(The Grand) Napoleon
Time Slot: 
Wednesday 23rd March 11:00 - 12:30
Panel Chair: 
  • Dr Jen Birks (University of Nottingham)
Panel Members: 
  • Dr Nick Anstead (London School of Economics and Political Science)
  • Dr Anthony Ridge-Newman (Liverpool Hope University)
  • Dr Ana Langer (University of Glasgow)
  • Dr Ruth Garland (University of Hertfordshire)

Traditional Marxist and ‘Chomskian’ models of power attach considerable manipulative power to the mass media. This panel will explore aspects of the relationship between the media, elites and public, a relationship that has changed considerably since the pre-new media unveiling of the ‘propaganda model’. Social media and the growth of digital campaigning have challenged top-down models of media and politics, including governance itself. As such, analyses of how contemporary governments ‘govern through the media’ reveal new power relationships, but also continuities, not least the elite centric nature of much political communication.


When it comes to election campaigning, the same issues emerge. However, social media research typically looks at outward-facing communications. But there is another side to social media – the mobilisation of existing supporters – that has largely gone under the radar of researchers, but one in which we draw attention to in this panel. 


With respect to the news, new media give the opportunities for challenges from a number of less established ‘authorities’, and theoretically let in more voices to the construction of public debate. However, powerful interest groups – through the dynamics of social networking – still can exercise disproportionate influence of the way news is reported. For instance, the ‘independence’, expertise and therefore ‘authority’ of the Institute for Fiscal Studies gives it considerable potential power over how economic news is both reported and perceived. The news also remains stubbornly elite-centric in its representation of people in politics. Here, the personalisation thesis posits that political news is increasingly focused on the prominence, roles and public persona of individuals—and especially leaders—in the political process. But this is a claim that has questionable empirical and conceptual foundations, with further research – offered here – needed to understand whether in fact this is a trend that has changed over time.  


Rapid transformations in the media and political communications environment come with claims of ruptures in power relations between elites, the media and the public. Each of these papers in this panel will question the validity of such claims, and through original empirical investigation, seek ways of understanding these dynamics at the core of public communication.