Political Talk TV: A cross-national analysis of the UK, the US, and Australia
The marketisation of global media policy is evident. However, marketisation – the deep effects of neoliberalism, market competition, and deregulation – is not totalizing; different national contexts mitigate its effects in more or less successful ways. In turn, “news fragmentation” is a symptom of marketization. News fragmentation takes place externally, as increased channels enabled by technological convergence, global market competition, and deregulation, create niche audiences; news fragments internally as the traditional news bulletin is challenged by conversationalised news formats. Political talk television has proliferated in post-broadcast environments. Questions arise as to the democratic priorities of these hybrid formats. Most previous research has focused on the internal dynamics of such formats. I depart from this and look at how political talk is constructed and produced, and how it compares cross-nationally. I examine three countries – with more or less marketised regulatory, institutional and broadcasting structures – and compare political talk shows cross-nationally, looking at public service, commercial terrestrial, and pay television. Using production analysis combined with a smaller scale content analysis, my aims are threefold. First, examine the democratic priorities – production values and aims – of different modes of political talk cross-nationally. Second, in doing so, investigate various aspects of the marketisation of broadcasting: news fragmentation and hybrid news formats; the relationship between different broadcast traditions (public service, commercial terrestrial, and cable) and political talk; the role of statutory law and regulation. Third, contribute to the “media systems” debate typified by Hallin and Mancini’s Northern Hemisphere based typology (2004), which sees the UK and the US as similar despite their different regulatory and institutional set-ups. Results will provide an explanatory framework for the production of political talk allowing reflection on broadcasting structures, marketisation and news fragmentation, comparative media systems, and the mediation of politics more generally.