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Left dissent : the Australian commercial news media’s characterisation of 21st century protests critical of capitalism


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Eiszele, JS 2016 , 'Left dissent : the Australian commercial news media’s characterisation of 21st century protests critical of capitalism', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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21st Century protests critical of capitalism feature prominently in Australian commercial news media. Because the individuals in these protests criticise the social and economic system commercial news media operates within, this raises questions about how these protests and protesters are characterised in news coverage. To explore the issue, this thesis analysed the newspaper reportage of the Occupy Melbourne City Square protest (October 2011) and the Brisbane G20 protests (November 2014) in Australia over two week reporting periods. A framing analysis was conducted to identify the dominant frames by which the protests and those involved were characterised, with a focus on the framing devices of language choice and source selection.
Based on these approaches, several findings were made. Both protests were predominantly framed in terms of conflict. This included both verbal hostility and violent conflict between protesters and government, or between protesters and police. The newspapers’ focus on physical conflict or the potential for physical conflict served to support a framing of the protests as dangerous, particularly for innocent bystanders. An economic consequences frame was also identified. This was exemplified in the foregrounding of the protest’s negative impacts on local businesses. Correspondingly, the perspectives of representatives of the business fraternity and business operators predominated within the news coverage. Overall, this was consistent with the use of sources throughout the newspaper reportage, where elite voices from the government and police establishment predominated and served to support the characterisation of the protests and protesters in typically negative ways.
However, the study also found that protesters, as news sources, were able to articulate counter-frames and, at times, define their own characterisations within the news texts, albeit to a far lesser extent than the elite sources. As a result, the newspaper coverage was characterised by only minimal engagement with the causes of the radical protest groups, which seemed to negate the purpose of the protests (to raise awareness of the groups’ objectives). News frames were instead constructed in accordance with the agendas of primary definers, such as the police and government.
This is significant because it highlights the potential limitations of Australian commercial news media within a liberal capitalist democracy.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Eiszele, JS
Keywords: protests, Australian, newspapers, capitalism, news framing, news media characterisation, primary definers
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Copyright 2016 the Author

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