Commodification & Control: News media agenda setting during the 2015 United Kingdom General Election

Amy Smith

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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As social media has become ubiquitous, power over news media agenda setting, traditionally reserved by elites, has become less secure. Current research shows how elite actors enact strategies of message control in an attempt to retain this power. This thesis examines the impact of online media on the news media agenda-setting process during the 2015 United Kingdom general election. The original contribution to knowledge offered by my research is the conceptualisation of authenticity of communication on social media within this process and how this relates to role of commodification of citizen-users’ content in the process of setting the news media agenda.
I argue that this process elite actors to harness the network power that exists in online social networks. I find that successfully using network power, in conjunction with established inter-elite power relationships, leads to greater success in news media agenda setting process. In order to become part of networked relationships, the actor must appear authentic to other users by meeting required communication standards. I further find that being perceived as inauthentic on social media makes explicit the commodification of citizens’ content and actions. This results in the subversion or challenging of elite agendas on social media.
I analyse two case studies of cross-media content production and dissemination; (1) the first leaders’ debate of the campaign on 2 April 2015; and (2) the report of a leaked memo on 3 April 2015. I also evaluate power relationships between political and media elites, and their perception of audiences online, using two case studies; (3) BBC Radio 4’s Today programme; and (4) ITV News’ Election 2015 results programme. The news media agenda setting process in 2015 was marked by a continuation in traditional power structures between elites, but the most successful actors were also able to use network power and to avoid commodification through authentically-perceived actions.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Chadwick, Andrew, Supervisor
  • O'Loughlin, Ben, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Nov 2018
Publication statusUnpublished - 2018


  • Political Communication
  • Campaigning
  • Elections
  • Social Media
  • media effects
  • agenda-setting
  • 2015 Election

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