The aim of this study is to analyze if and how Swedish television viewers perceive the social class position of characters and persons in different kinds of television fiction and news. The results are related to theories of class, ideology, reception and social cognition. The class concept is complemented by concepts like status, occupation and strata. The term “social position” is used as an overall concept including all these concepts. Regarding reception a modified version of Stuart Hall’s typology of decoding positions is used together with schema theory. The data collection was conducted 1991-1993, so the results express a part of Swedish media history. The programmes used were the Swedish social realist serial Tre kärlekar *(Three Loves), the US prime time soap *Falcon Crest, and two news items. Both qualitative reception interviews with 22 informants and a representative questionnaire with 1192 respondents were conducted. The interviews were analyzed both qualitatively and quantitative and compared to results from the survey. The main results were that informants usually can give some classification of social position when asked about it but this was mostly not something that they reflected upon while watching. Many different terms were used to describe characters, like occupation, class, “higher”, “lower”, status and wealth. Social position was more often consciously perceived when watching fiction than during news. This was validated by survey data. There were no significant differences between informants from different social classes regarding attention to social position, while the role of class identity was more complex. Cognitive centrality mattered, informants who more often thought about their own social class in everyday life were also somewhat more probable to think about the social position of the characters. This was confirmed in the survey.
Keywords: Social class, television, reception, schemas, encoding/decoding, cognitive centrality, Tre kärlekar, Falcon Crest, news