From quantitative precision to qualitative judgements: Professional perspectives about the impartiality of television news during the 2015 UK General Election

Stephen Cushion, Richard Thomas

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)
    86 Downloads (Pure)

    Abstract

    Drawing on interviews with key stakeholders – regulators, editors, party spin-doctors and politicians – supported by a systematic content analysis of television news during the 2015 UK General Election, this study makes an intervention into debates about how impartiality is understood and interpreted. Contrary to recent scholarly interpretations about ‘due impartiality’ being applied with some degree of quantitative precision – a stopwatch approach to balance – according to key stakeholders we interviewed the regulation of UK election news should be viewed as a qualitative judgement about the editorial merit of particular issues, parties or leaders throughout the campaign. Overall, we argue that the United Kingdom has moved from a political system shaping impartiality in recent years towards more of a news value–driven system reliant on editorial judgements. This raises, in our view, serious questions about the accountability of editorial decisions and how impartiality is safeguarded. News values, after all, are not politically neutral and – as our content analysis demonstrates – can lead to parties with a minor status gaining more coverage than some major parties. In order to remain relevant to regulatory and industry debates in journalism, we conclude by suggesting scholars should pay closer attention to how key stakeholders interpret and apply media policy.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournalism: Theory, Practice & Criticism
    Early online date24 Jan 2017
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019

    Keywords

    • Content analysis
    • election reporting
    • impartiality
    • interviewing
    • journalism practice
    • news values
    • regulation

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