Mediatised politics: Framing the press and publicity process in UK policy debates

Authors: Jackson, D.

Conference: 60th Political Studies Association Annual Conference. Sixty Years of Political Studies: Achievements and Futures

Dates: 29 March-1 April 2010


It has become commonly accepted that as political campaigning is increasingly media-centred, so news coverage of politics has come to focus on ‘media politics’ as a story. Such ‘metacoverage’ emphasises (a) the news media’s role as more than just spectators, but political agents who participate in, and shape, political events and outcomes, and (b) the presence and roles of communications media in politicians’ publicity efforts, and the activities of their media advisers and consultants (Esser and D’Angelo, 2003). Despite its supposed predominance in contemporary political journalism, to date, metacoverage has only been studied in a handful of content analyses, mostly outside the UK and all in an election context. This paper presents the findings of a non-election content analysis of metacoverage in the British press, developing existing theory in a number of ways. By comparing news coverage of a number of political issues – offering differing levels of elite conflict, stages in the electoral cycle, dynamics of policy development, and ‘finishing lines’ in terms of the legislative process – the study examines under what conditions metacoverage is most likely to be built in to news reports. It then engages with the normative debates associated with this type of coverage by investigating whether metacoverage is predominantly framed with a cynical and adversarial slant; constructive and engaged; or descriptive slant. Finally, the examination of politicians’ role in the construction of these stories will help determine the extent that they are victims or accomplices in the cynical framing of politics.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Dan Jackson