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Democratic participation and public access broadcasting: Caller Perspectives on Election Call
Unformatted Document Text:  11 Competing agendas: the public vs. the politicians vs. the media Much of the research which has been undertaken on what constitutes a political agenda tends to focus on the dissonances between what concerns ’ordinary’ people and what is reported in the media as being the important issues of the day, fed by both a formal and an informal political discourse. In the immediate post-hoc assessment of the success of the parties’ election campaigns in 2001, pundits agreed that one particular issue, Britain’s adoption of the Euro, was completely overplayed, especially by the Conservatives. In fact, in his standing-down speech, William Hague admitted that his party’s focus on this issue, almost to the exclusion of everything else, was a serious misjudgement (Hague, 2001). However, it wasn’t just the Tories who seemed fixated on the Euro since the media consistently foregrounded the Euro in their campaign coverage, not because it was an issue of great concern to the public but because it was the only issue on which there appeared to be genuine policy differences between the main parties. But despite the media’s interest in the Euro, only five out of the 68 callers (7%) in this study raised it as their principal concern and of these, all but one were men. Table 1 sets out the most frequently asked categories of question in this study, by gender. [Table 1 about here ] As far as our sample is concerned, there was a great diversity of topics raised by callers but the most frequently asked question category (23%) was the political process itself, for example, spin doctoring, tactical voting or sleaze. However, it should be noted that far more men (28%) than women (19%) were concerned with this as an issue. The public’s interest in the process of politics (as opposed to the content of policy) is, arguably, fuelled by the media’s interest in and endless discussion of precisely the same thing. In research on the 1997 British election, one third of all campaign reportage focused on the conduct of the election itself, on the horse-race, the style and the campaign trail (University of Loughborough, 1997).

Authors: Ross, Karen.
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11
Competing agendas: the public vs. the politicians vs. the media
Much of the research which has been undertaken on what constitutes a political agenda tends to
focus on the dissonances between what concerns ’ordinary’ people and what is reported in the
media as being the important issues of the day, fed by both a formal and an informal political
discourse. In the immediate post-hoc assessment of the success of the parties’ election
campaigns in 2001, pundits agreed that one particular issue, Britain’s adoption of the Euro, was
completely overplayed, especially by the Conservatives. In fact, in his standing-down speech,
William Hague admitted that his party’s focus on this issue, almost to the exclusion of everything
else, was a serious misjudgement (Hague, 2001). However, it wasn’t just the Tories who
seemed fixated on the Euro since the media consistently foregrounded the Euro in their
campaign coverage, not because it was an issue of great concern to the public but because it
was the only issue on which there appeared to be genuine policy differences between the main
parties. But despite the media’s interest in the Euro, only five out of the 68 callers (7%) in this
study raised it as their principal concern and of these, all but one were men. Table 1 sets out the
most frequently asked categories of question in this study, by gender.
[Table 1 about here ]
As far as our sample is concerned, there was a great diversity of topics raised by callers
but the most frequently asked question category (23%) was the political process itself, for
example, spin doctoring, tactical voting or sleaze. However, it should be noted that far more men
(28%) than women (19%) were concerned with this as an issue. The public’s interest in the
process of politics (as opposed to the content of policy) is, arguably, fuelled by the media’s
interest in and endless discussion of precisely the same thing. In research on the 1997 British
election, one third of all campaign reportage focused on the conduct of the election itself, on the
horse-race, the style and the campaign trail (University of Loughborough, 1997).


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