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Politics influence the media in the UK. Describe and evaluate the validity of this statement.
The British media industry is on a leading position around the world that the newspaper, television, radio and social media are famous in the reports of political news, the audiences love to see and share the opinions with others. The British media is influenced by the politics of a large extent while the politics is affected by the media either. Regarding to the recent researches, this essay could be divided into five parts. The media became the governing machine initially, and the government used it to control the public opinion. Then they are separated due to the rising dispute of public relations. However, with the development of social media, the media preferences are altered by political situation while the social media is playing a significant role in spreading the political news. The process of politics-media corporation is varied by the different national conditions.
The media in the UK is as a core part of the governing machine, instead of being hostile to politicians and other public characters (Oborne, 2012). The position does show the fact that the media influences the British politics. But, at the beginning, the politicians who seek help from media to change the public opinion. The politicians and journalists co-run to draw a perfect political image to the public which called ‘Spin’ or ‘Spin Doctors’ (McNair, 2004). It can be seen as a strategy that journalists cover the political fact to a better way. Since the rise of New Labour, the domination state of ‘Spin’ has been settled in the political journalism. For example, under the leadership of Tony Blair, the New Labour Party won the election which is inalienable to its achievement to gain tight connection with the media. This phenomenon is the consequence of both the media and politics which demands for each other and do not happen occasionally (Moloney, 2001). Thus, it is an important sign of a party’s governance that using and handling the media properly if a party wants to govern more effectively. Although ‘The Blair Years’ came to the end as Tony Blair declared his resignation as British Prime Minister, the phenomenon is still remained to be discussed. Due to the participation of media, the “demonology of spin” can be characterised as the outcome of contemporary periods (McNair, 2004). The using of ‘Spin’ is considered controversial due to the increasingly adverse reaction from the journalists who felt being manipulated. However, the media is involved into the political events in this period. It helps the politicians spin a lot of scandals which affect the political world.
The government uses the media as a tool to control the public opinions. At the beginning, the government seeks to react as rapidly as possible to the public when social problem occurred. They can react by making statement in the office or use the ministerial broadcast and so on (Gaber, 2000). However, they found a more efficient way to publish an announce which is seeking help from political journalists. Therefore, the journalists could gain a lot of information of the political secrets or even details of personal life. After receiving, they edit them in a proper way which could provide a good image of politicians. This action is named of ‘Image-management’, which is an important part of government dealing with public relations. Actually, the dependence on ‘Image-management’ is not the first choice of politicians. But with the ‘celebrity culture’ is occupied a large part of the public life, the ‘Image-management’ has become ever more potent (Schlesinger, 2006). The government finds that cooperating with the media could gain more benefits than before, whilst the media also can receive more profit and page views. Due to this phenomenon, more media platform occurred, such as ‘The Sunday Times’, ‘The Guardian’ and ‘The Observer’. The appearance of them can illustrate that the politics do influence the process of media development.
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The government and media are separated due to the rising dispute of public relations. At the beginning, the politicians increase their power one hundredfold, but the journalists are not satisfied with the information that the politicians want to publish, they want to explore more private news that the politicians do not wish to be shown to the public (Schlesinger, 2006). More newspapers focus on politicians’ scandal appeared. Although the television and radio are owned by the country, the newspapers in the UK are not dominated by the nation. It means the newspapers have their own political point and freedom to speak their own opinion. With the situation that more readers like to explore the politician’s’ personal life. The relevant reports show that the sales of newspapers about politicians’ gossip are higher than others (Moloney, 2001). The politics story attracted public attention, so more media choose politics news to publish to earn page views. For example, the late Princess Diana, had a lot of exposure from media which also made her into a bad situation. Because of her introverted personality, she hired former Corrie actor Peter Settelen as a voice coach to increase confident of public speaking. The result was good that she became good speaker and earned public praise for the royalty (Schlesinger, 2006). However, the latest documentary ‘Diana: in her own words’ published by the BBS in 2017 makes bad influences on royalty. The honor of royalty is ruined by the media to some extent while the politicians have no way to change the situation. It shows that the royalty used to gain reputation from the media which does not mean the media will always follow their instruction. Due to negative effects that the audiences receive too much ‘good image’ of the politicians and lose the trust of media, the sales and page views have declined. After this situation, the government-media relation is facing a break, but either of them could extricate itself from the mess easily.
