Audience Reception Analysis on the Documentary "Ye Fitih Seqoka"

The Case of Students in Mekelle University, Adi-Haqi Campus

Bachelor Thesis, 2019

49 Pages, Grade: A





1.1. Background of the study
1.2. Statement of the Problem
1.3. Objectives the study
1.3.1 General objective
1.3.2 Specific objectives
1.4. Research questions
1.5. Significance of the study
1.6. Scope of the study
1.7. Limitations of the study

Literature Review
2.1. Audience Research
2.2.1. Theories of Active audience Reception Theory Encoding/Decoding
2.3. Representation of media
2.4. Documentary
2.4.1. Ethiopian Television (ETV) Documentaries
2.5.1. Role of media in Ethiopia
2.6. Human Right in Ethiopian Media
2.7 Conclusion

Research Methodology
3.1. Introduction
3.1. Study Area
3.2. Sampling method
3.2.1 Sample size
3.3. Methods of data collection
3.3.1 Interview
3.3.3 Focus group discussion (FGD)
3.3 Methods of data analysis

Data Presentation and Analysis
4. Analysis of Discussants’ and Interviewees’
4.1 Interpretation of the message of “Yefitih Seqoka” Documentary film
4.1.1 Understanding of the Documentary film Title “yefith seqoka”
4.1.2 Understanding the message of “Yefith Seqoka” documentary film
4.2. Representation of Subjects in “Yefith Seqoqa” Documentary Film
4.3. The documentary from Journalistic view

Conclusion and Recommendations
5.1 Conclusion
5.2. Recommendations




First and above all, praise to the Almighty God for giving me the strength to accomplish this
Next, I would like to express my gratitude to my advisor Mr. Tesfagebriel Tekola, who gave me invaluable guidance, advice and constructive comments by reading and editing the study piece by piece. I’m grateful for his tolerance and patience; the study wouldn’t be presented in this way without him.

I am also thankful of my friends and all research participants for their willingness to give me information, ideas and suggestions in the making of this research.


On December 11, 2018 three Ethiopian television channels (ETV, Fana Tv and Walta Tv) broadcasted a documentary titled “Yefitih Seqoka” which narrated about human right violations committed on prisoners by prison administrators. Following its transmission the documentary immediately became a matter of great debate and discussion both online and offline. The tension, the rush and the Facebook hash tags that went viral were the motivations behind the selection of this topic for a study. The aim of the study was to assess how the audience interprets the messages transmitted by the documentary “Yefith seqoka”. “How students interpret the message of the documentary film?”; “How students react after watching the documentary?” and “what is their thought on representation of subjects in the film?” are the questions that the study aims to answer.

Qualitative research method was employed to answer the above research questions. As the method is most often associated with reception analysis, which is the focus of the study, two qualitative data collection methods were used. They are focus group discussions with students of Mekelle University, Adi-haqi campus and interviews with lecturers of journalism and communication. Convenience and purposive sampling methods were utilized to select the necessary samples for the study. To analyze the collected data thematic data analysis method was used.

The findings indicate that the majority of the participants have agreed on that the messages and the representations of subjects in the documentary were negative and have no relevance to the sociocultural context of the country. Considering the findings of the study the researcher recommended that Representation of subjects in this kind of documentaries should be put in a way that avoids negative generalizations.



1.1. Background of the study

Many scholars have agreed on the power of media on shaping and framing the attitude of a society (Gitlin, 1978: Gackowski 2014: fursich 2010). According to Gackowski (2014) media have a delight power; especially for political elites who want to put their politically motivated influences on the society’s attitudes and actions. Therefore according to the above description we can refer the media as a powerful tool to guide the mass to the targeted action or attitude.

Media is a one powerful tool in a society. Its rightness and wrongness can do a lot to a society’s perception, attitude and action. According to Grossber,et al, (2006) the one part of the Media’s influence is that, it has a high value of giving a representation of some idea or group, and it can provide a pictures of peoples, different social groups and of their social identities.

So since a media can give a representation of some group or people, a wrong representation of the media can have a negative consequence towards the group or the people who represented. According to Fursich (2010) media’s message move beyond simply reflecting a reality, it establishes norms and common senses about people, group and institutions.

The representation in media is not just matter of content; its content can prove a specific context to audience. A problematic media representation of others needs to be taken seriously. Because if it is not it can produce damage.

