The role of the media in UK politics

Showing the various types of media which influence voting behaviour

The UK has a strong, independent media history with many different newspaper titles, television and radio channels. The media’s role is to inform the public on important issues that affect them whether these issues are local, national or international.

Newspapers

Many people used to get their political news from newspapers but in recent years the internet has become more popular as a source. However, thousands of newspapers are still sold every day and many people read newspaper articles online. In the U, the most popular newspapers are The Sun and The Daily Mail. The most widely read broadsheet papers are The Telegraph and The Times.

Newspapers don’t have to be balanced. As long as the information is accurate, the newspaper can print what they like. This means that different newspapers can report the same story in different ways. They can do this by choosing different stories, pictures and headlines.

Newspapers with headlines urging Gordon Brown to quit

During elections, newspapers are often very clear about which political party they are supporting and urge their readers to vote for. This does not mean that all voters are persuaded by the newspaper they read. People may buy the newspaper for different reasons!

TV and radio

Television and radio political news reporting is different from newspapers as the law requires television news to be fair and balanced. Television companies are expected to report the facts and to be balanced in their analysis. Different representatives from different political parties are each expected to be allowed to give their views on important issues.

In recent years, TV debates have been broadcast involving the leaders of different parties. Each of these debates were watched by millions of voters. Post-debate analysis has suggested that most people who watched the debates had already made up their minds and were not influenced by what they heard. This meant that although one party leader or another may have appeared to have ‘won’ the debate, overall the debates had little impact on the election result.

Online

Increasingly people in the UK are switching to the internet as a source of information, especially social media. As the internet allows almost anyone to post almost anything they choose, some information is not accurate. However, the internet does allow people almost unlimited access to information which means people are better informed than ever before.

For political parties in the UK, being online offers the chance to interact with voters. They can share information about what they would do if elected and then keep voters up to date with what they are doing between elections. This also allows voters to interact with MPs. They can ask questions and raise issues easily.