The Battle for the Stage: Broadcasting

  • Charlie Beckett


In this election, broadcasting tried to reflect a changing political landscape. Television in particular was challenged to adjust to the impact of the smaller parties such as the Green Party, UKIP and the SNP. Editorially, broadcasters had to cover a diverse range of issues of varying degrees of scale, importance and relevance to different audiences. All journalists, but most obviously broadcasters, found themselves limited in terms of scope by the unprecedented levels of party stage-management. There were the usual concerns about delivering impartiality and information, but perhaps the hardest task for the broadcast journalists was to fulfil their key democratic functions at election time: to engage the public and to hold politicians to account. The strategic reluctance of the main parties to conduct more open campaigns meant that the desire for dramatic broadcasting to match the significance of the stakes was frustrated. Like all journalists, broadcasters were also misled by erroneous polling to construct a false narrative around the relative success of the two main parties. Indeed, the way in which the campaign was conducted and reported by all news media was arguably a distraction from any serious attempt to have an honest, critical argument about the big issues such as the deficit, welfare, national identity and the nature of British society.


Opinion Poll Party Leader Horse Race Green Party Public Service Broadcaster 
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    Colin J. Davis, Jeffrey S. Bowers and Amina Memon, ‘Social Influence in Televised Election Debates: A Potential Distortion of Democracy’, PLoS ONE, 6(3) (2011): e18154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Charlie Beckett 2016

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  • Charlie Beckett

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