Audience Theory:

The Impact of Radio

In another post I look at The Language of Radio, particularly the ideas developed by Andrew Crissell, so it is worth looking at that in reference to this section. As the development of radio, as a means of broadcasting to the public clearly presents significant opportunities for those individuals and organisations who are looking to modify and/or manage behaviour.

For example, there are clear codes and conventions associated with radio broadcasts that weren’t immediately understood by political leaders. As Laura Beers notes, in the run-up to the 1924 election Ramsay MacDonald, Anthony Asquith and Stanley Baldwin were given the opportunity of a radio broadcast, and whereas Baldwin successfully adapted to the new medium both Asquith and MacDonald ‘essentially just recorded speeches made in the open air and didn’t really think about what the difference was between speaking from a platform at the Hustings and communicating with someone who was listening from their home‘ (The Ballot Box, 17:38). For instance, the way in which an intimate mode of address plays an important role in connecting up the listener to the broadcaster in way which is not commensurate with a large scale, public rally, recognised as the hustings process.

The ability to communicate on the radio and through print soon developed into an amalgamation of print and audio, found in both cinema newsreel and later television.

Television: The Drug of the Nation

At this point it is worth considering the role of the BBC as a founding organisational principle espousing the ethos of PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING. For example, the way in which the BBC assert themselves as acting in the public interest a concept which links to the ‘Transformation of the Public Sphere’, a theory developed by Jurgen Habermas, which prioritises the media as a crucial ‘fourth estate’ for commenting upon, critically evaluating and thereby regulating Government activity, thereby ensuring a greater spread of democratic awareness and participation. The transformation of the public sphere is based around the role of an independent, free press (which includes broadcasting) and aims for greater access to greater information that is free from government and state intervention and control.

As Turpin and Tomkins wrote, the ‘independence and diversity of the press are essential if the public are to be able to acquire the information needed for the exercise of political choice in a mature democracy’ (p. 511)

Manufacturing Consent

However, for many, such as Noam Chomsky, the mass media fails to provide democratic literacy and is rather, a set of organisational structures that transform the public sphere into mechanism of compliance, agreement and consent! The following animation illustrate how the media operates through the 5 Filters of consent: ownership, advertising, the media elite, flak and the common enemy.

From another perspective, The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy use ‘the medium to critique the medium‘. The intention is get ‘them to think anything. I don’t want them not to think. Put something in front of them that could be thought of critically, as opposed to passively.’

So now we have established a connection between the media and the real world – in this sense political communication. The next step is to consider how audiences behave when exposed to the media. Or put another way, what theories suggest about the way audiences consume media texts.

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