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Power Relations And The London Riots

2734 words - 11 pages

The 2011 London Riots was one of those spontaneous events that sparked intense media coverage and called upon the government leaders to adopt new policies amidst the changing political climate. For this reason, I will be using the London riots as a case study to discuss the effects of social media networks on the power relations between the mainstream media and the acting government during a spontaneous event. I argue that a spontaneous event such as the London riots, allows the mainstream media to exercise greater independence and power over the government, who are limited to operating from a reactionary position. I argue that the greater power lies with the mainstream media, which has multiple channels for expression that can be utilised to subvert the political meaning attributed to a spontaneous event by the government. However, I conclude that social media networks in a spontaneous event operate as a third party contender for power and are thus able to limit the power of both the media and the government, by directly involving the public and the people involved in the event.
Wolsfeld argues, that in order to assess the power relationship between media outlets and the acting government, we must consider the nature of the media environment, the nature of the political environment, and the nature of the antagonists. He states that there are many factors that make up what we call the media environment. These factors include, but are not limited to: the processes and norms that the media organisation adheres to, the amount of political freedom the media has, and the amount of resources and finance the media has1. For the purposes of this essay the answer to most of these questions is irrelevant. However, the question regarding the amount of political freedom the media outlet has, is of concern here. For instance: a mainstream media outlet will be reliant on getting a media license from the government. This will involve the media outlet agreeing to certain provisions set by the governing body, which will in turn limit what the media can and cannot reveal, and how the media will go about revealing what it does. This is a crucial factor that cannot and should not be overlooked in any discussion regarding the relationship between a media outlet and the acting government, for it demonstrates a definite institutional governmental power over the media outlet.
The political environment can be understood as the political situation at the time in question. That is to say the combined public and private beliefs, discourse, and behaviours concerning a political topic at any one time. The political environment, like the media environment is thus composed of a variety of factors which alternate depending on the location in space and time1. In the case of the London Riots we can say that the political situation, superficially speaking, was tense and chaotic. To go further into the particulars of the political situation of London at the time will not give us...

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