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Reality Television and Audience Interaction

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 2531 words Published: 10th Oct 2017

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How viewers interact and engage with reality shows through voting

Research aim and significance

This study examines voting – a feature of interaction and engagement of audience with reality television. The study aims to investigate which factors influencing on television viewers’ decision to vote and also provide an exploration on their psychological side which may be vital for understanding their interactive behaviors. In the context of greater interaction between the programs and its audiences has been stimulating by television producers, it is significant to research this interactive form of reality television that encourages deeper audience participation.

The findings of this study offer view on multiple sides involving opportunies and challenges for broadcast media companies and digital platform partners to exploit audience participation for the purposes of profit and the strategic expansion to multi-platform formats.

Literature Review and Theory

Since the very first reality show launching in 1990, the reality genre has rapidly developed to become the most popular experience of television nowadays. A plethora of research has been undertaking in recent years to identify the origin of reality shows’ appeal which concentrated mainly on the psychological side such as the theory of human motivations called ‘16 basic desires’ which linking the most fundamental purposes of human life to aspirations with their attention to media conducted by Reiss and Wiltz (2004) or the element of mastery sense named ‘schadenfreude’ introduced by Hall (2006).

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More recent studies in the last decade have focused on the power relation between the media and their publics as a key factor contributing to the growth of the reality television around the world, based on the concept of ‘audience activity’ which illustrates the level of selection when people use media and the level of involvement with the content (Rubin, 1993). Unlike many traditional television programs that only focus on the content without paying attention on audience interaction, reality program really provide the audience a participatory mode in which they are invited to influence the program’s story (Godlewski & Perse, 2010; Enli & Ihlebæk, 2011). In its most famous form (in such series as Big Brother, The X Factor, Idol and The Voice), reality television has been transformed into interactive cross-platform media experience, soliciting direct audience participation, by telephone and the use of interactive functions of digital technology (Charles, 2012). Griffen-Foley (2004) argued that all of these media outlets have sought to attend their consumers as ‘textual actors’ which boosted the perception of engagement and generate a ‘loyal community’ of audience. Among them, voting is assigned as a prominent and lucrative option of viewer feedback, particularly in talent-based reality shows (Enli & Ihlebæk, 2011).

Godlewski and Perse (2010) developed the theory of audience activity to scrutinize the relationship between viewing motivations, recognition of the participants, ‘cognitive and emotional involvement’ before, during and after exposure to media content. The scholars discovered that, instead of according with the levels of cognitive and emotional involvement during exposure, reality television provides to the audiences new kinds of post-exposure activity and also opportunities for finding previously unavailable ‘additional gratifications’ through voting to affect the program’s result. Such interactivity creates involving experiences via the active control of the media. In addition, there is a higher level of psychological engagement relating to thinking about and spending attentiveness of viewers who vote to whom they chose to vote for.

Interestingly, Nightingale and Dwyer (2006) took the form on a larger scope that examined wider cultural significance and the translation into national format. This means that in multicultural nations, the audience is more likely to compose members of various dispersive communities with different degrees of loyalty. As a result, while votes are asked for supporters, the result always represents on a national scale. Audiences pay money to protect and attract the focus on their local contestants and even on their hometowns and regions.

This study does not merely to understand why audience lodging vote in reality television but also explore what portrays them in regards to motivations and interactive behaviors such as the differences between age, gender, culture, socio-economic background and psychological aspect for example the level of activeness. Through this program producers could understand the desires of audience for interacting with the content via voting.


Based on similar case studies involving audience activity (Godlewski & Perse 2010), I will conduct one-hour interviews with five people of various age, gender and socio-economic backgrounds who are reality shows’ audience and regularly vote for their favorite shows or contestants. These interviews allow participants to elaborate on given open-ended qualitative questions and to explore from their personal experience of interaction and engagement.

Before the interview, a copy of the plain language statement will be given to the participants for reading and keeping. They will be also asked to sign and return the consent form to the researchers. The interview will be recorded and transcribed for the purposes of the research paper.

In the first part of the interview, participants will be asked to mention the kind of reality genre they are more likely to watch and their voting frequency. In the remaining part, participants will be invited to show how they interact with their most-liked reality shows through voting, for example explaining why they vote and determining which factors affect their decision.

The information gathered will be compared and contrasted, using arguments discussed above in order to provide an insight into television producers targeted at the capitalization of audience fancy to maximize the shows’ outcome in terms of both revenue and viewer loyalty.

The plain language statement, consent form and interview questions are provided below in the appendix.

[918 words]


Charles, A 2012, Interactivity: New Media, Politics and Society, Peter Lang Oxford, Oxford.

Enli, GS & Ihlebæk, KA 2011, ‘’Dancing with the audience’: Administrating vote-ins in public and commercial broadcasting’, Media, Culture & Society, 33(6), pp. 953-962.

Godlewski, LR & Perse, EM 2010, ‘Audience activity and reality television: Identification, Online Activity, and Satisfaction’, Communication Quarterly, May, pp. 148-169.

Griffen-Foley, B 2004, ‘From Tit-Bits to Big Brother: A Century of Audience Participation in the Media’, Media Culture Society, vol. 26, no. 4, July, pp. 533-548.

Hall, A 2006, ‘Viewers’ Perceptions of Reality Programs’, Communication Quarterly, vol. 54, issue 2, May, pp. 191-211.

