Political Elites

A helpful way of understanding politics is to think of it in terms of power, both in the sense of ‘potential’ and in the sense of ‘constraints’. When looking at the media-politics relationship from the perspective of political elites, an awareness of both is often translated into a quest for control  - in particular, over information flows and images.

To think about: how is the relationship between political and media actors to be explicated? Where should the line be drawn between public and private? How much pressure should outsiders place on national governments to enact fair media practices? Who really has the power in public relations? Is PR always a bad thing?


Key concepts: media logic, control, spin, packaging politics, regulation, repression


Further reading: elites; media regulation and control; image control PR and spin; gender, media and politics

Picture: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Rashtrapati Bhavan during a press conference on May 20, 2014 in New Delhi , India. arindambanerjee / Shutterstock.com

Primary Sources

Policy documents, reports, press releases and white papers published by the European Union are a rich source of primary source materials. Here are some examples.


The European Commission:

Digital Agenda for Europe, 2015

Action plan to improve communicating Europe

The Commission’s contribution to the period of reflection and beyond: Plan D for Democracy, Dialogue and Debate

White Paper on a European communication policy


The European Broadcasting Union:

Audiovisual services and GATS negotiations. EUB contribution to the public consultation on requests for access to the EU marketJanuary 2003.


The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a UN agency with the mandate to promote connectivity.


For national views, check out the websites of ministries and departments of culture worldwide.

Research Topics

A wide variety of topics suggest themselves for research projects on this aspect of the media-politics relationship. Here are a few suggestions (see the blog for more).  


Compare analyses of the DSK affair in media from different countries, using online archives or your local or university library. (You might want to compare DSK reports with those on the Clinton-Lewinsky or similar scandals.) In their interpretation of the issues involved, can different norms pertaining to the media-politics relationship be detected?  


Analyse speeches, press releases and similar communications by political elites and use a framing analysis to explore their perspectives on the problems and potential originating in the changing media landscape. Examples cited in this chapter can be explored in more detail (EC press releases, speech by Admiral Roughead, address to the eG8 summit by President Sarkozy, Pope Benedict’s speech).

A framing analysis, at its most basic, involves posing questions to the text (eg. a speech):

-what is the problem (as defined by the speaker);

-whose problem is it (that of the organization, national government, security services, international community, etc); and

-what is the solution?  


Locate policy documents online and do a comparison of the media policies of different states (check the government website or that of the Culture Minister or equivalent), the EU, UNESCO and so on). Framing analysis could be helpful here too, as policymakers tend to explain their strategies (what is the solution?) after describing the situation (what is the problem?).  


Pick a media event and analyse the image-making of the political leader. (Incidentally, you can see Kennedy’s ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech on YouTube.)  


Search online news reports for the name of a president or prime minister in a given country. How often do details of his or her private life come up and to what effect are they deployed? Compare this with the ‘private’ components of the public image of a leader in a different political cultural setting.  


Keep an eye on regulatory steps and the public debate about such issues as file-sharing, the FRA law, SOPA etc. What are the arguments in favour and against liberalization/restriction? How are they distributed according to the political affiliation of advocate and critics, or across cultures?   Do a case study of the media debate about Turkish, Hungarian or Polish media regulation and EU membership (and its evolution).