Professor David Morley is a sociologist who specializes in the sociology
of the television audience. He is currently Professor of Communications
at Goldsmiths' College in the University of London. His studies
of the former television programme Nationwide arose from
research which was conducted at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural
Studies (CCCS) at the University of Birmingham between 1975 and
1979. Nationwide was a popular news/current affairs magazine
programme which had a regular early evening slot on weekdays from
6.00 to 7.00 pm on BBC1. It followed the main national news from
London and included human interest stories from 'the regions'
as well as a 'down-to-earth' look at the major events of the day.
It was broadcast throughout the UK (including Scotland, Wales
and Northern Ireland), though from its general stance one might
have been forgiven for assuming that it was broadcast only within
England. Michael Barratt was the regular presenter of the programme
at the time.
A previous study by Morley together with Charlotte Brunsdon -
Everyday Television: 'Nationwide', published in 1978 (also
by the British Film Institute) - involved textual analysis of
the programme. Although it has many limitations, Morley's study
of The 'Nationwide' Audience (published in 1980) has become
one of the most-widely cited studies of the television audience.
In the NWA study his major concern was 'with the extent to which
individual interpretation of programmes could be shown to vary
systematically in relation to... socio-cultural background' (1981b,
p 56). He was investigating 'the degree of complementarity between
the codes of the programme and the interpretive codes of various
sociocultural groups... [and] the extent to which decodings take
place within the limits of the preferred (or dominant) manner
in which the message has been initially encoded' (1983, p. 106).
BBC Survey of Nationwide audience in 1974
Source: Morley (1980: 38)
|Social Group ||Size ||% of Audience ||% of Overall Population
|Upper middle-class ||321,000 ||5.4 ||6.0
|Lower middle-class ||2,140,000 ||36.3 ||24.0
|Working-class ||3,438,000 ||58.3 ||70.0
|Male ||2,772,000 || 46.1 ||--------------
|Female ||3,177,000 || 53.9 ||--------------
Morley outlined three hypothetical positions (adapted from Frank
Parkin) which the reader of a programme might occupy (1983, pp.
109-10; see also 1981b, p. 51 and 1992, p. 89):
- 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 makers).
- 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.
Morley argues that 'members of a given sub-culture will tend to
share a cultural orientation towards decoding messages in particular
ways. Their individual "readings" of messages will be
framed by shared cultural formations and practices' (1981b, p.
Summaries and commentaries on the responses of each of the groups
interviewed in Morley's NWA study are presented here in the order
in which he places them in the spectrum of readings from 'dominant',
via 'negotiated', to 'oppositional'.
- Morley did not claim in the NWA book that he was engaging
in ethnography, but in his 'Critical Postscript' published in
Screen Education a year later he proclaimed himself to
be developing an 'ethnography of reading' (1981a, p. 13).
- Morley deliberately chose to work with groups rather than
individuals because 'much individually based interview research
is flawed by a focus on individuals as social atoms divorced from
their social context' (1980, p. 33).
- Two programmes from Nationwide were shown to 29 small
groups (2-13 people) from different social, cultural and educational
backgrounds (note that tape-recording problems led to the data
for groups 9, 24 and 29 being unusable).
- Programme A had been broadcast on 19th May 1976 and a recording
of this was shown to 18 groups in London and the Midlands; Programme
B dated from 29th March 1977 (a 'Budget Special') and this was
shown to 11 groups, mainly in London.
- The groups were already meeting as part of educational courses
of various kinds (some full-time; some part-time).
- Viewing by each group was followed by a discussion lasting
about 30 minutes. Morley chose to use 'open discussions' rather
than pre-sequenced interview schedules (1980, p. 32).
- [Note that the age-ranges for groups given in various places
in the original publication do not always agree; I have relied
on the summary list: 1980, pp. 37-8].
Print Management Trainees (Groups 26 & 28)
- All men; aged 22-39; one group mainly white (European); the
other all black (mainly Nigerian); middle-class.
