Is Anyone Listening? Audience Engagement through Public Media Related to the Scottish Independence Referendum

socsci-logoThis text explores perspectives from which citizen participation in media debates on civic issues can be reconsidered by means of a review of the existing literature on this subject and a qualitative study of how one particular public service media programme facilitated audience engagement and involvement in public discussion leading up to a major political event. The first section provides a general discussion of what media organisations do to engage the public they serve on political and social issues, the challenge of stimulating audience involvement and the ways in which editors and producers attempt to give average citizens a voice on topics normally framed by elites. The second offers a case study based on semi-structured interviews and content analysis of public participation in Morning Call, a weekday British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Radio Scotland phone-in news and current affairs show (the only programme of its type broadcast in Scotland) during the run-up to the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Focus has been placed on determining what programmes of this nature can and cannot achieve in terms of civic engagement and which practices implemented by public broadcasting networks best stimulate audience engagement.

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