U.K. Television News
Monopoly Politics and Cynical Populism

Mike Wayne (Brunel University)
Craig Murray (Queensland University of Technology)

This essay provides a statistical and qualitative analysis of the hierarchical coverage of
politics by UK Television news. It finds that there is a rigidly structured hierarchy of
political access and focus, whereby the Prime Minister dominates over the cabinet, the
cabinet dominates over ordinary MPs, the governing party dominates over the opposi-
tion, the three main parties dominate overwhelmingly over smaller parties, and the
political elites dominate over ordinary members of the public. The paper also provides
a framing analysis of TV news both during and after an election campaign period, and
finds a skew towards ‘horse race’ and personalization coverage which both outweigh
‘policy’ issues. Thus television news is characterised by a hybrid of hierarchical and
exclusive coverage of politics, combined with a narrowly expressed ‘cynicism’ or popu-
list antagonism towards politics that is personalized and anti-systemic in its focus. (download)