Thursday 5 May 2011

Critically evaluate the extent to which key challenges and opportunities facing quality political journalism in the UK democracy are comparable across on-line, print and broadcast ...

This essay will look at the different media platforms that have access to the public enabling them to maintain information about what’s going on and more importantly how it will affect them. What one must look at within these different media platforms is with so many companies now competing with each other, what lengths will they go to get you that news? Over the last couple decades socio-economic, socio-cultural and technological advances have come together to now change a journalist’s role forcing them to be able to be qualified in all fields (i.e being able to now use a camera and online skills).

Quality news platforms are constantly losing readers and audiences because of an ongoing development in technology. Because of this, across the different media companies they will become a less controlled audience and select what they what from news, such as social networking sites – they have become very popular with the younger generation.

The World Wide Web plays a substantial role in this new change. When the internet came along there was an explosion of information available to anyone, any time. This resulted in a sudden occurrence of Citizen Journalism in recent years. One may suggest that this is because of facilities like mobiles and ‘I Phone’s’ for instance, they are everywhere and at a click of a finger, information can be shared with the rest of the world. The information now available to us is not always from a professional journalist. And because of this It has now become more of the case of ‘supplier driven’ to ‘consumer driven’.

Nowadays the concern from the public, journalists and politicians’ is how such a change can be managed – if necessary can it be managed at all?

Politics play an important and substantial part in everybody’s life, continuously. Politics determines different areas across the spectrum, from what we are allowed to earn right down to how we can treat animals. As this area is important and will have an effect on not just communities and regions but also the individual. Good journalism will of course involve exposure and investigation within democracies, as well as being the key provider to the public. With the information provided to audiences across the country it also enables a closer relationship between the politician and the individual. Media format’s now allow readers and audiences to participate in online and broadcasted debates. However, with all this information freely available, a recent claim (Franklin,1997) states that it is now being reduced to the role of entertainer. It seems Politian’s are becoming televised personalities in a way.

Although before World War II the UK did not have television, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 is said to be the landmark for television in the UK for widespread public movement. Now 73 percent of the UK population owns one or more Television sets in their house hold. We can see from this that there is still a high demand for TV news, however as there are so many different news channels currently, one problem that society face is people are no longer connected through a central meeting-ground of television. In effect this means people will be consuming different ideas from TV channels resulting in different ideologies being pushed out into the public. With the fast increasing rate of technology people are now becoming fragmented, there are now so many individual selections of programmes to choose from that people are not watching the same national schedule of home-produced television programmes (when there was only for example BBC news available). On the other hand, even though there are many different channels for the audience to get their news, broadcasters will often include the same or similar stories, especially with hard news. Hard news stories are relatively easy to recognise, anything that relates to social and economical affairs. Generally, serious crime stories will be included in most news bulletins mainly the 6 o’clock bulletin.

Public Service Broadcasters have become venerable because of the values it has worked hard to maintain throughout the years is now being questioned or rejected by viewers accessing information elsewhere. Unlike channel 3 and 5 the BBC are not commercial broadcasters their aim is to provide information to the public that will be of some advantage to the nation. In a recent review from OFCOM it states “We brought forward our second review of public service broadcasting as a result of increasing pressures in the commercial broadcasting sector. This is the final statement in which we set out our recommendations to government and Parliament.” This review was brought out partially due to concerns from the public, that there will become a time when ‘trustworthy’ and ‘un bias’ information will become unavailable. They went on to say “In this review, we have focused on how to ensure the delivery of content which fulfils the public purposes and meets the needs and interests of consumers and citizens throughout the UK. Our aim has been to make recommendations that respond to and take advantage of the huge changes brought about by the transition to the digital era.”

Even within an advanced democracy, good quality journalism is essential. Well-formed journalists should be able to help their audience interpret the world around them. With this, they will help the society make the best choices to improve their state. To some that may sound like ‘good old fashion journalism’, again with advances in recent years independence and choice often has become core to audiences. Now with the increase of fragmentation people are able to formulate alternative view points. With this new ‘choice’ and selection of ideas available, it’s argued more ‘balanced news is being produced’.

It is known historically that the British newspapers became free partly because of the consequence of a struggle against state control. Mainly as a result of increase of newspaper profits, largely down to advertising, newspapers are now able to report more freely from the state. Journalists are a vital part of the flowing news media helping to build political identities. Journalists become very powerful influences in circulating political meanings. Over the years Journalists have slowly constructed a national identity, an identity that can be recognised by the rest of the world. For example, to some people poverty, war and illness may be associated with the East of world, mainly by western countries. Print is one of the oldest forms of mass-circulation and became a kind of ‘spokesman’ for Politian’s. Newspapers were under a lot of pressure with regulations from the state insisting ‘appropriate representations’ circulated the mass media.

The last ten years hasn’t been too kind the national newspapers in the UK. Many print companies worried about decline in sales, especially when the internet became ‘all the rage’. With the same information available online – for free – people are less inclined to by a newspaper. Again this emphasises that fact the readers are only selecting the parts they want to.

