Limited Media Reporting of the Labour Conference 2022 – Ideological Agenda setting or just ‘news values’…?

Examples of The Metro’s right wing ideological bias in Autumn 2022.

The Metro’s reporting (28/09/2022) of Sir Keir Starmer’s Speech at the 2022 Labour Party Conference was definitely limited, and offers students of media studies an interesting contemporary example of how news values and/ or agenda setting influence the news agenda.

Biased Reporting…

There are some good examples here of what appear to be deliberate bias against labour…

Firstly on the headline page not only is the labour conference given half the space of the royals story the headline ‘don’t forgive’ makes them seem aggressive and harsh, AND there’s a little quip about Keir and his wife being dressed in sync which is maybe an attempt to belittle labour.

And then there’s the order and manner in which the two main items of the day are presented…

Firstly we have the royals, BEFORE the labour conference reporting…

And even Eurovision trumps Labour!

And then on page three AFTER Kate and Will and Eurovision we finally have an item on the labour party conference (well it’s page four, page two was a full page advert)…

Also note how this is all just dull text – there’s no attempt at all to bullet point the key ideas – there could be a nice infographic where the advert is to the left which would make this material more readable, but there isn’t.

Rather the message here seems to be ‘ignore this dull stuff but here’s some pictures of Keir and his wife who have dressed well’.

News Values…?

Of course it could just be plain old News Values influencing why Kate and Wills are appearing before Labour – the royals are more photogenic, and pictures matters in papers, and we have just had the death of the Queen so there is continuity.

HOWEVER, given the national interest surrounding the cost of living crisis and Tory economic policy crashing the economy I think there is more than News Values at work here…

Why I think this reporting might be ideological

There is some extremely significant political context to Starmer’s speech, rooted in some major socio-economic turbulence this Autumn.

The recent Tory budget gave some major tax cuts to the richest in society on top of recent hand-outs to the UK’s two biggest oil companies – BP and Shell, while ordinary people are left to soak up much of the increased cost of living themselves.

In short, the Tories have done more to help the rich than the poor and showed little interest in investing in a green-future to provide long term solutions to increasing energy prices and any potential future price shocks.

And Keir Starmer, the leader of the major opposition party is, in this speech, outlining a viable alternative strategy to what the Tories are offering.

And yet this speech has been relegated to small text on pages 4 and 5, after the pictures of Will and Kate in Wales.

To my mind this seems to be a straight up attempt to offer the masses some royal entertainment fluff rather than reporting on the Labour alternative to the cost of living crisis in an accessible manner.

I mean, think about it – they could have bullet pointed the key facts but all we have is a very unattractive full text version of the speech, it’s very easy to just ignore it, effectively rendering it invisible to many readers.

And given that the Metro is a right wing paper, that is probably the whole idea!

Discussion Questions

What do you think? Is this an example of ideological agenda setting?

Are the owners and editors of the Metro using their position of power to narrow the agenda of news reporting and discredit the views of Keir Starmer and the Labour Party…?

Or is this just plain old news values at work and the paper simply providing what the audience demand…?

Signposting

This material should be of interest to students studying the Media option as part of A-level sociology.

It should also be of interest to students generally – it’s your future the Tories are messing up after all!

You can watch Sir Keir’s full speech here:

The Labour Party Conference 2022

Sir Keir’s Speech Fact Checked

Is Capitalism on the Wane?

John Mcdonnell, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor today announced Labour’s plans to renationalise the railways and many other public utilities at no cost to the public.

Does this mean that Jeremy Corbyn’s rejection of contemporary capitalism is now the new mainstream, and/ or does this represent the end of Capitalism as we know it?

It does seem that Capitalism has become something of a dirty word ever since the financial crash of 2008, and in a recent poll, most British people regard capitalism as ‘greedy, selfish, and corrupt’; and many are more sympathetic towards socialism, and favor the renationalisation of the railways and utilities.

 

However, the ideological scare-mongers are out, claiming that re-nationalisation will be far from free, and it will be interesting to see how much genuine public appetite there is for bringing back services into public ownership!

The Capitalist Mode of Production

Understanding the Capitalist Mode of Production is crucial to an understanding of both Modernisation Theory and Dependency Theory – I thought the passage below did a nice job of summarizing what the ‘capitalist mode of production’ is.

A a special treat for my American readers, I have used the correct, British spelling of ‘labour’.

‘Today we think of Capitalism as the normal way of organising economic activity and tend to take it for granted, but it is a very different mode of production to previous feudal economies and hunter gatherer livelihoods…

Capitalism is based on private ownership of enterprises such as factories, plantations, mines, offices or shops and the operation of these assets for profit. Other elements of the means of production such as labour, land, technology and capital are also privately owned and can be bought and sold.

