Communication and Citizenship: Journalism and the Public Sphere in the New Media Age

By Peter Dahlgren; Colin Sparks | Go to book overview

Chapter 11

Tales of tellyland: the popular press and television in the UK

Ian Connell


INTRODUCTION

Much concern has of late been expressed about the quality of information on 'serious public affairs' available from the media. Briefly stated, the concern is that in a variety of ways informative, in-depth and investigative journalism is being marginalized not just in the tabloid press, but also in the broadsheets, as well as in television. In its place, there is an increasing volume of material on aspects of our lives that are thought of as largely unessential. As evidence, those who are concerned would cite the growing number of columns devoted to leisure, style and consumer affairs, to photographs rather than words, and not least of all to stories about those prominent in the entertainment industries, cinema, popular music and above all television. What we are said to be witnessing are essentially private matters being publicly paraded, while matters of broader, national and political relevance are gradually receding into the background. There is much about the present situation which seems to lock people into the private sphere and blocks a transition to the public one.

It has been proposed that the balance between this sort of material and informative, public affairs journalism has been tipped irretrievably in the former's favour, and that this has already had serious consequences for the UK's political system. There are those who see this tendency further weakening the majority's already weak involvement in the political system. In effect, those who see the developing situation this way assume that a plentiful supply of high-quality information is a precondition of effective participation in parliamentary democratic processes.

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