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Government & Politics   >   Politics and the Media

Role of the Media

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Politics and the Media

In this course, Dr Richard Heffernan (Open University) thinks about the relationship of the modern media to British politics. We begin in the first module by thinking about the indispensability of the media in all its forms to the enactment of modern politics, using a series of metaphors to help us understand its roles. We then briefly survey the history of the modern media and consider the balance between, on the one hand its freedom to comment, and on the other its obligation to inform. In the third module, we move on to think through four key theories that political scientists have developed to try and disentangle the impact of the media on our political views, namely: (i) the ‘hyperdermic needle model,’ (ii) the ‘reinforcement model’, (iii) marginal effects, and (iv) agenda-setting/framing. We then turn in the fourth module to characterise the relationship between the media and politicians as at once symbiotic and adversarial: politicians need the media as a platform and the media needs political stories, but the media is always critical and interrogative of politicians who seek favourable coverage. Finally, in the fifth module, we think about the profound impact of social media on political communication, noting its capacity to both unite and divide us.

Role of the Media

In this module, we think in general terms about the role of the media in modern British politics. We begin by considering the media in all its forms – print, broadcast, and digital – as increasingly the place in which modern politics is enacted: where politicians speak to us, the citizenry, and to each other. We then outline four metaphors to help us make sense of the media’s various functions in modern politics, imagining the media as: (i) a window on the world’s events; (ii) a signpost pointing to certain things but not others, insofar as the media is a participant in politics as much as it is an observer and reporter; similarly, (iii) a filter which allows certain information to pass through and obscures other information; and (iv) a screen in which participants are vying for air time and attention.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Heffernan, R. (2019, September 26). Politics and the Media - Role of the Media [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Heffernan, R. "Politics and the Media – Role of the Media." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Sep 2019,


Dr Richard Heffernan

Dr Richard Heffernan

Open University