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Semiotics Glossary P

Preferred reading
[Chandler]    This is a term which Stuart Hall originally used in relation to television news and current affairs programmes but which is often applied to other kinds of text. Readers of a text are guided towards a preferred reading and away from `aberrant decoding' through the use of codes. A preferred reading is not necessarily the result of any conscious intention on the part of the producer (s) of a text. The term is often used as if it refers to a meaning which is in some way `built into' the form and/or content of the text-a notion which is in uneasy accord with a textual determinism which Hall rejected. Hall himself seemed to assume that (in relation to television news and current affairs programmes) such meanings were invariably encoded in the dominant code, but such a stance tends to reify the medium and to downplay conflicting tendencies within texts. Nor is it clear how we may establish what any such preferred meaning in a text might be. Does it constitute the most common reading by members of the audience? Even if it proves to be so, can it be said to reside `within' the text? In the context of the polysemic nature of relatively open-ended texts, the notion of a preferred reading may be too limiting. The extent to which there may be a preferred reading is related in part to how open or closed the text is judged to be.