Even though it’s been tough for the nationals to cope with such as fast changing audience environment and new media formats it is suggested over ten years ago: “On some measures the newspapers will continue their industrial decline. But the newspapers are likely to remain the most politically interested, most politically focused, most partisan, and most potent of the mass media (Jeremy Tunstall). From this, it could be suggested that even though there are thousands of sources out there, audiences that are interested in their public well being will still continue to get their news from papers they may have been reading all their lives. One reason for this is because this information could be seen more trustworthy then something you may find of the internet for instance. This also helps maintain the ideas and view points of the reader without causing confusion or questioning what they are being told.

One way newspapers try and continue to get sales is to keep up with customer demand. This means changing and keeping up with social, economic and cultural trends. Reporting what has a high demand everywhere else on the spectrum. Unfortunately for newspapers, unlike the internet, the newspaper only has so much space. Political news can sometimes be pushed aside for celebrity news, sports or entertainment. Political news coverage in down market newspapers often disregards serious political news. Newspapers like ‘The Sun’ for example will often use colloquial language to make a more clear and refreshing presenting style for the less educated. Down market newspapers main agenda is to provide primarily entertainment news, this will often spill over onto space were political news could be mentioned. “Our main job, about 10:1, is to entertain, rather than educate. Our policy is to ‘editorialise’ ... We are less interested in party policy – we are moving towards what readers want. This is a cut-throat business and we are in a fight for survival.” (Recent: ANON)
Many newspapers answer to the constant new media threats is being able to have the content skills – basically being able to take the good out of the information they receive. Within politics, getting the right facts is very important, information should be able to be trusted, reliable and un bias.

Just like newspapers and Television, Radio has also had its fair share of threats over the last few years. In the early 1990’s radio seen its first major rival – the CD. Radio started to see demand for ‘music only’ commercial radio. This was of course a serious threat to the wide extensive news coverage on radio, consequentially meaning a threat to the democracy itself. Peter Barnard in 1998 said about the commercial sector “... now the signs are that news is more or less an option”. So if people are not exposed to the news and democracy, how can they be expected to participate fully? This was a concern from Tony Blair worrying about the low turnout of recent local elections. 16-25 year olds play a vital role in society, making decisions that are going to affect the future. Broadcasters say that their listeners report ‘irritation’. Radio has now developed skills to pick news stories almost tailored to its listeners. Once again we come to the same result - listener preference. If, for instance a music track was interrupted by news on the death of Bin Ladden, would this have the same ‘irritating’ affect that other news would? No.

Radio technologies survival is not high on the news media’s agenda but the fact there is still demand for quality professional speech-only content is. Some may say that it is essential in preserving democracy for the news media. Here we could suggest that opportunities and threats work together. How? Well, people receiving their news from all over the world from a variety of ways are subject to new views and opinions. Public service broadcasting companies are starting to support and understand different points of view, this will help the government understand and appreciate new ideas. Now, with phone-ins audiences are able to interact with politicians there and then, getting direct answers – promoting a healthy society. The concern lays with the production of the radio show/bulletin not the delivery. The concern is somewhat cultural, how the consumer prefers to get their news. Despite the extensive growth of digital TV and ‘new media’ there is still a high demand for talk radio and as mentioned before the traditional phone-in/text in options are still available and are used regularly by hundreds of thousands every year. According to the BBC, the demand for programmes containing current affairs is still soaring, with millions of hits each week.

Currently due to popular demand, the political news that one receives will be determined by what the current ‘trend’ is at the time. There is now a lot of ‘tabloidization’ within news – whatever the format. The internet’s explosion of information is seen by some as a threat and by some as an opportunity. Threats may be, as stated before the fact that good, quality Journalism is sacrificed for constant news for citizen journalists, leaked information and information that doesn’t provide any real sources. This results in the information, firstly not being able to be completely trusted by the consumer (no sense of authority) and also the quality of the journalism. A ‘citizen journalist’ using a mobile phone verses a production team from the BBC for instance. In relation to quality there is no argument. However, a good video package, including interviews, quality sound and pictures produced 6 hours after a ‘bombing’ for example, verses footage off a mobile ‘as it happens’ and then uploaded straight to the internet. It’s suggested that it depends on the type of news it is. It depends on how the audience what get their news. Depending on the type of story to compete with ‘new media’ journalists must look at what would be most beneficial. In regards to politics, from the research that I have undergone it could be fair to propose that any democratic information is still gained through official sources. People will stick pick up their local quality newspaper. Even though this information may have a hidden agenda and have some use of covert bias, the ideologies and views of the newspaper, broadcast or radio show will help maintain their perception of the country. On the other hand, people now have the choice not to just accept what they are being told and get their information else were and with the growth of internet users this is very easily done.

1 comment:

  1. Anderson, Peter J, Ward Geoff. 2007, The future of journalism in Advanced democracies, Ashgate Publishing Limited, (Chap 2:17-21, 30-31), (Chap 3: 44), (Chap 4: 51-57), (Chap 5: 73-74,80), (Chap 7: 111-112)

    Curran James. 2002, Media and Power, Routledge. (Part three: 187-196)

    Curran James, Seaton Jean. 2003, Power without responsibility – The press, broadcasting, and new media in Britain, Routledge, (Part three: 259,261,266,269,277), (Part five: 380-387)

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