- Saw Programme B.
- Predominantly 'radical' Conservative or 'don't know'.
- The young European trainee managers held very right-wing views
and saw Nationwide as a 'very pro-Labour' programme biased
in favour of the trade unions and against management (1980, p.
123; in dramatic contrast to the trade union groups, who saw it
as strongly anti-union). 'It's basically socialist' (1981b, p.
57). 'I come from a very conservative family. Several times I've
wanted to pick up the phone and phone Nationwide; I have
seen people being pulled through the mud there, just because they
have too much money' (1981b, p. 57). 'They didn't give him a chance,
the guy from management' (1981b, p. 57).
- The black group of trainees did not share the programme's
cultural assumptions and found it hard to make sense of it (1980,
- Morley saw these management trainees as inhabiting the 'dominant'
end of the spectrum of readings, with a 'radical' Conservative
inflection (1980, p. 137). 'In a sense... so far to the right
of the political spectrum... that they might be said to be making
a right-wing 'oppositional reading' of Nationwide' (1981b,
Bank Managers (Group 21)
- Mainly men; aged 29-52; all white, middle-class.
- Saw Programme B.
- Predominantly 'traditional' Conservative political views.
- They hardly commented at all on the programme's content
- its ideological treatment of the issues - this was 'transparent'
and uncontroversial to them (in strongest contrast to the trade
union groups) (1980, pp. 145-6).
- They focused on what Morley calls the programme's 'mode of
address' - its presentational style - contrasting it unfavourably
with 'serious current affairs' as exemplified by The Daily
Telegraph and The Money Programme. Nationwide
was seen as 'just a tea-time entertainment programme, embarrassing...
patronising... exploiting raw emotion... sensationalism' (1980,
- 'I can't bear it... I think it's awful... one thing... then
chop, chop, you're onto the next thing' (1980, p. 106).
- 'I couldn't identify with any of them [the participants]'
(p 106). They imagine that the target audience is 'the car worker...
the middle people... and below' (1980, p. 107).
- 'If you're talking about communicating with the public and
you're actually leading them, I think that's dishonest' (1980,
- Ideas rather than people were important to them
(1980, p. 105).
- Morley saw these bank managers as inhabiting the 'dominant'
end of the spectrum of readings of the programme, with a 'traditional'
Conservative inflection (1980, p. 134). They shared the 'ideological
problematic' of the programme (its structural limitations on what
can be understood and what questions can be addressed) - indeed,
they denied the presence of any particular problematic (1980,
Apprentices (Groups 1-6 & 27)
- Mainly men; aged 17-29; all white; working-class.
- Some saw Programme A; a few saw Programme B.
- These were politically mainly 'don't know' or populist Conservative;
many adopted a cynical rejection of politics; to some extent identifying
with the National Front (1980, p. 138).
- One noted that the programme seemed to be aimed at 'the 40-year-old
- They rejected the programme's style as too formal, serious
and 'boring' (insufficiently entertaining and humorous). Several
said that they preferred ATV Today.
- They also saw it as middle-class. One declared: 'The people
we see presenting, they all seem to be snobs to me' (1980, p.
52). Another said: 'You wouldn't think anyone actually worked
in factories - at that time of night; to them, teatime's at 5
o'clock and everyone's at home... a real middle-class kind of
attitude' (p, 52).
- However, they tended to accept the perspectives of the programme's
presenters, seeing their questions as 'pretty obviously OK'. The
Nationwide team was seen as 'just doing a job' (1980, p.
54). 'The presenters have got to be the most authoritative 'cause
you see most of them... You mistrust the person they're interviewing,
straight away, don't you?' (1981b, p. 59). 'Barratt's a national
figure, so what he says, you know...' (1981b, p. 59).
