About a month ago I had a take home exam/essay for my Political Communication unit at university. Now that I have gotten the marks back for them – I can happily say I got 100% for it all, as the guy that ran the unit was really impressed and even praised the fact I challenged some of the concepts and ideas – I thought I would post them all here in a string of short pieces without fear of TurnItIn flagging me for plagiarising my own content. I’ll quote the questions we were given and then have what I wrote underneath – there will be six in total. This first one is an explanation of the mediatisation of politics.
What is the ‘mediatisation’ of politics?
The mediatisation of politics, put simply, is the increasingly prominent, and even dominant, role of the media in the political sphere. This process has taken place over many decades now, a phenomenon that has only heightened with the introduction of the 24-hour news cycle and social media. The media’s ascension in this field has been undertaken because “[they] have assumed the character of “necessity” in the political domain.” (Mazzoleni & Schulz, 1999).
This mediatisation has been praised and condemned for a number of reasons. On the positive side, it has been credited for making political concepts and news more accessible to the general public. Many outlets, especially those that successfully implement social media and infotainment content, attract massive audiences that would otherwise be disconnected or disinterested in the political happenings of their respective countries.
Critically, however, while the quantity and accessibility of content has never been higher in history than it is now, the quality and overall effect is questionable. While simplifying politics to an accessible level might generate high audience numbers, a lot of important context, information, and nuance can be lost, leaving people underinformed or even entirely misled on the topics in question.
Mediatisation also increases the power held by media companies, exacerbating the above concerns by turning the media into a competitive, business-focussed entity. These companies have their own goals that, at various times, may work for or against the general population and other political actors, such as the politicians themselves or lobby groups. Commercial media, in particular, is quite limited as it is run primarily through advertising and must contain news, commentary, or analysis that entices audiences whilst fitting the soundbite mould.
Essentially, mediatisation turns political content into a spectacle to be consumed passively, as opposed to items of substance that must be engaged with actively.
Read part 2 HERE
Previous piece: Are Political Term Limits Good or Bad?