chapter  3
26 Pages

The media logic of immediacy: The mediatization of politics in UK news bulletins

In most Western democracies, the way in which politics is portrayed in the media attracts considerable attention. After all, the decisions made by political actors impact on most people’s everyday life, making it essential for citizens to be informed about contemporary politics and public affairs. Since television is the primary source of information for understanding the world, how politics is reported on national evening bulletins is most assiduously picked over. Not least by politicians, who meticulously monitor what is included and excluded from coverage, or in how issues are framed and interpreted by different broadcasters. During elections, for example, despite campaigning having radically changed over recent decades – with blogs, social media platforms and dedicated news channels operating around the clock – spin doctors continue to spend a great deal of time carefully orchestrating the images they would like to appear in evening television news bulletins. When Gordon Brown famously called a voter a “bigot” after a staged walkabout chat during the UK’s 2010 General Election campaign, prior to realizing he still had a microphone on he can be heard muttering “they’ll go with that one” – a reference to the pictures most likely to be edited for that evening’s TV bulletins. Unfortunately – for the then prime minster – the pictures selected carried far graver consequences than he could have ever imagined. Television news coverage of politics in most advanced democracies, then,

appears more heavily scrutinized than most other media, whether newspapers or more recently online and social media platforms. Of course, newspapers and, in particular, new media are often celebrated for offering a myriad of views and opinions in blogs, say, or Twitter feeds, appealing to niche audiences. By contrast, national television news bulletins address huge swathes of viewers, meaning they could wield considerably more influence and sway when reporting daily political events. Consequently, in most advanced democracies – with the exception of the US – television news is tightly regulated to ensure broadcasters remain impartial and balanced in their presentation of politics (Cushion 2012a).