Monday, December 14, 2009

British Campaign Media

by Ian Hainline

Hainline surveyed British Campaign Advertisements of Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. The substantial finding was that attack ads during the Thatcher and Blair eras featured the same kind of policy-driven attacks. Attack ads in American politics are dominated by personal attacks and smears, rather than policy discussion. But in a society marked by a more neutral press, albeit with a middle degree of political parallelism, attacks that are more policy-focused will carry more weight, as they are backed up by news articles that discuss these same issues, meaning that the news media can reinforce or refute a campaign’s advertisements. Additionally, because the media in Britain features a high degree of professionalism, their reporting of policy, which will either substantiate or refute campaign advertisements, can be seen as generally apolitical.

Political campaigns are increasingly media based, as media, especially television advertisements, provide a chance to reach and influence a large number of voters in a single instance. Equally important, however, is the content of those advertisements. That they seek to elaborate upon philosophical and policy differences between parties is genuinely good for democracy. Vibrant public debate is the very lifeblood of proper democratic government, and that is only possible with real discussion over genuine differences, rather than partisan bickering over smear jobs. That British campaign media tends to focus on the policy, as opposed to politics, is perhaps the real reason that the sun has never truly set upon the British Empire.

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