Labour is the most important input for production. Under capitalism, labour, the work of men and women, has become a special type of commodity which is sold in the marketplace. Capitalists use their money to buy labour and combine this commodity with other inputs, such as land, raw materials etc. to produce new goods and services. In profitable businesses, the economic value of these new goods and services are greater than the other inputs required to produce them.

Workers’ labour generates a surplus value greater than the workers’ wages. When the capitalist sells the finished commodities on the market they extract surplus value from the labour of the workers by paying them less than the value of the work they have completed. Capitalists are able to profit from the labour of others because they control the means of production.

The capitalist mode of production was different to earlier feudalism because of the role for waged labour and the importance of capital and markets for acquiring wealth. The important transition which lead to the expansion of capitalism around the globe through colonialism was the concentration of capitalist power through the fusion of state authority and capital.”

Source – Brooks, Andrew (2017) The End of Development 

Why Did Labour Gain Seats in the 2017 General Election?

In the recent June 2017 General Election, Labour won more votes than it did in 2001, 2005, 2010 or 2015, proving almost all the forecasts and commentators wrong.According to this Guardian article there are three main reasons for this…

It motivated young people to get out and vote.

A lot’s been made of the historically high turnout by 18-24 year olds…. It looks like in key constituencies – from Harrow West to Canterbury (a seat that has been Conservative since 1918) – the youth vote was vital. Labour showed it cared about young people by promising to scrap tuition fees, an essential move to stop the marketisation of higher education, and it proposed a house-building programme that would mean many more could get on the property ladder.

This is in stark contrast to the two other major parties – the Lib Dems in 2010 under Nick Clegg lied to them, and the Conservatives have attacked them – cutting housing benefits for 18- to 21-year-olds, excluding under-25s from the minimum wage rise and slashing the education maintenance allowance. At this election, Theresa May offered nothing to young people in her manifesto. Their message was: put up with your lot. Under the Tories, young people have been taken for granted and sneered at as too lazy to vote.

The NUS reported a 72% turnout by young people, and there is a definite thread in the media attributing the swing towards Labour as down to this.

However, this is contested by Jack Sommors in this article who suggests that it was middle-aged people who swung the election result away from the Tories.

‘Lord Ashcroft’s final poll, which interviewed 14,000 people from Wednesday to Friday last week, found people aged 35 to 44 swung to Labour – 50% voted for them while just 30% voted for the Tories. This is compared to 36% of them voting Labour and 26% backing the Tories just two years ago’.

A further two reasons which might explain the swing, let’s say among the younger half of the voting population, rather than just the very youngest are:

Labour offered localised politics, not a marketing approach

Labour rejected the marketing approach to politics in favour of a strong, localised grassroots campaign… this was not simply an election May lost; it was one in which Corbyn’s Labour triumphed. Labour proposed collectivism over individualism and a politics that people could be part of.

Labour offered a genuine alternative to neoliberalism…

Labour offered a positive agenda to an electorate that’s been told its only choice is to swallow the bitter pill of neoliberalism – offering a decisive alternative to Tory austerity in the shape of a manifesto packed with policies directly challenging what has become the economic status quo in the UK. Labour no longer accepted the Tory agenda of cuts (a form of economics long ago abandoned in the US and across Europe): it offered investment in public services, pledged not to raise taxes for 95% of the population, talked about a shift to a more peaceful foreign policy, promised to take our rail, water and energy industries out of shareholders’ hands and rebalance power in the UK.

So how is this relevant to A-level Sociology…?

  • In terms of values…It seems to show a widespread rejection of neoliberal ideas among the youth, and possibly evidence that neoliberal policies really have damaged most people’s young people’s (and working class people’s) life chances, and this result is a rejection of this.
  • In terms of the media… It’s a reminder that the mainstream media doesn’t reflect public opinion accurately- just a thin sliver of the right wing elite. It also suggests that the mainstream media is losing its power to shape public opinion and behavior, given the negative portrayals of Corbyn in the mainstream. .

Value-Freedom and explaining election results…

The above article is written with a clearly left-leaning bias. Students may like to reflect on whether it’s actually possible to explain the dramatic voter swing towards Labour objectively, and how you might go about getting valid and representative data on why people voted like they did, given that there are so many possible variables feeding into the outcome of this election?!

Sources

Young people voted because labour didn’t sneer at them. It’s that simple

General Election 2017: Young turn out ‘remarkable’

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