A negatively used representation of some social group has a power of distorting the image of the group. In this case the media can create or contribute to a stereotype. As Grossber, et al (2006) states these stereotyped media representation even if they are only image which is forwarded, they do have a real consequences. As Grossber, et al (2006) these media representations can affect the self-esteem of those who are stereotyped and they can also determine the way the audience think behave towards the represented groups. And also Grossber, et al (2006) added that, if they are repeated enough, people can forget the earlier image and the newly disseminated representation can become the reality of the audience. For instance we can raise the issue of Muslims and the image that is built by Western media houses.

As Mesic explains after the 9/11 terror attack in America, the term “Muslims” and “terrorist” referred as synonyms in many western countries. Also Mesic states that, because many western media have tried to represent Muslims as “terrorists”, who threaten to the western society; this approach and presentation leads to the emergence of “islamophobia”. And also according to Ahlin and Carler (2011) through the grave generalization of western media towards Muslim and terrorism, social categorizations are established in many way that referred Muslims as “others”

And from the various types of media productions which can upgrade and degrade the image of some groups, documentaries will stand in the front row. As Rajala (2017) asserts the problem in defining of a concept as well as errors and confusions of truth in documentary films can affect our everyday lives.

As Sun (2014) states the representations of documentary film is highly influenced by political and economic interests, because documentaries are visual and intuitionistic, and also because creators of those films always have a desire to deliver their perspective to the audience, the impact and influence of the films towards the audience, become so high. Also as Lunacharsky (1999) expressed the effect of films reach on a place a book cannot reach. Lunacharsky (1999) also added that they are more powerful than any kind of narrow propaganda.

In Ethiopia, according to various scholars and researchers, the media and its products were used as a tool for the government. “Ethiopia’s media history testifies to persistently tight government control. Each of the three regimes during the past century has used the nation’s media as an integral part of their political project, thereby warranting a coercive media strategy.” (Skjerdal, 2013:32). Also Nigussie (2014) mentioned that media in Ethiopia has been shaped by the government which ruled, and the media served as a tool entertain the wishes of those on power. Nigussie (2014) also added that after EPRDF came to power the media show improvement in number and practices, but still the freedom of media is not fully granted, and the government kept his eyes on the practice of the media.

And also as researchers and scholars documentaries that were disseminated through the only TV stations on the past time, were mostly used as a propaganda tool for the government which was on the power.

As Muluneh (2015) explained on his study about the watchdog role of the Ethiopian broadcasting corporations, most of documentaries on ETV were produced in a manner that clearly support the government or they serve as mouth pieces of the government. Also Muluneh (2015) states that none of the documentaries present the public opinion none of them have present the government as an institution to be blamed.

Also according to Skjerdal (2013) the documentary on the performance of the private press in Ethiopia, which was presented on ETV during out the period August 2009 to January 2010, with six different programs totaling more than two hours of air time, were fulfill the seven criteria out of ten, to be called propagative.

To begin with the most evident characteristics, the communication must (1) contain a dialogue structure which aims to alter the audience’s convictions or actions; (2) forward an argumentative message; (3) have a goal-directed structure; (4) be aimed at a mass audience; (5) be characterized by one-sided argumentation; and (6) contain an eristic aspect which postulates a dichotomy for the audience (cf. 8.5.1) (Walton, 2007, p. 109ff; numerical order not identical with the original). A seventh attribute, use of emotive language and persuasive definitions, is also manifest in the documentary. ( Skjerdal, 2013: p177)

In addition, Henok (2013) in his study about the ETV’s documentary Jehadawi Harekat, concluded that the government had clear motive in broadcasting that documentary titled as ‘Jehadawi Harekat’. Also he found out that the documentary had a content which was biased and distorted to achieve certain hidden agenda of the government.

So as the above data indicates most of the documentaries those have been broadcasted on the government media, were not objective enough, and also they were intended to achieve the goal of the government on the audience.

On December 11, 2018 three Ethiopian TV stations (ETV, Fana and Walta) broadcasted a documentary titled “Ye fith Seqoka” which narrated about human right violations committed on prisoners while in prison. The documentary raised different opinions among different peoples from various backgrounds. The variation in opinion and reaction towards the same documentary is caused because the audience’s decoding and interpretation of the message is different. And this study made an attempt to assess how students in Mekelle University, Adi-haqi campus interpreted the documentary.

1.2. Statement of the Problem

Media in Ethiopia are highly criticized for being instrumental for government’s agenda and propaganda (Skjerdal, 2013 & Nigussies 2014). The Media’s attachment to the government concerns, lead the audience to do believe the programs which are transmitted. According to Abel, 2009; Sahilu, 2008; Zewge, 2007 “Case studies indicate low audience satisfaction with state-operated newspapers and television, especially in relation to news and current affairs, partly because «the programs are unfair, partial and blindly biased for the government».” (Quoted in Skjerdal, 2013; 236)

But since April 2018, after the change of head of the government of Ethiopia, things seem well regarding the freedom of press and expressions. This led the media houses to give coverage on issues that they have shunned away for long. ETV is also one of the media houses that started covering the problems in prisons focusing on prisoners’ treatment. And also after many years process, no journalist is in prison because of his/her activities in journalism.

