The Null Device

It's The Sun Wot Won It

The Sun announces, grudgingly, that it will support Tony Blair in the election, directing its readers to vote Labour. Which conjures up images of Sun readers marching like shellsuit-clad zombies from the council estates to obediently do Papa Murdoch's bidding and give the election to his anointed candidate.

It's a factoid often stated that The Sun decides British general elections, which makes pleasing Mr. Murdoch more important for candidates than pandering to the whims of the general public. Another, less conspiratorial, interpretation, is that The Sun always backs the most likely winner of an upcoming election to maintain its populist credentials. (Telling people to vote the way the majority would have voted is easy; whether Sun readers would compliantly bloc-vote for, say, the UK Independence Party if instructed to do so is another matter.) in which case, support for Labour was inevitable (the Tories still being too much the pantomime villains of British politics to win, and all third parties being equally irrelevant in a first-past-the-post electoral system).

The folk belief that The Sun decides elections appears to come from the 1992 election, where The Sun backed the Tories and engaged in a spot of post-election triumphalism.

But Murdoch, it emerged, was furious with the claim that his newspapers could swing elections.

Funny, because there is evidence to suggest that that's exactly what News Ltd.'s media assets did in the 2004 Australian election.

The News Limited 2004 Marginal Seats Guide is an internal News Limited document giving statistical details on the 30 most marginal federal seats. It gives a small but significant insight into News Limited's strategy for manipulating public opinion so as to achieve a very specific outcome from the coming 2004 federal election.

Is such fine-grained news management something the Murdoch empire only practices in Australia, or is it applied in Britain and/or America as well? If the former, is it because Australia's highly concentrated media environment makes such things possible to an extent that Britain's diversity of proprietors (most of them shockingly biased, but for different parties or beliefs) does not?

There are 2 comments on "It's The Sun Wot Won It":

Posted by: Graham http://grudnuk.com/ Sat Apr 23 10:30:14 2005

"Is such fine-grained news management something the Murdoch empire only practices in Australia, or is it applied in Britain and/or America as well?"

*cough* Fox News *cough*

I presume that Murdoch reckons that Blair's done a decent enough job with Iraq.

Posted by: acb http://dev.null.org/ Sun Apr 24 18:57:14 2005

Actually, Iraq is one of the reasons cited by The Sun for giving Blair "one last chance".

And I wouldn't call FoxNews fine-grained news-management; it seems to be a bit too blunt an instrument for that.

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