Magazine article Marketing

Democracy Saved by Local Media

Magazine article Marketing

Democracy Saved by Local Media

Article excerpt

While most of our national press is entrenched on either side of the political divide, on one thing they are unanimous: the reduction of election campaigning to a series of sound-bites has gone too far. "Politicians who don't appeal to TV directors might as well emigrate," cried the Mirror's Joe Haines. Peter Jenkins in The Independent was more restrained: "a medium that had the potential of extending the democratic process... today stands in danger of subverting it".

They are both mistaken. It is not the medium but its systematic manipulation by party marketing strategists which is in danger of undermining the democratic process. The language of political communication has been translated into the language of the marketplace: parties are commodities, imagery is replacing information.

If McLuhan is right, and the medium determines the message, then there is nothing to be done: we can surrender our electoral process to TV's imagery and watch inevitable descent into US-style glitz campaigning. But the media are changing. And this election has given us a glimpse of how, in one or two elections' time, the media might be serving a more constructive role.

What really tested our would-be representatives over the past few weeks? Not the press conference hacks, whose trick questions were brushed aside with practised one-liners. Not the TV interviews whose attempts at interrogation were effortlessly transformed into platforms for rehearsed opposition-bashing. Certainly not the adoring all-ticket beauty parades that today pass for public meetings. …

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