome.

The question before us, as always, is: How do we preserve the legacy of those we lost? How do we live up to their example? And how do we keep their spirit alive in our own hearts?

Well, we have seen the answer in a generation of Americans – our men and women in uniform, diplomats, intelligence, homeland security and law enforcement professionals – all who have stepped forward to serve and who have risked and given their lives to help keep us safe. Thanks to their extraordinary service, we’ve dealt devastating blows to al Qaeda.

We’ve delivered justice to Osama bin Laden. We’ve strengthened our homeland security. We’ve prevented attacks. We’ve saved lives. We resolve to continue doing everything in our power to protect this country that we love. And today, we once again pay tribute to these patriots, both military and civilian, who serve in our name, including those far away from home in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Perhaps most of all, we stay true to the spirit of this day by defending not only our country, but also our ideals. Fifteen years into this fight, the threat has evolved. With our stronger defenses, terrorists often attempt attacks on a smaller, but still deadly, scale. Hateful ideologies urge people in their own country to commit unspeakable violence. We’ve mourned the loss of innocents from Boston to San Bernardino to Orlando.

Groups like al Qaeda, like ISIL, know that we will never be able – they will never be able to defeat a nation as great and as strong as America. So, instead, they’ve tried to terrorize in the hopes that they can stoke enough fear that we turn on each other and that we change who we are or how we live. And that’s why it is so important today that we reaffirm our character as a nation – a people drawn from every corner of the world, every color, every religion, every background – bound by a creed as old as our founding, e pluribus unum. Out of many, we are one. For we know that our diversity – our patchwork heritage – is not a weakness; it is still, and always will be, one of our greatest strengths. This is the America that was attacked that September morning. This is the America that we must remain true to.

Across our country today, Americans are coming together in service and remembrance. We run our fingers over the names in memorial benches here at the Pentagon. We walk the hallowed grounds of a Pennsylvania field. We look up at a gleaming tower that pierces the New York City skyline. But in the end, the most enduring memorial to those we lost is ensuring the America that we continue to be – that we stay true to ourselves, that we stay true to what's best in us, that we do not let others divide us.

As I mark this solemn day with you for the last time as President, I think of Americans whose stories I’ve been humbled to know these past eight years – Americans who, I believe, embody the true spirit of 9/11.

It’s the courage of Welles Crowther, just 24 years old, in the South tower – the man in the red bandana who spent his final moments helping strangers to safety before the towers fell. It’s the resilience of the firehouse on Eighth Avenue – patriots who lost more than a dozen men, but who still suit up every day as the “Pride of Midtown.” It’s the love of a daughter – Payton Wall of New Jersey – whose father, in his last moments on the phone from the towers, told her, “I will always be watching over you.”

It’s the resolve of those Navy SEALS who made sure justice was finally done, who served as we must live as a nation – getting each other’s backs, looking out for each other, united, one mission, one team. It’s the ultimate sacrifice of men and women who rest for eternity not far from here, in gentle green hills in perfect formation - Americans who gave their lives in faraway places so that we can be here today, strong and free and proud. It’s all of us – every American who gets up each day, and lives our lives, carries on. Because as Americans, we do not give in to fear. We will preserve our freedoms and the way of life that makes us a beacon to the world.

“Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you … write them on the tablet of your heart.” And how we conduct ourselves as individuals and as a nation, we have the opportunity each and every day to live up to the sacrifice of those heroes that we lost. May God bless the memory of the loved ones here and across the country. They remain in our hearts today.

May He watch over these faithful families and all who protect us.

And may God forever bless the United States of America.

1. Identify the target audience of the speech.

2. Analyze the verbal means the speaker uses. Classify them.

3. Analyze the structure of the speech.

4. Analyze the following components of communication situation: sender, receiver, code, channel, message, noise.

III. Applying the model

Exercise 1. Are you an active user of What needs do you gratify with the help of these social networks? Conduct a mini-survey among 20 friends of yours, asking them similar questions. Comment on the results.

Exercise 2. Applying the main characteristics of mass communication prove that “Time” magazine belongs to mass media.

Exercise 3. Advertisers are usually very conscious of their audience. Choose an issue of a popular magazine such as “Time”, “Newsweek”, “Sports Illustrated”, “Vanity Fair”, “Rolling Stone” etc. and select three advertisements to analyze. Answer the following questions:

1. What audience is being appealed to in each advertisement?

2. What appeals (verbal and visual) are used to persuade the potential buyers?

3. How would the appeals differ if the ads were designed to persuade a different audience?