- One group did note that 'they're going to the left... the
majority of people think that Nationwide's left' (1980,
- They accepted the chauvinistic stance reflected in one of
the items (1980, pp. 51, 59-60).
- Despite their general tone of rejection and cynicism ('they're
biased though, aren't they?') they decoded most of the specific
items within the dominant framework or preferred reading
(1980, p. 138; 1981b, p. 64; 1983, p. 113).
- Morley saw these apprentices as clearly inhabiting the 'dominant'
end of the spectrum of readings of the programme, in a mainstream
working-class 'populist-Conservative'/cynical inflection (1980,
pp. 134, 137, 138-40). He felt that the apprentices were the closest
of all the groups to the programme's own 'populist' code (1981b,
p. 64). 'The lads' use of a form of populist discourse ("damn
all politicians - they're all as bad as each other... it's all
down to the individual in the end, isn't it?") was quite
compatible with that of the programme' (1983, p. 113). Morley
notes that the apprentices had the same working-class background
as the trade union officials who produced 'negotiated' readings
and the shop stewards who produced 'oppositional' readings. He
argues that the differences are explicable in terms of 'the articulation
of social position through discourse' since the apprentices, who
tended to reproduce 'dominant' readings, were inactive
union members with no active involvement in the discourse of trade
unionism (1992, p. 116).
School Students (Groups 10 & 12)
- All male; aged 14-16; more white than black; working-class.
- Saw Programme A.
- Their political views were mainly 'don't know' or Labour.
- They liked the style of Nationwide, seeing it as appealing
to children as well as adults, in contrast to Panorama and
the News (1980, p. 69), though some preferred their own local
ITV programme London Today (p. 74), favouring its more
- Others liked Nationwide's variety, immediacy and accessibility.
'You can see the expressions on his face' (1980, p. 69).
- Some were aware that in one item an interviewee was not allowed
to talk about what he regarded as 'the important thing' and that
in another the interviewer was 'trying to catch him [the interviewee]
out all the while' (1980, p. 70). Others felt that the interviewer
was 'just there doing his job' (p. 75).
- They generally accepted Nationwide's preferred readings,
agreeing, for instance, with the chauvinistic item (1980, pp.
- Morley felt that these schoolboys tended to inhabit the 'dominant'
end of the spectrum of readings, with a 'deferential' inflection
(1980, p. 137).
Teacher-Training College Students (Groups 14 & 15)
- Mainly women; aged 19-46; mainly white; middle-class.
- Saw Programme A.
- Politically, mainly Conservative and 'don't know'.
- The programme was seen as not for them; they saw it as for
an older, family audience (1980, pp. 79-80; 84; 1981b, p. 58).
It was a programme which 'I only watch with my parents' (1980,
- It was seen as 'the TV equivalent of the Sun or Mirror'
(1980, p. 84). 'There didn't seem to be a good reason, a valid
reason, for half the things they showed' (p. 83) (this attitude
was in strong contrast to working-class groups such as the apprentices,
who liked programmes which offered 'a bit of a laugh').
- Nationwide was seen by the student teachers as offering
inadequate 'detail' and information compared to 'serious', 'educational'
and 'worthwhile' programmes such as Panorama (1980, pp.
80; 84; 1981b, p. 63). 'It's not very thought-provoking' (1980,
p. 84). Like the university arts students they favoured the more
serious items in Nationwide (1980, p. 84). This was in
strongest contrast to the Black FE Students (1980, p. 142).
- They rejected Nationwide's focus on the 'human' angle
(1980, pp. 84, 86).
- They criticized the questions asked in interviews (1980, p.
82) and the bias of the presenters (p. 85). 'We're supposed to
side with them [the presenters]... It gets on your nerves after
a while' (1981b, p. 58).
- They tended not to accept the programme's preferred readings,
including the chauvinism (1980, pp. 82-3, 86).
