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Audiences’ Engagement with Reality TV

To what extent would a uses and gratifications approach be useful for studying audiences’ engagement with contemporary reality TV?

Uses and Gratification Theory is a theory of mass communication, it is concerned with the wants, drives, and pleasures of media consumers. According to the idea, persons who actively absorb media rather than passively are more than just mass communication consumers. (Gorden, 2022)

The authors of the hypothesis are identified as Jay G. Blumler and Elihu Katz. They wrote "The Uses of mass communication: Current Perspectives on gratifications research" in 1974, which provided a comprehensive overview of the Uses and Gratifications Theory. However, Harold Laswell's research served as the inspiration for the notion. (Gorden, 2022)

The operational group of sociologists at the time adopted this shift in the traditional study focus from media effects to media functions. According to the function perspective, society is composed of several little components. Each party serves a distinct purpose within the many social subsystems. The main necessities of society are met by these subsystems. (Gorden, 2022)

Researchers have traditionally considered audiences as active participants who seek for, rank, utilize, and consume media for a variety of reasons and goals and in a variety of ways since the development of the Uses and Gratifications Theory. Media is used by modern audiences to meet one or more unique demands. (Gorden, 2022)

According to Bloomer and Katz, people who utilize media do so to satisfy a need, which could be one of use or fulfilment. In other words, audiences select a media and utilize it for any of the 4 media purposes or Uses and Gratifications. Like amusement or diversions.  To get away from regular troubles and routines, often known as escapism. As a replacement for genuine interpersonal and emotional contact. Association with fictional characters in books and television shows, as well as learning behaviours and ideals from the media, all aid in the development of the individual. They could also use it to fulfil their informational needs. (Gorden, 2022)

When examining how viewers engage with contemporary reality TV, the Uses and Gratifications technique can be quite useful. This is because reality television is a tremendously popular genre that attracts viewers with a variety of interests, motivations, and backgrounds. Using a uses and gratifications approach, researchers can learn more about why viewers select various reality TV shows and the gratifications they receive from them.

According to an investigation of reality TV viewers conducted by Papacharissi and Mendelson, the major motivations for watching reality TV were habitual pastime and reality entertainment. According to additional studies, reality TV viewers who appreciated the program's relaxing and amusing features also tended to believe that its painstakingly created and frequently pre-planned content was authentic. Additionally, reality TV was more likely to be watched to fulfil the voyeurism and companionship needs of individuals who were externally controlled, restricted in their movement, and participated in little social interaction. Both the appeal of realistic programming and practical alternatives to reality TV has been recognized. (Papacharissi & Mendelson, 2011)

As reality television standardizes a recipient's perception, making it common to all members of society, it has grown to be one of pop culture's most recognizable elements. However, we can categorize reality shows into four main groupings by considering both the ones that have been on television in the past and those that are now airing. The first one concern reality television programs with a competitive structure in which a contestant always emerges victorious. For instance, The Real World, the longest-running reality series in history, launched the era of reality television. Talent competitions like the X-Factor, American Idol, Master Chef, and America's Got Talent take place every week to find talented people throughout the nation and give them an opportunity to live out their American Dream. Relationship programs illustrate how people form relationships in front of the cameras. For instance, Farmer Wants a Wife, Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire, The Bachelor, The Big Date, Beauty and the Geek, The Choice, and The Bachelorette. (Ikalyuk & Doronyuk, 2015)

Consider "Bigg Boss" and "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" as two examples of current reality TV programs to further demonstrate the value of the Uses and Gratifications approach.

The Indian TV reality program Bigg Boss debuted in 2006 and has variants in seven different Indian dialects.  It is regarded as the Hindi adaptation of the Dutch-British program "Big Brother." Bigg Boss in Hindi, which airs on "Colors" and is accessible on OTT platforms, has also run for 16 seasons. All other Indian TV reality shows have very different concepts than this one. The candidates in this show reside in a house for a specific amount of time while being constantly observed by cameras and prohibited from removing their microphones. Contestants on this show share a home and are cut off from the outside world. (Kaur, 2021) 

The drama series "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" explores the struggles of an American family known for being famous. Kim, her sisters Khloe and Kourtney, her brother Rob, her stepsisters Kendall and Kyle, as well as her mother Kris and step-father Bruce, are all a part of this group. It debuted in 2007 on E! Entertainment. The spin-off programs "Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami," "Kourtney and Kim Take New York," and "Khloe and Lamar" have all resulted from it. (RADIO TIMES, n.d.)

