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Media System Dependency Theory

Sandra J. Ball-Rokeach

Subject Communication Studies » Communication Reception and Effects

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


As early as 1974, Ball-Rokeach presented the first in a series of papers that would unfold the concepts and assumptions of media system dependency (MSD) theory ( Ball-Rokeach 1974 ). The paper was titled “The information perspective.” Its basic premise was that media effects flow from the information resources of the media system that are implicated in the everyday life requirements of people (micro), groups or organizations (meso), and other social systems (macro) to act meaningfully in ambiguous or threatening social environments. Thus, this paper launches the argument that the media system is best viewed as an information system whose powers vis-à-vis effects rest on the scarcity or exclusivity of their information resources – the creation/gathering, processing, and dissemination of information. Media information spans classical news and entertainment genres. At the time of the initial formulation of MSD theory, the media system was relatively stable and bounded (→  Communication and Media Studies, History since 1968 ). The prevailing →  Media Effects thesis ( Katz & Blumler 1974 ) was that people are pretty much in charge of the gratifications they seek and find through their media uses (→  Uses and Gratifications ; Media Effects, History of ). MSD theory emerged, in part, as a felt difficulty with the proposition that the media per se had, at best, weak effects. Rather ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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