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MAC 111

INTRODUCTION TO MASS COMMUNICATION

3.1.3 How Theories are arrived at

Theories are derived through a process known as scientific method. The process includes:

1.Conceptualisation: This is the definition of the subject of inquiry. You may call it a topic of research.

2.Operationalisation: This involves translation of general concepts into specific variables and specification of the procedure adopted in research. (From problem statement to generalisation)

3.Observation: This is the careful study (observation) of the specified variables from available data, using any modes of research.

4.Analysis: This involves extracting meaning from the facts observed. This must be done objectively.

5.Testing: Here, the results of analysis are used to test the hypothesis or research questions raised in a study.

6.Generalisation: The findings from the test are used to make some generalisations, regarding the subject of inquiry.

7.Theory: Theories are formulated from the generalisation made as a result of our analysis and testing.

8.Law: Theory eventually leads to law after it has been repeatedly tested without being disproved or substantially modified. Laws are difficult to come by in social sciences because we study human organisation and behaviour, which are capricious.

From the foregoing it can be seen that theory and research are closely linked.

3.1.4 Relationship between Theory and Research

It is already seen from the above that theory and research are closely related through the scientific method. Both theory and research may be seen as two sides of the same coin. Any scientific assertion needs to have both logical and empirical support; that is, it must make sense and align with observations in the real world. Theory provides the logical support while research provides the empirical (observation) support.

SELF ASSESSMENT EXERCISE 1

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What is the end product of research?

3.2Normative Theory

This is a type of theory that describes an ideal way for media systems to be structured and operated. Normative theories do not describe things as they are nor do they provide scientific explanations; instead, they describe the way things shall be if some ideal values or principles are to be realised. They help to explain the way in which social communication rules impinge on mass media structures, conventions and performance, and highlight the consequences of non-convergence between societal communication principles and mass communication principles. They include:

3.2.1 Authoritarian Media Theory

This is the oldest of the press theories. It is an idea that placed all forms of communication under the control of a governing elite or authorities. Authorities justified their control as a means to protect and preserve a divinely ordained social order. It actually began in 16th century Europe- a period when feudal aristocracies exercised arbitrary power over the lives of most people. It derived from State’s philosophy of absolutism, in which recognition of truth was entrusted to only a small number of ‘sages’ who are able to exercise leadership in a top-down approach.

It advocates the complete domination of media by a government for the purpose of forcing the media to serve the government; and the media were forbidden to criticise the government or it functionaries. The media in an authoritarian system are not allowed to print or broadcast anything which could undermine the established authority, and any offense to the existing political values is avoided. The authoritarian government may go to the extent of punishing anyone who questions the state's ideology.

The fundamental assumption of the authoritarian system is that the government is infallible. Media professionals are therefore not allowed to have any independence within the media organization. Also foreign media are subordinate to the established authority, in that all imported media products are controlled by the state. Authoritarian media still operate today in countries where the press is largely owned or controlled by government (mostly repressive government).

The instruments of authoritarian control include, repressive legislation and decrees, heavy taxation, direct or subtle control of staffing and of essential production inputs like newsprints, prior censorship and

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suspension of production. The relationship between the state and the media in an authoritarian system can be illustrated as such:

N.B: Gvt means Government

3.2.2 Libertarian Media Theory (Free Press Theory)

Libertarian thought emerged out of the authoritarian theory, when some social movements, including Protestant Reformation, demanded greater freedom for individuals over their own lives and thoughts. It prescribes that an individual should be free to publish what he or she likes and to hold and express opinions freely. It sees the press as a free ‘market place’ of ideasthat all ideas should be put before the public, and the public will choose the best from that ‘market place’ (Milton Selfrighting principles).

Libertarian theory does not advocate media immunity to the rule of law but asserts that people should be seen as rational beings able to distinguish between good and bad, truth and falsehoodwhich renders prior censorship of media unnecessary. As a matter of fact, in the libertarian system, attacks on the government's policies are fully accepted and even encouraged. Moreover, there should be no restrictions on import or export of media messages across the national frontiers. Moreover, journalists and media professionals ought to have full autonomy within the media organization. It also advocates that the press be seen as partner in progress with the government in the search for truth, rather than a tool in the hands of government.

It is hard to find intact examples of libertarian media systems in today's world. Though the clearest expression of free press theory is found in the First Amendment of the American Constitution which states “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech or of the press”, but the U S media system has tendencies of authoritarianism as well.

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The illustration below shows that there is no explicit connection between the government and the media in the libertarian theory:

3.3.3 Soviet-Communist Media Theory

From its name, the Soviet theory is closely tied to a specific ideology; the communist. Siebert traces the roots of this theory back to the 1917 Russian Revolution based on the postulates of Marx and Engels. The media organizations in this system were not intended to be privately owned and were to serve the interests of the working class.

It advocates the complete domination of media by a communist government for the purpose of forcing those media to serve the party. The main task of the press is to promote the socialist system and maintain the sovereignty of the proletariat (working class) via communist party.

While the soviet-communist theory seeks to use the media to support development and change towards the attainment of the communist stage, the authoritarian seeks to use the media to maintain the status quo. But they are similar in subjecting the media to direct state control. Every issue in Soviet communist must be seen and interpreted in favour of the communist party. The four working principles of soviet press are (1) Truthfulness. (2) Partiality. (3) Commitment to the people. (4) Mass culture.

Libertarian and Social Responsibility theories assign economic function to the press while the Soviet press removes the profit motive since it is an arm of government and financed by government. Libertarian and Social Responsibility theories expect the media to raise social conflict to the level of discussion but Soviet theory forbade organisation of press structure along the lines of political conflicts since social societies aspired to become “classless societies”.

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