Researchers can learn more about the reasons viewers watch these shows by using the Uses and Gratifications technique. For instance, the desire for social comparison, escapism, and para-social engagement may be the driving forces for viewers. They might also find enjoyment in the show's entertainment value and the chance to get a glimpse into and learn about celebrities' lives.

The purposes and gratifications approach's recognition of the diversity of audiences and their reasons for consuming media is one of its main advantages. For instance, some reality TV viewers could be more drawn to the emotional elements of programs like "Bigg Boss," but others might be more interested in the drama and conflicts among competitors. Comparably, although some "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" viewers might be more interested in the family dynamics and relationships, others might be more interested in the glitz and celebrity lifestyle. Researchers can develop a more sophisticated picture of how audiences interact with reality TV and what gratifications they seek by taking into account these individual variances.

With so many fans participating in online conversations and exchanges about their favourite shows, social media has grown to be an increasingly significant component of reality television. Researchers may gain more understanding of the motivations and gratifications of viewers as a result. Similarly, viewers can interact with other "Bigg Boss" fans and share their ideas and opinions about the candidates' actions. This social engagement can also take place on social media sites, where users can participate in debates and post their thoughts on the program in real time.  Similarly to this, a study discovered that fans of "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" utilize social media to keep up with the private lives of the Kardashian family members and participate in online debates, which can promote intimacy and social connection. (Kaur, 2021)

The uses and gratifications method also recognizes that societal and cultural issues can have an impact on audience motivations and gratifications. For instance, researchers discovered that viewers of reality TV programs in Britain were driven not only by a need for amusement but also by a sense of social criticism and political involvement. (Tumber & Palmer, 2004)

Similar to this, a different study discovered that cultural beliefs about family, hierarchy, and social status in addition to a desire for pleasure and escape inspired Korean reality TV viewers. Researchers can learn more about the complicated interaction between reality TV and its consumers by looking at the cultural and socioeconomic elements that affect viewers' motivations and gratifications. (Jang, et al., 2019)

The uses and gratifications technique can be quite helpful for examining how viewers engage with modern reality TV, in conclusion. Researchers can learn more about how audiences interact with these shows and what incentives they seek by focusing on audience individuality, the involvement of social media, the impact of cultural and sociological elements, and the ethical concerns of reality TV. Academics may also demonstrate how this approach might be applied in context by concentrating on certain reality TV programs like "Bigg Boss" and "Keeping Up With The Kardashians."


Gorden, J., 2022. Uses and Gratification Theory- Explained. [Online] Available at:[Accessed April 2023].

Ikalyuk, L. & Doronyuk, O., 2015. REALITY SHOW AS A TYPE OF MEDIA DISCOURSE (A STUDY OF THE REALITY SHOW KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS). Journal of Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University, 2(2), p. 3.

Jang, B.-Y., Heo, W.-H., Kim, J.-H. & Kwon, O.-W., 2019. Music detection from broadcast contents using convolutional neural networks with a Mel-scale kernel. EURASIP Journal on Audio, Speech, and Music Processing.

Kaur, D. K., 2021. Influence Of Indian Tv Reality Shows On The Individual Behaviour Of Audience. Journal of Contemporary Issues in Business and Government, 27(1), p. 2.

Papacharissi, Z. & Mendelson, A., 2011. An Exploratory Study of Reality Appeal: Uses and Gratifications of Reality TV Shows. Journal Of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 51, 2007(2), pp. 355-370.

RADIO TIMES, n.d. Keeping Up With The Kardashians. [Online] Available at:[Accessed 2023].

Tumber, H. & Palmer, J., 2004. Media At War: The Iraq Crisis. s.l.:SAGE.


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