Hill, A 2007 , Reslyting Factual TV: Audiences and News, Documentary and Reality Genres, Taylor & Francis, New York.

Holmes, S 2004, ‘”Reality Goes Pop!”: Reality TV, Popular Music, and Narratives of Stardom in Pop Idol’, Television New Media, vol. 5, no.2, May, pp. 147-172.

Holmes, S 2004, ‘‘But this time you choose!’: Approaching the ‘interactive’ audience in reality TV’, International Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 213-231.

Kajus, Y 2009, ‘Idolizing and Monetizing the Public: The Production of Celebrities and Fans, Representatives and Citizens in Reality TV’, International Journal of Communication, pp. 277-300.

Nightingale, V & Dwyer, T 2006 ‘The audience politics of ‘enhanced’ television formats’, International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics, vol. 2, no.1, pp. 25-42

Papacharissi, Z & Mendelson, AL 2007, ‘An exploratory study of reality appeal: Uses and Gratifications of reality TV shows’, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, vol. 51, issue 2, June, pp. 355-370.

Reiss, S & Wiltz, J 2004, ‘Why people watch Reality TV’, Media Psychology, vol. 6, issue 4, November, pp.363-378.

Roscoe, J 2010, ‘Multi-Platform Event Television: Reconceptualizing our Relationship with Television’, The Communication Review, vol. 7, issue. 4, pp. 363-369.

Ytreberg, Y 2009, ‘Extended liveness and eventfulness in multi-platform reality formats’, New Media & Society, vol. 11, issue 4, pp. 1-19.

Interview questions

1. What kinds of reality television do you often interact with through voting?

+ How many times do you vote for your favorite reality programs on average?

2. Are you member of a fanclub of any reality show’ or reality show’ contestant?

+ Do you mobilize your family/ relatives/ friends/ community to vote for your favorite contestants?

3. Which factors do you think will affect your decision for vote?

+ Are the contestants’ performance and the estimations of the judges important to you?

+ If your favorite contestant is facing elimination, do you try your best to keep he/she staying in the competion?

4. Do you think that voting is a symbol of audience democracy?

+ To what extent do you believe that audience can control the result of a reality show by voting?

+ Do you think the results reflect properly the audience desire?

5. How do you feel if the contestant that you voted for lose?

+ Do you often compare between your local contestants and contestants from other regions?

6. Do you think voting is the best way to interact and engage with your favorite reality shows?

+ Which other kinds of interction and engagement do you like?



Project Title: Reality television and audience interaction – How viewers interact and engage with reality shows through voting


Name of participant:

Name of researcher: Truc Tuong Thi Lam

1.I consent to participate in this project, the details of which have been explained to me, and I have been provided with a written plain language statement to keep.

2. I understand that after I sign and return this consent form it will be retained by the researcher.

3.I understand that my participation will involve an interview and observation and I agree that the researcher may use the results as described in the plain language statement.

4.I acknowledge that:

(a) the possible effects of participating in the interview and observation have been explained to my satisfaction;

(b) I have been informed that I am free to withdraw from the project at any time without explanation or prejudice and to withdraw any unprocessed data I have provided;

(c) the project is for the purpose of research;

(d) I have been informed that the confidentiality of the information I provide will be safeguarded subject to any legal requirements;

(e) I have been informed that with my consent the interview will be audio-taped and I understand that audio-tapes will be stored at University of Melbourne and will be destroyed after five years;

(f) my name will be referred to by a pseudonym in any publications arising from the research;

(g) I have been informed that a copy of the research findings will be forwarded to me, should I agree to this.

I consent to this interview being audio-taped

â-¡ yes â-¡ no

(please tick)

I wish to receive a copy of the summary project report on research finding

â-¡ yes â-¡ no

(please tick)

Participant signature:Date:



Project Title: Reality television and audience interaction – How viewers interact and engage with reality shows through voting

Name of student: Truc Tuong Thi Lam

Telephone: 0426 998 078

Email: tuongl@student.unimelb.edu.au

Name of lecturer: Dr. Esther Chin

Telephone: (03) 8344 3411

Email: ywechin@unimelb.edu.au

Dear participant,

I am a Master of Global Media Communication student at the University of Melbourne currently enrolled in the subject MECM40003 Researching Audiences and Reception.

A major component of the subject assessment requires students to carry our research on media audiences such as yourself to understand reception and consumption patterns and to determine how audiences interpret and interact with media types.

I will be carrying out open-ended interviews with participants approximately 45 minutes in length. Your honest responses are extremely important in giving validity to this study. With your permission, I will audiotape your responses for transcription and inclusion in my study.

Interview responses will be analysed and included in a research report for submission at the end of the current semester. Date will be destroyed after being kept securely at the University of Melbourne for five years. Your responses and identity will be given a pseudonym in the research report and every effort will be made to ensure your confidentiality. As soon as the research report is returned after examination a copy will be made available to you upon request.

This research project is being carried out with approval from the University of Melbourne’s Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC). If you have any concerns or further questions you may contact my lecturer (as above) and/or the Human Research Ethics Office:

Executive Officer, Human Research Ethics, University of Melbourne VIC 3010

Telephone: (03) 8344 2073.

If you would like to participate in this research please read and sign the accompanying consent form. Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Truc Tuong Thi Lam


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