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“Grab a pen and paper”: Interaction v. interactivity in a political radio phone-in

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In this paper we analyse the discursive frameworks for interaction in a UK political radio phone-in between 2001 and 2010, and the implications of those frameworks for public engagement with politicians. The BBC Radio 4 phone-in program Election Call, broadcast in the run-up to a general election, has experimented with ‘new’ interactive technology (TV simulcast, web broadcasting and e-mail) in its attempt to provide listeners with the opportunity to engage with politicians and political parties live on air. By 2010 however, the program had returned to the original ‘old’ media format of telephone interaction only. Building on previous research in the discourse of radio phone-in broadcasts (Hutchby 1996; Thornborrow 2001a, 2001b, 2002; Hester & Fitzgerald 1999; Fitzgerald & Housley 2002; Thornborrow & Fitzgerald 2002), our analysis focuses on the empirical implementation of the 2010 shift in editorial policy which explicitly invited callers to engage with issues rather than just giving opinions. We will argue that while interactivity may broaden access to democratic debate, it is through live interaction that callers are best able to challenge politicians and hold them to account. Keywords: Election Call; interaction; interactivity; media discourse; e-mail; political discourse; public engagement; radio phone-in
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2013

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