The Uses and Gratifications Model

At the ‘user-power’ extreme of academic images of audiences, the ‘uses and gratifications’ model emphasises what consumers of media products do with them. Power lies with an individuals consumption of media. Audience is represented as a group made up of individuals free to reject, use or play with them. Researchers questioned why people watch TV and concluded that personality types in the audience gave rise to ‘certain needs, some of which are directed to the mass media for satisfaction’.

How audience members positively influence their own media experiences. A concept deriving from functionalist theories of society.

Needs were grouped: cognitive (learning), affective (emotional satisfaction), tension release (relaxation), Personal integrative (help with issues of personal identity), social integrative (help with issues of social identity).

Audiences go to media texts to ‘gratify necessary personal and social needs’.


Denis McQuail came up with four categories for itemising the uses and gratifications that audiences pursue. These were SURVEILLANCE, PERSONAL IDENTITY, PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS and DIVERSION.

Surveillance – media to satisfy a need for knowledge, to comprehend what is going on in the world around audience members. This has an important bearing on media.

Personal Identity – media plays a part in defining us. Issues of taste. Preferences for info, pleasure and so on.

Personal Relationships – using media forms as a basis for the way to act in personal situations. Pop songs teach us about the rules and rituals of romance and teen soaps teach us about being a teen.

Diversion – notions of escapism, fantasy and relaxation. Listening to music to escape from real life. Enjoying being scared by horror films.

Through uses and gratifications audience members emerge as individuals engaging with media.

Katz et Al (1973) came up with other categories: cognitive needs (knowledge and understanding), affective needs (aesthetic, pleasurable and emotional needs), integrative needs (confidence, stability, status), social needs (contact with others) and escape (escape, tension, release).

Mobile phone uses and gratifications, as provided by Leung and Wei (2000) and Grellhesl and Punyanunt-Carter (2012), are as follows: access and mobility, relaxation and escape, coordination for business, information seeking, entertainment, socialisation and affection and status (iPhone vs Android).

Notes are from my semester 2 lectures and seminars, The Media Student’s Book by Gill Branston and Roy Stafford (p388), Mobile Phone Uses and Gratifications: Leung and Wei (2000); Grellhesl and Punyanunt-Carter (2012) and Media Studies: Texts, Production, Context by Paul Long, 1967 (Tim Wall 2012, 2nd Ed) (P305/306)
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