There are various different theories on how the audience receives the media and how it effects them.

These theories are:

Hypodermic needle theory. 

This is where passive audiences are ‘injected’ with ideologies, beliefs, messages, values etc. This meaning that our behavior is easily and directly shaped by these media messages. This is often found in young children as they take the media and believe everything that it says, because they know no different.

Advantages: Important messages will be received easily and believed.

Disadvantages: Somebody may believe this and try to live up to it, maybe putting themselves into danger.

The two step flow. 

This assumes a more active audience, who will discuss the media text with each other. This doesn’t completely assume that we are fully active, as we can still be passive. It proposes that we are influenced by “opinion leaders” for example; doctors, parents, experts etc.

It basically means that we take the media product, decode it then talk about it with an opinion leader if it worries us.

Advantages: This means that what we do will not be completely shaped by the media, we will have out own opinion enough to question it but important points will be gotten across by the media.

Disadvantages: Not being able to find an opinion leader, or not going to one and believing something extreme that may not actually be that extreme.

Cultivation theory. 

This is the repeated exposure to a media message which means it will lead to “desensitisation” this meaning the audience will become less sensitive to it the more that they see it.

Advantages: The effect the media has on us would not be as great, possibly not scaring us as much as it could if we wasn’t used to seeing certain things.

Disadvantages: We will not be as affected by extreme events than we should be, which could take the seriousness away from it.

Uses and gratifications theory. 

This looks at why the audience use the media. It assumes that the audience are active consumers, not passive. It has found that the audience have a variety of needs that they gratify through media. These are:

Diversion. This is where the audience use the media in order to distract themselves and keep their minds off of something. For example, if someone had a big day coming up, they would often put on a film in order to take their mind off the event happening tomorrow for a couple of hours.

Personal identity. This is where people find themselves through the media. It is a form of comfort. For example, if someone was to watch a film, they might find themselves relating to a certain character of maybe aspire to be like that person. This helps with their personal identity.

Personal relationships. This is where somebody uses the media to form personal relationships. For example if they had recently started at a new school, college or job they will want to make new friends and be able to hold a conversation with those people. This is where the media comes in because if they watch a popular programme at home, the next day they will have something to talk about with those people, finding a common interest.

Surveillance. This is where the audience is aware of the world around them. For example, watching the news or reading the news from a newspaper.

Advantages: The media can be used as comfort and help us in some things that we do.

Disadvantages: We may become completely shaped by the media, and not oppose to it as we sometimes should.

The reception theory. 

This is where the audience do not passively accept media text.

Hall proposed three different audience readings;

  1.  Dominant reading. This means that the media text is interpreted in the way intended by the producer.
  2. Negotiated reading. This means that the audience accepts some of the media but not all of it.
  3. Oppositional reading. This is where the audience is in conflict with the media text message.

The audiences readings on media text depends on:

  • Gender. (male/female)
  • Situated culture (background, upbringing, culture etc)
  • Age.
  • Experience and knowledge

Advantages: accommodates for different types of readings, not everybody will have the same opinion.

Disadvantages: There is only three clear different readings.