Comparing politial programmes and actual media coverage: a content analysis of French-speaking TV in Belgium during 2007 General Elections
Television broadcasting plays a crucial role in the transmission of political information to citizens. In accordance with their respective resources, interests and constraints, several actors (e.g. journalists, citizens and political actors) construct political information, more or less accurately reflecting political reality. Moreover, as television constitutes an essential access point for citizens to political beliefs and policies, the medium is often argued as having a significant influence on the formation of voters’ opinions. Moreover, according to the theories of media representation and of social construction of reality, media do not transmit what is going on in social reality: they impose their construction of the public sphere. The information essentially uses language that is not transparent to the surrounding world. A particular world view is constructed through the opacity of language. The study is thus based on the assumption that the creative rules for television content (process of selection and production) influence political content, which raises the following question: how are political beliefs and policies mediated, by both television and political manifestos, during electoral campaigns? This study aims to identify formal characteristics and key themes of political discourses mediatisation on television. The study seeks to highlight the dichotomy between journalistically mediated and candidate-controlled communications. The general election of June 2007 in Belgium has been chosen as a case study. This election campaign will be examined, as it constitutes a crucial moment to discuss major political issues and to clarify political parties’ positions and proposals. My research focuses on detailed content and discourse analysis of media coverage on party campaigning combined with a content analysis of electoral programmes. By considering these two sides of the political information landscape this comparative analysis offers a privileged access to main issues of the parties’ political agenda. This analysis will be completed by a frame analysis of some relevant topics. This approach combines both quantitative and qualitative approaches. In doing so, the study intends to understand how political beliefs and policies are mediated both through television and by political manifestos during electoral campaigns. An expectation is that this research will be able to highlight the impact of media framing on the content and form of political discourses and the process by which political discourses become media discourses.