During this progress the three Ethiopian TV stations (ETV, Fana and Walta) broadcasted a documentary on the corruption crisis of Metal Engineering Corporation’s (MetEC) administrations and authorities. This documentary raised different opinion from audiences and scholars. Immediately after the transmission of the documentary people were calling for more documentaries about related issues while there were also people who were voicing their anger over the intention and content of the documentary. There was a large public demonstration in Tigray region opposing the transmission of that documentary. After one week of the demonstration against the documentary those three TV station broadcasted another documentary called “Ye Fith Seqoka” which is made by FDRE Federal Attorney General.

The documentary narrates the human rights violations of government official on prisoners and protestors of the government, by interviewing the victims. The expression "Tigrigna speaker" used by the interviewees to refer to individuals who tortured them while they were in prison was a point of heated debate on the social media. There were people who said the expression was normal and have not harm in it. There were also people who were against the expression in particular and the documentary in general, mentioning that it generalizes the whole Tigrigna speakers as perpetrators. And they even made a Facebook hash tag campaign says “I’m also a Tigrigna speaker”.

According to Stuart hall’s encoding-decoding model, (Quoted in Galloway 2017), the meaning creation and interpretation of a text depends on the audiences social positioning. That is why what the producers want the audiences think, and what the audience really think might be different. And this study has assessed how participants who have a special positioning of a ‘student’ at Mekelle University, adi-haqi campus interpret the documentary’s message.

So far there are some studies conducted in the area of audience reception in Ethiopia, for instance, Henok (2013) had conducted an audience reception research regarding the documentary “Jehadawi Harekat”. The research was aimed at describing how the contents of the documentary interpreted by residents of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The result of the study shows that most of the audiences of the target group, consider the documentary message less credible and irrelevant to the socio- religious context of the country.

Since, the issue is a recent; the student researcher believes the area of audience reception on the documentary “Ye Fith Seqoka” is not studied. Therefore in order to fill the gap in this specific area, the study has made an attempt to analyze Mekelle University's Adi Haki Campus students’ reception of "Ye Fith Seqoka" Documentary.

1.3. Objectives the study

1.3.1 General objective

The general objective of this study was to assess how students in Mekelle University, Adi-Haqi Campus interpreted the message of “Ye Fitih Sekoka” documentary film which broadcasted by three Ethiopian television stations (ETV, Fana and Walta).

1.3.2 Specific objectives

The specific objectives of the research are

- Assessing the reaction of students in Mekelle University, Adi-Haqi campus on the documentary film “Ye Fith Seqoka” and its representation of subjects.
- Identifying the factors that lead the audience to perceive and react in such way, regarding the documentary film “ Ye Fith Seqoka”

1.4. Research questions

- How students in Mekelle University, Addi-Haqi campus interpret the message of the documentary film “Ye Fith Seqoka”?
- How the mentioned audiences react on the documentary and its representation of subjects?
- What factors led the audience to perceive and react in such way, regarding the documentary film “Ye Fith Seqoka”?

1.5. Significance of the study

The study of audience reception on the documentary “Ye Fith Seqoka”: the case of students in Mekelle University Adi-Haqi campus is significant in the following perspectives.

First, in the process of making this research, the student researcher has been beneficial in the gathering of knowledge and experience on the areas of documentary film, audience reception and on conducting a research.

Second, the study might be helpful at indicating the audience’s reaction on a documentary, so that the three media houses, journalists and documentary producers might consider the study’s findings in the process of making a documentary.

Third, it might be an additional material for other researchers, who have a desire to study on the area of audience reception. And also it may be able to inspire other researcher’s to study the reception of this documentary in different audience, or other documentaries and media outlets.

1.6. Scope of the study

The study of audience reception on the documentary “Ye Fitih Seqoka”: the case of students in Mekelle University Adi-Haqi campus specifically focused on assessing how students in Mekelle University, Adi-Haqi campus, interpreted the message of the documentary film “Ye Fitih Seqoka”.

The target population was selected from Mekelle University, Adi-Haqi campus. Therefore any of the analysis and findings of the study will only represent the mentioned target population and those who share similar backgrounds.

