The media, terrorism, and censorship in the UK: conflicting imagined audiences in British parliamentary debates in 1988 and 2018
Over the last three decades, there has been a significant growth in media control policies in the UK. Nonetheless, academic literature has so far failed to examine British political elites’ understandings of the relationship between the media and political violence. This article makes an original contribution by conducting a historical comparison of political elites’ discourses on terrorism, the media, and audiences through the analysis of key parliamentary debates in which British MPs discussed the introduction of far-reaching media control measures (i.e. the 1988 Broadcasting Ban and the 2019 Counter-terrorism and Border Security Act). Employing the concept of the “imagined audience”, the analysis, based on a discourse-historical approach (DHA), demonstrates significant differences in how MPs constructed media audiences in these discussions. In 1988, British MPs consistently invoked rational, well-informed, and responsible audiences, whilst thirty years later, constructions of unknowledgeable and easily influenced audiences were discursively deployed by MPs in support of highly restrictive media control measures. The article suggests that this transformation is based on a resurgence of the media “contagion theory” and Islamophobic notions that construct certain sections of the population as vulnerable, irrational, and highly susceptible, in contrast to the intelligent and sensible audiences envisioned by MPs in 1988.
Constructing the illiberal citizen? Radicalisation prevention, counter-terrorism, and the media in the UK
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- Social Sciences and Humanities
- Communication and Media
Published inBritish Politics
- VoR (Version of Record)
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