- Morley saw the student teachers as adopting 'negotiated' (veering
towards 'dominant') readings with a Conservative 'Leavisite' inflection
(1980, pp. 134, 137). He argued that their involvement in HE shifts
their discourse into 'negotiated' rather than 'dominant' readings
(1980 p. 141; 1981b, p. 62), though he also refers to the general
conservatism of teacher-training colleges (p. 144).
University Arts Students (Groups 7 & 19)
- Men and women; aged 19-24; all white; middle-class.
- Some saw Programme A; others saw Programme B.
- No predominant political views.
- The programme was seen as 'basically for middle-class people'
(1980, p. 61).
- They dismissed the programme's style of presentation in similar
terms to the bank managers, seeing it, for example, as 'patronizing'
(1980, p. 63). 'It's obviously directed at people with little
concentration... it's got a kind of "easy" form... it's
"variety", isn't it?' (p. 60). 'It's like Blue Peter...
it's vaguely entertaining... basically undemanding' (p. 98).
- They favoured the more 'serious' items. Like the teacher-training
students, they assessed the programme according to criteria of
relevance and informational value derived from 'serious' current
affairs broadcasting (1981b, p. 62).
- 'It's meant to give the impression that we're all in this
together. We're a great big happy family as a nation, and we're
doing all these things together' (1981b, p. 57).
- They were particularly conscious of the methods used by the
programme. They noted certain significant absences.
- They were less 'oppositional' on the programme's treatment
of politico-economic issues. The programme's treatment of industrial
relations was not regarded by them as biased (in strong contrast
with the trade union groups). 'I don't think they have done anything
to bias us one way or another' (1981b, p. 57-8).
- Morley saw these university students as adopting highly articulate
(and because of their educational background, consistently deconstructed)
'negotiated' (and sometimes 'oppositional') readings of many topics
in the programme, with a 'radical Leavisite' inflection (involving
a notion of 'high culture'). However, their readings were more
'dominant' in relation to other topics (1980, pp. 134, 137, 144;
1981b, p. 62).
Photography HE Students (Groups 8 & 18)
- Mainly men; aged 19-26; all white; middle-class.
- Saw Programme A.
- These students rejected the programme's style of presentation
as 'all very sort of matey' (1980, p. 65).
- It seemed to be a programme for 'teenagers... mothers putting
kids to bed'. It was 'just like a tidied-up version of the News
of the World' (1980, p. 65). Like other higher education students
they favoured the more serious items.
- Their technical background led some to make technical criticisms
(1980, p. 94).
- They were aware of the presenters' power: 'They claim to speak
for the viewer.. but in doing that they're actually telling you
what to think' (1980, p. 94). They noted that Michael Barratt
put his interpretive slant on what was shown (p. 65); 'he's the
voice of authority' (p. 94).
- They rejected the programme's preferred readings in some items
- for instance, dismissing the chauvinism of one item (pp 76,
- Morley saw these HE (photography) students as adopting 'negotiated'
readings, inflected by a 'technicist professional' perspective
(1980, pp. 134, 137).
Trade Union Officials (Groups 20 & 22)
- All men; mainly aged 24-64; all white; working-class. On in-service
- Saw Programme B.
- Their political stance was a populist, 'right-wing Labour'
- In strongest contrast to the bank managers the presentational
style was treated as a subordinate issue - the trade union
officials were more concerned with the programme's content
- its ideological formulation of the 'issues' (1980, pp. 144-5).
Because this content was unacceptable to the trade union officials
what was 'transparent' to the bank managers was highly 'visible'
to these groups.
- They generally accepted the presentational style of the programme.
However, one noted: 'my major complaint... is the way in which
they trivialize every topic they seem to take up - and just when
the topic begins to blossom out, they suddenly say, "Well,
that's it..."' (1980, p. 110).
- They accepted the individualistic theme of the programme and
its construction of a national 'We' (1981b, p. 64).
