FMC Cross-Departmental Seminar Series 2015-16
Time: Wednesday, 9th December, 3-4 pm
Venue: The Screening Room W240, Weymouth House, Talbot Campus.
Adapting to dominant news narratives: tax ‘fairness’ as a Trojan horse for anti-austerity politics
Over the past five years the issue of tax avoidance has broken through into mainstream news media and public debate, after many years in which the campaigning efforts of NGOs, trade unions and a few investigative journalists were met largely with indifference. Protest group UK Uncut have been widely credited with increasing public engagement in the issue. News routines are less reliant on official and elite sources than in the past, and protesters less universally delegitimised in dominant news discourse, but the political claims of social movements still tend to be neglected or reduced to vague or naive opposition. UK Uncut were conscious of the common pitfalls and attempted to fit their own framing of the issue into existing news frames. In presenting a practical alternative to cuts, they hoped to substantiate an argument against the broadly accepted ‘necessity’ of public spending cuts, smuggling an oppositional claim inside a familiar narrative.
Their framing of the issue in terms of compromised political interests and ‘fairness to taxpayers’ fitted with dominant news narratives and was widely adopted by other sources, including the Public Accounts Committee, and by journalists, but generally in terms of individual and organisational wrongdoing and self-interest rather as a systemic critique. This did little to challenge or disrupt the overarching dominant narrative of fiscal crisis, necessary cuts, and even of fair tax as low tax. However, the playful performativity of the protests themselves – although part of an activist repertoire, risking distancing themselves from the mainstream – were successful in achieving some limited press coverage of the cuts that they claimed could be prevented by corporations paying their ‘fair share’, but those arguments were not picked up by other voices.
This paper analyses the extent to which this ‘adaptation’ approach to news framing (Rucht 2013) or intervention in dominant narratives (Hirschkop 1998) was successful in advancing political claims and objectives, and whether this case supports the contention that strategically performative and rhetorical interventions in the public sphere can compensate for marginality and lack of discursive power.
Jen Birks is an Assistant Professor in the department of Culture, Film and Media at the University of Nottingham, where she teaches political communication and public cultures. She is the author of News and Civil Society (Ashgate 2014).
All are welcome!!
About the series
This new seminar series showcases current research across different disciplines and approaches within the Faculty of Media and Communication at BU. The research seminars include invited speakers in the fields of journalism, politics, narrative studies, media, communication and marketing studies. The aim is to celebrate the diversity of research across departments in the faculty and also generate dialogue and discussion between those areas of research.
Contributions include speakers on behalf of
The Centre for Politics and Media Research
The Centre for the Study of Journalism, Culture and Community
Narrative Research Group
Journalism Research Group
Advances in Media Management Research Group
Emerging Consumer Cultures Research Group
Public Relations Research Group