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Media studies is a discipline and field of study that deals with the content, history and effects of various media; in particular, the 'mass media'. Media studies may draw on traditions from both the social sciences and the humanities, but mostly from its core disciplines of mass communication, communication, communication sciences and communication studies. Researchers may also develop and employ theories and methods from disciplines including cultural studies, rhetoric, philosophy, literary theory, psychology, political science, political economy, economics, sociology, anthropology, social theory, art history and criticism, film theory, feminist theory, and information theory.

Key themes

In addition to the interdisciplinary nature of the academic field, popular understandings of media studies encompass:

Foundational Media theories include: Media effects theory; Agenda Setting, Priming, Framing, political economy, discourse analysis,content analysis,Hyperpersonal theory,representation theory, imagined community,public sphere, theories of persuasion, attention, and control, etc.

Most production and journalism courses incorporate media studies content, but academic institutions often establish separate departments. Media studies students may see themselves as observers of media, not creators or practitioners. These distinctions vary across national boundaries. The essential definition of media studies involves the study of media effects. Specific programs in media studies that focus on the study of media effects have emerged at Fielding Graduate University, Penn State UCLA, and Touro University Worldwide.

Separate strands exist within media studies, such as television studies. Film studies is often considered a separate discipline, though television and video games studies grew out of it, as made evident by the application of basic critical theories such as psychoanalysis, feminism and Marxism.

Critical media theory looks at how the corporate ownership of media production and distribution affects society, and provides a common ground to social conservatives (concerned by the effects of media on the traditional family) and liberals and socialists (concerned by the corporatization of social discourse). The study of the effects and techniques of advertising forms a cornerstone of media studies.

Contemporary media studies includes the analysis of new media with emphasis on the internet, video games, mobile devices, interactive television, and other forms of mass media which developed from the 1990s. Because these new technologies allow instant communication across the world (chat rooms and instant messaging, online video games, video conferencing), interpersonal communication is an important element in new media studies.

It has been argued that media studies has not fully acknowledged the changes which the internet and digital interactive media have brought about, seeing these as an 'add-on'. David Gauntlett has argued for a 'Media Studies 2.0' which fully recognises the ways in which media has changed, and that traditional boundaries between 'audiences' and 'producers' has collapsed.

Political communication and political economy

From the beginning, media studies are closely related to politics and wars such as campaign research and war propaganda. Political communication mainly studies the connections among politicians, voters and media. It focused on the media effects. There are four main media influence theories: hypodermic needle model (1930s behaviorism), two-step flow model (Katz and Lazarsfeld, 1955), limited effects (Klapper, 1960), and the spiral of silence (Noelle-Neumann, 1984). Also, many scholars studied the technique of political communication such as rhetoric, symbolism etc. Much of this research has been developed in journals of mass communication and public opinion scholarship.

In the last quarter century, political economy has played a major part in media studies literature. The theory gained notoriety in media studies particularly with the publication of Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent, published in 1988. In the book, the authors discuss a theory of how the United States’ media industry operates, which they term a “propaganda model.” The model describes a “decentralized and non-conspiratorial market system of control and processing, although at times the government or one or more private actors may take initiatives and mobilize co-ordinated elite handling of an issue."[1]

News gathering and distribution

This links to another key theme: not so much the normative theories of how news should come about, but rather the empirical practice of how it does really come about. An early emphasis was on ‘gatekeeping’: what are the criteria an editor uses to select items from the stream of information at hand, for instance from material provided by the news agencies? Later, emphasis shifted to the entire process of news gathering and distribution. Classical studies were Making news – A study in the construction of reality by Gaye Tuchman (1978), Deciding what’s news (at CBS & NBC, Time and Newsweek) by Herbert J. Gans (1979) in the U.S., and Putting ‘reality’ together – BBC news by Philip Schlesinger (1987).

Another influential early study was The media are American by British scholar Jeremy Tunstall (1977). It discussed the reasons behind the Anglophone dominance of the industry. Sean McBride, a former Irish minister and co-founder of Amnesty International, led a major study for Unesco: Many voices, One world – Towards a new more just and more efficient world information and communication order (1983). Various legal aspects of this debate were summarized in The politics of world communication by Cees Hamelink (1994), social and psychological ones in Understanding global news by Jaap van Ginneken (1998).


Main article: History of media studies

Media studies throughout the world


Media is studied as a broad subject in most states in Australia, with the state of Victoria being a world leader in curriculum development[citation needed]. Media studies in Australia was first developed as an area of study in Victorian universities in the early 1960s, and in secondary schools in the mid 1960s.

