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MODERN BRITISH POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT THE MEDIA AND POLITICS "The relationship between the media and politicians has become increasingly unhealthy but it is difficult to know how that relationship could be changed." Discuss Guidance: What is the relationship between the media and politicians? What is meant by the 'media' - what about the difference, for example, between the newspaper and television media? What about the internet? What is meant by 'unhealthy'? In what sense exactly is it difficult to know how the relationship could be changed?
Introduction What is the relationship? Structures/Regulatory environment/
Is this unhealthy? Why?
How could it be changed?
What would those changes achieve?
Conclusion Studying the Media and Politics in Britain: a tale of two literatures? BJPIR June 2002: G. Chondroleou
- One school posits that the media in the Western world fosters political pluralism, but has the potential to undermine democracy. Citizens are better informed, but display high levels of cynicism about political actors and processes, with low turnout at elections being a consequence of this. However, it is political elites who play the central role in determining the impact that the media has1.
- It has proven very difficult to link theories regarding the relationship between politics, democracy, and the media with statistical evidence. Perhaps it is more useful to examine the behavior of both parties and the media and examine their own conception of the impact.
- The Blair government increasingly professionalised political communication and marketing.
- There has been a steady concentration of ownership and centralisation of control of media organisations, and information risks being formed and distributed along monopolistic lines.
- It has been argued that media proliferation has shifted voter preferences and political-economic priorities. Politicians, Privacy, and Media Intrusion in Britain - Parliamentary Affairs 57: D. Deacon
- Privacy acts and statutory controls on the media have been repeatedly consider in Britain but always resisted, both by the media and the majority of politicians alike.
- Public interest arguments are used to invade the privacy of elected representatives, perhaps in breach of Article 8 of the ECHR; to what extent should politicians be expected to give up their privacy, and does this compromise their positions?
- 1998 Competition Act (Media).
- The Communications Act 2003 consolidated the regulatory framework surrounding media organisations. It relaxed regulation surrounding the concentration of media sources in order to promote competition. OFCOM was the result of combining of other media regulators and works alongside the Press Complaints Commission.
- Newspapers remain essentially self-regulating, abiding by a voluntary code of conduct. Following the incorporation of the ECHR into British law there were calls for privacy rights to be given a legislative foundation; the Blair government rejected this on the grounds that a totally free press was desirable and self-regulation remained the best solution; moreover, the press is united in its opposition to statutory regulation.
- Bias within the UK media has long been complained about, but rather than seek to undermine it parties have instead tried to harness it. Labour sought a break up of monopolistic media 1 Studying the Media and Politics in Britain - A Tale of Two Literatures?BJPIR June 2002: G. Chondroleou
organisations after their 1992 election defeat. However, on taking the party leadership in 1994 Blair and his allies courted the media establishment; in 1997 The Sun and The News of the World, Murdoch newspapers, both supported Labour, along with 72% of print media sources. Politicians acknowledge the power of the media to influence voters, recommend changes in opposition to ameliorate this, but typically eschew such changes when in power2.
- Deacon believes that it is fear of antagonising media moguls which has dissuaded politicians from regulating their publications more tightly.
- Political parties have responded to the advent of the 24 hour global news cycle by increasing the scale and professionalism of their media operations. The two main parties spent cPS27million each on campaign advertising in 1997, a fraction of the levels seen in the US but still five times higher than that 14 years earlier3. The Political Parties, Elections, and Referendums Act 2000 set spending limits for local and national campaigns, an attempt to prevent a media 'arms race'. Does Negative News Matter?: Norris & Sanders
- This study found, based on survey responses during the 1997 general election campaign, that voting intentions were markedly affected by the content of television coverage; 'positive' images had a more powerful effect on voters than 'negative'4.
- Positive or negative coverage of a party affected the levels of support for that party accordingly, but it had no clear impact on the competing parties among previously decided voters. Levels of knowledge of the contemporary political discourse had no impact on response to news images, but those who were strongly partisan were less affected.
- The researchers were unable to determine how long voting intentions would remain moved by news items, but hypothesised that a cumulative effect of negative or positive reporting would be significant. The New Media and the Old: J. Stanyer
- The Blair government did make gestures towards greater transparency in its relationship with the media. Campbell made Lobby briefings 'on the record', a significant step after 120 years of nonattribution. The Press and its Influence on British Political Attitudes Under New Labour: Gavin & Sanders
- This study analysed the relationship between economic content in the newspaper press and changes in the public's political and economic attitudes. They found that broadsheets do influence voter's views but tabloids do not. The influence of the press remains stable in general, although the importance of newspapers is declining relative to alternative media sources. It should also be acknowledged that Conservative voters tend to buy centre-right newspapers, Labour voters centreleft, and so we cannot draw direct causal links between newspaper content and voting intention5.
- Newspapers are sending variable messages, and even those which give support to a particular party around elections are apt to criticise that same party in between; this has a cumulative impact on voting intentions.
- The fact that tabloids appear to have little impact, as a result of their readers' lower levels of interest in political and economic affairs, does suggest that political parties should be less concerned about the nature of partisan coverage in these papers. Television Can Matter - Bias in the1992 General Election: A. Mughan
- Begins by conceding that there remains a lack of consensus among academics over the political 2 Politicians, Privacy, and Media Intrusion in Britain - Parliamentary Affairs 57: D. Deacon 3 Politicians, Privacy, and Media Intrusion in Britain - Parliamentary Affairs 57: D. Deacon 4 Does Negative News Matter?: Norris & Sanders 5 The Press and its Influence on British Political Attitudes Under New Labour: Gavin & Sanders
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