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September 04, 2008

Preferred Meaning / Preferred Reading

Preferred Meaning / Preferred Reading

In media and cultural studies the idea of a preferred meaning that is embedded within a media text came from Stuart Hall then director of Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCS) at Birmngham University.

Media studies recognises that no media text is just "neutral", instead it is recognised that each media text carries a range of meanings that have been encoded into the text either deliberately or at a more unconscious level. The meanings are embedded by using a range of technical codes such as camera angles which can often imply power relationships. Freqently low angle angle shots of a person speaking to a superior come from an 'over the shoulder shot' where the audience is literally looking up at the superior person from the perspective of the inferior person.

The BBC Newsroom in News 24 usually has two presenters one male one female which signifies gender equality. Sports and busioness reporters, editors and correspondents are a roughly equal mixture of men and women. Women who are pregnant often appear as presenters. This never happened on TV at all until the 1980s and even then very rarely. Before that  pregnancy was  pretty much a taboo subject despite the fact that over 50 % of the population is female and a large proportion of this 50+ % become pregnant at some time in their lives. This reinforces the message of gender equality through re-presentation of people in what can be considered as a normal balance of life. The newsroom also has a good range of different ethnicities represented. Where there is a single anchor person presenting the news the balance is kept between male and female. 

BBC iPlayer has a range of different News programmes available. Check them out to see what the representational balance is between male and female.

  • News at One
  • News at Six
  • News at Ten

The BBC newsroom can be understood by viewers as a representation of a media institution that values equality of opportunity and meritocracy (people getting into a job on the basis of their abilities) in a society that is cosmopolitan and heterogeneous (mixed). Because the media institution is the British Broadcasting Corporation and is funded from millions of licence fee payers viewers and also has a global reach it conveys a prefferred meaning about the nature of British Society itself.  The BBC intends that a viewer whether British or not will form an impression of Britain being a liberal mixed society and egalitarian society. Whether the viewers "reads" the text this way is another matter.  Media and Cultural Studies have developed anothe idea called a negotiated reading.

The mise en scene of the Newsroom and the way the presenters are lit and dressed all underpin these re-presentations. We can therefore think of a media text being encoded with certain messages.

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