- One group felt that 'It seems to be a programme acceptable
to the vast majority of people' (1980, p. 102). For the other
group it was seen as 'for the middle-class... undoubtedly for
what they regard as the backbone of the country, the middle-class'
(1981b, p. 60).
- One group accepted the presenters as their 'enquiring representatives'
(1980, p. 103) and felt that the programme was 'fair' (p. 104).
The other (exclusively Labour) group felt that there was an unacceptable
right-wing bias (p. 109).
- One group rejected the general political perspective of the
programme; the other group was more critical and 'oppositional'
about the treatment of specific economic 'trade union' issues.
- Morley felt that the trade union officials made 'negotiated'
(veering towards 'oppositional') working-class readings of the
programme, with a 'populist' right-wing Labourist 'official' inflection
(1980, pp. 134-5, 137, 141).
Black FE Students (Groups 11, 13, 16, 17 & 25)
- Mainly women; aged 17-37; mainly black (predominantly West
Indian); inner-city working-class.
- Predominantly Labour and 'don't know' politically.
- Some saw Programme A; others saw Programme B.
- The programme did not reflect their concerns or their lifestyles
and they couldn't see 'how anyone could watch it' (1980, p. 87).
'It's for older folks, not for young people' (p. 71). And for
'affluent... middle-class people' (p. 118). 'Nationwide's
Conservative' (p. 118). 'If it's supposed to be for us, why didn't
they never interview Bob Marley?' (1981b, p. 58).
- 'It didn't show one-parent families, nor the average family
in a council estate - all these people they showed seemed
to have cars, their own home, property... don't they ever think
of the average family?... And they show it... like all the husbands
and wives pitching in to cope with problems... They don't show
conflict, fighting, things we know happen. I mean it's just not,
to me it's just not a true picture - it's too harmonious, artificial'
(1981b, p 59).
- Nationwide was seen as going into too much detail (1980,
p. 88), and consequently 'boring' - as also was the News - and
even the BBC output in general (1980, pp. 71, 87, 89, 118; a notably
different argument from that of the teacher-training students).
Some, like the apprentices, wanted TV which gave viewers 'a bit
of a laugh... variety and all that' (1980, p. 93). The programme
was seen as lacking entertainment value. Morley attributes this
contrast with the more academic students to their 'differential
involvement in the discourse of formal education' (1981b, p. 63;
1980, p. 142).
- Some items simply left them confused. Morley notes that 'insofar
as they make any sense at all of the items some of them
come close to accepting the programme's own definitions' (1980,
p. 142; 1981b, p. 63).
- Morley assigned to the black students an 'oppositional' position
in the spectrum of readings (1980, p. 137), although noting that
their response was more of an alienated 'critique of silence'
- a refusal to read the programme at all (1981b, p. 63, 1980,
p. 134; 1983, p. 115) - rather than an 'oppositional' reading.
Theirs was a working-class, inner-city, black youth subculture
perspective alien to the cultural codes of Nationwide (pp.
Shop Stewards (Group 23)
- Mainly men; aged 23-40; all white; working-class.
- Saw Programme B.
- Their political views were predominantly socialist or Labour.
- They saw the programme as 'light entertainment' and as more
patronizing than ITV's London Today (1980, p. 113). They
objected to Nationwide's 'sort of soothing, jolly approach...
as if you can take a nasty problem and just wrap it up... you
know - "We're all in the same boat together" and clearly
we're all going to live to fight another day' (p. 113).
- They rejected Nationwide's attempt to tell us what
'our grouse' is and its attempt to construct a national 'We'.
They rejected the programme's claim to represent 'us' (1980, p.
- 'I don't think you can take Nationwide in isolation...
I mean... add the Sun, the Mirror and the Daily
Express to it, it's all the same whole heap of crap... and
they're all saying to the unions, "You're ruining
the country"...' (1981b, p. 60).
