Evaluating the Role of the Media in the British General Election 2010

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Critically evaluate the role of the media in the British General Election 2010.

“Media should keep people informed about public affairs so that individuals are adequately briefed when they take part in the process of self government.” (Curran, James 2005).

The role of the media, as Curran as explained is a supposed to be a way of allowing individuals to think for themselves, having their own opinions and ideas about the news and information that is given to them through different medias. So for my essay I will be focusing on the way in which the media, mainly T.V, allowed the general public to think for themselves during the British General election, mainly focusing on the ‘Alternative General Election’ which was aired on the same night as the Election, on Channel 4 and on the political advertising used for each party and the ways in which the media use emotion to sway the general public.

Television is a very powerful media form, as “more than 90% of the UK TV homes already have digital” (The Guardian Online 2010) shows that we are relatively dependant on having television in our day-to-day lives. Television as a media form is the most powerful source of information for the average person, as the news is on hourly on a large variety of channels, reporting news from all over the world. There are even specific channels that viewers can tune into to receive specialist television programs, like BBC Parliament, where viewers can watch the House of Commons live from the comfort of their own homes. The BBC hosted the British General Election on Thursday the 6th of May 2010, and on the same evening, for those who weren’t as eager to watch the real General Election, could tune into Channel 4’s ‘Alternative Election Night’. Channel 4’s aim was to make the Election a slightly more enjoyable event for the general public, as they say on the Channel 4 website “the show promises satire and sass, minus the staid political swing-o-meters”. Hosted by “comedy enthusiasts” Charlie Brooker, David Mitchell, Jimmy Carr and Lauren Laverne, is a constructive way of enticing the audience, using presenters that they have heard of and enjoy watching from other programs they have been in. Unlike the General Election, Channel 4 have focused mainly on the comedy aspect of the Election, also by using a live audience and intercepting the program with specially recorded shows, such as an Election special of ‘Come Dine with Me’ featuring Politian’s such as Edwina Curry and Derek Hatton.

Advertising is another form of the media in which information and ideas are transmitted to an audience. Advertising unlike television to more so used for persuading and transforming the ideas and emotions of the public. Sabato (1981) once said “the increase in negative adverts attribute to the proprietary research that shows negative messages have powerful effects” (Biocca pg.245), which relates to the ways political adverting was used in the 2010 General Elections. For example, the Labour party released a poster of David Cameron’s face (leader of the Conservative party) computerized onto the body of Jean Simmons from “Life on Mars” and “Ashes to Ashes” to present a 1979 government threat, but on the other hand this poster is speaking out to the Conservatives as when the government was last Conservative was when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. On the other hand it also relates to the Labour party insisting that they vote Labour, or the Margaret Thatcher days will be upon them again. Political advertising and Personal Relations go hand in hand to use the emotion of the public as a tactic to win over individuals. “Lord Young is reputed to have said that ‘Government programmes are like cornflakes. If they are not marketed, they will not sell’ The phrase, though not profound, expressed will ministers marketing and campaigning techniques to package polices and bring them to the attention of the public” (Franklin, Bob 1994) Therefore showing that personal...
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