[Citations are from Media Amnesia by Laura Basu]
Concentration of the media has been accompanied by an ‘obliteration of a left and social democratic tradition in the press’ (Golding and Middleton 1982 — Images of Welfare: Press and Public Attitude to Poverty: 217).
This happened in three ways:
- the death of individual titles
- the deradicalisation of the surviving working-class press, and
- through barriers to entry by new titles.
Market dynamics did this.
“Several left-wing titles closed in the 1960s, not because they had insufficient readers but because they had the kind of readers that failed to attract enough advertising revenue — those in lower income groups (218 of original as cited in Basu). Increased concentration of ownership” diminished the “range of newspaper opinion (219). At the same time, production costs were high, barring new titles from entering the market.”
“due to market forces, ‘the contemporary press is predetermined to lack a political commitment to the poorest and weakest in society (222)” (Basu, 206)
In the internet age, anyone can write anything they like so barriers to entry have been reduced. However, “barriers to prominence are still high (Chakravartty and Schiller 2010 https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/798/491 ).
Some ways this manifests is which media sources turn up on search engines (see Redden 2011 as cited in Basu). On Twitter, some 0.5% of users attract 50% of all attention — probably those with the resources (Freedman 2014: 96).
This probably explains why topics get coverage only as suggested by officials rather than in-depth coverage of topics from other sources. Basu explains how in her research of examining all news articles from main news sources over a few weeks of the financial crisis in 2008, only suggestions that had come from official sources received any prominence.
This line of thinking and research helps with some of the methodology I’m thinking about. Dr Tessa Coombes has just been awarded her PhD for an examination of the “Agenda setting during the Bristol mayoral election
in 2016: a multiple streams approach”. “
The research identifies how mayoral candidates
operate across the streams, seeking ideas and solutions, from within and outside of the party system. It illustrates the strategies and tactics used by policy entrepreneurs to bring their issues to the attention of the candidates.
The articles I have written touch upon housing in Bristol. The mayor’s faith adviser has seemingly gone on to work for Nat Wei — an entrepreneur evangelical Christian who is a Conservative peer and who hires many ex-Bethel graduates, according to him. Nat Wei’s company, the Shaftesbury Partnership is a partner in the Bristol Housing Festival.
I wrote about Monastery 2.0 and how the mayor has been convinced to provide 20 sites in the middle of Bristol for this attempt at bringing the city back into the monastery.
In another article, which was more of a brief extract than anything else, the mayor talks to a congregation about how due to the stories that ran about his faith adviser and his links to evangelical churches, he should tone it down a bit. He refused to do so but note that the story about the faith advisor was not mentioned in any other media source apart from what Hallin would call the ‘deviant’ sphere. It was not on the BBC, Bristol Post, Bristol247 or Bristol Cable.
This seems one way of assessing the social media effect on politicians. However, the thesis question is ‘what is the effect of social media on local political participation’ and that hasn’t been assessed yet.
The mayor did not change his behaviour although the information did make the agenda for his office discussion. Unless he has to act on it though, does it affect the public?
Also, when confronted by a cabinet member on my housing story — with admittedly more PR denials than anything concrete; the concrete information I had was in a video so it could hardly be refuted — there were members of the Twitter public (users who had followed me for a long time) who sided with the cabinet member.
This seems to be a clue as to who people rely on for authoritative news. They will go along with the articles for a while but are not always happy to change their minds when authority figures tell them so.
Freedman, D. (2014) The contradictions of media power. London: Bloomsbury.