Mediating Populism - Demos

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Mediating Populism

Sophie Gaston and

Peter Harrison-Evans

Open Access. Some rights reserved.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The authors would firstly like to recognise the hugely valuable contribution of the journalists, editors and producers who gave their time to this project, and who trusted us with their candid and honest reflections. Secondly, we gratefully acknowledge the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in supporting the research and launch events associated with this project. We are also hugely appreciative of Das Progressive Zentrum for their case study, and for being such enthusiastic and enjoyable research partners. We humbly thank Opinium Research, for their superior research assistance with the quantitative polling. Finally, we thank our colleagues, in particular the wonderful Sacha Hilhorst and Caitlin Lambert, in bringing this to publication. As ever, any mistakes or omissions are the authors’ own.

CONTENTS Executive Summary




1 Mediating Populism in Britain


2 The German Media’s Response to Populism


3 Comparative Analysis: British and German Media


4 Conclusions and Ways Forward




FOREWORD The internet’s increasing function as a source of political news means that traditional media now operate in a much more convoluted and contested environment. Citizens are overwhelmed with information from a wide variety of sources, much of it lacking ratified credibility or even actively promoting misinformation. At the same time, media organisations must navigate the rise of populist leaders and their divisive or potentially dangerous views - many of whom share natural affinities with media conventions favouring conflict, strong personalities and dynamism. In light of both of these trends, there is a greater need than ever for the media to be more exacting and robust, and to uphold its traditional gatekeeping role, and yet its capacity to do so appears to be more constrained than ever. Over the past two years, as Western politics has reeled from a series of seismic shocks, there has been a surge in the scrutiny paid to social media platforms for their responsibility in opening the information marketplace to new actors with different practices and standards. While the digital age has profoundly reshaped the media environment and the relationships between outlets and audiences, citizens continue to largely consume content from traditional providers. Considerably less attention has been paid to the role and responsibility of these organisations in the contemporary ‘populist moment’. This paper seeks to peer behind the curtain of the British media, to better understand how the growth of new media is transforming news prac