Why audiences may respond differently to the same media text for AS Media
With reference to your own detailed examples
explain why audiences may respond differently to
the same media text.
The focus for this question is on what the audience do with the media. (Media
to audience question)
Preferred reading – the message intended by the media
Dominant reading – if the audience accept the preferred reading
Negotiated reading- the audience partially accept some of the message
but reject part of it
Oppositional reading – the audience reject the message.
Uses and Gratifications Theory
What pleasures the audience take from the text?
Information/ education/surveillance – finding out more and learn about
what is going on in the world
Personal Identity – the ability to compare your life with that of
characters and situations presented in media texts
Personal relationships/social interaction/integration – identification with
characters and being able to discuss media texts with others
Entertainment and diversion – as a form of escape from everyday life
Audiences may respond to the same text differently by having different
readings of the same text. These readings can be influenced by many factors
such as age, gender and cultural understanding. Even factors like where you
live can influence the audience.
People Like Us is a fly on the wall documentary about the area of Harpurhey
in Manchester, broadcast on BBC 3. It represents this area as deprived and a
place of anti-social behaviour. This representation is constructed by the
opening titles that include a long shot of a police van, with someone being
arrested. There is a low angle, establishing shot of a council tower block that
looks intimidating. There is a medium long shot of two people walking down
the street in pyjamas and it used a big close up of a youth who describes
himself as the neighbour from hell. The light hearted music helps create the
mode of address as comical and entertaining. This is a stereotypical and
negative representation of the area. The stereotypes are constructed to create
a short cut to understanding the characters and to create comedy by
exaggerating stereotypical features.
The preferred reading intended by BBC 3 would be to view this documentary
as entertaining, unserious way, as it has some comical characters. One
response would be to accept this view, This would be a dominant reading
made by the audience. However there are many other possible responses.
One response could be to view this stereotype a way to view Manchester as
a whole. People living outside Manchester might take on this view-point.
However people living in Harpurhey challenged the BBC about this
representation of the area. They thought it could have represented many
positive aspects of the area but had left these out (omission). The residents
rejected the representation that had been created. This would be an
oppositional reading. However a negotiated reading would be to view the
area as having some anti-social issues and some problems with crime, but
recognise there are many positive things about the area too.
Audience may also respond to the same text different as the audience can get
different pleasures from the same text. To explore this further it is useful to
look at the Uses and Gratification’s theory that seeks to understand what
pleasure audiences get from texts.
The front cover of Men’s Health offers many different pleasures. One pleasure
could be the information that is gained about getting fit and advice about body
shape. However, another pleasure that is offered is that of personal identity.
The medium long shot and the visual codes of the t-shirt being lifted reveals
an air-brushed, toned stomach. This offers an idealised image of masculinity
that some people might aspire to and gain a sense of identity from. The san-
serif masthead suggests traditional values and the red strongly contrasts with
the white background suggesting strength and confidence. The sell-lines are
constructed using bold, san-serif fonts. These are often on a block back-
ground and are built up on each other. This further suggests strength is
important to masculine identity. The use of blue fonts further constructs a
representation of traditional masculinity. The articles construct a narrative of
self-improvement and suggest this can be achieved quickly as there are many
references to periods of time on the front cover, such as “180 second fat
To accept this representation as something to aspire to would be a dominant
reading. To view this representation as something that could be partially
achieved but view it as unrealistic to ever look like the model on the front
cover would be a negotiated reading. Some men however might reject the
whole on concept that men should use their bodies as something to be
admired. This would be an oppositional reading.
Other pleasures offered are integration. This allows the audience to use the
text to form a community with other people. People using the knowledge
about fitness gained from this magazine to form a bond with others and to
give them the confidence to discuss body image. This knowledge would be
useful to form a community with other people who have this knowledge in
places like the gym.
Other media texts encourage integration by inviting the use of social media.
Offers to use the hashtag or like media texts are a common feature of the
media today. Audiences will associate with particular texts to form part of their
own personal identity.
Another pleasure that is offered is escapism through entertainment. This can
offer a diversion from everyday life. Men’s Health offers articles about sex and
relationships that might act as a diversion.
Audience therefore may respond to the same text differently because of the
different reading that audience member can form due to their experience of
life or because of the pleasures they want to get from a text.