by Rod Hague and Martin Harrop

Chapter Seven: Political Communication

Chapter Notes

  • Democracy as a form of communication. The transmission model and its limits.
  • The development of the media. Mass literacy as a function, achievement and affirmation of the modern state. The rise of mass circulation newspapers; the introduction of broadcasting (including radio) and its impact on politicians’ interaction with the electorate.
  • Contemporary trends: commercialization, fragmentation, globalization and interaction. Combined impact is to reduce politician’s access to the mass electorate. Social media and their contribution to the Arab Spring.
  • Media structures: Hallin and Mancini’s influential classification: Anglo-American liberal, Northern European democratic corporatist and Southern European polarized pluralist systems. Declining distinctiveness of these models.
  • Media impact: the media as the house in which we live. Reinforcement, agenda-setting, framing and priming effects. Reinforcement still powerful as consumers self-select their media on-line.
  • The distinct effects of broadcasting and newspapers. Declining exposure to television news and especially newspapers. The problem of funding professional news-gathering and interpretation in an age of free media.
  • Techniques used to limit the media in authoritarian states. Justifications offered by rulers: to limit squabbling so as to maintain national harmony and facilitate development. Media censorship in China and its limits in the internet age.
  • Limits of media independence in competitive authoritarian regimes: ownership as a political resource; lack of a professional, news-gathering tradition; some intimidation and therefore self-censorship; leader’s direct engagement with the population, especially through television.

Figures and tables


Multiple choice questions


Essays and term papers

  1. Assess the impact of the mass media on the nature and quality of political communication in liberal democracies.
  2. Compare the political impact of broadcasting and the internet.

Hague & Harrop, 2013 edn, ch. 7.

J. Barber, The Pulse of Politics: Electing Presidents in a Media Age
W. Lance Bennett and R. Entman, Mediated Politics: Communication in the Future of Democracy
M. Castells, The Internet Galaxy: Reflections on the Internet, Business and Society
A. Chadwick, Internet Politics: States, Citizens and New Communication Technologies
R. Fox and J. Ramos, iPoliitcs: Citizens, Elections, and Governing in the Internet Era
D. Graber, Mass Media and American Politics
R. Gunther and A. Mughan, Democracy and the Media: A Comparative Perspective
E. Kamarck and J. Nye, Democracy.com?
P. Norris, A Virtuous Circle: Political Communication in Postindustrial Societies.
J. Street, Mass Media, Politics and Democracy
C. Sunstein, Republic.com



Back to Resources page