Youth, media and lifestyles : an audience study on media (television) consumption and lifestyles of black youth living in both Durban and Alice, South Africa.
Presented as a comparative analysis, this qualitative audience study tests the hypothetic proposition that youths’ (1) consumption of media is mediated by various socio-economic determinants as well as cultural and institutional practices. In order to test this hypothesis, the research examines the media (more specifically, television) consumption practices and lifestyles of black South African youths living in an urban city (Durban) and a peri-urban town (Alice) at a particular moment in time. Positioned as a historical study that reflects a specific period in the history of television (and media) in South Africa, the study attempts to provide a snapshot of youths, television consumption and lifestyles in post-apartheid South Africa. It assesses the relationship between youths and media during a specific period, namely, around a decade after South Africa’s first democratically elected government and when the country was still in the throes of political and economic change and transition. It assesses this relationship over a four-year period (from 2002 to 2006) and reflects on this epoch in relation to the then existing policy and regulatory framework as well as to the findings from other relevant empirical research. The analysis reflects upon the social constructs of class and gender in relation to the study’s broader findings on television consumption, which are derived from qualitative and quantitative empirical data. It develops categories and typologies of the lifestyles of youths towards this end and it concludes that youths’ media consumption practices and the production and reproduction of lifestyles is a complex matrix of ‘lived’ experiences, cultural identity and other socialising factors such as age, race and class. Moreover, it shows that peoples’ media choices and the related selection and appropriation of media are fundamentally informed by specific policy and regulatory regime. Notwithstanding this, the ways in which black South African youths use media (imported programming or local television content, for example) and accordingly fashion their lifestyles, remains largely determined by their class, their access to Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and the proximity of the experiences represented in the media to those with which they can identify. (1) I refer to youths (in the plural) in recognition of the heterogeneity of young people classically referred to as the amorphous group, youth.
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