The broadcast media
The broadcast media are politically influential not just because an increasing number of people use radio or television as their main news source. The broadcast news media are politically influential because they have changed the very practice of politics. The packaging of political stories on television news, the cut and thrust of current affairs interviews, and the dynamics of talkback radio, have had a tremendous impact on how politicians and public figures communicate with the public. Here we investigate both television and radio. While both types are often lumped together as ‘broadcast media’, there are important differences that inform our discussion, such as the obvious differences in their forms (the visual dominance in television, the aural dominance in radio) and their varying orientations towards the general public.
The reportage of politics by the broadcast media is quite different from the reportage of politics by newspapers because news and current affairs in broadcast media constitute a much smaller proportion of total output than they do in newspapers. While newspapers are commercial products which carry advertising and a variety of non-journalistic information, they are more so vehicles for news and current affairs than broadcast media, where news and current affairs are but one genre of programming among many, including music, drama, comedy and quiz shows. Broadcast news and current affairs programs are discrete entities, but the programming contexts in which they are aired does influence their production and reception. Charges that the news media are threatened by the increasing