Television and Political Communication

Television acts decisively to political communication and constitute shaping one of the key fields of “meeting” citizens and politicians. The Television seems to have enough in common with the election campaign, since both are based on dramatization, conflict and rhetoric. The most important role in televised political communication plays the news programs. Certainly they involved a lot of factors such as the way of visibility the political figures or political parties. Moreover, it is generally recognized that the television news contributes to the determination of the daily political agenda:

Using the television as a medium of political communication has certain advantages which can be summarized as follows:

  • Approach a diverse audience, combining the features of the entire electorate.
  • The simultaneous communication with different target audiences (target group) depending on the projected program
  • The combination of image, sound and image movement can give to politicians, the ability to become more simpler and more accessible to the public.

But the Television as a political communication medium entails some drawbacks. In the first place, television is the most expensive medium of all media. According to data presented by Vangelis Kiriakakis (advertiser), 70% of the registered political cost concerns to Television. Also television did not provide equal access and policy placement opportunities to all politicians. Usually, there is an allele allied relationship between television and brand name politicians, because the latter attract more people and therefore a higher numbers of audiences.

Television political arena could be likened to a theater scene as Tomas Meyer correctly states in his “Politics as Theater project” essay. Television political arena is more relevant to the requirements of television industry, despite the social everyday problems of citizens. The publicity has become longer main objective of the politicians, while the Television is interested (and limits) in the large audience ratings. However, politicians are compatible with the rules that Television sets and losing their individuality. It could therefore be said that the legitimacy of power bodies based on an image made by television rules, an image that may be different from the actual.

The Television offers in politics a sort of arena stage. Instead to being presented and analyzed major social issues raised duels – political serials that politicians flagpoles-beaten not for political issues, but for other more personal issues. The real political discourse has been replaced either by claptrap, or superiority shows and finally of false images. Television is not instead to a particular socio-political issue, but deals with anything else and actually addresses various issues “on soft nail”. Tomas Meyer identifies six rules of subjects in television screen semiotics:

  • Find news for using assessment rules, which define and political issues raised.
  • The use of theatrical display rules in the presentation of political issues
  • The incarnation of the subjects, either creating “facts”, or by making them from living issues
  • The brevity and fast pace of images.
  • Knowledge of alternate scenes and images
  • The potential presences those are involved in Television screen.

The political image on the Television first step involves the selection of top stories to be presented. Selection criteria are usually the short time of the issue development, the proximity, the ability of the subject to shock the audience, the existence of conflicts and personalization. Clearly these selection criteria defaults reject important issues on the agenda and focus on small and ephemeral issues. Subsequently in political direction becomes the construction of news stories and then the choice of images, audio and speakers.

But what are the consequences of this elaborate television scene in the political process and in the body of citizens and voters? Successful politician is now considered the one that have best acting skills and best stage presence. The main concern of politicians is the “media fitness”, since without this parameter of “media fitness” reduced the popularity and hence potential voters. Also, politicians are reluctant to disclose their personal privacy and view their daily life in television, to make their image more accessible to the general public. The advancement of policies and their participation in political power carried out now under their presence in a particular socio-political environment, internal political party procedures and, especially, their visibility in media.

Politics as Play Theater eliminates public criticism ability and desire to participate the electoral process. Different social groups added up the audience of television and the electorate does not usually having direct representation of the political forces that appear to represent, but neither the opportunity to participate in a televised political debate to provide social issues for solution.
However, the effect policy of the political communication via television in citizens’ voters as audience is not always perfect and not always concerns the majority of the public. Tomas Meyer identifies three categories of citizens – voters:

A. The stable voters of the political party: These classes of citizens are not directly affected by television messages. The potential influence area does not concern the political parties, but political individuals of the party, ie the conquest of the cross vote.
B. The rational and politically active citizens: The televised political communication is not effective at this category, but only in times of inflection.
C. The sentimental and superficial people: This is the main group of citizens – voters that influence of political communication via television. Their vote depends on the game of political impressions and they are that in general opinion polls representing (mostly), citizens of the unclear vote. Usually, they move among the political parties and determine the election results in two political parties systems.

Nevertheless, politics through television still presents itself as attractive, although it is made of illusory. The aim of politics should not be their dominion over the public but the solution of social problems. The political image encourages and assists the political communication, but in any case should not be an end in itself. Being realized, the politics may well remain politics, even using theatrical technical rules.

