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McQuail's Mass Communication Theory

Sixth Edition


February 2010 | 632 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
"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."
- 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

"McQuail's Mass Communication Theory continues to be the clearest and best introduction to this sprawling field."
- Anders Hansen, University of Leicester

With over 125,000 copies sold, McQuail's Mass Communication Theory has been the benchmark for studying media and communication for more than 25 years. It remains the most authoritative and comprehensive introduction to the field and offers unmatched coverage of the research literature.

It covers everything a student needs to know of the diverse forms of mass communication today, including television, radio, newspapers, film, music, the internet and other forms of new media. Denis McQuail shows that more than ever, theories of mass communication matter for the broader understanding of society and culture.

Unmatched in coverage and used across the globe, this book includes:

  • Explorations of new media, globalization, work, economy, governance, policy, media audiences and effects
  • New boxed case studies on key research publications, to familiarize students with the critical research texts in the field
  • Definitions, examples, and illustrations throughout to bring abstract concepts to life.

McQuail's Mass Communication Theory is the indispensable resource no student of media and communication studies can afford to be without.
 
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


McQuail's "Mass Communication Theory" is the prescribed reading material for our module, offering students a solid and varied background to the wider study of mass communication. While its scope is somewhat daunting for our students, there have been no complaints regarding its comprehensive nature. The only negative of the text is that it presents very little by way of African (or specifically South African) examples and discussions that our students can relate to. Perhaps by concentrating almost entirely on the first world, the text limits its usefulness to the third?

Dr Mark Kirby-Hirst
Department of Communication Science, University of South Africa
December 9, 2014

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

The book gives an extensive overview of theories within communication theory and I therefore recommend the book as supplementary reading for students following "Principles of Communication" which is an introductory communication course. However, I find that students at all levels can benefit from reading this book and use it as supplement to communication related courses.

Ms Anne Ballantyne
AU Herning, Aarhus University
April 5, 2013

Way too dense for sophomore level class.

Dr Heidi Murphy
School of CHSS, Central New Mexico Community College
January 11, 2013

This is essential reading for those who are interested in media and communication studies.

Dr Jung Woo Lee
Institute for Sport, Physical Education & Health Sciences, The University of Edinburgh
November 2, 2012

McQuail provides comprehensive coverage of theories with focus on matters important to future practitioners as well as researchers—an emphasis included in our course description. It is also the only mass communication theory text that gives an unbiased and balanced treatment of the Toronto School, particularly Marshall McLuhan.

Professor James Morrison
Communication Dept, Boston College
October 18, 2012
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

For instructors

Select a Purchasing Option


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ISBN: 9781849202923
£37.99

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ISBN: 9781849202916
£114.00

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