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  • Political power and the media

    Wed, 24 Feb 2010 04:57

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    The Financial Times takes a look at three new books that discuss the links between politics, politicians, media and power...

    A vast change has happened in politics in the past half-century. The media have become crucial to the business of governing. Though they do not rule the country, the media sometimes rule the rulers, forcing them to spend long hours wooing, refuting, dodging and complaining.

    The lowly aide who once handed out press releases or phoned correspondents to tell them what the prime minister thought they should know has been replaced by hundreds, at times thousands, of professional communicators, advertising executives, public relations experts, image consultants, voice and deportment coaches and directors of communications.

    There's a conventional view, beloved of journalists, as to why this happened: politicians became devious and shifty, at best controlled by "spin doctors", at worst downright mendacious. But that is unlikely to be true. Governments everywhere in the democratic world -- and even, to a limited degree, in authoritarian countries such as China -- have put more and more information in the public arena. They have made their ministers more available for questioning, have introduced freedom of information legislation, and have brought television into parliaments and parliamentary committees -- and, by doing so, they have rendered them uninteresting to the media, except to specialists. Vast amounts of this information can be accessed in seconds via the internet. Inevitably, the internet has further battered down the once all but unbreachable walls of privacy that surround prominent public figures (more...)

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