1.7. Limitations of the study

The researcher’s non-prior experience on the making of a research was a limitation to do not make this research in a better way; however this limitation was decreased through the guidance of the researcher’s advisor.

The research was conducted 5 months after the documentary’s transmission. Therefore even if this research has assessed the audience’s reception towards “yefith seqoka” the researcher assumes that the findings of this study might be affected by the subjects’ later observation on the country’s political status.


Literature Review


In this chapter the major theoretical and philosophical underpinnings that are important to conduct the reception analysis are covered. It reviews different scholar’s work on audience research, media audience theories, documentary, media representation and role of media.

The first point that is discussed in this chapter is “audience research” this section covers what audience research is and why it’s necessary to employ. After that media audience theories have discussed. This section tries to cover different kinds of theories regarding media audiences.

The next that is discussed in this chapter is the term “Documentary”. This section tries to cover what documentary is, the beginning of documentary and modes of documentary. It also discussed about Ethiopian national television’s (ETV) documentaries by overviewing study’s about it.

After that there are issues that are ascribed by scholars regarding representation of media. The meaning of representation, how it works, and the most known example of negative representation are issues under the title representation.

2.1. Audience Research

‘Audience reception analysis', 'reception studies' or 'audience ethnography' emerged and developed, with considerable success, from a convergence of hitherto opposed research traditions during the 1980s.’ (Livingstone, S. 1998) Audience reception studies focus on the interpretative relation between audience and medium.

As Dennis and et al (2017) sates in back days audience research were mainly focused on studying who is listening, watching, or reading the media productions. But now a day’s audience research is focused in to two major categories, i.e. message based and audience based. The first category of works in media studies focuses on ‘Textual’ power over the determination of meaning, and the second relies on ‘Ethnographic’ method of cultural investigation where agency of the audience plays a significant role in meaning construction. (Media Studies and Audience Research: A Review)

Even if the new audience research shared some common grounds with the traditional audience research Joke Hermes (2010) pointed out four points that makes the new audience research differ:

- New Audience Research is a type of audience research, its practitioners have a firm preference for qualitative over quantitative method which they believe allows them to do justice to the social contexts in which the media are used;
- contrary to mainstream mass communication research, the New Audience Research often prioritizes respect for cultures or cultural backgrounds that are marginalized by the dominant culture and by mainstream research traditions;
- its research object is usually popular culture, which includes both fiction and news genres; the New Audience Research is more political or `critical' than is popular culture research within such traditions as American Studies or English Literature (in as far as they accommodate popular culture at all);
- interactive research methods (interviews or participant observation) are preferred over text analytical methods (Joke Hermes, 2010, p;3)

Within the mainstream media studies paradigms Jensen and Rosengren (2005 [1990]) outline five main traditions of audience research. They are: the effects research, uses and gratifications research, literary criticism, cultural studies, and reception studies. (Media Studies and Audience Research: A Review)

Furthermore the recent media theories indicated that audience reaction and perception to media productions can’t be predicted from textual analysis of the media content. Since the media audience can’t be seen as totally passive and since audiences can interpret messages of the media based on their prior experiences it’s necessary to apply audience research in the context of media study.

2.2.1. Theories of Active audience

Mass communication is a very complex system and has come a very long way over the years. Various communication researchers have developed different theories while exploring the relationship between mass media and media audience.

Baran (2002) stated that different mass communication theories explains and predicts social phenomena in relation with communication process. These theories try to relate mass communication to different aspects of individuals which includes personal and cultural lives or social systems in which they are living.

Active audience theories argues that media audiences do not just receive information passively but are actively involved, often unconsciously, in making sense of the message within their personal and social contexts.

Livingstone (2003) states that, as the society develop, they as well have to be more active and critical in their consumption. The relationship between audiences and the media will no longer stay simple and top-down like it used to be. Some audiences may still be passive in receiving messages. Decoding of a media message may therefore be influenced by such things as family background, beliefs, values, culture, interests, education and experiences.

Encoding/Decoding model and the Uses and gratifications theories are compatible theories which consider the audience as active. As these theories asserts audiences actively involved in determining what media they engage with and in the process of meaning creation and interpretation. Reception Theory

'Audience reception analyses, 'reception studies' or 'audience ethnography' emerged and developed, with considerable success, from a convergence of hitherto opposed research traditions during the 1980s. (Livingstone, S. 1998) The idea of Audience reception theory is that even though producers and media industries construct a media text with particular messages intended within a guided framework, it is ultimately the audiences who determine what the messages mean to them or how it is relevant in their lives. (Fann T, 2012, p: 13)

According to Williams reception theory focuses on how audiences generate meaning from the media. The approach is interested in ‘what audiences do with the media’. It also aims at ‘understanding how audiences actively engage in the process of generating meaning and the factors outside the media that shape the sense they make of media messages.’ This approach sees the audience as active at ‘individual, social and political levels’ (Williams, 2003, p: 192-193),

Many scholars have agreed that audiences interpret media messages differently based on their life experience. According to Wicks (2001), for instance, audience members do not simply receive media messages. Although the media may be instrumental in shaping attitudes, opinions, and beliefs, people actively process and interpret media messages in the context of stored knowledge.

