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Theory Of Uses And Gratification In Mass Media

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In my assignment I will tell you about the “uses and gratification theory”. This theory is different and not like other theories of mass media. The other theories mostly focuses on the effects that media has on the audience. They don’t take the consumers or audience power. So U and G theory describes what the effect of audience on the media is. It’s not one sided but the effect is two sided. This theory says the audience also have effects on the media.

Uses and gratification is totally opposite to other theories the term which is used for the audience is that they are very active they know how to use media to complete their wishes, wants or needs. Opposite to other theories which shows that all the power lies in media this theory basically says no that is not the case it’s the audience that has all the power and media has literally no power on the audience. In other words we can say that this theory does not focus on what are effects of mass media on the people but it more of focuses on the reaction of audience to that media.

Now the first question which comes in our mind that where does this “uses and gratification” actually name comes from. Well it is that media server a purpose so it will fulfil a use, the audience or people that have some needs or wants that has to be fulfilled or in other words to be gratified. This is why the audience turns to the mass media to fulfil or gratify their needs. So, we got our answer that where the name has come from.

Now the second question which comes is that what the history of the theory is. So let’s discuss about it.

This theory does not come in one time period but it came in many phases and by many people. The first time which it come from was in US in 1940s. It was Harold Laswell’s reaction to the hypodermic needle model. He questioned that model. After questioning he later proposed or presented the four functions of the media. He said there are 4 things which media fulfills and that is why media is used by the audience.

Laswell’s 4 functions of media includes these points.

  1. Surveillance: to inform the people, to give them information about what is going on near him and also around the world.
  2. Personal Identity: People find some kind of an ideal or role model by watching media. They want to learn from that character and they also want to compare themselves to those role models.
  3. Personal relationship: people get touched emotionally by some characters they see in the media. The experiences they see in that character they make a bond or relationship with that character.
  4. Diversion: we use media to get away from the harsh realities of the world and get into the frictional world of media. They want to get away or rid of sadness they pass their time by getting entertained through media.

After Laswell’s model of 1940s in 1970s 3 social scientists namely Bulmer, Katz and Gurevitch further explained the Laswell’s model or the research done by Laswell. The presented a theory that audience determines how to use media fulfill their needs. They also say that audience has the power on the media. If audience does not get satisfied, entertained or do not like the content they do not watch that content so the media is forced to change the content because people does not like it.

For example, it can be explained in as simple manner as if he consumer (which is the audience) go and buy a product (which is media content) but if the consumer, user or buyer (the audience) does not get satisfied by that product they would not buy that product again. So the manufacturers which is media has to change the content so the consumers buy it again. This theory says that there are 5 reasons why we watch media.

  1. To get information, like we watch news channels to get informed about everything.
  2. For entertainment purpose, like we watch drama serials, movies, listen songs to get entertained.
  3. Personal identity: we get attach to a certain character that we idealize and find similarity with those characters.
  4. To get social, like we use Facebook and other social media platforms to get integrated or to socialize with other people.
  5. To escape, like when we get bored we listen or watch a certain program so we pass our time or to get relieved from tension.

Criticism, like all other theories there are also some criticism on this theory. Sometimes we use media for no reason like when we play music and drive or do other work. It focuses too much on the negative side of media. This theory says audience is more powerful then media which is not both have powers and effects on each other.

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