Power in the dock: media and accountability in the digital age

Schlosberg, Justin. 2013. Power in the dock: media and accountability in the digital age. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Contemporary democratic discourse places emphasis on accountability as the basis of power legitimacy and the scholarly literature across disciplines has reserved a special space for the media in that process, for better or for worse. But exactly who is held to account, when, how and by whom, remain troubling questions in the study of media, politics and power. Amidst displays of adversarial journalism without fear or favour, how far are powerful interests still able to control the agenda and manipulate outcomes?
The research undertaken here set out to interrogate the notion of media spectacle in a different way from which it has been commonly applied in critical media theory. In particular, its intimate association with sensationalism and tabloidisation threatens to obscure the role of spectacle in what are considered the mainstays of ‘serious’ or responsible news. The Sun might still be the most popular newspaper in Britain, and online news the fastest growing platform, but it is the serious news outlets of traditional media – public service broadcasting, broadsheets, weeklies etc – which remain by far the most credible sources of news and information. And it is credibility which holds the key to ideological power.
The research involved extensive analysis of archived television news programmes, supplemented by 50 interviews with a cross section of news producers and actors including journalists, news executives, politicians, campaigners, press officers, lawyers and civil servants. The core subject is terrestrial television news in the UK – a public service regulated platform with a longstanding reputation for high quality journalism.
My overall concern is not so much with scandal involving official misconduct or misdemeanour, but rather controversies that point to systemic institutional corruption of the kind that transcends individuals and party politics. These controversies are no longer rare exceptions in the contemporary newscape and their existence raises profound questions about the scope of accountability through the media. There has, however, been surprisingly little critical assessment of such coverage. This provided the overarching motivation for the research; a core premise being that only by examining those instances where mechanisms of accountability appear most far reaching, can we gain a new understanding of ideological power in the age of transparency.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):



Media, Justice, Accountability, Ideology, Propaganda

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


29 November 2013

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

02 May 2013 15:25

Last Modified:

26 Jun 2018 13:41



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