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Mediated Access

Mediated Access

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Mediated Access

Broadcasing and Democratic Participation in the Age of Mediated Politics

By Matthew Hibberd, Brian McNair, Philip Schlesinger

Publication date: 2003
Total pages: 160
ISBN: 1 86020 592 5
Price: £ 17.50


There is a legitimation crisis at the heart of British democracy. Fewer people are voting. Polls record increasing levels of apathy towards, and cynicism about politics and politicians, suggesting a lack of public confidence in democratic institutions. But while rates of formal political participation are in decline, public participation in political debate, facilitated through various forms of access broadcasting has been increasing. Since the first edition of Any Questions? was broadcast in 1948 there have been many additions to the genre. Today, there are more access programmes on air than ever before, at both UK-wide and regional levels, on both BBC and commercial channels.

Through interviews with programme-makers, with people who participate in programmes, and focus groups drawn from the general audience, Mediated Access assesses the contribution made by these programmes to the democratic process. Is mediated political access a charade, as some would argue, or a genuinely valuable element of the democratic process in the media age? Can access formats engage audiences more directly in political debates, and thus strengthen engagement and participation in formal democratic processes such as elections?

Mediated Access addresses this debate with new interview and focus group data about what it is that the makers of public participation programmes think they are doing for the democratic process; how they go about doing it; and what the general audience, as well as participating members of the public, think of those efforts. Programmes covered include the 1997 Monarchy debate, editions of Question Time and Ask the Prime Minister broadcast during and between general elections, and special programmes intended to involve the British public in debate about the war on terrorism and a possible attack on Iraq.

Mediated Access is a valuable addition to the University of Luton Press's collection of books about issues in contemporary media.


Brian McNair, Matthew Hibberd and Philip Schlesinger are members of the Stirling Media Research Institute, based at the department of Film & Media Studies, University of Stirling, one of the UK's leading centres for research into the media.

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