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Does the mass media have a direct effect on British Politics?

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Introduction

Does the mass media have a direct effect on British Politics The argument that the mass media have a direct effect on British politics is certainly a contentious one, for although it would be virtually impossible to support a hypothesis that the media has no effect on British politics, it can be difficult at times to ascertain whether the media plays a direct or an indirect role in affecting British politics. The media will be examined both as a whole and in its separate parts, with its constituent parts being the print media and the electronic media, of which the electronic media can also be further sub-divided into television (and satellite) and radio. There is much evidence about where the electorate gather their political information from, with surveys showing that television is most peoples' primary source of political information (60% to 70%) with the press coming in at a distant second on 25% to 30% (Jones & Kavanagh,1991:97). There are many possible reasons for this, with the sheer number of television sets and an almost universal access to them being the most probable. Another reason for the dependence on the television rather than the print media for political information is the perceived bias of newspapers and the perceived neutrality of television news. ...read more.

Middle

A third of the electorate think that the newspapers do show a political bias, compared to only ten per cent who believe the same about television (all statistics from Budge & McKay,1993:118) so the evidence does seem to be clear on this matter. Although the effect of the media on voting behaviour and political beliefs through newspaper bias is difficult to either conclusively prove or disprove, there has been a great change in party organisation (especially at a local level) since the advent of the mass media. The evidence on this subject is more clear-cut, for there is little doubt that since the advent of the mass media there has been much less reliance on having a strong local membership, local party workers and canvass from essaybank.co.uk ers whereby formerly they were of paramount importance in winning elections and getting the party's policies across to the voters. In the days of the mass media, however, politicians can "reach more people via two minutes on television than they could meet in a lifetime's door-to-door canvassing" (Jones & Kavanagh,1991:100). The media have not totally destroyed the importance of the local party organisation in election strategy, but they have severely weakened it. As the mass media has contributed greatly towards changing the structure of the local party machines, it has also changed the way in which elections are fought, and also the focus of elections. ...read more.

Conclusion

With television programmes such as Question Time and comprehensive coverage of all the major elections also on television, the electorate has no excuse to not be the best informed electorate in history, with such easy access to political information. The media has also change the forms of political communications, from the open rallies where the Prime Minister of the day would address thousands of people, through "fireside chats" on radio, to the present day system where politicians give us relaxed television performances, while trying to persuade the electorate that they have the right policies for the country and striving "to persuade us of their competence, commitment and sincerity within the time constraints of television schedules and audience attention-spans" (Jones & Kavanagh,1991:101). There is either scant or inconclusive evidence on many parts of the media's influence on British politics, but there are other areas, such as how the media has revolutionised how elections are fought, where there is much evidence that the media has had a direct and major influence on British politics. Added to this is the fact that the arguments suggesting that this is true do seem to be more reasonable than their opposing arguments. However there is scant evidence to suggest that the media has very little direct effect, so while the overall evidence is not totally conclusive, the evidence does seem to suggest that the media does have a direct effect on British politics, at least in some areas. ...read more.

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