- They redefined the issues which the programme presented, noting
significant absences in the discussion of economics. Givcn
that the programme they saw was a 'Budget Special', one noted:
'There's no discussion of investment, growth production, creation
of employment... nobody mentioned unemployment... no reference
to stocks and shares... that are accumulating money all the time
without anybody lifting a finger' (1981b, p. 61).
- They saw the treatment of issues as highly biased. 'They had
so much sympathy with the guy from middle management. Even in
BBC terms, there wasn't any neutrality in it at all' (1981b, p.
- Morley felt that the shop stewards produced the most articulate
fully 'oppositional' critical reading of the programme, with a
'radical' left-wing, 'rank-and-file' trade unionist inflection
(1980, p. 137; 1983, p. 114). They rejected the ideological problematic
of the programme (in contrast to those inhabiting the 'dominant'
end of the spectrum of readings) (p. 146). 'This group fulfils
the criteria of an oppositional reading in the precise sense that
it redefines the issues which the programme presents' (1981b,
- Morley insists that he does not take a social determinist
position in which individual 'decodings' of TV programmes are
reduced to a direct consequence of social class position. 'It
is always a question of how social position, as it is articulated
through particular discourses, produces specific kinds of readings
or decodings. These readings can then be seen to be patterned
by the way in which the structure of access to different discourses
is determined by social position' (1983, p. 113; see also 1992,
The meaning of the text will be constructed differently according
to the discourses (knowledges, prejudices, resistances etc.) brought
to bear by the reader, and the crucial factor... will be the range
of discourses at the disposal of the audience... Individuals in
different positions in the social formation defined according
to structures of class, race or sex, for example, will tend to
inhabit or have at their disposal different codes and subcultures.
Thus social position sets parameters to the range of potential
readings by structuring access to different codes.
Whether or not a programme succeeds in transmitting the preferred
or dominant meaning will depend on whether it encounters readers
who inhabit codes and ideologies derived from other institutional
areas (e.g. churches or schools) which correspond to and work
in parallel with those of the programme or whether it encounters
readers who inhabit codes drawn from other areas or institutions
(e.g. trade unions or 'deviant' subcultures) which conflict to
a greater or lesser extent with those of the programme. (1983,
p. 106-7; see also 1992, p. 87).
- 'The apprentice groups, the trade union and shop stewards
groups and the black college students can all be said to share
a common class position, but their decodings of a television programme
are inflected in different directions by the discourses and institutions
in which they are situated' (1983, p. 117). Morley thus emphasizes
the importance of different subcultural formations within the
- 'If we relate decodings to political affiliations then it
does appear that the groups dominated by Conservatism - the apprentices,
teacher training students and bank managers - produce dominant
readings, while those dominated by Labour or socialist discourses
are more likely to produce negotiated or oppositional readings.
This is not to suggest that it is an undifferentiated "dominant
ideology" which is reproduced and simply accepted or rejected.
Rather, it is a question of a specific formulation of that ideology
which is articulated through a particular programme discourse
and mode of address... To take the example of dominant code, as
employed here it exists in three different versions: for the managers
in "traditional" and "radical" Conservative
forms, for some of the teacher training students in a Leavisite
form, and for the apprentice groups in a populist form' (1980,
- 'To understand the potential meanings of a given message we
need a cultural map of the audience to whom that message is addressed
- a map showing the various cultural repertoires and symbolic
resources available to differently placed subgroups within that
audience. Such a map will help to show how the social meanings
of a message are produced through the interaction of the codes
embedded in the text with the codes inhabited by the different
sections of the audience' (1983, p. 117).
- Morley argues that in his perspective, 'readers are seen to
be engaged in productive work, but under determinate conditions,
which are not of their own choosing' (1992, p. 122).
- He notes that there were differences within each group
of viewers, and overlaps between groups (1981b, p. 66; 1983, p.