Reception theory states audience as people who are not passive as they are thought. Audiences do not just take in everything they are told and seen but instead they are active, responsive, interpretive participants-readers who have the ability to engage and negotiate with the text and interpret it according to their social and discursive positions –which also implies that they are not positioned by text. (Civelek E, 2012, P; 26)

The creator of reception theory Stuart Hall wanted to learn more about how the various types of media had different effects on different social groups. Although there can be a variation in the interpretation among the audience, Hall took a broader look and aimed his attention at how larger social groups made sense of these messages. Hall's main concern was to show how the 'hegemonic viewpoint' would then be 'decoded' by viewers. This led to the creation of the Encoding/Decoding Model. (Cited in Eyerusalem Y, 2017, p; 10) Encoding/Decoding

The encoding and decoding model was developed by Hall in an attempt to challenge the long held assumptions on how media messages are produced, circulated and consumed. Hall argued that researchers should direct their attention toward (1) analysis of the social and political context in which content is produced (encoding), and (2) the consumption of media content (decoding) (Mcquail, 2010).

Encoding/Decoding model of communication basically explains that meaning is encoded by the sender and decoded by the receiver and that these encoded meanings may be decoded to mean something else. That is to say, the senders encode meaning in their messages according to their ideals and views and the messages are decoded by the receivers according to their own ideals and views, which may lead to miscommunication or to the receiver understanding something very different from what the sender intended. (Hall, 1993)

Hall believes that the audience does not simply passively accept a text as the model took a look at ways in which audiences/readers make meaning from texts. Therefore after the audiences create meanings and interpretation they may have different stands on the forwarded media content. The audience can take the dominant, negotiated or the opposition positions.

Dominant/hegemonic position: This position is one where the consumer takes the actual meaning directly, and decodes it exactly the way it was encoded. The consumer operates within the dominant point of view, and fully shares the codes of the text and accepts and reproduces the intended meaning. Here, there is barely any misunderstanding because both the sender and receiver have the same cultural biases. This is the ideal-typical case of 'perfectly transparent communication'

Negotiated position: This position is a mixture of accepting and rejecting elements. Readers acknowledge the dominant message, but do not accept everything the way the encoder intended. The reader to a certain extent shares the text codes and generally accepts the preferred meaning, but simultaneously also resists and modifies the message in a way which reflects his/her own experiences and interests.

Oppositional position: In this position a consumer understands the literal meaning, but due to different backgrounds each individual has his own way of decoding messages, while forming his own interpretations gets exactly the opposite of the intended meaning. (The Cultural Studies Reader, Simon During, 1999)

2.3. Representation of media

According to Ann Sanson and et al (2000) media do not just reflect ‘the world out there.’ Ann Sanson and et al (2000) argued that if this were so, journalists would simply need to point their camera or tape recorder in a random direction and they will let the tape to roll. As Ann Sanson and et al, (2000) states in every stage of every production process and transmission of media houses active decisions are taken, regarding what should be included and what should be omitted, and how and when the content should be presented. Ann Sanson and et al (2000) also added that, therefore it can be argued that the media have the potential to play an active part in shaping and farming the perception of audience.


Excerpt out of 49 pages


Audience Reception Analysis on the Documentary "Ye Fitih Seqoka"
The Case of Students in Mekelle University, Adi-Haqi Campus
Senior Essay
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
This is a Senior Essay produced in partial fulfillment of the requirements for BA degree in Journalism and Communication from Mekelle University, department of Journalism and Communication. Basing on Stuart Hall's Encoding-decoding model, this research attempts to study how the documentary titled 'Ye Feteh Sekoka' is received among students of Mekelle University, Adi Haki Campus. It tries to answer three main questions: what message did they get, how did they react, and what do they think of the representation of subjects in the film.
Media, Documentary, Ethiopia, EncodingDecodingModel, YeFitihSekoka, MekelleUniversity, AmanuelYelkal
Quote paper
Amanuel Yelkal (Author), 2019, Audience Reception Analysis on the Documentary "Ye Fitih Seqoka", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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