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AUDIENCES. Key Concepts in Media Studies- Understanding the Audience. TYPES OF AUDIENCE. We have already looked at how Producers divide audiences into groups in order to target their products in the most effective and efficient manner.

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Key Concepts in Media Studies- Understanding the Audience

types of audience

We have already looked at how Producers divide audiences into groups in order to target their products in the most effective and efficient manner.

Now we will look at how different audiences react to texts and how Producers “construct” texts to attract specific audiences…


We say that Audiences “READ” Media texts.

STUART HALL (Birmingham Centre of Contemporary Cultural Studies BCCCS) proposed the theory of encoding and decoding alongside the theory of Mode of Address in the 1970s.

  • ENCODERS (Producers) create texts with aPREFERRED READING(the meaning they WANT the audience to take from it) which the audience thenDECODE.
  • However audiences may not take the preferred reading, they may however take an OPPOSITIONAL, NEGOTIATED or ABERRANT READING.
  • OPPOSITIONAL READING: When someone makes a conscious rejection or subversion of the preferred meaning.

(I.E. a bank robber may reject the concept that the police are the “goodies” in THE BILL as they believe their reasons for committing crime are fair and they connect with the criminal on screen rather than the heroes and heroines of the Police force.)

  • NEGOTIATED READINGS: When someone understands the meaning but it doesn’t relate to them so it is of no interested to them to decode it.

( A teenager who is not interested in Politics watching A Question time discussing the issues of Junior Doctors may well understand the points of views being raised but has no interest in the matter therefore they will not be persuaded or dissuaded to either POV being raised in the programme.)

  • ABERRANT READINGS: When someone misreads or misunderstands the message the Producers are trying to portray.

(For example a parent or grandparent flicking through teenage magazines such as More and believing them to be pornographic due to their “sex help/advice” articles, without putting the articles in context and due to the magazine not being aimed at them)



  • Pick one TV Programme, watch it carefully thinking about the representation of different groups, the topics and the codes used by the Producers.
  • What do you think the Preferred Reading is?
  • Which audience groups do you think take away a:
  • Preferred Reading
  • Oppositional Reading
  • Negotiated Reading
  • Aberrant Reading
mode of address

Producers will construct a particular mode of address in order to aim their media text at a specific audience group.

Mode of Address is… the way in which the text “speaks” to the audience. It is a construction using a number of codes from all elements of the text for example technical codes (Camera, lighting, sound etc) and symbolic codes (language, colour etc)

modes of address
Modes of Address


  • Look at a range of TV programmes and decide what the mode of address is for each. Why have the Producers chosen this Mode- think carefully about who the audience is.
  • In today’s society the familiar mode is becoming far more popular and people are having a huge input into what they see on TV (Big Brother/ Pop Idol etc ) and now even on film (My space Film). Do you think this “participation” is REAL or purely an ILLUSION? Discuss. Think about the different audience types that participate in these programmes and discuss recent news articles/ legislations on participation TV in your answer.