McQuail's Mass Communication Theory
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McQuail's Mass Communication Theory

Sixth Edition

Companion Website


© 2010 | 632 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

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'This book is not just a seminal text in the study of media and society - it is a benchmark for understanding and appreciating the long and winding road people and their media have taken to get us here. Denis McQuail offers the best roadmap available to navigate our times, a roadmap that stands the test of time.' - Mark Deuze, Indiana University

McQuail's Mass Communication Theory has been the most authoritative and comprehensive introduction to the field for more than 25 years and still offers unmatched coverage of the research and debates. The Sixth Edition covers everything a student needs to know of mass communication: communication models of the sender, the message and the audience and the diverse forms of mass communication today. This book proves that more than ever, theories of mass communication matter for the broader understanding of society and culture.

Fully up-to-date, this new edition includes:

  • New boxed case studies on key research publications, familiarizing students with the critical research texts in the field
  • A new streamlined structure for better navigation
  • More definitions, examples, and illustrations throughout to bring abstract concepts to life
  • Major updates on new media, globalization, work and economy

A password-protected Instructor Teaching Site and an open-access Student Study Site are available for this book at www.sagepub.co.uk/mcquail6

PART ONE: PRELIMINARIES
1. Introduction to the Book
Our object of study  
The structure of the book  
Themes and issues in mass communication  
Manner of treatment  
How to use the book  
Limitations of coverage and perspective  
Different kinds of theory  
Communication science and the study of mass communication  
Alternative traditions of analysis: structural, behavioural and cultural  
Conclusion  
2. The Rise of Mass Media
From the beginning to mass media  
Print media: the book  
Print media: the newspaper  
Other print media  
Film as a mass medium  
Broadcasting  
Recorded music  
The communications revolution: new media versus old  
Differences between media  
Conclusion  
PART TWO: THEORIES
3. Concepts and Models for Mass Communication
Early perspectives on media and society  
The ‘mass’ concept  
The mass communication process  
The mass audience  
The mass media as an institution of society  
Mass culture and popular culture  
The rise of a dominant paradigm for theory and research  
An alternative, critical paradigm  
Four models of communication  
Conclusion  
4. Theory of Media and Society
Media, society and culture: connections and conflicts  
Mass communication as a society-wide process: the mediation of social relations and experience  
A frame of reference for connecting media with society  
Theme I: power and inequality  
Theme II: social integration and identity  
Theme III: social change and development  
Theme IV: space and time  
Media–society theory I: the mass society  
Media–society theory II: Marxism and political economy  
Media–society theory III: functionalism  
Media–society theory IV: social constructionism  
Media–society theory V: communication technology determinism  
Media–society theory VI: the information society  
Conclusion  
5. Mass Communication and Culture
Communication and culture  
The beginnings: the Frankfurt School and critical cultural theory  
The redemption of the popular  
Gender and the mass media  
Commercialization  
Communication technology and culture  
Mass media and postmodern culture  
Conclusion  
6. New Media - New Theory?
New media and mass communication  
What is new about the new media?  
The main themes of new media theory  
Applying medium theory to the new media  
New patterns of information traffic  
Computer-mediated community formation  
Political participation, new media and democracy  
Technologies of freedom?  
New equalizer or divider?  
Conclusion  
7. Normative Theory of Media and Society
Sources of normative obligation  
The media and the public interest  
Main issues for social theory of the media  
Early approaches to theory: the press as ‘fourth estate’  
The 1947 Commission on Freedom of the Press and the social theory of responsibility  
Professionalism and media ethics  
Four Theories of the Press and beyond  
The public service broadcasting alternative  
Mass media, civil society and the public sphere  
Response to the discontents of the public sphere  
Alternative visions  
Normative media theory: four models  
Conclusion  
PART THREE: STRUCTURES
8. Media Structure and Performance: Principles and Accountability
Media freedom as a principle  
Media equality as a principle  
Media diversity as a principle  
Truth and information quality  
Social order and solidarity  
Cultural order  
The meaning of accountability  
Two alternative models of accountability  
Lines and relations of accountability  
Frames of accountability  
Conclusion  
9. Media Economics and Governance
Media ‘not just any other business’  
The basics of media structure and levels of analysis  
Some economic principles of media structure  
Ownership and control  
Competition and concentration  
Mass media governance  
The regulation of mass media: alternative models  
Media policy paradigm shifts  
Media systems and political systems  
Conclusion  
10. Global Mass Communication
Origins of globalization  
Driving forces: technology and money  
Global media structure  
Multinational media ownership and control  
Varieties of global mass media  
International media dependency  
Cultural imperialism and beyond  
The media transnationalization process  
International news flow  
The global trade in media culture  
Towards a global media culture?  
Global media governance  
Conclusion  
PART FOUR: ORGANIZATIONS
11. The Media Organization: Pressures and Demands
Research methods and perspectives  
The main issues  
Levels of analysis  
The media organization in a field of social forces  
Relations with society  
Relations with pressure and interest groups  
Relations with owners and clients  
Relations with the audience  
Aspects of internal structure and dynamics  
The influence of personal characteristics of mass communicators  
Role conflicts and dilemmas  
Conclusion  
12. The Production of Media Culture
Media-organizational activities: gatekeeping and selection  
Influences on news selection  
The struggle over access between media and society  
The influence of sources on news  
Media-organizational activity: processing and presentation  
The logic of media culture  
Alternative models of decision-making  
The coming of convergence culture: consumers as producers  
Conclusion  
PART FIVE: CONTENT
13. Media Content: Issues, Concepts and Methods of Analysis
Why study media content?  
Critical perspectives on content  
Structuralism and semiology  
Media content as information  
Media performance discourse  
Objectivity and its measurement  
Questions of research method  
Traditional content analysis  
Quantitative and qualitative analysis compared  
Conclusion  
14. Media Genres and Texts
Questions of genre  
Genre and the internet  
The news genre  
The structure of news: bias and framing  
News as narrative  
Television violence  
The cultural text and its meanings  
Conclusion  
PART SIX: AUDIENCES
15. Audience Theory and Research Traditions
The audience concept  
The original audience  
From mass to market  
Goals of audience research  
Alternative traditions of research  
Audience issues of public concern  
Types of audience  
The audience as a group or public  
The gratifi cation set as audience  
The medium audience  
Audience as defi ned by channel or content  
Questions of audience reach  
Activity and selectivity  
Conclusion  
16. Audience Formation and Experience
The ‘why’ of media use  
A structural approach to audience formation  
The uses and gratifi cations approach  
An integrated model of audience choice  
Public and private spheres of media use  
Subculture and audience  
Lifestyle  
Gendered audiences  
Sociability and uses of the media  
Normative framing of media use  
Audience norms for content  
The view from the audience  
Media fandom  
The end of the audience?  
The ‘escape’ of the audience  
The future of the audience  
The audience concept again  
Conclusion  
PART SEVEN: EFFECTS
17. Processes and Models of Media Effects
The premise of media effect  
The natural history of media effect research and theory: four phases  
Types of communicative power  
Levels and kinds of effects  
Processes of media effect: a typology  
Individual response and reaction: the stimulus–response model  
Mediating conditions of effect  
Source–receiver relations and effect  
The campaign  
Conclusion  
18. Social-Cultural Effects
A model of behavioural effect  
The media, violence and crime  
Media, children and young people  
Collective reaction effects  
Diffusion of innovation and development  
The social distribution of knowledge  
Social learning theory  
Socialization  
Social control and consciousness formation  
Cultivation  
Media and long-term social and cultural change  
Entertainment effects  
Conclusion  
19. News, Public Opinion and Political Communication
Learning from news  
News diffusion  
Framing effects  
Agenda-setting  
Effects on public opinion and attitudes  
The elaboration-likelihood model of infl uence  
The spiral of silence: the formation of climates of opinion  
Structuring reality and unwitting bias  
The communication of risk  
Political communication effects in democracies  
Effects on the political institution and process  
Media influence on event outcomes  
Propaganda and war  
Internet news effects  
Conclusion  
EPILOGUE
20. The Future of Mass Communication
Origins of the mass communication idea  
The end of mass communication?  
The survival of mass communication  
The consequences of new media for mass communication  
Conclusion  

