Definition of the Concept

Lot of theory that has been discussed earlier in this class focuses on passive audience that suggests that people are easily influenced by the media. While active audience concept can be viewed as a theory that focuses on assessing what people do with media. This concept suggests that people make more active decisions about how to use the media (Littlejohn, 1999). For that reason, this concept can be referred to as audience-centered rather than source dominated. Baran and Davis (2006) suggested that this concept should be looked under micro level perspective rather than macro level perspective. These ideas of audience are associated with various theories of media effects. The powerful effects theories tend to be based on passive audience, whereas the minimal effect theories are based more on an active audience.

Development of the Concept

During the 1970s and 1980s, more researchers became increasingly focused on media audience. Most of them focus to gain more useful understanding of what people do with the media in their daily lives. As this research develop, new and less pessimistic conceptualization of audience began to develop. Empirical researcher start to reexamined limited-effect assumption about audience and argued that people were not as passive as these effects theory assumed (Baran & Davis, 2006). Their assumption were supported by

cultural studies researcher while conducting their owned audience research find out that the powers of elites to manipulate audiences were not as great as had been assumed by earlier theorist.

The possibility of responsible audience activity was never totally ignored in early media research, but much of it gave audience insufficient credit for selection, interpretation, and use of media content. The early development of the audience centered theories was hampered by confusion about the ideas of function and functionalism and by methodological and theoretical disputes.

Main Concept

Media Audience Media audience is a group of people who participate in an experience or encounter a work of art, literature, theatre, music or academics in any medium. Audience members participate in different ways in different kinds of art; some events invite overt audience participation and others allowing only modest clapping and criticism and reception. Media audiences are studied by academics in media audience studies. Audience theory also offers scholarly insight into audiences in general. Early research into media audiences was dominated by the debate about 'media effects', in particular the link between screen violence and real-life aggression. Several moral panics fuelled the claims, such as the incorrect presumptions that Rambo had influenced Michael Robert Ryan to commit the Hungerford massacre, and that Child's Play 3 had motivated the

killers of James Bulger In the 1990s, David Gauntlett published critiques on media 'effects', most notably the "Ten things wrong with the media effects model" article

Active audience Characteristic Frank Biocca (as cited in Littlejohn, 1999) discussed five characteristic of the active audience implied by the theorist in this genre. The first is selectivity. Active audiences are considered to be selective in the media they choose to use. The second characteristic is utilitarianism. Active audience are said to use media to meet particular need and goals. The third is intentionality, which implies the purposeful use of media content. The fourth characteristic is involvement, or effort. Here audiences are actively attending, thinking about, and using the media. The last characteristic is impervious to influence, or not very easily persuaded by the media alone.

Active Audience Model

These models are based on a simple idea-that no text has one meaning. The meaning has to be extracted (decoded) by the receiver. In other words the transmission model of communication is rejected and is replaced with the idea that reality is socially constructed. As receivers we are constantly trying to make sense of information we receive-the media message does not have a monopoly on meaning. Texts are viewed as polysemic (have multiple meanings). A text may have a preferred reading – the meaning intended by the person producing it but that meaning can be undermined when decoded by the audience. The earliest attempt to try and account for an active audience is uses

and gratifications theory. This theory emphasizes the different ways in which people use media products. In other words we use the media to achieve some personal purpose. Even the same piece of media product can be used by different people to obtain differing satisfactions.

Reception analysis Moving beyond the idea that audiences use the media in different ways. Reception analysis takes a closer look at what is actually going on. Reception analysis concentrates on the audience themselves and how they come to a particular understanding view of a text. To some extent it is obvious that each of us will decode texts in ways that reflect our personal biographies – our own histories. So gender, class, occupation and personal circumstance may all be important in determining how we decode a text.

Once it is accepted that audiences are active, that they construct meanings, there are obvious implications for research methodology. Quantitative research is not suited to investigating the construction of meaning. To understand the meanings that people take from a text it is necessary to get closer to individual audience members and engage with them at a personal level-qualitative research becomes a necessity. Once this research technique is employed simple answers become impossible, complexity takes over.


In active audience concept the variables involve will varies from one theories to another, thus two main variables involve are audience characteristic, audience perception and interpretation towards media contents. Audience characteristic will be an independent variable whereas audience perception and interpretation towards media contents will be dependent variable.

Criticism of the Concept

1. Some media products are ‘in your face’; we cannot always choose not to receive them-posters, loud music. 2. We don’t have free choice. We can only choose from what is available. 3. The potential to use and enjoy the media products depends to some extent on access and this can depend upon how affluent you are. 4. Minorities may feel that the media excludes them by not providing texts in which they are interested. 5. The media can create rather than respond to needs. 6. It ignores the cultural and social factors than structure audience responses. (Connor, 2001)


It would be unusual for any of us living in a technological civilization to go throughout a day without encountering some form of mass media. This is not surprising, the media is directed at us, and we are its audience. Since most of us cannot avoid the mass media it is clearly of interest to consider what, if anything, the media do to us; what are our responses to media messages? We have seen how mass society theory exaggerated the influence of media and centered widespread public concern on negative media effects. Since 1930s, many organizations have been willing to provide funding to study a broad range of positive and negative effects, but little money was available for the study of active audience.


Baran, S.J, (2006). Media communication theory: foundation, ferment and future. 4th Ed. Thomson Wadsworth. CA.

Biagi, S. (2003). Media impact: An introduction to mass media. 6th Ed. Thomson Wadsworth. CA. Connor, G. (2001). [www] <URL: ratifications [Accessed 2nd March 2007]











Wadsworth/Thompson Learning. Saodah Wok at. al. (2005). Teori-teori komunikasi. PTS Profesional. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

[WWW] <URL: [Accessed 10th March 2007]

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