115-6). It was possible to refer to various examples of 'the same
code' ('dominant', 'negotiated' or 'oppositional') for 'purposes
of gross comparison only' (1983, p. 116). However, he argued that
the differences in readings between groups categorized
as reflecting different codes were 'far greater' than the differences
within any group (1980, p. 33).
- Morley adds that any individual or group might operate different
decoding strategies in relation to different topics and
different contexts. A person might make 'oppositional'
readings of the same material in one context and 'dominant' readings
in other contexts (1981a, p. 9; 1981b, pp. 66, 67; 1992,
- In terms of sociological/structural variables, he notes that
his study focused on class largely at the expense of age,
sex and race (1981a, p. 8; 1981b, p. 67).
- Morley accepts that he did not adequately explain his use
of the terms 'middle-class' and 'working-class' and that these
referred more to occupational position than to 'a model of class
based on relations of production' (1981a, p. 9; 1981b, p. 67).
- He notes that the small groups he studied could not be taken
to 'represent' sections of society. We could not be sure that
other people from comparable social positions would necessarily
decode the same material in the same ways as those of the groups
he studied (1981b, p. 67).
- He acknowledges that his research was subject to the usual
limitations of the interview technique (1981b, p. 67). In addition,
the groups were not interviewed in the domestic setting in which
they would normally watch TV (1992, p. 133).
- Morley had deliberately avoided the use of fixed-choice questionnaires
on the grounds that 'it is not simply the "substance"
of the answer which is important, it is also the form of its expression
which constitutes its meaning' (1980, p. 31). He insisted that
he wanted 'to examine the actual speech forms' used (1980, p.
34). However, he later accepted that in his use of his interview
data, 'despite the proclaimed intention to deal with questions
of linguistic form, the research constantly slides back to a perspective
where the question of form becomes of only marginal, or occasional
interest' (1981a, p. 8).
- Morley noted that in interpreting viewers' readings of television
attention should be paid not only to the issue of agreement
(acceptance/rejection) but to comprehension and relevance.
He also adds enjoyment (1981a, p. 10; 1992, pp. 126-7,
- 'What we have at the end of the Nationwide project
is a series of responses to material which is not necessarily
salient to the respondents... Clearly the question of whether
they would make a dominant, negotiated or oppositional reading
of a certain type of programme material is less relevant than
the question of whether or not they would choose to watch that
type of material in the first place' (1992, p. 137).
- He leaves open the issue of whether and how the framework
of 'preferred readings' is applicable in television genres other
than news, current affairs and documentary 'which explicitly claim
to make factual statements about the world' (1981a, p. 6; see
also 1981b, p. 66). Applying it in this way might threaten to
reduce fictional texts to banal propositions. He does note that
different genres require different competences in the viewer;
many assumptions will not be made explicit within the programmes.
He suggests that
['Serious'] current affairs TV presumes, or requires, a viewer
competent in the codes of parliamentary democracy and economics...
The competences necessary for reading current affairs TV are most
likely to have been acquired by those persons culturally constructed
through discourses of masculinity... the other probable conditions
of access to these forms of cultural competence are being white
and being middle or upper-class. (1981a, pp. 12-13; see also 1992,
- Morley, David (1980): The 'Nationwide' Audience: Structure
and Decoding. London: BFI
- Morley, David (1981a): '"The Nationwide Audience"
- A Critical Postscript', Screen Education 39: 3-14
- Morley, David (1981b): Interpreting Television. In
Popular Culture and Everyday Life (Block 3 of U203 Popular
Culture). Milton Keynes: Open University Press, pp. 40-68
- Morley, David (1983): 'Cultural Transformations: The Politics
of Resistance'. In Howard Davis & Paul Walton (Eds.): Language,
Image, Media. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, pp. 104-17. Extracts
can also be found in Paul Marris & Sue Thornham (Eds.) (1996):
Media Studies: A Reader. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University
Press, pp. 298-306
- Morley, David (1992): Television, Audiences and Cultural
Studies. London: Routledge (Chapters 3 & 4).