Audiences' willingness to participate in Welsh-language media
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Contemporary media audiences expect to be able to interact with content, but in a minority language context, audience participation presents challenges related to audiences’ linguistic confidence. This thesis focuses on Wales, where media producers have suggested that audiences are often reluctant to interact with broadcast and online content in Welsh. To begin to understand this unwillingness, and how it might be overcome, the concept of willingness to participate (WTP) is coined as an extension of willingness to communicate (McCroskey & Baer 1985). First, interviews with producers are analysed qualitatively to identify potential influences on audiences’ WTP. The analysis aims to assess the relative importance of various factors: audiences’ feelings of apprehension, self-perceived competence, language background and Welsh language ability, as well as the modality of participation (oral/written) and the level of demand placed on the audience. Second, a questionnaire is designed and administered to 358 Welsh speakers, to examine audiences’ perceptions of different opportunities to participate in media content. A path model of WTP is proposed and tested using quantitative data from the survey. The results support the hypothesis that audiences’ apprehension and self-perceived competence predict WTP and that audience response varies according to the media context. While audiences’ Welsh language skills are important in explaining their WTP, other aspects of language background, such as Welsh language acquisition context, are found to be less important. Third, the survey sample is grouped according to common patterns of WTP, to test whether the above effects are consistent across the population or whether different ‘types’ of audience exist. Using a combination of cluster analysis and thematic analysis of audience comments, four types of audience are proposed and described in detail. Finally, implications for sociolinguistic theory, language maintenance and media production practice are considered and recommendations made.
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