In the universe of textbooks on Mass Communication theories, Stanley J. Baran’s and Dennis K. Davis’, Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment and Future stands out. A 456-page compendium on Communication theories, the book is down-to-earth, dishing and distilling various Mass Communication/media theories that were propounded by communication/media scholars and practitioners over time. The book is a communication theory Bible of a sort, which has endeared it to a wide spectrum of media scholars and students. From prologue to epilogue, this book does not hide the fact that it is a compendium on Mass Communication theory. UNDERSTANDING THEORIES
Theory is germane to understanding Mass Communication as well as any other discipline. It was Kurt Lewin, a leading social psychology scholar who postulated that, “there is nothing as practical as a good theory.” This is because as Abraham Kaplan would say, “Theory is a way of making sense out of a disturbing situation.” British philosopher, Karl Pooper observed that, “…theories are nets cast to catch what we call the world.” Em Griffin in his book, A First Look At Communication Theory (1991:5f) observed that good theories: 1.Synthesizes data, focuses our attention on what is crucial, and helps us ignore that which makes little difference. 2.Explains why.
3.Predicts what will happen (warning that predictions about human behaviours are never perfect). 4.Good theory is testable.
5.A Creative theory stimulates the curiosity of those with a flair for research. 6.A good theory is simple.
7.A good theory is useful.
MAJORING IN MAJORS: A REVIEW OF STANLEY J. BARAN’S AND DENNIS K. DAVIS’ MASS COMMUNICATION THEORIES – FOUNDATIONS, FERMENT AND FUTURE Defining theories
Stanley J. Baran and Denis K. Davis (2012:13) cites Turner (1998:1) as having observed that scientists, physical or social deal inn theory. Theories are, therefore, stories about how and why events occur ….. scientific theories begin with assumption that the universe, including the social universe created by acting human beings, reveals certain basic and fundamental properties and processes that explain the ebb and flow of events in specific processes.” NORMATIVE THEORIES OF MASS MEDIA
Normative theories, in no small way explain operational platforms of Mass Communication activities. They do not describe events or issues as they are, nor do they provide scientific explanations or predictions, rather, they describe the way things should be if some ideal values or principles are to be realized. They come from sources such as media practitioners and sometimes from social critics or scholars in the field. Authoritarian theory
This theory explains what used to obtain the days of Tudors in England under which all forms of communication were placed under the control of the rulling class. Power was what determined control and was used as a means to protect and preserve a divinely ordained social order. In most climes, this control rested in the hands of royalties who in turn granted royal licenses to media practitioners. Media practitioners could be imprisoned for going contrary to what licences said, which could equally lead to revocation of licenses. Consequent upon these, media was heavily censored. Arbitrary exercise of power weighed heavily against media practitioners by the powers that be. There were considerations of minority rights but the odds weighed more on the exercise of power than freedom of media. Social Responsibility Theory
This normative theory advocates that media industry and public responsibility should be free from external control, allowing practitioners to operate socially responsible. This theory was the offspring of Hutchins Commission’s report of 1947. It emphasized the need for an independent press that scrutinizes other social institutions and provides objective, accurate news reports. It calls for media to be responsible,...