Today, all Australian universities teach media studies. According to the Government of Australia's 'Excellence in Research for Australia' report, the leading universities in the country for media studies (which were ranked well above World standards by the report's scoring methodology) are Monash University, QUT, RMIT, University of Melbourne, University of Queensland and UTS.[2][3]

In secondary schools, an early "film studies" course first began being taught as part of the Victorian junior secondary curriculum during the mid 1960s. And, by the early 1970s, an expanded "media studies" course was being taught. The course became part of the senior secondary curriculum (later known as the Victorian Certificate of Education or "VCE") in the 1980s. It has since become, and continues to be, a strong component of the VCE. Notable figures in the development of the Victorian secondary school curriculum were the media artist and director Peter Greenaway, Trevor Barr (who authored one of the first media text books Reflections of Reality) and later John Murray (who authored The Box in the Corner, In Focus, and 10 Lessons in Film Appreciation).

Today, Australian states and territories that teach media studies at a secondary level are Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia. Media studies does not appear to be taught in the state of New South Wales at a secondary level.

In Victoria, the VCE media studies course is structured as: Unit 1 - Representation, Technologies of Representation, and New Media; Unit 2 - Media Production, Australian Media Organisations; Unit 3 - Narrative Texts, Production Planning; and Unit 4 - Media Process, Social Values, and Media Influence. Media studies also form a major part of the primary and junior secondary curriculum, and includes areas such as photography, print media and television.

Victoria also hosts the peak media teaching body known as ATOM which publishes Metro, and Screen Education magazines.


One prominent French media critic is the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu who wrote among other books On Television (New Press, 1999). Bourdieu's analysis is that television provides far less autonomy, or freedom, than we think. In his view, the market (which implies the hunt for higher advertising revenue) not only imposes uniformity and banality, but also a form of invisible censorship. When, for example, television producers "pre-interview" participants in news and public affairs programs, to insure that they will speak in simple, attention-grabbing terms, and when the search for viewers leads to an emphasis on the sensational and the spectacular, people with complex or nuanced views are not allowed a hearing.[4]


In Germany two main branches of Media Theory or Media Studies can be identified.

The first major branch of media theory has its roots in the humanities and cultural studies, such as theater studies ("Theaterwissenschaft") and German language and literature studies. This branch has broadened out substantially since the 1990s. And it is on this initial basis that media studies in Germany has primarily developed and established itself.

One of the early publications in this new direction is a volume edited by Helmut Kreuzer, Literature Studies - Media Studies (Literaturwissenschaft – Medienwissenschaft), which summarizes the presentations given at the "Düsseldorfer Germanistentag" 1976.

The second branch of media studies in Germany is comparable to Communication Studies. Pioneered by Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann in the 1940s, this branch studies mass media, its institutions and its effects on society and individuals. The German Institute for Media and Communication Policy, founded in 2005 by media scholar Lutz Hachmeister, is one of the few independent research institutions that is dedicated to issues surrounding media and communications policies.

The term Wissenschaft cannot be translated straightforwardly as studies, as it calls to mind both scientific methods and the humanities. Accordingly, German media theory combines philosophy, psychoanalysis, history, and scienctific studies with media-specific research.

Medienwissenschaften is currently one of the most popular courses of study at universities in Germany, with many applicants mistakenly assuming that studying it will automatically lead to a career in TV or other media. This has led to widespread disillusionment, with students blaming the universities for offering highly theoretical course content. The universities maintain that practical journalistic training is not the aim of the academic studies they offer.[5]


The media industry is growing in India at the rate of 20 percent per annum. Together, entertainment and media form the country's sixth biggest industry, with 3.5 million people working in it. Within the next 4–5 years, the industry is expected to gross eighty thousand crores (800 billion rupees) annually.

With a view to making the best use of communication facilities for information, publicity and development, the Government of India in 1962-63 sought the advice of the Ford Foundation/UNESCO team of internationally known mass communication specialists who recommended the setting up of a national institute for training, teaching and research in mass communication.

Media studies can be studied at the Sri Sri Centre for Media Studies (SSCMS). SSCMS was founded in 2001 under the vision and guidance of His Holiness Ravi Shankar (spiritual leader), the founder of Art of Living Foundation, an educational non-governmental organization (NGO).


In the Netherlands, media studies are split into several academic courses such as (applied) communication sciences, communication- and information sciences, communication and media, media and culture or theater, film and television sciences. Whereas communication sciences focuses on the way people communicate, be it mediated or unmediated, media studies tends to narrow the communication down to just mediated communication. However, it would be a mistake to consider media studies a specialism of communication sciences, since media make up just a small portion of the overall course. Indeed, both studies tend to borrow elements from one another.

Communication sciences (or a derivative thereof) can be studied at Erasmus University Rotterdam, Radboud University, Tilburg University, University of Amsterdam, University of Groningen, University of Twente, Roosevelt Academy, University of Utrecht, VU University Amsterdam and Wageningen University and Research Centre.

Media studies (or something similar) can be studied at the University of Amsterdam, VU University Amsterdam, Erasmus University Rotterdam and the University of Utrecht.

