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Democratic participation and public access broadcasting: Caller Perspectives on Election Call
Unformatted Document Text:  19 If they listen, yes. If these politicians will listen and get.. we don’t want ten years down the line we want action now. You know we want them to come down, we want these drug dealers to be stopped. We want the crime to be stopped and we want the old folks - when they go in to hospital at 65 for a heart by-pass not to be written off. (Val) The format of the programme does, to some extent, limit the likelihood of real dialogue, since callers are hurried through to make room for the next one waiting. Part of the reason for cutting callers short is doubtless to stop the boring caller and/or release the embarrassed politician, but partly it is also because the programme must sit within the ’infotainment’ genre which requires a pacy rhythm and a stream of different views, including hostile ones, to maintain audience interest. On the other hand, the opportunities which public access broadcasting afford the public to actually speak with an elected member, including the prime minister of the day, are considerably more interactive than the other principal methods whereby the public participate in politics, that is, through opinion polls or at the ballot box. The media thus provide an important outlet for the public to participate in the practice of democracy, even if the impact of those discursive interventions is hard to quantify. Once again, women and men had subtly different views on the democratic value of Election Call with women being much more interested in the sense of public engagement: many commented that this was one of the rare times when they really could get involved in the political process. Men were much more likely to say that it was the head-to-head interaction of public with politicians which was the most important – see Table 3. As with other aspects of this study, there was an almost overwhelming sense that 'the public' were fed up with being ignored and wanted to get some straight answers to some straight questions and have their views acknowledged, their frustrations heard and some account taken of the circumstances of their lives. [Table 3 about here] Many callers commented on their desire to hold politicians to account, to make them listen and then, hopefully, to act. Above all, they welcomed the opportunity to put an

Authors: Ross, Karen.
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19
If they listen, yes. If these politicians will listen and get.. we don’t want ten years down the line we
want action now. You know we want them to come down, we want these drug dealers to be
stopped. We want the crime to be stopped and we want the old folks - when they go in to hospital
at 65 for a heart by-pass not to be written off. (Val)
The format of the programme does, to some extent, limit the likelihood of real dialogue,
since callers are hurried through to make room for the next one waiting. Part of the reason for
cutting callers short is doubtless to stop the boring caller and/or release the embarrassed
politician, but partly it is also because the programme must sit within the ’infotainment’ genre
which requires a pacy rhythm and a stream of different views, including hostile ones, to maintain
audience interest. On the other hand, the opportunities which public access broadcasting afford
the public to actually speak with an elected member, including the prime minister of the day, are
considerably more interactive than the other principal methods whereby the public participate in
politics, that is, through opinion polls or at the ballot box. The media thus provide an important
outlet for the public to participate in the practice of democracy, even if the impact of those
discursive interventions is hard to quantify. Once again, women and men had subtly different
views on the democratic value of Election Call with women being much more interested in the
sense of public engagement: many commented that this was one of the rare times when they
really could get involved in the political process. Men were much more likely to say that it was
the head-to-head interaction of public with politicians which was the most important – see Table
3. As with other aspects of this study, there was an almost overwhelming sense that 'the public'
were fed up with being ignored and wanted to get some straight answers to some straight
questions and have their views acknowledged, their frustrations heard and some account taken
of the circumstances of their lives.
[Table 3 about here]
Many callers commented on their desire to hold politicians to account, to make them
listen and then, hopefully, to act. Above all, they welcomed the opportunity to put an


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