Over successive editions, Denis McQuail has pulled off the trick of expanding the scope of his analysis and integrating new research in a rapidly changing field. Hats off to him once again for making such enormous amounts of material so user-friendly
Philip Schlesinger
University of Glasgow


Denis McQuail's Mass Communication Theory is not just a seminal text in the study of media and society - it is a benchmark for understanding and appreciating the long and winding road people and their media have taken to get us here. Denis McQuail offers the best roadmap available to navigate our times, a roadmap that stands the test of time
Mark Deuze
Indiana University and Leiden University


This is a unique work tested by time and generations of students around the world - North, South, East and West
Kaarle Nordenstreng
University of Tampere


A very neccesary volume! Giving Students in their first year a good idea was Macc Communication is about.

Mr Sebastian Koch
Department for Communication and Media Studies, Universität Leipzig
June 4, 2014

The mass media plays a huge role in research - as a phenomenon to be researched, as a provider of secondary data or a vehicle used to disseminate findings. Students at MA level are increasingly interested in research projects looking at media content, audiences and/or effects. This book is very relevant to any student who will conduct their research project in this area but also to students who have a general interest in mass media. It is extremely comprehensive and very accessible.

Dr Anne Krayer
School of Social Sciences, Bangor University
July 30, 2013

This is an excellent text and will be highly recommended to students.

Dr Susan Pell
Department of Humanities, Social Sciences and Communications, Richmond, The American Int'l University in London
July 22, 2013

Very helpful overview on 'classic' topics of media research. McQuail's books presents a good foundation for courses as well as for research routines on mass communication.

For courses it would be helpful if the book gets a better visual structure: text boxes, keywords, self-tests, challenges, ...

Dr Carsten Moeller
Institute of Communication and Media Research, DSH - German Sport University
June 17, 2013
Key features

Key Features

  • New boxed case studies on key research publications, familiarizing students with the critical research texts in the field
  • A new streamlined structure for better navigation
  • More definitions, examples, and illustrations throughout to bring abstract concepts to life
  • Major updates on new media, globalization, work and economy

Fully up-to-date, this new edition includes:

• New boxed case studies on key research publications, familiarizing students
with the critical research texts in the field

• A new streamlined structure for better navigation

• More definitions, examples, and illustrations throughout to bring abstract
concepts to life

• Major updates on new media, globalization, work and economy


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