The political situation can alter the media preference. For example, ‘The Sun’ is well-known by the supporting of The Labour Party. However, it shifts its ground to support the Conservative Party while the paper’s owner thinks the media does not have power to influence the election. Nevertheless, John Major had won the leadership election in the general election and the Conservative Party had kept the position as the first Party for 18 years from 1979 to1997. However, in March 18th, 1997, ‘The Sun’ changed its support back to the Labour Party. In this year, the Labour Party became the first Party and the ‘The Blair Years’ started. In the UK, over millions of readers, switched its support with the headline, “The Sun Backs Blair” (Reeves, McKee and Stuckler, 2016). The figures show that ‘The Sun’ can influence the election unconsciously and the effect sizes were increasing below 2% among the research by Reeves. Although the influence is tiny, the variation of 2% can change a lot in political elections. This is a typical event canIt is the political situation makes the newspaper changing the standpoint. The media prefers to stand at a more powerful position which could receive a lot of exposure and profit.
Nowadays, social media is playing a significant role in spreading the political news. The ways of British individuals obtain political information are mostly on television, radio, newspaper and social media. While the social media is occupying a larger part in the public life than before. The politics get the supervising from social media which can be seen as the trend of following the public opinions (Anstead and O’Loughlin, 2015). The recent researches show that the politicians attempt to predict election results by analysing the social media figure. Regarding to the former research that the public prefer to show their opinions when the political news are reported by the media(Reeves, McKee, & Stuckler, 2016). In fact, the posts on the Twitter and Facebook are publicly available, which means the big data are accessible for politicians or journalists to understand and illustrate public opinions. Online news is browsed by hundred billions of people every day, the public get information from the media which becomes the truth they believe in. In which case that the government and media found there will be a double win from the cooperation. However, with the public awaking of the politics-media relationships, the collaboration is facing the break. The public gain diverse information from different channels which are no longer manipulated by the government or media (Deacon, 2004). Meanwhile, with the development of social media, the political events are becoming the common topics that everybody could comment online, then the government needs to rethink of how to use social media to measure the public opinion, whilst the media still need to explore more on social media-based methods. For example, in November 2013, the Labour Party election strategist, Douglas Alexander said that social media would be a priceless tool in the election campaign. According to the research figures of Twitter, 47% of the voters (in group of 18 to 34-year-old users) changed their views based on what they saw on the site (Perraudin, 2015). Therefore, the interaction of politics and media is existing, and it is changing all the time.
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Above all, the politics do influence the media in the UK. From the period of ‘Spin Doctor’ to nowadays, there is a chain between political world and media which is subtle. Though the connection seems weak sometime, the dependence of each other does not break. Referring to the ‘The Blair Years’ and ‘the Brexit’, the political events are still the core part of British media industry. The British newspapers have diverse headlines to vote for their believed Parties which are unique all over the world. Meanwhile, the British politics is well-known by the worldwide due to the prosperity of the media industry. With the development of media, ‘spin’ is less useful than before. The public have more personal perspectives of the political events which is not easy to be moved by media unless there is the obvious evidence to prove the right and wrong. Every action of government is watched by the public, if there are errors, the citizen will notice. And in this situation, the relationship between the politics and media is more sensitive than before. If the government will still seek help from the media and weather the media will response as before. This is the question that needs to be studied in the further research.
Anstead, N. and O’Loughlin, B. (2015) ‘Social media analysis and public opinion: The 2010 UK general election’, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 20(2), pp. 204–220.
Deacon, D. (2004) ‘Journalists and quasi‐government in the UK: conflict, co‐operation or co‐option?’, Journalism Studies, 5(3), pp. 339–352.
Gaber, I. (2000) ‘Government by spin: an analysis of the process’, Media, Culture & Society, pp. 507–518.
McNair, B. (2004) ‘PR must die: Spin, anti-spin and political public relations in the UK, 1997 – 2004’, Journalism Studies, 5(3), pp. 325–338.
Moloney, K. (2001). ‘The rise and fall of spin: changes of fashion in the presentation of UK politics’. Journal of Public Affairs, 1(2), 124–135. https://doi.org/10.1002/pa.58
Oborne, P. (2012) ‘Is the British Press Really So Feral?’, British Journalism Review, 23(3), pp. 61–68.
Perraudin, F. (2015) Twitter ‘could be vital tool in general election. [online]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/mar/18/twitter-vital-tool-general-election [Accessed 15th Augest 2017].
Reeves, A., McKee, M., & Stuckler, D. (2016). ‘It’s The Sun Wot Won It: Evidence of media influence on political attitudes and voting from a UK quasi-natural experiment’, Social Science Research, 56, 44–57. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2015.11.002
Schlesinger, P. (2006). ‘Is there a crisis in British journalism? Media, Culture & Society’, 28(2), 299–307. https://doi.org/10.1177/0163443706061691
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