Selective believability: A perspective on Africans’ interactions with global media | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 5, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2040-199X
  • E-ISSN: 1751-7974



The transformation of the media landscape, facilitated by advances in communications technologies, has changed the dynamics of media-audience relationship and posed new challenges to reception research. Perhaps nowhere is this as profound as it is in transnational audience studies, for cross-cultural interactions have never been wider. This article attempts to highlight a new perspective on African audiences’ engagement with global media and point to new postulates in audience research. It briefly reviews key reception theories, ranging from the effects tradition to active audience paradigm and encoding-decoding model. It then offers a case study on Northern Nigerians’ interactions with international media, particularly the BBC World Service, to unveil the patterns and consequences of such interactions. The mainly Muslim Northern Nigerians were found to be high consumers of western media products, especially the BBC’s, but with high level of selectivity. Although they regard BBC as the most credible broadcaster that aids their understanding of international affairs and influences their everyday lives, they still see it as a western ideological instrument that portrays the West positively and depicts the Islamic world and Africa negatively. The findings reveal patterns and particularities of postcolonial audiences’ consumption of transnational media that suggest new theoretical postulates in reception research. They indicate the audiences’ tendency to exhibit a phenomenon of ‘selective believability’ in their interactions with international media. They also highlight the mediating roles of religion, culture, ideology and other extra-communication factors in such interactions, and identify the dynamics of credibility and believability. Credibility appears to be a necessary but not sufficient condition for believability in audiences’ consumption of dissonant messages.


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