Here are the details of my paper with James Stanyer at the APSA this week...
Political Communication in Transition: Mediated Politics in Britain’s New Media Environment
Royal Holloway, University of London
Since the mid-2000s, Britain’s political communication environment has undergone rapid change. During the 2010 election campaign, television continued its dominance as the most important medium through which the British public acquires its political information, as Britain’s first ever live televised party leaders’ debates received saturation coverage for almost the entire campaign. But over the previous half-decade the growing mainstream popularity of the internet has started to undermine some broadcast-era assumptions regarding strategic news management, both in government, and on the campaign trail. This new, hybrid, environment, one characterised by a complex intermingling of the “old”, the “new”, and the “renewed” creates particular uncertainty for “old” news media, established politicians, and political parties. The old media environment, dominated by media and political elites working in traditional television, radio, and newspapers, remains significant for British politics, but politics is increasingly mediated online. The internet is creating a more open, fluid political opportunity structure – one that increasingly enables the British public to exert its influence and hold politicians and media to account. The origins of this current hybridity can be traced back over the last couple of decades, but since the mid-2000s, the pace of change has quickened, and the stage on which the drama of British politics unfolds is in the process of being redesigned, partly by political and media elites, and partly by ordinary citizens. This paper provides an overview of this changing political communication environment and its consequences for British politics. The first part draws on the latest data to illustrate key developments in new media usage in Britain. Part two explores the way in which news, so central to an informed citizenry, is changing. Part three examines the parties’ news management strategies and how they have sought to use a blend of old and new media to boost their popularity. The paper then moves on to explore the role of media during the momentous 2010 general election campaign.
Prepared for delivery at the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, September 2–5, 2010. Panel 40-3: New Media and Political Opportunity Structures in Comparative Perspective.