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Assess the impact of the media on the course and outcomes of a contemporary British political issue. You should choose one of the issues covered in the course.

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Introduction

IN013803 Politics Essay 28/11/03 Assess the impact of the media on the course and outcomes of a contemporary British political issue. You should choose one of the issues covered in the course. The Media, and its Influence on the Fortunes of Political Leaders In a pluralist democracy, the media can have a very powerful effect upon politics, so powerful in some instances that it can shape outcomes of important political issues. Leadership of a party, therefore, is a precarious position to be in, owing to the persistent and pervasive influence of newspapers, television, radio and the internet. Events surrounding Iain Duncan Smith's reign as leader of the Conservatives illustrate the extent of this influence. Since the demise of spectrum scarcity in 1946, British politicians have been continually scrutinised by the media through television, newspapers and more recently the internet. Milton's 17th century concept of the 'freedom of the press' has allowed independence from government manipulation and the ability to talk more honestly and freely about politicians. However, the impartiality of the information depends on the fair-mindedness of journalists and the editorial policy. In the first half of the 20th century, people used to attend political rallies where they heard the great politicians of the day. ...read more.

Middle

This is perhaps, exemplifies an attempt to frame Smith. Budge's framing theory emphasises the way in which the media can influence politics and the way in which people see and understand it. Fast-forward syndrome is a common occurrence in modern politics due to the fast, free flowing information that is available world-wide. Issues change throughout the course of time, affected by crucial events, which can eventually be laid to rest when new information is discovered. An example of this is the perpetual real time coverage of the Iraq war. Newspapers said Conservative prospects were 'promising' under Howard's leadership, when only hours ago under Smith, they had been 'beyond repair'. Optimism however can be premature in politics, as Iain Duncan Smith can testify. When he triumphed over Ken Clarke in September 2001, the media claimed he was the man to resurrect the Tories' and compete with Labour; Baroness Thatcher called him a "fine young man with exceptional potential"(Thatcher,2001). Unfortunately for the Tories, September 11th distracted attention away from Duncan Smith's introductory campaign. Scotland on Sunday also revealed precautionary optimism by saying: "Any democrat, regardless of political hue, should welcome the rebuilding of the parliamentary opposition into an incisive and effective team."(Scotland on Sunday,2003) A few months down the line, he was criticised from all quarters including by members and ex-members of the party like Anne Widdecombe, Michael Heseltine and Crispin Blunt. ...read more.

Conclusion

The alternating and sometimes contradictory multiplicity of 'facts' displayed by left and right wing papers will no doubt have an effect on their loyal readership. However because these statistics only represent part of our democratic society and could be manipulated, the public's attitude to the leadership of the Conservative Party could be misdirected. Instead of polls representing the public's attitude -'Reinforcement Theory'(Budge, 1998)- they might shape it into the image presented by the media rather than by theirs -'Agenda Setting Theory'(Budge, 1998). People's opinions are changeable. Human beings think and act in crowds as well as individually, and if newspapers give the impression that most people have a particular viewpoint their willingness to have a more open mind can be affected. If a political party then makes mistakes and gains a reputation, not only will it find it difficult to detach itself from the previous deficiencies, but also it will inevitably be further damaged with the growth of investigative journalism. The issue of Iain Duncan Smith's leadership downfall therefore was not solely influenced by the media, but was a result of perennial antagonism against an ailing party. The initial optimism of Michael Howard's leadership could diminish when he gets involved in policy confrontation, and the media continue with their routine cynicism -which can influence the publics opinion on party leadership. ...read more.

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