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Why context, relevance and repetition matter in news reporting: Interpreting the United Kingdom's political information environment

Cushion, Stephen ORCID:, Lewis, Justin ORCID: and Kilby, Allaina 2020. Why context, relevance and repetition matter in news reporting: Interpreting the United Kingdom's political information environment. Journalism 21 (1) , pp. 34-53. 10.1177/1464884917746560

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This study develops a multi-method approach to analysing political information environments, exploring how media and political systems help shape people’s understanding of news. In doing so, we ask a question fundamental to democratic citizenship: how well do news media communicate political responsibility and policy differences across political systems? Our study examines the United Kingdom’s political information environment, where significant power is devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with different political parties in control. Drawing on a content analysis of 17,765 news items, a representative survey of 3272 respondents and 15 semi-structured interviews, we examine the dominant information sources about UK politics by longitudinally tracing coverage of devolved issues from 2007 to 2016, and gauging how well it was understood by television news viewers. Our results suggest that while BBC news is more sensitive to communicating the devolved relevance of news than more commercial outlets, there remains a democratic deficit in the supply of political information and audience understanding of where power and responsibility lies. If news coverage more regularly communicated the relevance and context of devolved issues, we argue it could open up democratic opportunities for citizens to consider a wider range of policy options debated in all four political institutions.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Journalism, Media and Culture
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Publisher: SAGE Publications
ISSN: 1464-8849
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 22 November 2017
Date of Acceptance: 28 October 2017
Last Modified: 21 Jan 2024 16:02

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