Nationwide project – David Morley
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Nationwide project – David Morley
David Morley was a media researcher who specialised in audience theory,
which is an element of thinking that developed within academic literary
theory and cultural studies. His research has addressed questions in relation
to media consumption and the effect that it has on viewers. He worked for
the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies(CCCS) – a research centre in
the University of Birmingham, primarily in the 1970s.
Nationwide was a BBC News and current affairs television programme which ran
from 9 September 1969 to 5 August 1983. It was broadcast on BBC One
each weekday following the early evening news. It followed a magazine
format, combining political analysis and discussion with consumer affairs,
light entertainment and sports reporting. It began on 9 September 1969,
running between Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6.00pm, before being extended
to five days a week in 1972. From 1976 until 1981 the start time was 5:55pm.
The final edition was broadcast on 5 August 1983, and the following October
it was replaced by Sixty Minutes.
THE NATIONWIDE PROJECT
Morley conducted The Nationwide Project in the late 1970s and early 1980s, alongside
Charlotte Brunsdon, which focused on media audiences. He undertook a frequent
amount of research with various participants from various educational and
The Media Group at the CCCS selected the BBC television current affairs programme
Nationwide to study the encoding/decoding model, a part of reception theory,
developed by Stuart Hall. This study was concerned with "the programme's distinctive
ideological themes and with the particular ways in which Nationwide addressed the
viewer". This first part of the study was published by Brunsdon and Morley in 1978.
Morley conducted qualitative research with various participants from different educational
and occupational backgrounds. He observed different responses to a clip of its budget
special to see whether they would construct dominant, oppositional or negotiated
readings (the three categories of readings proposed by Hall).
BBC SURVEY OF NATIONWIDE AUDIENCE IN 1974
THE THREE CATEGORIES
Morley outlined three hypothetical positions (adapted from Frank Parkin) which
the reader of a programme might occupy.
Dominant (or 'hegemonic') reading: The reader shares the programme's
'code' (its meaning system of values, attitudes, beliefs and assumptions) and
fully accepts the programme's 'preferred reading' (a reading which may not
have been the result of any conscious intention on the part of the programme
Negotiated reading: The reader partly shares the programme's code and
broadly accepts the preferred reading, but modifies it in a way which reflects
their position and interests.
Oppositional ('counter-hegemonic') reading: The reader does not share
the programme's code and rejects the preferred reading, bringing to bear an
alternative frame of interpretation.
The initial conclusion was that decodings cannot be traced solely to socioeconomic
position, since members of the sample occupying the same class location produced
However, Sujeong Kim's statistical re-analysis of the project's findings suggests that this
may be an underinterpretation: according to Kim, the results show that 'audience's
social positions ... structure their understandings and evaluations of television
programmes in quite consistent directions and patterns.' For example, Kim observes
that middle class viewers produced negotiated readings of one particular programme,
while working class viewers produced dominant or oppositional readings dependent
on their gender and race.
Social Status Classifications
The social status of a target audience for a magazine has an impact of the content it
offers. Magazines will normally target audiences from more than one of these
categories. E.g. ABC or C1&2D
higher managerial and professional
middle managerial and professional
C1 supervisory, junior management and professional
C2 skilled manual worker
D semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers
pensioners, lower grade workers and the unemployed.
An example of how to use this in a sentence:
―The target audience for Cosmopolitan Magazine fall into the ABC1 social demographic.‖
Quantitate – Including surveys and customer
questionnaires — can help small firms to
improve their products and services by
enabling them to make informed decisions
Qualitative – is a method of inquiry
employed in many different academic
disciplines, traditionally in the social sciences
Dominant reading – is the reading that seems to
be, for the majority of people in society, the
natural or normal way to interpret a text.
Deductive – characterized by or based on
the inference of particular instances from a
Negotiated reading – The process of give and
take by which members of the audience interpret,
deconstruct and find meaning within a media text.
Reactive – is the subject of the study (e.g.
survey respondent) is affected either by the
instruments of the study or the individuals
conducting the study in a way that changes
whatever is being measured.
Socio/economic group – Social class, as in a
class society, is a set of concepts in the social
sciences and political theory centred on models of
social stratification in which people are grouped
into a set of hierarchical social categories, the
most common being the upper, middle, and lower
Demographic – Measurable characteristics of
media consumers such as age, gender, race,
education and income level.
Polysomic – the ambiguity of an individual
word or phrase that can be used (in different
contexts) to express two or more different
Active audience – audience members who
already are interested in an organization,
issue, or cause. Instead of waiting to receive
information on it, they seek it out from many
sources and when doing so, they speak as
well as listen.
Oppositional reading – A reading of a media
text that rejects the ideological positioning and
apparent meaning intended by the producers of
the text and substitutes a radical alternative.