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Audience, ‘The assembled spectators or listeners’. The Audience is a key concept in the media industry after all any type of media text is always made with the audience they target in mind.

Audiences are our consumers they are the people we rely on to watch media texts. Media texts can be interpreted in many possible ways and audience responses can also differ, audience responses and understandings are different for various age groups, this can be due to their cultural and social up bringing’s. There have been many theories that have come about to help us understand our audiences. As there are many varied audiences there are also many varied theories to categories these audiences. Audiences are a crucial part, without them there would be no media. The mass media are becoming competitive and are trying to attract more and more audiences. In this essay I’ll be overviewing these theories to understand television audiences.

The first thing to understand about audiences in television or any type of media text, is that there are two types of audiences, one of them being an ‘active audience’ this type of audience actively engages with the media text. They don’t just accept the message that is being given to them by the media text. This type of audience is able to question what they are being shown and told, they are abler to create their own opinions. They do this based on their own life experiences, education and cultural influences. Active audience are actively involved with the media text. The second type of audience is a ‘Passive audience’ This type of audience only observes what they see and hear through a media text such as television. Unlike an active audience this type of audience doesn’t argue their opinion and do not engage with the media text.

They do not question the encoded message of the text. To further understand active and passive audiences many theories have come about.Effects ModelStarting off with The Effects Model, this was proposed by ‘The Frankfurt School of social researchers in the 1920’s. This theory explores is how the media can affect society and how society affects the media. It states that audiences are passive and that they themselves are powerless to prevent being influenced by the media. The power lies with the media message in the text. The Frankfurst School carried out ‘The Bobo Doll experiment’ to back up this theory.

This research was very controversial and apparently proved that children copy violent behaviour. It was conducted in 1961 by ‘Albert Bandura’. In the experiment, children sat and watched a video, that showed an adult attacking a clown named ‘Bobo Doll’, the children were then taken to a room where they were allowed to play with lots of toys. After this they were taken to a room with ‘Bobo Dolls’ and according to them 88% of the children imitated the violent behaviour that they had been exposed to earlier on through the video. This theory is however considered negative, as many people watch violent media and are not affected by it. This theory is also connected to ‘The hypodermic Model’, this is a theory that looks at the idea that the media inject their message into the audience and the audience are powerless to resist. It’s as if they’re being ‘drugged’.

Again, suggesting the audience are passive.Libraries (2009)Cultivation theoryAnother well – known audience theory is , ‘The Cultivation theory’ is similar to the hypodermic needle model, it suggests that a repeated message can influence people and their values. An example being advertisements, if I message is being given that a certain health product can fix a person’s health needs then that can have an impact on a person and they may go out and buy this product as they believe that it will help. This theory again implies the audience to be passive just like the Hypodermic needle model as it suggests the power lies with the media they are able to inject messages into the audience.Camelia Galea (2014)Two step flow theoryThis theory starts with the ‘opinion leader’ the opinion leaders consume a piece of text, after consuming the text they then pass on the information and their views on the media text. The second section of the theory consists if the people in social contact with the opinion leader. These people receive the information and the opinions given by the ‘opinion leader’.

These people consume the information and opinions without questioning. This theory is showing the audience to be passive as they agree with the ‘opinion leader’ without any opinions of their own.Reception TheoryStuart Halls Reception theory is an audience theory that Suggests media texts are encoded by the producers of the texts to contain a certain meanings/messages related to social and cultural backgrounds of the creator of the text. However, the viewer/s can ‘decode’ the text according to their own cultural and social backgrounds. He suggested three main perspectives in which the audience can respond:Preferred or dominant readings- This is where the audience interprets the text as the producer has intended, as they are seen as a passive audience. As their social and cultural experiences are close to the producer so there is not much for the audience to challenge. this audience can be considered as passive.

Negotiated readings- This is where the audience goes through some sort of negotiation, they somewhat agree and disagree with the message given to them.Oppositional- this type of audience reading indicates that they completely disagree with what the message that is being given to them. This type of audience creates their own opinions due to their own social and cultural beliefs. This audience is seen as an active audience, as they’re able to create their own opinions instead of just agreeing and taking in the messages that are being fed to them.This theory outlines the three main types of readings an audience can have. However, John Fiske argues that audiences are not passive, through fan fictions and fan videos they are actively engaging with the text take it in.Louise Hudson (2014)Uses and Gratifications theoryAnother well-known audience theory is, ‘The uses and gratifications theory’ by Katz and Blumerz, this is opposite to the ‘Effects model’, the audience are seen as active, they use the text and are not taken in by it, the audience are able to use the media text for their own benefit.

The power here lies with the audience instead of the producers who encodes the message. This theory outlines how an audience use a media text, instead of being fooled by the text they able to reject it and see it as they wish.The audience use the text to gratify there needs through either:Entertainment- Audience watch for the purpose of being entertained.Personal identification-where Audiences find similarities, they have role models that reflect similar qualities to themselves.Social interaction- This is where the media create a topic of conversation between people.Information- Where by the audience want to gain information from the text.Escapism- the audience use it as a way to escape their reality and are able to imagine themselves in the situation shown to them.

An issue raised with the ‘uses and gratification theory’ is that the audience have no control over the media and what the media itself produce. It is argued that the theory suggests that the media identify individuals needs and provide material to gratify them. However, we would much rather be categorized in the ‘active’ audience rather than ‘passive’.David Bakes (2012)A key way in understanding audiences is through categorization and a major categorising with audiences seems to be other active or passive audiences. From my point of view younger audiences are seen as passive whereas older audiences are active as they have experienced more in terms of social and cultural background but this can vary of course based on certain individual’s views. I myself think I can be both passive and active based on what I am viewing and I think this seems to be the case with many others. With things such as Television advertisements audiences are often passive as the information they are being fed is often very believable.

Overall My understanding of audiences is that there is not just one type of audience there are many ways to view the way we understand our audience and as time goes on more and more theories such as the ones I have pointed out will come and about. There can never be one set way to understand an audience as they are now becoming more and more complex, Audiences have become consumer who interact with media texts


This week we covered sampling, the act of surveying a small group of people to infer something about the larger population. For this discussion board, visit the Gallup Poll and pick one survey you found interesting then answer the following questions. You can filter by category or use the search function at the top right hand corner on the website to find a unique topic.
Title: Add a link to the survey using the link button above.
Date published: date
Summary: Summarize the main results of the survey.
Relevance: Why do you think the Gallup poll conducted this survey? How can it help businesses and society make decisions? Did any of the result surprise you?