The media of the 21st century plays a huge part in controlling and influencing the opinions of the people that expose themselves to it. Media is engraved into our culture due to the constant saturation of it made available through smart phones, computers, TV, newspapers and radio. A quote by Jim Morrison says “Whoever controls the media controls the mind”. The quote resinates to the indoctrinating values of the media. The media is used to raise awareness and inform people of certain situation. Media companies are known for having their own agendas to work towards maintaining. For example The Daily Mail and The Daily Express are considered Conservative news outlets due to their pro Conservative values where as The Mirror and The Guardian are considered Labour news outlets as they support the Labour values. Media products can also be populous which means that they produce news in favour of the masses. The Sun is a newspaper that is populous. Due to its populous values you can use it to identify trends in our culture such as opinions on immigration and politics.
The UK’s stand on immigration is constantly permeating the media, especially in the contemporary media, as there is a General Election approaching. Anti Immigration messages are taking a position on a lot of front pages of newspapers. The anti immigration messages are in support of the UKIP values. UK Independent party (UKIP) is a political party that prides itself on patriotic values and independence. A key UKIP policy is their stand on immigration, this is an extract taken from the UKIP website “We believe Britain must get back control over its borders, so that it can welcome people with a positive contribution to make while limiting the overall numbers of migrants” It suggests that the only migrants they want are ones that will contribute to the tax system. With that message in mind UKIP use the media to enforce their policies. The Daily Mail newspaper has 21% of its readers voting UKIP, where as The Mirror has 7% of its readers voting UKIP. With this information it is likely that UKIP will target the majority of their voters being Daily Mail readers and use that news platform to target their audience into growing more UKIP support. This can be scene in the picture below which is a Daily Mail headline. The headline is addressed at readers that already have a strong support towards putting the UK first, similar to UKIPs patriotic values. The effect these types of headlines have on the reader is caused through the hypodermic needle theory which suggests that the media puts out messages and the audience is just passive in the consumption of them due to there being no alternative information available. This theory applies to the media as the messages being displayed are the only messages out there that the majority of the audience will consume. The Daily Mail and UKIP know that 21% of there readers vote UKIP so the hypodermic needle theory is effective on these readers as it fits their needs and beliefs, they have no other reason to seek out and believe other information. It puts value onto their beliefs and categorises people which is a key part of winning peoples opinions and their trust. Having peoples trust in politics can help support votes to certain party.
Another way of absorbing media messages is through uses and gratifications theory. This theory suggests that media isn’t a passive medium but rather a suggestive one which allows the audience to create their own opinion on a situation depending on what they have seen or heard. An example of this is people having an anti UKIP opinion despite the pro UKIP coverage. A facebook page exists called “Don’t Vote UKIP” which has 3,393 page likes. The description of the page says “UKIP put on a presentable front, but are actually racist, homophobic and god knows what else. This page is to show a darker side of UKIP.” This is an example of where the uses and gratifications theory has happened. The people supporting this page will be aware of the pro UKIP messages in the media and have made a conscious decision to not support them. An other example of the uses and gratifications theory is how the Daily Mail has a average daily circulation of 1,708,006 readers and only 21% of them vote UKIP. This shows that there is a distinct case of uses and gratification when the audience in exposed to messages with a biased agenda.
There is a right wing party trying to gain political recognition in the media right now. They are called “Britain First” and are a party formed by former member of the BNP, British National Party. Britain First is a party against mass immigration and what they call the “Islamisation” of the United Kingdom. The way they spread their message in through a Facebook page, they have 665,000 page likes. The content posted on the page is targeted at the hypodermic needle approach of getting a message across. This can be seen by their captions. They tend to include the text “LIKE AND SHARE” this is telling people do perform an action and to spread the word of what they are representing. The way this targets the hypodermic needle theory is due to the demand of them wanting people to share and like their content. It suggests that there isn’t another option to have but to believe the message, and perform the action. On average a Britain First post gets around 4000 likes and 1000 shares. This suggests that this theory isn’t being applied to its consumers as well as it could. The lack of shares and likes in comparison to its 665,000 page likes suggests that another theory is taking place. This is the uses and gratification theory. This theory is demonstrated by content against Britain First such as comments and parody Britain First accounts. There is a Facebook page called “Britain Furst” and has 112,000 page likes. It is an account that is a parody of the original Britain First page. It is an example of people absorbing a media message and creating their own opinion based off what they see. This theory contradicts the hypodermic needle as it shows that people can create their own opinion whether the media is publishing another message.
Although the hypodermic needle theory doesn’t appear to exist in its purest form as in, people don’t have a choice in what to believe, they’re just passive. Points can be taken from the theory. Social media is an example of this, people like and share images, videos and news on Facebook everyday without actually knowing the story in its fullest sense. This is an example of audience members becoming passive to information. This activity can be seen with media messages about immigration. On the UKIP Facebook page there is a post titles “100 reasons to vote UKIP” it has 1,462 shares and 4,083 likes. One of the points to vote UKIP on the list is “Get control of immigration with an Australian-style, points-based immigration system”. The people sharing the post may not fully understand the Australian system but due to their share or their like on the post it supports the passive nature of the media message. This type of media used by political parties allows supporters to feel a part of the party and allows people to connect to other people who have similar views, its a useful outlet to pursue an idea to a large group of people. The UKIPs Facebook page had a spike in likes on the 3/2/2015. On the same day The Daily Mail published an article with the headline “Sickly immigrants add £1bn to NHS bill”. The spike in page likes could be due to this article. It is an example of the hypodermic needle theories passive nature. Where as if you were to look at the article through a uses and gratification view then the audience would have possibly taken time to look for articles that suggest that British residents are costing the NHS a certain amount as well.
Both theories prove that they play a part in how the audience reads media messages. The hypodermic needle theory appears to apply to media messages on social media, this may be due to the speed the information appears and just the general viral culture of internet media. The uses and gratification theory appears to apply more to media products that are absorbed over a time period such as books, election campaigns and newspapers. This is more likely to be because of the conscious choice to read the media messages rather than having media messages appear of social media which are a much more passive part of our culture than a hard copy of a newspaper or book.