The UK election's TV twist
How 90 minutes of TV airtime turned the British vote into a three-horse race.
Last Modified: 30 Apr 2010 16:14 GMT

On The Listening Post's radar this week: The unexpected TV twist in the UK election campaign and how the murder of one controversial politician opened up a race debate in the South African media.

On April 15, 2010, British electoral politics finally got in step with the modern world. For the first time ever, the leaders of Britain's main political parties stood in front of a live audience - both in the studio and in British homes around the country - and debated their policies on television.

Going into the series of three debates, both the voters and the media had read this as a two-horse race to 10 Downing Street - a fight between Gordon Brown, the incumbent prime minister, and David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative party.

But after 90 minutes of TV airtime, there was another name on that list. Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, took full advantage of the platform and pulled his party out of its distant third place and into the reckoning for this election.

British newspaper editors, who are used to setting the news agenda, suddenly found the news cycle following the rhythm set by the TV debates.

In our Newsdivide this week we take a look at the media phenomenon in this British election - a phenomenon that is all about the impact of old media - TV - and its power as a tool of political communication.

Quick hits from the media world in Newsbytes: The Wall Street Journal is taking no prisoners in its fight with The New York Times - it has launched a city section in its New York edition; over the past six weeks, seven journalists have died in Honduras and three bloggers in China have been jailed for their online crusade against what they call a police cover-up of a murder.

Our feature story this week uncovers the shifts taking place in South Africa's media discourse following the murder of far-right leader Eugene Terreblanche.

As the founder of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging Party (AWB), Terreblanche had spoken forcefully in favour of an independent Afrikaner state.

His murder made headlines in South Africa and the AWB was quick to blame Julius Malema, the leader of the ruling party's youth league for inciting anti-Terreblanche sentiment with his rhetoric.

The media came under fire as well, for having given column inches and airtime to Malema.

The fierce debate sparked by Terreblanche's death had the unexpected effect of opening up sensitive racial issues to discussion by the media.

The on-air fireworks that followed were not necessarily the desired result, but perhaps a step towards it.

The Listening Post's Nick Muirhead takes a closer look at the murder, the media upheaval and the shifting attitudes towards discussions of race in South Africa.

What would a general election be without some satirical viral videos on the Internet? We have selected one as our web video of the week. It is an online collaboration between Manchester-based graphics designer Gary Dumbill and a DJ named Mr. Scruff. The video is a quirky look at the three main candidates in this year's British election. Click hereto see their tongue-in-cheek take on the differences between Cameron, Brown and Clegg.

This episode of The Listening Post airs from Friday, April 29, 2010 at the following times GMT: Friday: 1230; Saturday: 1030, 2230; Tuesday: 0630; Wednesday: 0030; Thursday: 0530.

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