New Zealand

Media Studies in New Zealand is very healthy, especially due to the NZ film industry and is taught at both secondary and tertiary education institutes. One of the main features of the industry, Weta Digital can be credited with the popularity of Media Studies in NZ. Media Studies in NZ can be regarded as a singular success, with the subject well-established in the tertiary sector (such as Screen and Media Studies at the University of Waikato; Media Studies, Victoria University of Wellington; Film, Television and Media Studies, University of Auckland; Media Studies, Massey University; Communication Studies, University of Otago).


In the UK, media studies developed in the 1960s from the academic study of English, and from literary criticism more broadly. The key date, according to Andrew Crisell, is 1959:

When Joseph Trenaman left the BBC's Further Education Unit to become the first holder of the Granada Research Fellowship in Television at Leeds University. Soon after in 1966, the Centre for Mass Communication Research was founded at Leicester University, and degree programmes in media studies began to sprout at polytechnics and other universities during the 1970s and 1980s.[6]

Media Studies is now taught all over the UK. It is taught at Key Stages 1– 3, Entry Level, GCSE and at A level and the Scottish Qualifications Authority offers formal qualifications at a number of different levels. It is offered through a large area of exam boards including AQA and WJEC.


Mass communication, communication studies or simply communication may be more popular names than “media studies” for academic departments in the United States. However, the focus of such programs sometimes excludes certain media—film, book publishing, video games, etc. The title “media studies” may be used alone, to designate film studies and rhetorical or critical theory, or it may appear in combinations like “media studies and communication” to join two fields or emphasize a different focus.

Examples: The New School in New York City (the first Media Studies Program in the country, created in 1975), The Paley Center for Media in New York City, Comparative Media Studies at MIT, Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago, Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California, Riverside, Rhetoric and Media Studies at Willamette University, Media Studies in Communication at Kennesaw State University, the Instructional Technology and Media Program at Columbia University, and The Department of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University.

Formerly an interdisciplinary major at the University of Virginia the Department of Media Studies was officially established in 2001 and has quickly grown to wide recognition. This is partly thanks to the acquisition of Professor Siva Vaidhyanathan, a well known cultural historian and media scholar, as well as the Inaugural Verklin Media Policy and Ethics Conference, endowed by the CEO of Canoe Ventures and UVA alumnus David Verklin [1]. In 2010 a group of undergraduate students in the Media Studies Department established the Movable Type Academic Journal the first ever undergraduate academic journal of its kind. The department is expanding rapidly and doubled in size in 2011.

Brooklyn College, part of the City University of New York, has been offering graduate studies in television and media since 1961. Currently, the Department of Television and Radio administers an MS in Media Studies, and hosts the Center for the Study of World Television. [2]

The University of Southern California has three distinct centers for media studies: the Center for Visual Anthropology (founded in 1984), the Institute for Media Literacy at the School of Cinematic Arts (founded in 1998) and the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism (founded in 1971).

University of California, Berkeley has three institutional structures within which media studies can take place: the department of Film and Media (formerly Film Studies Program) [3], including famous theorists as Mary Ann Doane and Linda Williams, the Center for New Media [4], and a long established interdisciplinary program formerly titled Mass Communications, which recently changed its name to Media Studies [5], dropping any connotations which accompany the term “Mass” in the former title. Until recently, Radford University in Virginia used the title “media studies” for a department that taught practitioner-oriented major concentrations in journalism, advertising, broadcast production and Web design. In 2008 those programs were combined with a previous department of communication (speech and public relations) to create a School of Communication. (A "media studies major" at Radford still means someone concentrating on journalism, broadcasting, advertising or Web production.)

The University of Denver has a renowned program for digital media studies. It is an interdisciplinary program combining Communications, Computer Science, and the arts.

In 2004 Bernard Luskin of Fielding Graduate University established an EdD program in Media Studies and a PhD program in Media Psychology with a concentration in Media Studies. Courses in Media Studies were started at Touro University Worldwide in 2009.

See also

Further reading

  • Habermas The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
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Wiktionary: Media studies


  1. Herman, Edward S. (2000). The Propaganda Model: A retrospective. Journalism Studies 1 (1): 101. (Herman, 2000)
  2. Excellence in Research for Australia, "Section 2: Results by Field of Research Code", Australian Research Council (Government of Australia)
  3. Excellence in Research for Australia, "Section 4: Institutional Report" (20. Languages, Communication and Culture), Australian Research Council (Government of Australia), p286
  4. Cass R. Sunstein, New York Times, Television, a French sociologist explains, dumbs itself down, August 2, 1998.
  5. Jan-Martin Wiarda: Medien-was?, Die Zeit, 19. May 2005.
  6. Crisell, Andrew (2002). An Introductory History of British Broadcasting, 2, 186–7, London: Routledge.

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