Reflection on political communication has been known for as long as mankind has known politics. Systematic study of political communication, however, is of recent origin. The article defines political communication, examines political communication research and its institutionalization – internationally as well as in Denmark - and discusses the central questions of political communication research.
The increasing commercialization of media markets in Denmark and abroad has led to concerns about journalism’s role in democracy. In discussions about the influence of budget cuts and increased competition on the way journalists work, the difference between political journalists and other journalists is generally disregarded. While political journalists who report from the Danish parliament, Christiansborg, fulfil a top-down democratic function, basing their reporting on political institutions, other journalists fulfil a bottom-up function, making sure citizens’ concerns are heard in the public debate and brought into the political sphere. This paper argues that journalists working on a political ‘beat’ are affected less by commercial pressures than other journalists, as their work is cost-effective and a way for media outlets to brand themselves. Representative surveys among Christiansborg journalists and other Danish journalists show that political reporters feel less affected by profit pressures than other journalists covering societal issues. Strengthening the political beat at the expense of other journalists has negative normative implications for journalism from a participatory democracy viewpoint.
As in many other countries, it has been discussed for decades whether the media in Denmark, in particular television, is politically biased. The public debate suffers from two shortcomings, however. First, a theoretical argument explaining why and how the media can favour specific political parties or camps; second, the debate lacks an empirical basis enabling us to investigate actual media content. Based on a discussion of how media content is produced, this article presents a comprehensive mpirical analysis of television news coverage of the national elections 1994-2007. Two main aspects of media content are studied: The general visibility of political parties and the parties’ visibility with respect to specific policy issues. The results show no indication of a political bias favouring specific parties. Rather, the results indicate that media coverage is shaped by professional criteria for newsworthiness.
Mediatization of politics is a fact, but what does it imply? Often mediatization is seen to imply media dominance and a decline of parties. This article explores the agenda-setting dynamics between the mass media and the partisan agendas. The main conclusion is that this is a two-way process in which both agendas influence each other. However, the effect of the media agenda on the partisan agenda is conditioned upon partisan interest in the issues raised by the media. Media attention only leads to partisan attention when parties have a prior electoral interest in issues. The parties thus lead the tango ith the media and mediatization does not necessarily imply media dominance.
Two fundamental elements in political news – as well as public opinion formation – are framing and partisanship. Yet, we know little about how these forces interact to shape citizens’ policy preferences. Can parties win public support for their policies among voters from opposing parties by framing their policies in terms speaking to these out-partisan voters? A two-step analysis first establishes political parties’ “frame ownership”– which frames are associated with which parties – and next test the effects of parties using their own and others’ framing to promote a policy. Findings from a unique experimental design, embedded in two national opinion surveys, show that parties clearly are associated with particular frames but that frame content has little impact on policy support as compared to the influence of the partisan sponsor of a policy.
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