Last Updated on February 21, 2023 by Karl Thompson

This page provides links to blog posts on the main topics of the AQA’s media module. It’s gradually being populated and most of the media material should be completed by end of November 2019. If you like this sort of thing – you might like to check out my various revision resources for sale on Sellfy.

Although primarily written for the AQA sociology specification, a lot of this material will be relevant for students of A-level media studies (content only, rather than the exam question and answers, which are written specifically for sociology A-level paper 2!).  

The New Media

The posts below explore definitions and examples of New Media and their significance for an understanding of the role of the media in contemporary society.

Characteristics of New Media – A summary of the key features of New Media and how they differ from more traditional forms. New media are digital, interactive, hypertextual, globally networked, virtual and sometimes based on simulation. This post explains each of these key terms with examples.

Who is using New Media? – An overview of how new media usage varies by age, social class and gender, using statistics taken from OFCOM.

The neophiliac perspective on new media – neophiliacs emphasis the positive influences new media has had on society, such as increasing the number of global connections. Post and link to follow.

The cultural pessimist perspective on new media – As their name suggests, cultural pessimists emphasize the negative influences of new media on society. They see new media as dominated by large global conglomerations who use them to spread consumerism and reinforce elite power. This is a broadly Marxist perspective.

Ownership and control of the media

Do those who own the media control its content, or is it the audiences who view and use media?

What is concentration of media ownership? A summary of the trends in concentration of media ownership and definitions of some of the ways we can measure this trend, such as vertical and horizontal integration and conglomeratisation.

The Pluralist theory of the media – Pluralists see the media as controlled by audiences because media owners are mainly interested in making a profit – if they don’t provide what audiences want, they don’t stay in business. They see audiences as active and diverse.

The instrumentalist Marxist theory of the media – associated with classical or traditional Marxism this perspective sees media content as primarily controlled by the owners of media, who are part of the global elite and use their media companies to spread the dominant ideology

The neo-Marxist theory of the media – also known as the Hegemonic approach, this theory also believes the media spread the dominant ideology but believe middle class journalists do so rather than the owners, using processes such as agenda setting and gate keeping.

The media, globalisation and popular culture

The postmodern perspective on globalisation and popular culture – postmodernists argue that popular culture is very diverse, active, ‘playful’, and generally a positive thing.

The cultural imperialist perspective – A Marxist perspective on the globalisation of mass media. Powerful states and Media conglomerates work together to create media which keeps people stupid and makes them consume to keep capitalism going.

The selection and presentation of the news

Intro post – News as a ‘window on the world’ vs The social construction of the News – an introductory post to this topic, summarising news values and other factors covered in more depth in the posts below.

Organisational and Bureaucratic Constraints -probably the easiest factors to understand, including how time, money, and ethics influence the content of the news.

The Marxist perspective on the news – a class based analysis of the social construction of the news.

Moral Panics – an outline of classic moral panic theory, including Stan Cohen’s classic study of the mods and rockers and evaluation points.

Representations of age, social class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and disability

Representations of Ethnicity – Ethnic minority groups have historically been represented as a threat, as criminal and as unimportant in the mainstream media, however these representations are changing.

Representations of Sexuality in the media – A summary of some of the stereotypical ways LGBTQ people have been historically portrayed in the media and an exploration of some of the recent changes towards a greater diversity of representations.

Media representations of women – an in depth post covering the core historical concepts of symbolic annihilation, the cult of femininity, and the beauty myth. This post also has several contemporary evaluations of how women are represented.

Representations of Men in the Media – How are men represented in the media? is traditional masculinity still presented as the norm or are representations of masculinity in crisis today?

Media representations of social class – the wealthy are generally represented positively, and the middle classes are over-represented, while the working classes are less visible and usually portrayed negatively.

Media representations of benefits claimants – benefits claimants are usually represented as undeserving and stereotyped as lazy and scamming. The image of the ‘sofa on the street’ springs to mind!

Representations of Age – Children have historically been portrayed as vulnerable, teenagers as a threat to society and older people as useless, although these narrow representations may be changing in recent years.

Representations of disability – the media have traditionally represented disable people in a limited range of stereotypical ways such as being pitiable and unable to participate fully in daily life, while representations in charity telethons tend to reinforce the notion that the disable are ‘other’ and deserving of charity from ‘normal people’. However much progress has been made towards more neutral and positive representations in recent years.

Models of audience effect

The posts below explore models of the relationship between the media, their content and presentation, and their audiences, which range from being based on passive to active audience theories.

The hypodermic syringe theory – from the 1940s this theory believes the media can have a direct and immediate effect on audiences.

The cultural effects model – this is a neo-Marxist model which believes the media spread the dominant ideology through the masses through a gradual, drip drip effect.

The two step flow model – argues that ‘opinion leaders’ influence how audiences interpret the media, thus there are ‘two steps’ to the audience being effected.

The uses and gratifications model – associated with pluralist theories of the media this argues for an active audience which use the media selectively to fulfil their own needs.

The Selective filter model – an active approach to media effects, arguing that audiences have elective attention, perception and retention.

Reception analysis – sees audiences as diverse and very dynamic and active. Not only do different audiences read media in different ways, but the same people chop and change their interpretation of what they view from one day to the next!

The postmodernist model of audience effects – the most active of all models of audience effects. The audience are seen as active and rather than being affected by media content, the media is constitutive of their reality. All interpretations are seen as open and equally valid.

Assessment material

Analyse two reasons why the media portray ethnic minorities negatively

Outline and explain two ways in which the new media may be creating a new global culture

Evaluate the view that the media have a direct and immediate effect on their audiences

A Level Sociology of Media Bundle

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my A Level Sociology of the Media Revision Bundle which contains the following:

  1. 57 pages of revision notes covering all of the sub-topics within the sociology of the media
  2. 19 mind maps in pdf and png format – covering most sub-topics within the sociology of the media.
  3. Short answer exam practice questions and exemplar answers – three examples of the 10 mark, ‘outline and explain’ questions and three of the 10 mark ‘analyse’ with item questions, all take from the specimen paper and the 2017/2018 exam papers.
  4. Three essays and essay plans, taken from the specimen paper and 2017 and 2018 exam papers.

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