Political communication having the aimed communication between citizens and politicians, they could not fail to use any of advertising techniques. According to Brian McNair, “political advertising… refers to the big market of audience and use the advertising space or time, filled in commercial prices in order to broadcast political messages to a wide audience.”. The ads are designed to attract, persuade, remind, but also to inform the public, exerting pressure and creating a feeling of necessity.

The political advertising uses the techniques of commercial advertising and adopts attitudes with clear social reference. The task of advertising is to create and manage the image of a political organization or party (rarely of a person). Advertising is one of the most favorable techniques of political communication for two reasons: firstly because the politician defines messages addressed to the public without intervention of journalists and secondly because in one ad conveys to the public more information about a political party in compared from reporter.
The design of an advertising campaign follows the policy of “5M” project:

  • Mission
  • Money
  • Message
  • Media
  • Measurement

The objectives of political advertising are clearly demarcated. They comprise principle information for citizen – voter and persuasion, (preferably the political party advertiser from others). The objectives implies a reminder, that the view of the necessity for commitment with the particular party. At this point I should also mention the methods and purposes of advertising policy, to give an overall picture of how political advertising campaigns designed. The processes of political advertising are mainly two methods: on one hand we have the simple view and on the other a comparative view. Merely we are viewing content with the presentation of the political party entity and its positions. But the comparative view, things get complicated. The main axis of this method is to identify the negative elements of the opponent political party and the emergence of the comparative advantages of the advertiser. The comparative view is hand more effective, but it is also dangerous. The risk is that advertising may be “gray”, despite its strength to radically reverse the opponent.

The purposes of political advertising focusing to give information to citizens – voters, show political positions and the principles of the political party and communicate measures or decisions. But the main purpose is to enhance the image of advertiser. This process is tedious and long in duration. The greatest impact of the voters, after in a recent search of 45% respondents answered that the image of a political party is a key element of their choice! Thus, in the elections (where political advertising is used extensively) not only ideologies clash is observed, but juxtaposition methods of political communication.

Key elements of the political advertising are the emergence of differentiating advertiser elements of other political parties, called in the language of advertising as USP (Unique Selling Proposition). However, the USP does not seem to deliver today, as most of the people believe that all political parties are the same. Therefore, in order to afford the USP, the political party as advertiser must be unique not only in advertising but also in practice.

In political advertising, it is observed that the election interval we have no information about the political positions of the parties, except in special cases (e.g. conferences or workshops). Political communication climaxes and becomes stronger during the final election period. Also, in political advertising is observed the phenomenon of clutter, those concentration excessive messages. This phenomenon may lead citizens to aversion the political parties and then we have the phenomenon of the depoliticized. Political advertising exacerbate political juxtaposition, which might strain the audience. The political advertising should focus on the effectiveness of the political advertiser against rivals and objective the overall political party image (political imagery), ie the sum of the advertiser images (leader of the party – parliamentary candidates – former ministers).

In addition, another key element of political advertising is to create a positive impression, as most voters choose political personalities on the basis of media perspective and gathering the respective voters. Following this way, the political parties are undermining the rational evaluation and their political programs.

At this point raises a major question: is there a political advertising strict sense at least? The answers should rather move adversely. Political advertising in its current form does not work efficiently; it largely uses the phrases of “promise.” The advertising phrases of “promise” should be desired by target group, involve a competitive advantage and a benefit -at least- for the advertiser. However, political advertising, promises are excessive (in numbers but also in content) and rarely correspond to reality.

Based on this reasoning, the messages of political advertising is rather misleading and do not respond to current social, economic and political reality. It could therefore be said that there is no political advertising (in the strict sense), but a kind of mild political propaganda via television.
However, it should be noted that the political advertising is radically different from the simple merchant commercial advertising. The political advertising today is constructed to convince the public that the A political party can run the country better than the B political party, without showing the ideological differences or central point actions of their political program. Therefore, audience should not express passivity, but participation and evaluate the information that receives.

It would be ideal for democracy, politicians and political parties do not make false promises and creating political programs based on society needs and its problems. Through political advertising must be made achievable and realistic targets and strategies in order to avoid audience misleading. Marshal Mc Luhan analyzes the basic principle of advertising, “ads push the principle of noise to the level of persuasion.” In other words, everything is repeated with noise, it is gradually necessary. The citizens therefore urged to be wary of political advertisements noise and not directly affected from it.

© 2016 Emmanuel G. Mavros


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Check the Dates:
June 2022