Audience TheoryStudying audience theory is basically studying theories or ideas about audiences,theories form the basis or the argument and discussion. It’s the study of who theaudience is, where they are, how old they are, what they want, and how the mediaproducers give them what they want so they can make a profit.To begin with, I am going to go through a short gallop through the history of audienceand the media.The History Gallop: From the 1920’s the media started to reach mass audiences through politics, they did this through something called ‘propaganda’. For example the Russians and the Nazi’s mostly used the media through cinema, radio, newspapers. They use these different media platforms to manipulate the audience for ideological and political purposes. A couple more years after this, advertising began to rise, with the media manipulating audience by persuasive means, through the cinema and radio. One theory that comes from this is that an audience is vulnerable and can be made to believe all sorts of things if the idea is presented persuasively. For example back in those days the ‘Persil’ advert was presented to make children’s clothes whiter and if it wasn’t used by the mothers, they came across as bad mothers and a failure as a woman. Moving on to the younger audience, the children and teenagers. These particular audiences are very susceptible to the harmful influences of popular entertainment through crime films, music and music videos. In 1994 the British Board of Film Censors began to monitor films that deal with crime, drugs, violence and harmful behaviour. This is to reduce the amount of influence the younger audience are getting from the media/filmsThere are three main theories that apply to audience that can be used to help in gaininga better understanding about the relationship between the audience and the text. Thesetheories are: The Effects Model or the Hypodermic Model The Uses and Gratifications Model
Reception TheoryThe Effects Model or the Hypodermic ModelTV and video games act on audiences like a direct drug injection. The audience is seenas passive and addictive. The media-makers ‘inject’ a kind of ‘instant fix’ into the viewer.The addiction is very strong, this leaves the audience powerless to resist therefore, themedia works like a drug and the audience is drugged and hence they become an addict.The Hypodermic Syringe is largely flawed in by the contemporary audience; this isbecause it suggests that audience passively receive the information transmitted viamedia text, without little or no attempt to challenge the method of communication ordata.In a nutshell, the Hypodermic Needle Model suggests that information is absorbed intothe human brain without thought. By doing this the audience is therefore vulnerableand easily manipulated by the producers of that text. The audience accept dominantideologies as the norm. Some politicians and parental groups react to events in themedia with the idea that audiences don’t have control over what they should andshouldn’t absorb.The media can be a positive influence which brings education, play values, realismdifferentiation and understanding to young audiences.The Uses and Gratifications Model (Blumler & Katz 1974).This model is the opposite of the Hypodermic Needle, in this model the audience isactive. The audience uses the text instead of being used by. The audience uses the textfor its own gratification or pleasure. This theory emphasizes what audiences do withwhatever media text that is before them. With this theory the audience is free to reject,use or play with media meanings however they please.With this theory the audience is in control and consumption of the media helps theaudience with basic needs such as: Diversion: this is when the audience uses the media for escapism or emotional release from everyday pressure. Personal relationships: the idea behind this is that the audience needs companionship with ‘known’ TV programmes or characters as well as the interaction with other people who can discuss the TV programmes. For example
colleagues at work asking each other about soaps that was on TV the previous night. Personal Identity: this is the ability for the audience to compare their life with the character’s lives and situations, by doing this they gain perspective on their own life as well. Surveillance: this gives the audience an opportunity to see what else is going on in the world. For example the weather report.Reception TheoryThis theory is based on the idea that media speaks for business of the relationshipbetween media content and audience. The idea behind it is that, with this theory themedia text can be seen as being structured according to the defined codes andconventions, this is also known as Semiology(this is the study of signs, symbols, andsignification. It is the study of how meaning is created, not what it is). The Semiologydoes something to the audience and the audience is positioned by the text.This theory is like a communication cycle between the producers of the text and theaudience. The theory suggests that: when a producer constructs a text, the text isencoded with a meaning/message this is what the producer wishes to convey to theaudience. In some cases the audiences will decode the message or meaning effectivelyand understand the message the producer was trying to convey, but in some situationthe audience will either discard or fail to correctly understand the message.Stuart Hall identified three types of audience decoding of a text: Dominant or preferredNegotiated and Oppositional. Dominant: this is where the audience decodes the message as the producer wants them to and they agree with it. E.g. watching a political speech and agreeing with it. Negotiated: the audience accepts, rejects or refines elements of the text due to previously held views E.g. the viewer neither agreeing or disagreeing with the political speech or simply being uninterested. Oppositional: this is where the audience recognise the dominant meaning, but they reject it due to cultural, political or ideological reasons. E.g. Total rejection of the political speech and active opposition.
Through all this the audience is ‘Sewn in’ to the narrative. The technique is calledSuture (like stitching up the skin). The cinematic techniques work for TV as well,although they may be scaled down a little to suit the producer’s budget and format.