What is a Listener? Someone who owns a radio? Listens to the whole programme? There is a difference between a play or documentary and a 3 hour music show. Listens to a proportion of a programme? Listens for several hours a day?
Types of audience ‘Average’ Theaudience for a programme’s duration. ‘Reach’ The number of people who listen to at least part of a programme. ‘Core’ An audience who stays with the entire programme.
The term ‘audience’ It is difficult to define audience. A ‘captive’ audience? (remain in one place for the entire time?) Does it includes all in earshot? Do they have to be fully attentive?
Audience research Researchers have been able to build up a reasonably clear picture of who listens to the radio and when. They question a small sample of the station’s potential audience It can tell them which stations and programmes and most listened to, the identity of the listeners and what their listening routines/habits are. RAJAR (Radio joint audience research) Their questionnaires do not distinguish between primary and secondary listening.
Demographics and the BBC More people listen to Radio 1 and 2 than 3 and 4. Radios 3 and 4 preferred by middle class. Radios 1 and 2 preferred by working class. The amount of listening was highest among higher social grades Listening decreases with age. As listeners grow older they graduate from music to speech radio. The reason could be that available stations don’t cater for older tastes (DAB might do this). Teens and young adults listen less in morning and a lot in the evening.
Audience size Could be argued that what matters is audience appreciation. Small audience might be delighted with what it hears whereas a large audience could be disappointed. BBC 3 is a minority station. Numbers are very small but they are very loyal. Listeners of radio typically have strong feelings
The radio experience It can be hard to separate first-hand experience from vicarious ‘radio’ experiences. Ignored radio can be capable of strong effects. The content can infiltrate the listener just because their conscious faculties are primarily engaged elsewhere and their mental defences are therefore down. How often does someone find themselves humming a song which they detest but do not remember hearing? How often is someone aware of knowing something as a result of listening to the radio.
TV versus Radio TV – viewers are attached to programme and not station. Radio – the opposite is true. The sound medium is used as background/accompaniment. Listeners tend to stay on a station longer than a TV channel. Radio’s peak is the mornings. Listeners and viewers are not separate species. The listener at 9am is a viewer at 9pm. Radio is appropriated by the individual much more than other mediums (the attention you give it is not dictated by the programmes but by the circumstances of your own life)
Soaps Murdock (1981) discusses the audiences of radio soap operas. These audiences are: “Activerather than passive, participants rather than dupes. Even so, it is activity that remains confined by the limits set by the imaginative and ideological world presented by the serials….” They appear as vehicles for dominant and largely conservative values. Although audiences were mainly working class, the serials concentrated on the doings and attitudes of the better-off sectors of the middle class. The Archers would be an example of this. Is Silver Street the same? Followers of TV soap operas respond to the medium in an active and critical way, closely relating its content to the preoccupations of their everyday lives. It also requires them to suspend their lives during the time they watch it. Radio soaps allow us to continue with our lives whilst we listen to it.
Effects Effects analysis (what media does to the audience and what it can make them think). Effects don’t necessarily mean something negative. A programme about death could make for painful listening but could be of moral benefit and practical help. The Hypodermic Needle theory (stimulus response) seems laughable to us now. Dramatic evidence of stimulus-response occurred in 1938 with War of the Worlds. Quarter of 6 million listeners believed what they heard. This illustrates 2 points: 1) that persuasion seems to work when it is hidden rather than overt (broadcast not perceived as manipulative) 2) radio is usually a trusted news source
The problem with effects: We are limited to suggesting a message only has influence when we are able to observe a change or difference. Can media messages actually change views? The radio’s effects may be found amongst the inattentive too.
Reinforcement theory The media strengthens rather than challenges opinions of audience. The media changes opinions only if audience are predisposed to change Otherwise the effect is reinforcement. The media seems generally unable to change political and religious beliefs but is very influential when it comes to popular culture. (audiences highly susceptible to media messages relating to pop music, fashion, buzz words and values relating to sexuality, race, gender, etc)
Uses & Gratifications (Blumer & Katz) This switched the focus from what the media do to people to what people do with the media, the uses to which they put them and the satisfaction (gratifications) they obtain from them. This suggests broadcasters have little influence over their audiences and these audiences have the ability to resist media effects. Diversion (emotional release) Personal Relationship (to form relationships with others) Personal identity (comparing programmes to oneself) Surveillance (the need for information about the world) In Britain it could be argued that radio affords more gratification to the educated classes. (BBC 3 and 4 have a stronger tradition of catering to these needs)
Problems with U&G theory Overlooks the possibility that improving self-confidence, strengthening social ties and acquiring knowledge are gratifications. Radio, as it is non-visual, is different to TV. We are locked into some primary activity such as driving or cooking. We resort to the medium almost irrespective of its content because there is no other medium we can attend to. We adapt radio to our physical circumstances. U & G theory argues that we adapt all the media to suit our psychological circumstances and requirements.
Agenda Setting Read and understand the paragraph: Theory has been adopted and adapted by modern Marxist thinkers, who argue that those who control the media, and who therefore have an interest in maintaining the status quo, prevent any changes of attitude in their audiences by what is known as an ‘agenda setting’ function, by transmitting messages which reinforce the ‘dominant ideology’ and limit the audiences’ ability to see issues in any other terms. The media may not succeed in telling us what to think, but they do succeed in telling us what to think about.
Uses of radio People use radio to ‘structure’ their day and as a ‘companion’. ‘I enjoy listening to radio while I’m….’ It provides material for conversation and its importance lies less in the amount of time people listen to it than in the psychological needs which it gratifies. The radio gives the isolated listener a feeling of community not simply with the broadcasters but with the other isolated listeners. Needs satisfied by radio: - Self-confidence - Pleasure - Ability to ‘face the day’
Radio format The best mode of presentation for format radio is segmentation (the division of output into ‘bites’ lasting no longer than a few minutes). Segmentation is ideal for the listener as it allows dropping in and out of content without feeling anything important has been missed. Allows the listener to ‘step aboard’ at any time. Music stations are an example of segmented mode or presentation with a rapid succession of records, chat, competitions, trails, non-commercial adverts, etc. This lets the listener tune in and out and identify something to their particular musical tastes.
Write your own conclusion/summary about Radio Audiences