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Democratic participation and public access broadcasting: Caller Perspectives on Election Call
Unformatted Document Text:  15 taste. He did what politicians do and – excuse the language but it's an old army term – he couldn't battle with bullshit. He didn't give me a chance. (Vincent) I think one needs to practise doing this obviously. Some people interrupt quite a lot. Some questioners interrupt quite a lot and I'm not really into interrupting people but I think perhaps one has to a little bit, you know, steer them back on to target. (Rosemary) What the responses above demonstrate is a public quite dismayed over the way in which their efforts to exercise their democratic rights by questioning their elected representatives is treated so badly by too many politicians, including the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition. As participants noted, although they didn’t necessarily expect a politician to agree with the point they themselves wanted to make, they did at least expect to be treated properly and have their question considered seriously: they did not expect to be disrespected, told they were completely on the wrong track or that they needed to get their facts straight. Callers’ frustration with their lack of media experience is found in other studies which have analysed the discursive positioning of the questioner in relation to the answerer, where the inclusion of a third-party such as the talk show host, structures out or at least diffuses the power of the questioner to gain authority in the interaction (Thornborrow 2001). As Dahlgren (1995: 67) points out, ’the conversationalisation of public discourse itself is by no means immune to manipulation by the power establishment’, and our callers understood very well how disadvantaged they were in the ’open’ exchange between themselves and the much more experienced politician. The disassociative and disembodied context in which the caller has to operate, perhaps sitting alone at home, is also an inhibiting feature of the exchange. That domesticated and private environment is in sharp contrast to the professional studio milieu of the politician-receiver, as she or he exchanges glances with the talk show host and knows that s/he is speaking both to the caller but also addressing the thousands of viewers and listeners tuning in. Interestingly, a number of questions which we asked of callers produced answers which touched on aspects of the public-political discourse discussed above. Whether we asked about

Authors: Ross, Karen.
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taste. He did what politicians do and – excuse the language but it's an old army term – he couldn't
battle with bullshit. He didn't give me a chance. (Vincent)
I think one needs to practise doing this obviously. Some people interrupt quite a lot. Some
questioners interrupt quite a lot and I'm not really into interrupting people but I think perhaps one
has to a little bit, you know, steer them back on to target. (Rosemary)
What the responses above demonstrate is a public quite dismayed over the way in which
their efforts to exercise their democratic rights by questioning their elected representatives is
treated so badly by too many politicians, including the Prime Minister and the leader of the
opposition. As participants noted, although they didn’t necessarily expect a politician to agree
with the point they themselves wanted to make, they did at least expect to be treated properly
and have their question considered seriously: they did not expect to be disrespected, told they
were completely on the wrong track or that they needed to get their facts straight.
Callers’ frustration with their lack of media experience is found in other studies which have
analysed the discursive positioning of the questioner in relation to the answerer, where the
inclusion of a third-party such as the talk show host, structures out or at least diffuses the power
of the questioner to gain authority in the interaction (Thornborrow 2001). As Dahlgren (1995: 67)
points out, ’the conversationalisation of public discourse itself is by no means immune to
manipulation by the power establishment’, and our callers understood very well how
disadvantaged they were in the ’open’ exchange between themselves and the much more
experienced politician. The disassociative and disembodied context in which the caller has to
operate, perhaps sitting alone at home, is also an inhibiting feature of the exchange. That
domesticated and private environment is in sharp contrast to the professional studio milieu of the
politician-receiver, as she or he exchanges glances with the talk show host and knows that s/he
is speaking both to the caller but also addressing the thousands of viewers and listeners tuning
in.
Interestingly, a number of questions which we asked of callers produced answers which
touched on aspects of the public-political discourse discussed above. Whether we asked about


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