Audience Reception Analysis of Moroccan Public Service Broadcasting

in Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication
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Television is one of the most important sources of information and entertainment for the majority of Moroccans. Since 2002, the Moroccan government has put forth policies to regulate the use of television as an important outside source for promoting its development programs. This audience reception study aims to assess the opinions of Moroccan television viewers on the quality of programming provided by the two public service TV stations, Al Oula and 2M. The study applies Stuart Hall’s encoding/decoding theory to examine the interactions of the Moroccan audience with the content of the two public service television stations. This study focuses mainly on television viewers of lower educational backgrounds and those with lower incomes because they could benefit most from the developmental role of public service television. The study examines the extent to which TV programming addresses the viewers’ lifestyles and concerns and the expectations viewers may have of their public service stations. The study uses focus groups as a stand-alone data-gathering strategy because of the multicultural nature of Moroccan society, which is characterized by different ethnic, linguistic and geographic attributes. Focus groups enable researchers to collect rich data in participants’ own words; they are particularly useful when the survey group is illiterate or semiliterate. The application of Stuart Hall’s theory in the Moroccan context reveals some of the model’s strengths as well some of its limitations. While the model provides rich analytical tools that help us understand the relationship between how television producers encode messages and how audiences decode them, this study illustrates the limits of Hall’s theory application to non-western audiences. Hall’s model is founded on the assumption that audiences are capable of decoding the television content and that the variations in the decoding process are the outcome of the audiences’ reactions to the hegemonic message. The study found that this was not applicable to Moroccan audiences and that additional theoretical tools needed to be in place for an audience reception analysis to be complete and substantial.

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In 2004, 43 percent of the Moroccan population aged ten and above were illiterate. The illiteracy rate is 60.5 percent in rural areas and 29.4 in urban areas, 54.7 percent among women and 30.8 percent among men. The illiteracy rate for Moroccan citizens 15 years and older is estimated at 26.7 percent for males, and 61.7 percent for females; for citizens 15 to 24 years old, the rate is estimated at 22.6 percent for males and 38.7 percent for females (Haut Commissariat au Plan, Moroccan Census Bureau, 2004).

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